Project duration 1 November 2021 - 31 October 2025

Contact Phonogrammarchiv: Katrin Abromeit

Contact Österreichische Mediathek: Eva Hallama


The Sonic Memories project collects and researches audio letters that are currently hidden in public archives or are privately owned and were sent by post from, to and within Austria from the beginning of sound recording to the establishment of digital formats. The historical sound recordings – some of which are threatened by decay – on wax cylinders, recording wire, direct-cut records, magnetic tape and various cassette formats, are being restored, scientifically examined, digitised and permanently saved at the Phonogrammarchivand the Österreichische Mediathek.

Within the framework of the project, the greetings recorded on tapes and compact cassettes in the collections of Mozes F. Heinschink and Milena Hübschmannová preserved at the Phonogrammarchiv will be examined. The collection, built up with newly acquired audio letters, will be made accessible by including the knowledge of the donors. Interviews will also be conducted with them about the significance of the audio letters as sonic memory objects. In participatory workshops, archiving parameters – and thus forms of their inscription in the collective memory – are worked out.

The scientific research of these largely unnoticed historical audio documents fills a gap in the (media) historical study of these sources and makes a significant contribution to the history of the cultural technique of speaking and listening to letters in the context of migration and mobility.

The research project employs an interdisciplinary perspective that combines an extensive repertoire of methods from conservation and restoration research, cultural and media history. Thus, it will be possible to analyse the material and its cultural significance in full consideration of its complex (historical) interwovenness. Material and cultural analysis complement each other and include the acoustic characteristics of the recordings, especially with regard to the affective moment of the spoken voice. The conducted material analyses provide comprehensive data for conservation research and lay the foundation for restoration measures.

At the end of the project, the collection, the associated metadata and all research results generated in the project will be available as open access data for further research, stimulating and enabling future multi-disciplinary and interdisciplinary research in this area.

The SONIME project was selected for implementation as part of the ÖAW's "Heritage Science Austria" call together with eight other research projects and is being carried out at the Austrian Mediathek and the Phonogrammarchiv.


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