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In the majority of cases using our archives will mean searching through records and viewing them in the Reading Room. However, there are also other, more specialised aspects of archive use which are subject to separate regulations.


Not all documents in the National Archives can be viewed without restrictions. Viewing may be restricted due to closure periods under archiving law, particularly if they are subject to confidentiality regulations or if their state of preservation is critical.

Records are usually subject to a general closure period of 30 years after they were written. The earliest time when personal archives can be viewed is ten years after a person’s death or 100 years after their birth. The State Archives may permit exemptions if you can specify a suitable research purpose or if you can show that your use serves the purpose of safeguarding certain legal interests (Fact Sheet on the Reduction of the Closure Period).

Records may also be subject to special confidentiality regulations under social law, tax law or legislation on statistics. If this is the case, they are subject to a special 60-year closure period after they were written. Other records may contain classified information, in which case they cannot be released for viewing until they have been declassified.

In exceptional cases, records may be unavailable for use because they are in a poor state of preservation. This applies, for instance, if a document is in need of repair.


It is possible to make reproductions of records in the State Archives. You can either ask the Photo Studio of the State Archives, or you can do so yourself, in the Reading Rooms, using your own camera or mobile phone.

To obtain a reproduction from our Photo Studio, all you need to do is submit an informal written request, specifying the relevant item number, page and desired format. You will find the fees listed in the appendix to the Archive Use and Fee Regulations of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia. When you request a reproduction, it usually takes up to four weeks before you receive it.

If you wish to make your own reproduction in a Reading Room, you can do so free of charge. However, remember that you first need to sign the relevant Terms and Conditions (available from the Reading Room Supervisor). Our staff will also check whether you are permitted to reproduce a given document or whether there are any legal impediments (e.g. unexpired closure periods or existing copyrights).


When citing archived records from one of the three departments of the State Archives of North Rhine-Westphalia, please use the following conventions: “State Archives of North Rhine-Westphalia, East W...

When citing archived records from one of the three departments of the State Archives of North Rhine-Westphalia, please use the following conventions:

  • “State Archives of North Rhine-Westphalia, East Westphalia-Lippe Department, [order number]” (Short form: “LAV NRW OWL”),
  • “State Archives of North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland Department, [order number]” (Short form: “LAV NRW R”),
  • “State Archives of North Rhine-Westphalia, Westphalia Department, [order number]” (Short form: “LAV NRW W”),

Example: State Archives of North Rhine-Westphalia, East Westphalia-Lippe Department, P 3 / 11, No. 4 (Short form: LAV NRW OWL, P 3 / 11, No. 4)

What matters here is not the punctuation, but the clear specification of the department, the stock item number (P 3/11) and, where necessary, the stock name and the number of the individual archiving unit (No. 4). The stock item number (and, where necessary, stock name) and the number of the archiving unit form the order number.

Further examples:

  • LAV NRW OWL, D 73 Tit. 4, No 5778 or
  • LAV NRW R, Gerichte Rep. 0011, No 1245  or

LAV NRW W, K 204/Regierung Münster, Wiedergutmachungen, No 4404.

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Zahlung in den Lesesälen

Ab dem 01.12.2022 ist nur noch die bargeldlose Zahlung in den Lesesälen des Landesarchivs NRW per EC-Cash Terminal möglich.

Alle gängigen bargeldlosen Zahlungsarten (EC-Karte, MasterCard, VISA etc.) werden akzeptiert.