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Archivist at work

The archivist takes over, evaluates, indexes and secures documents that are handed over by public and private administrations as well as private individuals for long-term storage. Archivists thus make a significant contribution to ensuring that important information and evidence for citizens, institutions and administrations as well as for various research topics are authentically held and that their accessibility is guaranteed over the long term.

An archivist can also be the curator of private estates as well as collection items to be preserved.

Duties of the archivist

Before taking over the archived material, he advises the authorities and departments that are required to deliver (the registrar), but also companies and, in individual cases, private individuals on the management of documents. He evaluates the archival- ready documents according to archival scientific criteria (determination of archivability). With the takeover of the archival-worthy written material, the filing material becomes archive material - this is accompanied by a change in the legal area. Following the acquisition of the archive means written material and other documents aufzubewahrender (u. A. Plans, photographs, films) is a substantive development of the archival material held (formation of the title, contains notices, state). The listing of the relevant contents of the documents takes place today through the allocation of norm and metadata on the basis of specific EDP programs . With the indexing, finding aids (finding aids, extensive databases) are created which simplify targeted research for specific information and topics.

The core tasks are:

  1. Acceptance of archival-ready written material (including digital transfers)
  2. rating
  3. Development of the information (classification and description of the metadata for the archiving object)
  4. Advice and research
  5. Preservation (especially conservation measures)
  6. Provision of information for use and evaluation (e.g. for verification, preservation of rights and public relations)

In the future, archives will increasingly take over electronic documents (e-files) as well as digitally available information. The archivists are therefore increasingly concerned with electronic document management systems as well as the complex issues of taking over and long-term authentic preservation of electronically stored data and information.

The creation of websites and the public presentation of the archives on the Internet (participation in archive portals and social networks) are of increasing importance for public relations and user-friendliness. In addition to the evaluation and indexing work, many archivists have the task of participating in the research and communication of the respective district history (area of ​​responsibility) through their own contributions and by supporting exhibition projects or to suggest historical topics. Working in large archives usually requires a differentiation and thus specialization of the activities in one of the above-mentioned areas of activity. In small archives, an archivist has to cover the entire range of activities to be carried out.

The chairman of the Association of German Archivists (VdA) , Michael Diefenbacher , described the task of "assessment" on the occasion of the 5th Archive Day in 2010 for the Kölner Stadtanzeiger in an interview on the collapse of "the most important municipal archive in the country" the tasks of an archive as follows. Do the archives really want to preserve as much as possible? No. The job of the archives is to evaluate and weed out. Our main job is throwing away. What is left is taken over.

Legal regulations in Germany

The federal government (for federal archives) and all federal states in Germany have issued special archival laws for state archives. These are the legal and action basis for the archive administrators and the respective registry creators. Municipal archives have an archive statute. The tasks of the archive are defined in the archive laws. There are also regulations for making archived material accessible (protection periods). An archivist is well versed in the application of data protection law and personal rights as well as in the application and enforcement of the Law on the Protection of Cultural Property. Special knowledge in dealing with copyright law and its application are important components in the field of evaluation and public relations. In-depth knowledge in the field of administrative law is essential, especially in the fields of activity of state and municipal archives.

Religious communities regulate their archiving system on their own responsibility. An example of this is the church law for the protection and use of church archives in the Evangelical Church of the Union .


The use of the archives of municipal and state archives is basically open to everyone. However, the archive laws of the federal states and the federal government provide for certain usage restrictions (such as general protection periods, provisions on data protection and personal rights, confidentiality periods, periods within the framework of copyright law). They must therefore be observed by the archivist. Exceptions can be made for scientific research. Archival material is generally used upon written request (application for use with subject matter and personal data) and on site in the archive that provides it. If the archive is used extensively, the archive providing it often requires a specimen copy for the reference library.

Private archive carriers can issue special provisions for the use of archive material.

Job requirements and training

The archivists of the state archives must have completed an archiving training (usually Bachelor).

In addition to the higher and higher archival training (both civil servant career), the degree of scientific archivist (master) for the higher service can also be acquired in a fee-based postgraduate course via distance learning. The prerequisite for this training path is a successfully completed degree (e.g. master's degree ) in a related subject (e.g. history) or a doctorate.

