A review of the Dresden City Archive (Stadtarchiv Dresden), Dresden, Germany.
The Stadtarchiv Dresden (Dresden City Archive) is located at Elisabeth-Boer-Straße, north of the city center in the building that once housed the army bakery (Address and opening hours in German). Get off the Straβenbahn Line 7 or 8 at Heeresbäckerei (Stadtarchiv), cross the tracks, and walk diagonally across the parking lot toward the long white building on the other side. Turn the corner around the end of the building and enter the doors of the glass tower. Write your name on the sign-in sheet at the guard’s desk on the first floor, and then take the stairs or elevator to the fifth floor. Off to the right are tall metal lockers with keys for your possessions; bring only what you need into the glassed-in reading room.
Ed. note: This is the second in a trio of German archive reviews by Kristen Ehrenberger. For her review on the Federal Film Archive in Berlin, click here.
The archivists will ask you fill out a standard registration form (Anmeldung) with name, passport number, and research aims. A letter of introduction is unnecessary, as German public archives are generally “open to anyone with a legitimate research question”. The holdings of the Stadtarchiv are quite large and cover the period from 1260 to the present, but only the archive’s library of books is available for searching online beforehand. The best you can do is start with the Bestandsübersicht, which names each holding, gives the dates covered, and tells how many linear meters, microforms, maps, or — rarely —digital items are available. (However, from the website you can watch short educational/informational films starring the archive director that originally aired on the local television channel DRESDENEINS.)
The Stadtarchiv is closed on Monday and open from 9am-6pm on Tuesday, 9am-5pm on Wednesday and Thursday, and 9am-12pm on Friday. When you arrive, the friendly but business-like archivists will discuss your topic with you and hand over the relevant finding aid(s); on subsequent trips you can put in a request ahead of time and have the documents waiting for you. They will also hold items for you for up to one month; after that they go back into storage. When I was there in late 2010 and early 2011, the waiting time to receive materials was seldom longer than an hour, and that may have become even shorter now that a new repository has been built, which stores documents that used to be off-site.
Because my project on ideas about food and bodies is centered on Saxony and its capital of Dresden, I was seeking information about Saxony’s (in)famous alternative-medicine spas and sanatoria as well as about rationing during the First World War. I also poked around, looking at records of statistics, menus from the Third Reich period, and laws regulating food production and safety. Particular strengths of this archive are government documents from the various suburbs that have been incorporated into the city over the years, as well as the Kreuzschule and its famous boys choir (Kreuzchor). The Frauenstadtarchiv Dresden and its collection concerning women’s education moved out at the end of 2011 to its own location in the southern part of the city (Strehlen).
The main reading room is sparse in its decoration, with white walls, light-colored wooden bookshelves and chairs, and plain white tables with tall, adjustable silver lamps. White cloth filters the sunlight coming in through the large overhead skylight, and generally the only sound was the occasional train rumbling by along the tracks on the other side of the building.
The outlets for each seat are under the table, and if you have a heavy voltage converter/outlet adapter, getting it to stay in might be a challenge. The microfilm/fiche readers and computers for searching the catalogs of books and records are in an adjacent room. There is no internet access. I felt safe about leaving my laptop on the table when I stepped outside for a break.
Reproductions are fairly expensive at the Stadtarchiv (30 cents per loose page, 1 euro per page bound in a book). There is also a 3-euro fee for each request, so I tended to wait to submit a Kopierauftrag until I had filled up the form with pages from several items. I was often able to pick up my photocopies before the bill was ready, which they will mail to you if you have to leave town. You can pay in cash or by wire transfer. If you submit a combined order as I did, it is helpful that you receive a carbon copy of the request form, since the pages merely come in the order requested and stamped “Landeshauptstadt Dresden Stadtarchiv,” with no indication of the Bestand or Signatur.
If you pack a lunch, there is one small table with a few chairs out on the elevator landing, or you can stand at the little window in the locker room to stretch your legs. If you want to get a meal, you will have passed a Greek restaurant in the parking lot, and in the low building along the Straβenbahn tracks there is a very good, very cheap Asian restaurant. There is also a bakery/café (that looks expensive) in the large Edeka grocery store right next to the archive. I never ate at the café, but I frequently bought groceries there on my way home after the archive closed.
Kristen Ann Ehrenberger
Department of History and College of Medicine
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
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Image: “Lesesaal, Stadtarchiv Dresden”, Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung.