Augsburg City Archives

Dear Colleagues,

We have all heard the reports of scholarly catastrophe in Europe: the fire in
the Anna Amalia Library in 2004; the collapse of the City Archive of Cologne in
2009. They are immeasurable scholarly losses: two valuable collections of rare
books and archival documents, unique sources from the past that can never be

I write today to alert you all to developments that threaten another great
cultural treasury. The City Archive of Augsburg is now one of the most
important city archives in Germany, housing the greatest collection of documents
for a single city from the period between the early eleventh and the early
nineteenth century. On the basis of its serial collections alone, it is
arguably the most valuable city archive for research in the late medieval and
early modern periods, when Augsburg was one the greatest cities of the Empire
and of Europe, a metropolis of commerce and culture, home to Fugger and Welser
as well as to Breu and Holbein, site of the Augsburg Confession and the
Religious Peace. Located in a nineteenth-century Bürgerhaus, however, this
great archive is at great risk. The current situation meets modern standards
for neither study nor preservation.

Those of you who are familiar with the City Archive know from personal
experience that the reading room is small, stuffy and shabby. It lacks
sufficient space for regular users. It lacks up-to-date catalogues to access
the collections. It lacks sufficient, secure electrical outlets to permit the
use of personal computers by all users. Such conditions are not only an
inconvenience for scholars but also a strain for both staff and collections

Far more important is the current situation of the collections themselves. As a
result of their sheer size, the collections far outstrip the available shelf
space, so that a large percentage lies, uncatalogued and unshelved, in cartons
in the basement. Given the age of the structure and surrounding construction,
that basement is given to periodic flooding with predictable and consistently
lamentable results for the documents. Shelved documents are, in fact, no more
secure, because there is no automated fire-suppression system. Given the age
of the electrical and heating systems in the house, the threat of an
uncontrollable fire is a real and constant presence. All of these conditions
contribute to an environment in the stacks that has encouraged a proliferation
of so-called bookworms. These pests enter archives and libraries through
poorly fitting windows and doors and proliferate where dust, dirt, heat,
darkness, and poor ventilation prevail. The mature female insect lays her eggs
on the edges of books, or in the crevices between quires, and the hatched larvae
burrow into the books, riddling them with tiny tunnels. Thus, even as flood and
fire threaten the collections of Augsburg’s City Archive, the documents as of
this writing are quite literally being eaten away.

These are deficiencies, for which the archive’s committed, professional staff
cannot entirely compensate. Though its number has increased in the last few
years-to say nothing of the level of its professional training-and its
achievements in matters of conservation, organization and exhibition have won
well-deserved praise, it cannot be expected to contend with the challenges that
confront them.

The situation has reached crisis. Plans are now in hand to close the City
Archive for three years, beginning next summer, to permit the fumigation of the
building. Not only will the collections be unavailable for use, but the
measures themselves will prove futile. Experts have already reported the
building so infested and so unsuitable that the only hope for Augsburg’s unique
historical record is to find it a new, safe home.

A number of newspaper articles document the story of the City Archive and its neglect-no other word, unfortunately, can accurately be applied-by the city government. You will see that these
developments are not new. You will see, also, that the city government has
recognized the problems by undertaking exploratory studies to move the archive
to a new location, where its collections can be appropriately stored and
studied. You will see, finally, that the city government of Augsburg has, its
recognition of the problem notwithstanding, not rescued the City Archive,
claiming budgetary restrictions on the one hand, while acquiring millions in
new debt to underwrite the construction of a new football stadium, among other
“cultural” projects, on the other hand.

The city government of Augsburg refuses to act. Fiscal considerations may be
part of the explanation, but a failure to appreciate the cultural and scholarly
importance of the historical record also plays a role. In brief, the political
leadership neither knows what is in its archive, nor accepts responsibility for

This is where each of us can help. I have been asked by our colleagues,
Professor i. R. Dr. Rolf Kießling, Lehrstuhl für Bayrische und Schwäbische
Landesgeschichte der Universität Augsburg, and Professor Dr. iur. utr.
Christoph Becker, Lehrstuhl für Bürgerliches Recht, Römisches Recht und
Europäische Rechtsgeschichte der Universität Augsburg, to organize a
letter-writing campaign among American colleagues, who may be more directly
familiar with Augsburg, to save the City Archive. Let me therefore ask each of
you who see the scholarly importance of the Augsburg City Archive and the human
importance of cultural memory to write to the Bürgermeister of Augsburg, urging
him to preserve the archive by moving it without delay to its planned, new home
in the renovated structure of the Augsburger Kammgarn-Spinnerei. Letters
should be sent to:

Oberbürgermeister Dr. Kurt Gribl
Maximilianstrasse 4
D-86150 Augsburg

By writing, we have the opportunity to help prevent a catastrophe, rather than
merely to read and grieve about it after the fact.

Thank you for your help. Please contact me, if you have any questions.

Thomas Max Safley

Professor Dr. Thomas Max Safley
Department of History
208 College Hall
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104-6379
tel. 215.898.2186 / 8452

From EXLIBRIS list.

OpenEdition schlägt Ihnen vor, diesen Beitrag wie folgt zu zitieren:
Klaus Graf (27. Oktober 2009). Augsburg City Archives. Archivalia. Abgerufen am 14. Juli 2024 von

Autor: Klaus Graf

Historiker und Archivar, Blogger

Ein Gedanke zu „Augsburg City Archives“

  1. Killian I will be in Germany in May doing some research on the engravings of the Killian family I will be in Augsburg …is there some way I can get some help to locate the engravings?
    Dr Gary Klingler PhD
    Grand Valley State University
    Allendale Mi
    my email is

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