How to Use the Archive
There are numerous archival records to discover when searching the databases of the Prussian Secret State Archives. Once you have found archival records of interest for your research, you can request and view them in the research rooms of the Prussian Secret State Archives. Users are permitted to make notes or transcripts using their own laptops and to take pictures of archival material with a cell phone or camera.
How can I best prepare for my visit to the archive? What advisory and research services are offered by the Prussian Secret State Archives? You can find information about using archival holdings on the following pages.
This page ist designed to help you plan your visit to the archive. We explain step by step how to research, request, and use archive materials, and give you important information for using the archive.
Visiting the Archive
Use of the Prussian Secret State Archives is free of charge.
Coats and bags are not permitted in the research room. Lockers are available for storing these items. Keys are available at the porter.
User application, account, and ID card
Before you can use the archive, you must complete a user application form, providing basic information about you and your research activities at the Prussian Secret State Archives. This data will be stored in a user account, and you will be issued a user ID card. The authorization to use the archive is valid for the ongoing calendar year.
Geheimes Staatsarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz
+49 030 266 44 7500
Address and Opening Hours:
Geheimes Staatsarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz
D-14195 Berlin (Dahlem)
Monday-Tuesday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Wednesday-Thursday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Friday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Please check https://gsta.preussischer-kulturbesitz.de/index.html and Opening Hours (German content) for occasion-related changes to opening hours.
Preparing Your Visit
Research before visiting the archive
Prepare your visit to the archive thoroughly. Conduct detailed preliminary research on your subject in advance of your visit with the help of printed literature and use the archive database and catalogs to get an overview of its holdings, bequests, and collections prior to your visit.
We recommend sending a written request to the Prussian Secret State Archives with as detailed a description of your subject as possible, so that we can advise you in advance which of our holdings might be useful for your project, or which other archives you might want to consider for your research. Please contact the archive using the contact options indicated on this page, either by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by post.
Requesting archival materials in advance
If you know the exact reference codes of the archival records you would like to view, you can submit a written request in advance (at least five working days before your visit). The materials will be made available to you at the records desk for a period of 14 days from the specified date, provided they are not in use elsewhere and there are no restrictions on their availability for reasons of preservation.
Please reserve a workplace in our research room before your visit.
Advisory Services and Work Facilities in the Research Room
Our staff can provide you with information on working in the archives and its rules and regulations, as necessary. They will provide you with the finding aids for archive holdings that may be relevant to your research.
Finding aids and databases in the research rooms
Numerous reproductions of catalogs are available in the circulating collection of the research room. Reading room computers can also be used to perform searches in our archive databases in the Intranet and Internet.
Laptops and viewing devices
You are allowed to use your own laptop in the research room. One of our research rooms is equipped with devices for viewing microfilms and microfiche belonging to the archive. Devices are also available for viewing maps, blueprints, images, posters, and other large-format materials.
Each archival record – that is, each document, folder, map, etc. – is assigned to a specific collection. The collections reflect the context out of which the archival materials assigned to them originated. For example, records belonging to a particular public authority are generally grouped together in a single collection. This authority is referred to as the provenance (origin) of the individual records.
There are finding aids for each collection in the Prussian Secret State Archives. You can use these catalogs to search the archive’s holdings and request materials for viewing. Catalogs are available in print and as databases. They list the documents, official records, files, maps, pictures, etc. belonging to our respective collections.
Finding aids allow you to search systematically within an individual collection. They generally include the following elements:
- An introduction briefly describing the history and responsibilities of the authorities, institutions, and persons from whose repository the materials originate;
- References to other collections relevant to your research question;
- A table of contents organized by subject to facilitate your search;
- Titles and time periods of the individual archival records, and, in some cases, further explanations of their contents (e.g. contains notes, remarks)
- Reference codes of the individual archival record to be used when submitting a request.
For more extensive collections, special overviews are also available to provide an initial impression of their contents.
Many finding aids are also available as databases, which can be searched using our reading room computers. A scaled-down version of this database is also available on the Internet. You can also access the Internet version in the research rooms on your own devices using our free Wifi.
Request and Distribution of Materials
Requesting archival materials
You have searched in our finding aids and found material you would like to request? Be sure to note the reference code of the record indicated in the finding aid. Use this reference code and your name to make a request. Request forms are available in the research room.
Viewing archival materials
After you have submitted your request, the archival records will be retrieved from the stacks and made available to you at the records desk. All archival materials may be viewed only in the research rooms of the Prussian Secret State Archives; they may not be taken from the premises. At the end of the working day, all archival materials must be returned to the records desk. In some cases, it may not be possible to view requested archival materials due to issues of preservation or other substantial reasons. In such cases, as with all questions, research room staff will be happy to assist you.
The Prussian Secret State Archives has a repository in Dahlem and an external repository. Archival materials from the Dahlem repository can usually be picked up at the records desk about one to two hours after your request has been received (10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.). Archival materials from the external repository can usually be made available the day after the request is received.
Request by E-Mail
You can fill out the PDF form by hand or on screen and send it to the archive as a printout by mail or as data file by email to email@example.com.
Requests for parchment documents require a 14-day processing time, as documents must be mounted, packaged, and digitized before being made available for use. These types of documents are made available in the reading room primarily in digital form.
As a rule, we do not confirm receipt of emails and requests for archival materials. When requesting archival materials, please allow at least five working days for internal processing. For short-term requests, we cannot always guarantee that the material will be made available on the date you request. You can find out whether requested archival materials are available for you by calling the records desk before your visit.
How long will the archival materials I have requested be available to me?
Requested materials must be viewed within 14 days of submitting the request.
The entire holdings of the service library are listed in the library's online search system OPAC.
Requesting materials from the sevice library
Materials from the service library can be requested using the request function in OPAC. To submit a request in OPAC, you will need a user number (ID card) and a six-digit password (for example, May 1, 1965 = 010565). A user ID will be issued to you in the archive research room. In exceptional cases, you may also use a request form. If you have not yet been issued a user ID card, you can also request books by email using the author or publisher and title.
Using materials from the service library
The service library is a reference library. It can be used only during our hours of operation. Material from the service library must be picked up at the distribution desk no later than one hour after submitting a request. Request times of the service library are Monday through Friday at 9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m., as well as 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday. Materials are available for a period of 14 days.
Using your own devices
Users may use their own devices to make copies from archival records and books belonging to the service library, provided that originals are not damaged or deteriorated in so doing.
Photographs, scans, printouts
The Visual Media Department of the Prussian Secret State Archives produces photographic digital images and scans of archival materials on request for a fee. In addition, printouts of data files made by the Visual Media Department can be obtained in various grades of quality. Photographs, scans and printouts can be ordered on site, by email or by mail.
Reproduction requests are processed and invoiced according to the price list of the Prussian Secret State Archives. more
Citing archival materials
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