Generally speaking, the North Rhine-Westphalian Archive Act specifies that anyone may use material from the State Archives of North Rhine-Westphalia. Nevertheless, there are certain legally specified closure periods, which have been specially laid down to protect the rights of individuals. However, most of these periods can be shortened if you are conducting your research for a specific academic purpose. To prepare for your visit, you can carry out some preliminary online research in the archives, identifying the available material, reference catalogues and catalogues of service libraries. You can then go to the relevant Reading Room and view the archived material and books that are available. Many documents can be accessed on microfilm or microfiche, leaving the original untouched. Our archivists will be pleased to answer your written enquiries and advise you on site.
Where can I find what?
The archiving of a given document is usually the responsibility of the regional department (Rhineland, Westphalia or East Westphalia-Lippe) in whose area the relevant district, authority or institution was/is situated.
- The Rhineland Department in Duisburg contains archived material and civil registry records from the areas covered by today’s districts of Cologne and Düsseldorf as well as documents from the highest North Rhine-Westphalian institutions and state authorities.
- The Westphalia Department contains archived material from the areas covered by today’s districts of Münster and Arnsberg as well as today’s district of Detmold (until 1815).
The East Westphalia-Lippe Department contains archived material from the former state of Lippe as well as documents from the areas covered by today’s district of Detmold (from 1816). It is also responsible for civil registry records from Westphalia-Lippe (the districts of Arnsberg, Detmold and Münster).
A physical visit to the Archives
- Upon arrival:
- Please sign in at reception.
- Place coats and bags in a locker (key available from reception). Enter the Reading Room. Please remember, however, that you can only take writing utensils, a laptop and a muted smartphone into the room. This is to protect archived material.
In the Reading Room:
- Please note our Reading Room Regulations.
- Please make your presence known to a Reading Room Supervisor, particularly if this is your first visit.
- Go to a PC and log in via an input dialogue, where you will be asked to provide your name, address and also the topic and purpose of your research. Please also state whether the details of your research topic can be shared with other users or not.
- Next, you need to go to a Reading Room Supervisor to sign both the Research Request and an undertaking to observe the Regulations on the Use of Archives, that you are aware of the fee regulations and that you will respect the rights and interests of third parties. This completes your sign-in procedure, and you will be given a personal user ID.
- Our Reading Room Supervisors will be pleased to help if you have any questions.
- Please use the web app for both general information and to access our V.E.R.A. archive software.
- You can use V.E.R.A. for your research and also to order archived material. If you are new to our archives, you can view a brief introduction to the search options provided by this database program.
- You can navigate through the Stock List and conduct keyword searches.
- The Stock List is roughly divided into periods and administrative areas. In addition, we also provide several printed lists of some stock.
- Most of our stock can be found in reference catalogues, with detailed specifications of the contents. Most of these are available electronically, in the V.E.R.A. database. If this is not the case, please ask a Reading Room Supervisor.
- Some resources are subject to a legally stipulated closure period and are therefore inaccessible, or they may only be accessible in part. Again, if this is the case, please have a word with a Reading Room Supervisor. Under certain conditions you may be able to apply for a reduction of the closure period (according to the North Rhine Westphalian Archiving Act).
- Certain subjects can also be researched via additional resources, so-called subject inventories. A subject inventory is a separate compilation of all the archived items relevant to a specific subject, based on all stock, sometimes covering several archives. Using a subject inventory is similar to using a reference catalogue, as it contains individual details of the archived material, including the item number for ordering. Quite often, this item number is only available in printed form.
Ordering an item:
- Using the search facility of the V.E.R.A. database, you can order individual items directly from the reference catalogue. Ordered items are collected from the storerooms and brought to the Reading Room several times a day. Any stock that has already been digitised can be viewed directly on the PCs available in the Reading Room.
Reproductions (copies) of archived items
- These need to be ordered
- via the V.E.R.A. database.
With permission, you can also photograph a selected number of archived items, e.g. using your smartphone. Our Reading Supervisors will be pleased to advise.