Friday, 21 December 2012

Curators discover first recordings of Christmas Day

Curators discover first recordings of Christmas Day

Phew, just where has the last week gone?!  Between the last rush of work before Christmas and the preliminary preparations for a somewhat less welcome forthcoming event (of which I will say more about nearer the time) this poor little blog has been a trifle neglected.  Now, however, in the last few days before the festivities I can publish the first of two Yuletide stories that have been sitting in my drafts folder.

We go back approximately 110 years to Christmastime at the Wall household (above) in North London in this wonderful article from the B.B.C. website in which it is actually possible to hear recordings of a typical London family's festive gatherings in the 1900s - perhaps the first of their type ever made!

Following the chance discovery - and survival - of a number of wax cylinders (the turn-of-the-last-century precursors to gramophone records) in the Cambridgeshire home of one the family's descendants we can for the first time listen to a Christmas Day party c.1904 style.  I have to say it doesn't sound like much has changed in the last century!  What loving, relaxed and homely celebrations they seem - just like today.

Wall Family Phonograph Recordings | Museum of London

Thanks to the hard work by curators at the Museum of London, where these cylinders now reside when it became apparent that they originated from North London, an important record of British social history has been saved and restored for future generations.  Not only is it truly heartwarming and reflective to hear an average British family of 100-odd years ago at Christmas and how little has altered but it is also amazing to think that these fragile wax cylinders - which were soon replaced by a format that lasted for decades, leaving them to soldier on only in the world of the secretary and business executive - managed to survive for all this time, to yield their audio treasures only now.  They're a wonderful discovery and a splendid addition to the museum's archive.  I wonder if historians of the future will be saying the same about our Christmas recordings in a century's time...


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