Information for users
Use of archive material held at the Zentralarchiv occurs in accordance with the Federal Archives Act, as well as the Staatliche Museen’s terms of service. Everyone has the right to use archival material on request. Questions of copyright protection must be taken into account when using material.
Archives are arranged according to origin. Archive documents from a collection or an organizational entity of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin are grouped together to form a distinct collection. The Zentralarchiv’s holdings are divided into the following five archive domains: I (internal business records up to 1945), II (internal business records from 1945 onwards), III (associations and commissions), IV (legacies), and V (archival collections). When searching for information, the first thing to clarify is which collection areas apply to your topic or which individuals were involved in the event you are studying.
Submitted material that has been permanently archived is listed in the catalogues. The catalogues are available in the reading room. The catalogue for a particular collection area lists all files with respective shelf numbers (German: 'Signatur'). In addition, the catalogue states the timespan of file contents (date of earliest document to date of latest document), the file title, and a brief summary of the most important events or persons. Once you have ascertained the shelf number (German: 'Signatur'), you can submit your request to view the material. spk-digital is an online database that contains the catalogue for files relating to the Gemäldegalerie from 1830 to 1945, as well as historical installation views of works from the Gemäldegalerie’s collection on display in the Kaiser Friedrich Museum (now Bode-Museum). Part of the Photograph Collection is also searchable via the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin website, smb-digital, and the bpk - Bildagentur für Kunst, Kultur und Geschichte.
Material can be ordered directly in the reading room or beforehand in writing. Please ensure that the shelf numbers ('Signaturen') are stated correctly.
Orders in the reading room
Mon 2 pm
Tue – Fri 10 am + 2 pm
Documents are issued on the same day. Orders placed after 2 pm are processed for the next day. Up to ten files can be ordered per day.
The reproduction of archival material is subject to a fee. For microfilmed documents, paper copies can be made by users directly, using the microfilm reader in the reading room. In all other cases, copies, scans, and photos of originals are made by Zentralarchiv staff. Reproduction requests can only be accepted by staff when conservation concerns have been taken into account. As a result, many documents cannot be electronically duplicated. Photocopying requests and digitization orders can be placed with staff in the reading room. Please note, it is important that the exact shelf number ('Signatur') is given, and, where appropriate, the exact sheet or page number and number of desired reproductions.
Each shelf number consists of three components:
The Staatliche Museen’s Zentralarchiv is abbreviated as follows: SMB-ZA.
This is followed by the archive shelf number, which is separated from the institution’s abbreviation by a comma. The next position indicates the material’s location within the five archive domains (I–V). This is followed by the collection (for example 'NG' for Nationalgalerie, 'KK' for Kupferstichkabinett, 'Fotosammlung' for Photograph Collection). This is then followed by the archive number.
Where applicable, please then also state the manuscript sheet or page number.
Examples of the correct citation:
SMB-ZA, I/NG 998, Blatt 5–10
SMB-ZA, IV/NL Bode 3598
SMB-ZA, V/Künstlerdokumentation Max Beckmann
SMB-ZA, V/Fotosammlung 1.1.3./5689