A review of The Enzkreis District Archive (Kreisarchiv Enzkreis, Pforzheim, Germany).
With its extensive and outstanding range of official and local records, southwestern Germany offers the historian of pre-unification Germany a vast trove of material. On account of its role in the 1848 European revolutions, its leading position in German mass migration to the United States, and the close documentation of its social and economic institutions, the region has enjoyed a prodigious degree of historical analysis. The official state records of the now unified southwest German states of Baden and Württemberg, held principally in Stuttgart and Karlsruhe, are complimented by the records of the municipalities, townships and parishes. It is this latter, almost inexhaustible material, that has aided such intense study of the region, and harbours the potential for much more original research. However, at the micro-level, it is often extremely difficult to know where to start. The Kreisarchiv Enzkreis (Enzkreis district archive, Pforzheim) offers any social, political or economic historian of this region a gateway to this disparate, invaluable material.
Located at the head of the Black Forest, the small city of Pforzheim enjoys a convenient and picturesque setting for the researcher, and is well served by rail and road links. The state archive of Württemberg lies in Stuttgart, around 30 km east, whilst the state archive for Baden lies in Karlsruhe, around 20 km west. The Nagoldbahn railway line, running south from Pforzheim into the Forest, provides access to small local towns which provide cheaper, more scenic accommodation options than in the city. The archive itself sits in the county government offices adjacent to Pforzheim central train station.
Contents of the archive
The Enzkreis district archive itself is home to the official records of the district of Pforzheim, and some holdings for the wider region. It is, however, the network of local archivists tied to the Enzkreis facility, through head archivist Konstantin Huber, that determines the real value of the site. Accessing the local repositories of the many towns and parishes in and around the district is impractical and time consuming, and cataloguing data is not always easily available to the researcher for small town and village collections. The Enzkreis archive offers an effective inter-library loan service that makes substantial runs of documents available from these disparate repositories, over extended periods. The knowledge of local collections within the archive also means that potentially valuable records, with either obscure catalogue references or no cataloguing at all, can be introduced to the researcher. Tax receipts, wills and probate records, or local court proceedings are just some examples of the micro-level data, recorded at the parish, rather than state level, which is of invaluable use to the social or economic historian and can be made available by the archive.
The archive also continuously catalogues outlying community collections of primary material. These catalogues can be found online, and are often provided as an accompaniment to requests for material.
Using the archive
At the archive itself, housed in the modern Enzkreis district government building, a large work area is made available for external researchers, positioned in between the offices of senior archivists. Desks, microfilm/fiche readers, document holders, copying services and Wi-Fi are available from this quiet, individual workspace. The offices also enjoy full-time opening hours. With centrally gathered documents, this is highly favourable to navigating the part-time hours of the smaller parish archives, often manned by volunteers.
When approaching the archive about work in the area, specific enquiries for material, within a general summary of intended research, is recommended. In this fashion, a detailed response is typically provided about what data can be made available, when it can be made available, and other, potentially useful sources. At this stage, plans and reservations can also be made for researchers to use the allocated workspace within the facility. At the point of arrival, a meeting is typically held between the researcher and head archivist Huber, in order to plan out what the researcher hopes to get from the visit, how this can be helped, and to share diaries for planned days in the office. Lunch is typically taken by staff between noon and 1pm, with researchers free to break at any point, whilst as a professional courtesy, the leading archivists will make sure that the researcher knows when they will break.
Finally, the archive is also home to extensive collections of local printed material and historical texts, ensuring that reference works pertaining to the region are available whilst analysing primary material. These historical texts are valuable, considering the changes in local legal boundaries, customs and vernacular over time. Books are held on an open-shelf policy, or with immediate returns from the archive stores. I came to the archive originally to work on German-American migration, and found the archive to be well versed in the history of the topic. The archive and head archivist are also involved in the annual production of historical publications, covering a wide range of topics, and this level of context is a great aid to research.
The Enzkreis district archive at Pforzheim provides the researcher of early-modern and modern German history with an invaluable resource. Throughout my doctoral and post-doctoral research, it has proven to be the most accommodating, informed research facility available, with an attention to detail and degree of co-operation and collaboration often missing from large repositories. In practical terms, it is situated perfectly to contextualise local primary sources within the more traditionally used state sources in Stuttgart and Karlsruhe. It provides outstanding, convenient environs for the researcher on an extended stay in the region, and it brings together local knowledge and research networks in an amiable, productive working environment.
Image: The Enzkreis District Archive, Pforzheim, Germany (image taken by Enzkreis Archivist, 27/04/15)