A new online catalogue reveals a hidden history of the BBC from its earliest years, with more than 600 hours of recorded interviews made public.

David Attenborough, Esther Rantzen and former Prime Minister Harold Wilson are among the figures to appear in interviews in the archive, unveiled as part of a project by University of Sussex academics to mark the centenary celebrations of the broadcaster.

The Connected Histories of the BBC, a six-year collaboration between the university and the network, provides access to more than 470 hours of audio and 159 hours of video interviews.

Professor Margaretta Jolly, who led the project through its final stages, said: “The Connected Histories of the BBC enhances and embellishes our understanding and appreciation of the BBC.

“The online catalogue gives each of us easy access into a priceless and extraordinary collection of insights, memories and experiences.

“I am especially proud of the work we did with members of the public, engaging with them at events hosted by our partners in Sussex, London and Bradford.

“This helped us build a bigger, more democratic history of the BBC through people’s own memories of TV and radio.”

The curation highlights topics such as TV entertainment, the Second World War, pioneering women and multicultural and post-imperial Britain.

Head of BBC History Robert Seatter said: “The BBC has a unique history and role in British culture.

“This great new project with the University of Sussex opens up our special archives for all to see and hear - it will be an insightful behind-the-scenes view into a hundred years of public service broadcasting.”

Alongside the archive, the project’s founding director, Professor David Hendy, has written a book interpreting the unique oral history archive.

The BBC: A People’s History traces the broadcaster from its beginnings, through the war, the creation of television, changing public tastes, austerity and massive cultural change.

Professor Hendy said: “The BBC’s oral history collection is an extraordinary, though underused, treasure trove, providing unique ringside accounts of the history of the BBC.

“Being able to see and hear these key figures in the BBC’s past tell their stories to us directly helps us to bring the written history alive, but more importantly, reveals the hidden wiring of broadcasting - the way personal convictions, character, and emotions helped shape this profoundly influential public institution.”

The new catalogue features a player that allows users to listen, watch, read along and make clips of the interviews included in the archive.