There’s something so enthralling about listening to spoken audio, whether it be a podcast, audiobook, or even talk radio. It manages to recall back to simpler times, before smartphones were invading our pockets and back to when families gathered around radios after dinner. To help preserve this under-appreciated medium, Wikipedia on Tuesday announced a new initiative that focuses on collecting today’s most famous voices. Yes, Morgan Freeman made the cut, as did many other notable individuals, including Margaret Atwood and Benedict Cumberbatch.
The project is being spearheaded by Wikipedia editor Andy Mabbett, and entails any person who has the distinction of their own Wikipedia page. Right now the selection is slim—Stephen Fry is among the 54-some-odd notable individuals to record a voice intro—but many more are sure to come. The recordings are pretty simple, and are basically subjects introducing themselves. But they’re charming nonetheless—and it’s neat to hear a recognizable voice and immediately know the person’s face.
“You can help the Wikipedia voice intro project by asking people you know who are the subject of Wikipedia articles to make recordings of their voices in any language in which they’re comfortable (the project is not just for English speakers),” Wikipedia explained in a blog post. “We do this so that we know what notable people sound like; and how they pronounce their own names.”
In addition to the Wikipedia voice intro project, Mabbett has been working closely with the BBC in an effort to extract voices from the corporation’s many radio shows. The BBC audio is particularly exciting because it includes plenty of famous voices talking about various subjects, and not simply spouting off intros. Earlier this month, 300 voices from the Radio 4 archive were captured, and almost half have already been processed and made available for public consumption.
It’s becoming so easy to capture photos and video, that simply recording audio is becoming a lost art. There have been so many recognizable voices throughout history—remember Orson Welles reading War of the Worlds?—and it’s nice to see an effort to preserve these and other voices for posterity. And, come on, we can listen to Morgan Freeman talk about pretty much anything and it’ll sound interesting. Why wouldn’t we want that available on the Internet for everyone to listen to?