Hitting the archives

Today, I started my archival research in Germany. The upcoming weeks, I’ll stay in Berlin and study source material in the Bundesarchiv. I was very pleasantly surprised with the beautiful suburb of Lichterfelde in which the archive is situated.


The archive itself is located in former barracks of the Prussian Kadettenkorps, that was disbanded as part of the Versaille treaty after the Great War. Today and tomorrow, I will mainly work in the library of the archive, that is housed in the former chapel built by the American army when it took over the estate after the Second World War.

The library from the inside

Apart from a great collection on the history of the German labour movement, the library has a number of old journals from the council movement that are of special interest to me. The librarians have been very helpful, also in the preparation of my trip, and when I arrived this morning a whole pile of books, journals and microfilm cases was waiting for me.

If the library looks quite old-fashioned on the pictures, that’s because it is. There is no wifi and the microfilm machine can unfortunately not save images to harddisk, so I had to make a lot of prints. All this made me think of my first year as a history student. Best of all was the fact that not all the files of the library are entered into the digital catalogue. A small section (of course exactly that section that I wanted to study) has to be ordered still from the old Zettelkatalog: old school card catalogue that is ordered topically. Behind the tab about the Kommunistische Arbeiterpartei Deutschlands I found a lot of books and articles that I indeed had not found in the digital catalogue.

The old Zettelkatalog

I ordered the objects I needed, also old-fashionedly, by writing out order forms with serial numbers. Hopefully they will be available for me tomorrow!


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