Archiving - Preserving - Re-recording

Archiving includes the accessioning and technical preservation of audiovisual recordings. To turn such a recording into a useful source for research, careful documentation of the item and its contents is needed. This work is done interactively by curators and field researchers. In former times all the relevant data were taken down in so-called protocols - today we enter them into a database.

Protocol of a Phonogramm recording

The technical safe-guarding of its recordings is one of the key tasks of an audiovisual archive.
The guiding principle is to have available at least two copies of every recording: an archival master copy of the greatest possible stability, and a user copy. Stability, of course, is relative, and while the metal negatives of the historical Phonogramme could well be viewed as fairly "durable", the reverse is true for many modern data carriers. Original field recordings on analogue and digital magnetic tape formats, for example, are extremely vulnerable, and copying here is paramount.
The use of analogue magnetic tape for creating archival masters of sound recordings - a practice current until 2000 - was eventually superseded by digital archiving using a special safety architecture.

For archiving analogue video source material (mostly Hi8, but also U-Matic and VHS) it has been decided to use an uncompressed format in order to store the video signal with as little loss and outside interference as possible.
LTO tape is used as archival storage medium for audio and video files.

Preservation focuses on the competent treatment and storage of the collected recordings. The stocks must be permanently examined, since not only historical but also comparatively modern data carriers are increasingly in danger of disintegration.

Worldwide ca. 30-40 million hours of recordings are facing decay of their components. The Phonogrammarchiv cooperates with partners in Austria and abroad in various research projects which seek to improve the conservation of audiovisual stocks.

In 2007, the Phonogrammarchiv was given special credit for its activities by being awarded UNESCO’s Jikji Prize, the highest international distinction “to reward efforts contributing to the preservation and accessibility of documentary heritage as a common heritage of humanity”.

Re-recording is the professional transfer of recordings from historical to modern sound carriers.
The long tradition of dealing with our own historical stock has been a source of expertise in this area, which was extended to the transfer of Edison cylinders. This led to transferring also the stocks of various other collections, such as the early Arabian recordings of the University of Leiden, Bartók's cylinder recordings in the Slovenska Matica (Slovakia), or the cylinder collections in Riga and Rome. Specific replay equipment developed by the Phonogrammarchiv has meanwhile been acquired also by sound archives abroad.
This device has been developed in order to protect these fragile sound carriers in the best possible way. Therefore the cylinders will not be forced onto a mandrel but clamped between two discs coated with foam rubber; any radial pressure upon the inner surface of the cylinder will thus be prevented. This method has proved an advantage in the case of slightly cracked or repaired cylinders. The audiosignal is retrieved by means of a moving magnet stereo pick-up; a modified Revox linear track arm serves as tone arm.

Abspielgerät für Edison-Zylinder
(Typ IV)

The player has a speed range of 45 rpm to 240 rpm and in its basic version allows the playback of 2" diameter cylinders only; however, it can optionally be adjusted to suit all other common cylinder formats.

Field Research - Consulting - Cooperation

Field Research

The archive conducts a number of recording projects, which generally focus on Austrian topics and constantly extend the thematic range of the collection. Often representing new methodological and technical approaches, these projects also contribute to the further development of research phonography and videography.
External recording projects supported by the Phonogrammarchiv benefit from the ever increasing experience in this field.

Consulting and Support of Field Research

The Phonogrammarchiv supports third-party research projects by first-hand advice abd training, the loan of field research equipment and the archiving/long-term preservation of the resultant recordings. As of now, however, fees will have to be charged for such support, which costs need to be provided for in the project application. If you wish to apply for such support, please complete the application form [download pdf]; Please read the explication of the legal framework [download pdf].
Please note that application forms for support by the Phonogrammarchiv will be processed in the order of their arrival, and that a timely submission (i.e. at least four weeks prior to your departure) is imperative. Especially during University holidays, which are often used for field research, audio and video equipment is in great demand. We therefore advise you to make the application procedure part of the overall planning of your intended research, since only a timely application will guarantee availability of the equipment for the period desired.
All recording equipment has been carefully selected and is constantly serviced and kept to optimal technical standards. By providing advice on adequate equipment and recording methodology for particular tasks, the archive also furthers the advancement of scientific phonography/videography.


The Phonogrammarchiv has always endorsed international cooperation, and since its early days it has also been involved in the establishment of other sound archives. Today, the Phonogrammarchiv is still engaged in the further development of audiovisual archivism, especially in developing countries. It is actively involved in the work of international organizations such as the International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives (IASA), the Audio Engineering Society (AES), and UNESCO (Memory of the World Programme).