Technological advances in storage, indexing and search technologies are increasingly making it possible to archive and retrieve multimedia materials [3,4,6,8]. The focus of much current work has been on the development of enabling technologies to allow users access to text, image, video and audio databases. It is clearly important however, that such technology development be informed by an understanding of user and application requirements. Our study attempts to document how people use, store, search and process large amounts of audio data in a real setting: in order to study real users with real audio retrieval problems we examined heavy users of a commercial voicemail system. By analyzing qualititative and quantitative usage data, we were able to derive a number of design requirements for multimedia access in general, as well as specific design principles for voice messaging and archiving systems.