Donnie Munro: Web project underlines need to preserve sound of our past

'All around are shards of lost tradition The whole landscape a manuscript,we had lost the skill to read,A part of our past, disinherited.'

These words from Irish poet, John Montague's poem, Lost Tradition, describe the debilitating disconnect which occurs when a society loses its knowledge of its past, its cultural heritage, languages and traditions. These are the very things through which we inherit a deep and profound sense of ourselves, they are the carrying streams of our collective consciousness and as such, they sit at the very heart of our national identity.

Fortunately, due to the vision and commitment of folklorists and academics who recorded these stories and songs, Scotland has one of the richest and most extensive digital sound archives anywhere in Europe.

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Today sees the live web launch of a project which has ensured the preservation, conservation and digitisation of 12,000 hours of unique national sound archive, linking all parts of the country from Shetland to Solway, Berwickshire to Barra.

A visit to the website will be like talking to those who walked, talked, lived and worked decades ago. You will hear the real voices of mill workers, fishermen, and farm workers talking in their own languages. The project, which has created a real 'living heritage' resource, accessible to all at the press of a button, has been made possible, through a partnership involving the School of Scottish Studies, the BBC, the National Trust for Scotland and managed through Sabhal Mr Ostaig, the National Centre for Gaelic Language and culture on the Isle of Skye.

Two digitisation centres were set up to carry out that work, in Edinburgh and South Uist, the latter now operating commercially, providing sustainable employment.

It has become clear throughout these first five years of the project that so much more remains to be done and, if the government is serious in its desire to create a Scottish National Sound Archive, then Tobar an Dualchais/Kist o Riches must continue in delivering to the whole world the real voices of Scotland's past.

• Donnie Munro chairs Tobar an Dualchais/ Kist o Riches