Phonogramm-Archiv (Berlin)

Carl Stumpf, Founder
Erich Moritz von Hornbostel, Founder
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Today the Phonogramm-Archiv (“phonogram archive”) encompasses around 150,000 sound recordings; it also holds textual and photographic documents and some historical recording and playback devices. Initiated in 1900 by psychologists Carl Stumpf and Erich Moritz von Hornbostel, the Phonogramm-Archiv started as a private collection, based at Stumpf’s Institute of Psychology at the University of Berlin. It grew into an immense enterprise that was taken over by the Prussian state and transferred to the Academy of Music in 1923. Erich von Hornbostel remained the Phonogramm-Archiv’s director until his emigration in 1934, when the archive was moved to Berlin’s Ethnological Museum (then called the Museum für Völkerkunde). Parts of the collection were taken to Leningrad during World War II, then returned to East Germany’s Academy of Sciences; other parts remained in West Berlin, at the rebuilt ethnological museum. In 1991, the two collections were reunified in the ethnomusicology department of the museum. During the Phonogramm-Archiv’s early period, a valuable collection of roughly 30,000 Edison cylinder recordings came together through Stumpf’s vast personal network of traveling colleagues, friends, and acquaintances. In 1999, the collection was added to the UNESCO Memory of the World Register. Many of these ethnomusicological recordings staked encyclopedic and preservationist claims, mostly with the aim of collecting and researching all the world’s languages, musics, and sounds. But Stumpf and his colleagues also found ways to turn the phonograph into a research tool for experimental psychology, as documented by a smaller collection of around a hundred Experimentalwalzen (experimental cylinders).


An overview of today's collection can be found at the Ethnological Museum Berlin.

Compiled by VT


© Foto: Ethnologisches Museum der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz
Fotograf: Albrecht Wiedmann

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Areas of Study
Comparative Musicology
Linguistics and Communication
Music and Musicology
Instruments and Technologies
Phonograph / phonograph record
Sites of Knowledge
Archives and Museums