9. Historical Voices Reloaded – Rethinking Archival Responsibilities Compared to Intangible Cultural Heritage

Cultural Mapping and Musical Diversity - Britta Sweers

Gerda Lechleitner [+-]
Austrian Academy of Sciences
Gerda Lechleitner, Ph.D., works at the Phonogram Archive at the Austrian Academy of Sciences and is curator of the Historical Collections. She is the editor of the CD edition The Complete Historical Collections 1899–1950 and the Phonogram Archive’s Yearbook “International Forum on Audio-Visual Research.” Her research focus includes intellectual history around 1900, and the history and development of audiovisual archives and their role as “lieu de mémoire.” She is also interested in the significance of (acoustic) historical sources, as well as in music and minorities, and multipart music.


Archives have been playing a central role in the UNESCO-related Intangible Cultural Heritage debate. Drawing on the case study of the Vienna Phonogram Archive, this chapter thus discusses audiovisual archives as places of historical sources and their responsibilities in comparison to experiences in archival work, particularly with regard to the Intangible Cultural Heritage debate. What were the considerations of the early archivists? What was their strategy for collecting cultural expressions like music and languages all over the world at the end of the 19th century? And how do we today assess those documents from our point of view? The text of the UNESCO convention for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage highlights it “as a mainspring of cultural diversity”, while UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme underlines “that the world’s documentary heritage belongs to all, should be fully preserved and protected”, and “permanently accessible to all”. The Historical Collections of the Vienna Phonogrammarchiv have been included in this programme as “documents of universal significance”. Considering that the world’s documentary heritage includes not only written but also audio-visual documents, the discourse oscillates between the positions of the static document on the one hand and the living cultural activities on the other. Selected examples are used to clarify the position of the archive and to critically question its role.

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Lechleitner, Gerda. 9. Historical Voices Reloaded – Rethinking Archival Responsibilities Compared to Intangible Cultural Heritage. Cultural Mapping and Musical Diversity. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 181-193 Feb 2020. ISBN 9781781797594. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=35833. Date accessed: 18 Jan 2020 doi: 10.1558/equinox.35833. Feb 2020

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