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 plastic 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 attached 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.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision website.

Ngā Taonga newsletter

Sign up for our regular newsletter about projects we're working on and fascinating items from our collections.