Secret State Archives Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation

The Secret State Archives Prussian Cultural Heritage traces back to the chancellery of the margrave of Brandenburg according to a charter issued in Stendal 1282. Three hundred years later, in 1598, Erasmus Langenhain was appointed as the first archivist and the archives began to play an autonomous role.

In 1803, the institution obtained the honorary title Secret State Archives. By incorporating the Secret Ministerial Archives (Geheimes Ministerialarchiv), it became the central archive for the records of Prussia’s supreme authorities. In 1924 the institution moved into a path-breaking new functional building in Berlin-Dahlem. To this day, this is the seat of the Archives.

Because of bomb attacks, documents were partially evacuated during the Second World War. After 1945, these documents were kept in Merseburg as a part of the GDR’s Central Archives. The documents that remained in Berlin continued to be available in Dahlem after 1945. In 1963, the Secret State Archives was incorporated into the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation (Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz).

After German Reunification, the divided archives were joined in their original seat in Berlin-Dahlem.

1. Visiting the archive

Directions to the archive may be found in the instructions for arrival. Before using the archive a usage request must be filled out, in which you are you enter your personal information (name, profession, address) and the topic and purpose in the Geheimes Staatsarchiv PK. Usage clearance is valid for the entire calendar year. Usage of the Geheimes Staatsarchiv is free of charge. Lockers are available for any clothing and bags you are not permitted to bring into the research hall. You receive a key to this locker at the reception area.

Introduction to using the archive

The Geheimes Staatsarchiv PK regularly offers an introduction to usage of the archive for students and scientific guests every first Tuesday of the month at exactly 4:00 p.m. Registration is possible via e-mail, telephone or the lists displayed. Additional information can be found here.

2. Preparing for your visit

Thoroughly prepare for your visit to the Geheimes Staatsarchiv PK beforehand. Read up extensively on your subject by using the printed literature and use the archive databank and the bibliography, to obtain an overview of the inventory, assets and collections of the Geheimes Staatsarchiv PK in advance. If possible, send a written request to the Geheimes Staatsarchiv PK with as detailed a description of your subject as possible so that you may be informed in advance of which items may be of assistance to you for your subject, or which other archives you should consider for your purposes. If you are aware of the exact numbered identification of the archival materials you wish to view, you may order these in writing in advance (at least two weeks before your visit). The archival materials are then available to you on the desired date in the documents provided, unless they are being used for other purposes, or this is prevented for conservational reasons.

3. Consultation and work in the research hall

Please register first with the supervisor in the research hall. The supervisor will provide you with the search aids that could be pertinent for your subject. Numerous reproduced inventories are also available in the open access holdings of the reading hall. This is where extensive research in our archive databanks in the intranet and internet can be conducted with reading hall PCs.

If you wish, throughout your work you may also hold acquire intensive consultation from the archivist whose specialty area corresponds to your subject. Please refer to the supervisor in the research hall. It is possible to work with personal laptops in the research hall. Reading devices are available for inspecting microfilms and microfiches of the Geheimes Staatsarchiv PK.

Open wifi is avaible in the research hall, too.

4. Search aids

The search aids of the Geheimes Staatsarchiv PK - available as inventories, inventory folders or databanks - catalogue the documents, records, files, papers, maps or images belonging to the respective inventory and thus form the basis for your research and orders. Special digests give you an initial view of the structure of the transmission received for more extensive stocks. Along with the systematically organised titles of the individual archival materials, the inventories generally provide you with a foreword with a brief introduction into the history and powers of the authorities and institutions that the documents stem from. Together with the systematics of the table of contents, this introduction simplifies the search of individual archival materials and may also lead you to other materials relevant for your inquiry. Furthermore, many inventories have an index of specialties, individuals and locations. In the search aids you will find the document titles and their ages, and sometimes additional information on the contents of the archival material (contents, remarks) and the numeric identification you can use to order the item.

With our reading hall PVs you may conduct extensive intranet research in our archive databanks. The slimmed down internet version of our archive databank is also available.

5. Ordering and provision of archival materials

If you have searched for the archival materials pertinent to your subject by using the search aids, the complete numeric identifications and your name must be entered into the order forms provided and submitted to the research hall supervisor, who is also happy to assist you with any questions. If the documents ordered are not being used elsewhere and the order thereof is not prevented for conservational reasons, the archival materials are retrieved from the stacks by an archive employee and provided to you with the check-out. All archival materials may only be viewed in the research hall of the Geheimes Staatsarchiv PK; they may not be loaned out. Archival materials from the Dahlem location may generally be picked up one to two hours after receipt of your order (9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.) at check-out. Archival materials from the external site may generally be provided one to two days after being ordered. The ordered documentation will be reserved for you at check-out for 14 days. At the end of your visit please return all archival materials to the check-out counter.

6. Handling the archival materials

Each archival material is one of a kind, and thus irreplaceable. Every user must ensure that they prevent any damage to the items provided to them by exercising caution and care. Please note that items may not be defiled, written on, have parts removed or altered in their order of loose pages.

You will receive foam wedge pillows and small sand packets to hold down the pages, allowing for safe reading of records, files and maps. Smoking and bringing food and drinks into the research hall is prohibited. A small coffee stand and a beverage machine are available during your breaks.

7. Creating reproductions

When possible the Geheimes Staatsarchiv PK accepts written orders of reproductions from its archival and library inventories, provided the condition of the respective item permits and this is not prevented by third-party rights or protected interests. The orders must be submitted on the respective form (request form). The reproductions are created at the imaging center of the Geheimes Staatsarchiv PK (reprographics).

In general, only overhead scans or photographic digital images of archive goods are produced to protect the archival materials. Furthermore, it is possible to create copies of available micro-roll film exposures with the reader-printer in the research hall, or to do so through the GStA PK's imaging centre. Only overhead scans or photographic digital images are provided for books that appeared before 1850, depending on clearance by a library employee. Electronic copies are also permitted for books that appeared after 1850, with clearance by a library employee, if the book's condition permits. The various types of reproduction and prices can be found in the price lists for work performed by the imaging centre of the Geheimes Staatsarchiv PK. The order forms are available from the hall office. There you will also receive large-format inserts/bookmarks for copying pages of archival materials without numbered pages.

8. Service library

The service library of the Geheimes Staatsarchiv PK is available for your work in the archive with approx. 185,000 volumes and 200 current periodicals. The OPAC of the GStA PK provides information on the volumes. The titles may also be researched with the KVK (Karlsruher Virtueller Katalog). More precise information on usage of the library's inventory may be found on the pages of the service library.

9. Legal bases

Please also observe the terms of use and building regulations of the Geheimes Staatsarchiv PK. The stipulations of the act on the protection and usage of federal archival goods, Federal Archive Act, apply to archive law-related questions on use (copyright terms).

10. Citation methods

Archival materials must be fully cited, including abbreviation and authority company for provenant reference, in accordance with the following examples:

GStA PK, I. HA Geh. Rat, Rep. 10 Reichstagsverhandlungen, no. 2

GStA PK, I. HA Rep. 77 Ministerium des Innern, Tit. 500 no. 2 vol. 1, p. 9

GStA PK, II. HA Generaldirektorium, Dep. 25 Fabrikendepartement, Tit. I no. 23 vol. 7, p. 2

GStA PK, VI. HA Familienarchive und Nachlässe, Nl Otto Braun, C I no. 217, p. 21


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