Archive, Collection, Museum: On the History of the Archiving of Voices at the Sound Archive of the Humboldt University (2017)

Britta Lange

About this exposition

Available today under the name of the Berlin Sound Archive (Berliner Lautarchiv) or the Sound Archive of the Humboldt University (Lautarchiv der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin) is a collection of now largely digitalized sound storage media begun in 1915 (https://www.lautarchiv.hu-berlin.de/, all internet references retrieved 24th June 2016). The collection includes shellac records with recordings of prisoners of war (1915-1918), sound recordings of the voices of so-called famous personalities (1917-1939), speech samples of German dialects (1921-1943), and recitations of poetry and literature in German (1930s and 1940s) as well as magnetic tapes from the 1960s that have not yet been transferred to a digital format. While, since its inception, the collection has repeatedly been referred to as a sound archive, prior to the digitalization of the shellac holdings in the 1990s this term never found its way into any of its official names. Against this background, this article traces both the Sound Archive’s early institutional history (1915-1947) as well as the use of the term “sound archive.” By considering the archiving of voices in the framework of an emerging history of knowledge, it explores the disciplinary contexts (the academic sciences) and configurations of conservation, research, and presentation (collection, archive, laboratory, library, and museum) in which the preserved human voice operates as an epistemic object. On the basis of a renewed examination of a number of sound recordings of prisoners of war, it should be shown how this historical material can be made productive for current research horizons.
typeresearch exposition
keywordsarchive, collection, museum, sound recording, voice, prisoner of war, Journal of Sonic Studies, sound, Sonic Studies, sound studies
last modified19/01/2017
published inJournal of Sonic Studies
portal issue13.
connected toJournal of Sonic Studies

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