Favourite Collection Items – Dictaphone

We’ve asked staff to describe an item from the collection that they really like. Here’s Radio/Music Collection Team Leader Joanna Szczepanski.

One of my favourite items is this early Dictaphone which records sound onto wax cylinders. There’s a helpful little illustration on the side which shows how it was meant to be used. You would speak into the funnel and the sound would travel down the black tube to the stylus which would cut grooves into the cylinder. Each cylinder could only hold a few minutes of audio but much to my surprise, they are reusable! If you shave off the surface layer making the cylinder smooth again, you can record a new message on it.

To listen to the recordings you would need to attach a set of ear pieces which we don’t have. They look really similar to stethoscope ear pieces. For now, the message recorded on the Blue Amberol cylinder remains a mystery.

All photos by Joanna Szczepanski.

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