What is the ‘essence’ of the AV-archive? With what is it tasked and how is it organised to fulfil these tasks? This document sets out to answer these questions. It sketches a picture of the audio- visual archive: its history, the profession and its most significant characteristics. It explains how the environment surrounding audio-visual archives has changed since 1980, and what effect this has had on the collections, the work processes and the staff. What were the struggles, what new strengths emerged? Finally it describes how these archives have gradually positioned themselves against the traditional memory institutes, such as ‘classic’ archives, libraries and museums.