A new project called WikiVIP was announced by Wikipedia today that seeks to add the voice of celebrities and other notable people to the online encyclopedia.

The project is the brainchild of Wikipedia editors Andy Mabbett and Andrew Gray, who thought that the encyclopedia could do with more sound files and began approaching celebrities to request short audio clips of their voices.

WikiVIP, which stands for “Wikipedia Voice Intro Project” sets out to make sure there is a public and freely reusable record of what notable people sound like for “current and future generations.”

The project has kicked off with Stephen Fry adding a sample of his speaking voice to the page about him. The hope is, that this will spread awareness of the project and cause other notable people such as scientists and artists that have Wikipedia pages about them to record their own samples.

For the first time, the BBC is also working with Wikipedia to provide short voice clips from some of its programming for preservation as well. These range from Sir Tim Berners-Lee to Aung San Suu Kyi.

Matthew Postgate, Controller, BBC R&D, said of the collaboration:

BBC R&D are always working on innovative and creative ways to help shape the future of media. As part of this, we regularly explore new ways of working with content. We’ve developed algorithms and tools that process large collections of TV and audio to generate useful information, such as topics or places mentioned in the programmes. As these processes can also identify voice patterns, we saw a great opportunity to run a trial with Wikipedia enthusiasts, giving them access to our technology and an audio archive full of notable figures.

As part of this experiment we are releasing around 500 – 1000 short voice samples of prominent public figures to Wikimedia. We hope this will allow us to identify contributions in BBC programmes from the sound of speakers’ voices and when added to relevant Wikipedia pages these voice samples add a new dimension, allowing listeners to hear the voices of the people they’re reading about.

Those who have Wikipedia pages about them are encouraged to contact the WikiVIP team with a voice recording to help contribute to the project.