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Accept the Sound Recovery Challenge Today!

Dear Friends of American History,

Alexander Graham Bell might easily have been content with the success of his telephone invention. But here at the National Museum of American History, we know he was not.

Challenged by Thomas Edison’s work, Bell formed the Volta Lab in Washington, D.C. and conducted experiments in sound recording, using rubber, beeswax, glass, and tin foil. Beginning in 1881, he eventually stashed about 200 audio recordings—among the earliest ever made—at our very own Smithsonian Institution. The recordings have been silent for over a century, without a means to play these fragile artifacts—until now.

In collaboration with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Library of Congress, we used a non-invasive technique of digital imaging to play back sounds recorded 130 years ago in Alexander Graham Bell’s Volta lab. Now you, and millions of our online visitors, can hear the recordings too.

The Sound Recovery Project faces a special challenge. Like all of our pilot research projects, this initiative depends exclusively on private support, and we turn to you for assistance.

A generous American History supporter has offered a challenge grant to help our experts extract more sound. If we can raise $5,000 to match this grant, the National Museum of American History will be able to recover, study, and share sound from six more of Bell’s recordings.

Consider making a gift today to the Smithsonian’s Sound Recovery Project, and thanks to our generous supporter, your gift will double in value and double the available material for our scholars to study and share with our millions of online visitors.

DONATE NOW and help us tell the story of early invention in America using the brilliant scientific innovations of today.

See you at the Museum!

Marc Pachter
Interim Director

Image above: National Museum of American History curator Carlene Stephens examines a glass disc recording containing the audio of a male voice repeating “Mary had a little lamb” twice, made about 130 years ago in Alexander Graham Bell’s Volta Lab . Photo taken by Rich Strauss, Smithsonian Institution.
Copyright © 2012 National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, All rights reserved.
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