The Phonogrammarchiv was founded in 1899. Its key tasks are to generate, collect and catalogue audio-visual research recordings from all disciplines and regions, to preserve them in the long term, and to make them permanently available. In archiving, the Phonogrammarchiv pays particular attention to the source-critical annotation of the recorded materials, as this provides the added value ensuring the possibility of multi-faceted modes of analysis.

The Phonogrammarchiv has built up, and expands, its holdings through field research projects that have received its methodological and technical support, through fieldwork conducted by its staff, and by taking over collections assembled by Austrian scholars, typically all exploring new ground.

Likewise, the Phonogrammarchiv has always been engaged in methodological and technical developments pertaining to the making, replaying, and storing of audio and video recordings, which also led to today’s expertise in making playable, transferring and digitizing historical sound carriers.

Access to the Phonogrammarchiv’s collections is also promoted by publications and specific editions of recordings (e.g. TheComplete Historical Collections 1899–1950).

The Phonogrammarchiv is therefore characterized by its interlocking fields of activity, which fact is reflected also by the interdisciplinary composition of its team (African studies, history, ethnomusicology, cultural and social anthropology, linguistics, AV technology, IT).

In accordance with its agenda, the Phonogrammarchiv is thus a research institute anchored in the scholarly world as well as an archive serving general societal interests that greatly contributes to the documentation and preservation of cultural heritage.