On March 15, 2013, the National Diet Library made public their new digital archive of historical recordings. In partnership with a number of groups, including NHK, they have digitized and made available recordings from SPs from 1900 to the 1950s, in order to preserve them and prevent their becoming lost.
As time goes on, they plan to hold approximately 50,000 recordings in the archive. Although many recordings can be accessed via the Internet, some are only available to listen at the NDL itself due to copyright restrictions.
You can also access an NDL article on the digitization of recordings, entitled 音の歴史を残す (PDF link).
The archive is the Historical Recordings Collection, accessible at http://rekion.dl.ndl.go.jp/
Did you know? (I didn’t.) The National Diet Library (NDL) has a digital archive portal, PORTA, which not only lets you search their own digital holdings but an amazing array of other databases, digital libraries, and archives in Japan.
What’s wonderful about this portal is that you can click to expand the list of resources it will search, and beside restricting your search to specific ones, you can also simply use it as a way to discover new online resources relating to Japan and beyond. I myself learned a lot from poking around PORTA in the past few days while looking at digital archives for a course at the School of Information.
I will write more about this portal later, but a quick link for those who would be interested in using it.
By the way, my favorite thing that I found is the Japanese version of the Wayback Machine, the Web Archiving Project (インターネット資料収集保存事業) at the NDL.
And yes, there is an English version of PORTA (accessed by clicking “English” at the top of the page) that provides English translations of the digital archive titles.