Since its foundation in 1899, the Phonogrammarchiv, an institution preserving audio-visual heritage from around the world, has been a port of call for Austrian researchers especially from the field of cultural studies and the disciplines of the humanities.

However, in order to be able to gain scientifically reasonable insights from these disparate research data (collected in the course of nearly 120 years), it takes more than the basic prerequisites of adequate preservation and technical availability of the recordings: the value of each recording, recording series, or collection of sound documents requires specific knowledge and methods that make their evaluation possible. Therefore, key words such as source criticism and source interpretation play a central role for archive staff members dealing with the indexing, documentation, analysis, and ultimately the dissemination of scholarly results.

In addition, scientific-historical research as practised in the Phonogrammarchiv makes the Phonogrammarchiv’s long institutional history, and the role of sound archives in general, more transparent. In recent times, their role has become the subject of extensive discussion, focusing on, e.g., ethical questions arising in connection with collection methods and knowledge production, the dynamics between researchers and their “informants”, or the current use of existing knowledge.