Skip to Main Content

Visiting archives in Germany: a guide to discovering and using them: Getting started

This guide is designed to help you finding your way through German archives and to enable you identifying exactly what you need for your research - quick and easy.

Purpose of this guide

This guide is intended for students and researchers at the University of Oxford seeking support in the study of German studies, esp. history and literature.

Use this guide to find out about the structure and types of German archives, how to locate them and tips on how to use them.

What is an archive - and why use it?

Akte Kriegsanleihen
        File on German War Bonds, GStA PK

Letters, manuscripts, legal documents, state or company records, diaries, speeches, audio or visual records, photographs, sketches and paintings or even physical objects like tools, croquery, vehicles or clothing ...

An archive preserves primary sources. Usually, these sources have accumulated during an institution's or individual's lifetime. Therefore, they can provide first hand information of historical events. Or they may give you the opportunity to interrogate people, that have died a long time ago.

That is why an archive is the key to investigating the past.

Archival records are normally unpublished and almost always unique - unlike a book or a journal of which a number of more or less identical copies may exist. In contrast, an archival record is what remains of a specific incident - a letter to a specific person, a diary that someone has written, a file that was once compiled on. An archival record is therefore only ever extant in one particular archive - and nowhere else.

So before you are able to start working with archival records concerning German history you have to find them first. There are more than 3.600 archives offering their holdings and services. The German archival infrastructure is rather varied - since in itself it is the product of the very history that we are studying with its help.

This guide is designed to help you finding your way through German archives and to enable you identifying exactly what you need for your research - quick and easy.

Librarian

Profile Photo
Isabel Holowaty
Contact:
Upper Reading Room, Room 2.03 (North / History end)
Bodleian Library, Broad Street
Oxford, OX1 3BG
01865 2-77294
Website Skype Contact: iholowaty
Subjects: History - British

Acknowledgement

This LibGuide was created by Ulrike Kändler as part of her internship at the Bodleian Library, Oxford, 11-29 August 2014. Without her hard work and dedication, this guide would not exist, so many thanks must go to her.