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WASHINGTON — Nearly 300 never-before-heard recordings by inventor and scientist Alexander Graham Bell will be restored and made accessible later this year, the Smithsonian National Museum of American History announced Tuesday.
The recovery work of hundreds of experimental recordings created by Bell and his colleagues between 1881 and 1892 at Volta Laboratory in Washington, D.C., and his property in Baddeck, Nova Scotia, will be done by the museum and begin in the fall.
"Over the three-year duration of this remarkable project, 'Hearing History: Recovering Sound from Alexander Graham Bell's Experimental Records,' we will preserve and make accessible for the first time about 300 recordings that have been in the museum's collections for over a century, unheard by anyone," Anthea M. Hartig, the Elizabeth MacMillan director at the museum, said in a statement. "We are grateful to this public-private partnership in funding this dynamic and innovative work."
Born in Scotland in 1847, Bell is famous for his invention of the telephone, which was patented in 1876.
Bell, along with his cousin Chichester Bell and Charles Sumner Tainter, known as the Volta Laboratory Associates, researched different ways to record and play back sound, including photography and magnetic reproduction, according to the Smithsonian. The group experimented with recordings on cylinders and discs and their sound experiments, according to the Smithsonian, ultimately led to the creation of the wax cylinder record and a machine used to record and play back cylinders known as a graphophone.
The museum said Tuesday it has recovered sound from 20 experimental recordings at Volta Laboratory, where Bell conducted some of his work, through a project with the Library of Congress and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
It has also recovered and released documented recordings of Bell's voice to the public.