The permeability required by the KMK in a position paper to a higher degree after a higher education in archiving is therefore not given. As a result, career or further professional development opportunities for archivists in the senior service (Bachelor) are limited to a very considerable extent.

Training centers in Germany are the Marburg Archive School (civil servant careers), the Potsdam University of Applied Sciences with a bachelor's and master's degree and the Bavarian Archive School in Munich only for Bavaria. For years, the number of available study places, and thus the number of study programs, has lagged behind the urgent and growing need for appropriately trained specialists in today's information society .

It has been possible to acquire a non- consecutive or advanced master’s degree for archivists in the upper class in the field of European history as part of a direct or distance learning course at the Fernuniversität Hagen since 2017/18. At the University of Applied Sciences Potsdam, an adjoining master’s degree in information sciences can only be added as a direct degree (Bachelor), which provides modular knowledge of digital archiving and records management. Further education opportunities are available at the FH Potsdam (certificate course), the archive school Marburg, the FU Berlin (certificate course) and from 2020 at the Humboldt University Berlin. A master's degree in German-speaking countries is possible as a direct study at the University of Vienna .

In the Free States of Bavaria and Saxony, in addition to the technical college education, there is also relevant training for the middle service (archive assistant, FaMI archive ).

The prerequisites for training in the advanced archiving service (Bachelor) are: Abitur; Good general and history knowledge, complex thinking skills, language skills (English, basic knowledge of Latin, French or even Russian), confident handling of modern information and communication technology, interest in building and working with extensive and complex databases and internet applications, exact working method, communicative Skills and persuasiveness.


Archivists are employed in the state and municipal sector in Germany either as civil servants and mostly as employees in the public service .

If you are hired as a civil servant, a career qualification is required (see professional requirements and training regulations in Germany). The collective bargaining grouping of the employed archivists (see TVÖD or TVL ) and the salaries of the civil servants are based on the grouping in the establishment plan and the job description. In contrast to employed archivists, promotions and higher groupings for civil servants are carried out according to the relevant civil service law .

Senior civil servants can usually go through the following status levels:

Senior civil servants can go through the following levels:


The archivist, historian and writer August Sperl (1862–1926) wrote the poem around 1920:

The old archivist

The archivist in front of a mountain of work
In the cool vault, bent down on the desk,
so lost in the world, so remote from the world,
sit and research, many a year,
so the archivist today too.
The eye is 'tired' and the lines float
the old man folds his hands
and ponders how fleetingly the years flee
and how his own life ran away
They rushed and hunted outside
and have struggled with ambition
and have the span of earth time
respected for an infinity.
He knew it differently, the archivist
because he always saw what was before.
And what has always and always been
his soul was recovered to peace.
What the other's longest past
that was the recently elapsed time
and what the many have never seen
he knew it: it happened over and over again.
The colored lobes of earthly splendor,
they sank in dust and night before him -
and hand yellowed by some emperors
he calmly blew a bit of sand.
But he has in all the coming and going
seen the core of the truth shimmer
and know it undeterred
what has been and will remain.
And when his pen disappears completely,
while it is coming to an end here below,
when the last research is on target,
and from afar the highest resolution beckons -
Then he lowers his eyes and bundles in peace
the act of life and cords it up.
And after a while it was said:
"Go back to earth" - he would be sorry for that.
But then an angel would bring him down
and said: "Now choose your luck!"
He would go back to his vault
and would be an "archivist" for the second time.

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: Archivist  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


  • Sabine Brenner-Wilczek, Gertrude Cepl-Kaufmann , Max Plassmann: Introduction to modern archive work . Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2006, ISBN 3-534-18190-5 .
  • Julia Brüdegam: Selection process in the Hamburg State Archives. In: Archivist. Vol. 61, 2008, Issue 1, pp. 45-47. ISSN  0003-9500
  • Norbert Reimann (Ed.): Practical archive studies. A guide for specialists in media and information services specializing in archives. 3rd revised edition, Ardey-Verlag, Münster 2014, ISBN 978-3-87023-366-2 .

Individual evidence

  1. KStA from 6./7. March 2010, p. 35.
  5. approx. 50 graduates per year for Germany
  6. In the case of employed archivists, the current schedule of fees is decisive, therefore, within the TVL, EGO, Part II, 1.2, a classification above E9 is excluded until December 31, 2019. Changes are possible upon application when the new fee schedule comes into force from 2020.