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Digital archiving of sound recordings made by the Prussian Phonographic Commission 1915–1918

The Royal Prussian Phonographic Commission was set up in 1915 to document the speech and music of foreigners held in German prisoner-of-war camps. Renowned German scientists were involved in the project, led by Professor Carl Stumpf, the founder of the Berlin Phonogramm-Archiv.

Comprising 1022 wax cylinders, the Phonographic Commission’s collection is the largest of the historical collections held by the Berlin Phonogramm-Archiv at the Ethnologisches Museum. The archive files consist exclusively of music recordings, but these will be supplemented by relevant documentation (recording procedures, song texts in the original and in translation, drawings, photos, and correspondence). A multiplicity of ethnic groups is represented in the recordings, mostly from European countries and their former colonies overseas.

The goal of the project is to digitally archive the Prussian Phonographic Commission’s collection along with all associated written documentation, to collate this material in a single database that combines corresponding records from the Humboldt-Universität’s sound archive, and to make this available to the public.


Coordinator: Prof. Dr. Lars-Christian Koch, head of Ethnomusicology, Media Technology and Phonogramm-Archiv at the Ethnologisches Museum; Dr. Susanne Ziegler
Partners: Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Helmholtz-Zentrum
Funding: German Research Foundation (DFG)
Duration: 2012 to 2015