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Finding and using records in the reading room

The vast majority of documents in the State Archives are only available in their original form, i.e. primarily on paper. To use such a document, you therefore need to visit one of our Reading Rooms in Duisburg, Münster or Detmold.

When you do so, you will need to observe the Archive Act of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia as well as the Archive Use and Fee Regulations of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia. The Reading Rooms can be used by anyone who is interested, and no fees are charged.

Any records that are still subject to closure periods or other usage restrictions can only be used under certain conditions.


    • Find out online from general sources, stock lists and reference catalogues whether the State Archives are likely to contain any documents on your question or area of interest. Note the State Archive department where the relevant documents are kept.
    • If this is the first time you’re carrying out research on a question or project in the State Archives, we recommend that you first contact an archivist who will point you to the relevant reference catalogues or records.
    • If you already know the item numbers of the relevant records, you can preorder the material by email, so that they’ll be ready for you when you visit the relevant Reading Room (in Duisburg, Münster or Detmold). Please remember, however, that it might take several days to retrieve them.
    • If a record is still subject to a closure period, you’ll need to apply for special permission and wait for a decision by the State Archives before your visit.
    • Find out about the practical aspects of your visit – opening hours, how to get there, etc. – from the relevant department (Rhineland, Westphalia or East Westphalia-Lippe).

    If you want to make your own reproductions of suitable documents, remember to take your camera or mobile phone to the Reading Room.


    • The Reading Room Supervisor will be pleased to help if you have any questions about using our facilities. Our staff will also hand you the archived records you ordered and, if you’re visiting us for the first time, your Reading Room ID card.
    • The Reading Room has an archive information system called V.E.R.A. where you can search our stocks and order the items you need. Click here for further details about searching our archives.
    • Ordered items are retrieved from storage several times a day and delivered to the Reading Room.
    • If records are available in digital form, you can access them on a monitor straightaway.
    • After ordering records, you are welcome to take reproductions of items, using your own camera or mobile phone, provided you have obtained permission from the Reading Room Supervisor. Alternatively, you can request reproductions to be made by our Photo Studio. Just ask our staff.

    The Reading Room Regulations for the State Archives of North Rhine-Westphalia are applicable in all our Reading Rooms.