Information for users

Current Information

It is no longer compulsory to wear a mask covering mouth and nose in the reading room. However, visitors are advised to wear an FFP2 or medical face mask.

The reading room in the Zentralarchiv of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin is open Monday to Friday from 9 am to 8 pm.

When planning your visit, please take note of the following additional conditions of entry:

You can book a visit to the reading room via email (za[at] or by telephone (030 266 42 5701). Because we only have a limited number of spots available and want to ensure that everything runs as smoothly as possible, entry to the reading room is only permitted with a confirmed booking.

A maximum of 10 archive items can be requested per person, per day. With the correct call numbers, you can book a visit and request the relevant archive items up until 2 pm on the (business) day before your visit. If your visit requires research to be carried out, please get in touch well ahead of time.

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.

Please submit a written request to us before visiting the archives in person. Please give as exact a description of your research area as possible to allow us to determine whether we have the necessary material, which holdings would be suitable, or if there are any other archives that may hold the relevant information you require. More recent archive material, legacies, and archive material from external associations are usually subject to special terms of use or copyright protection. Archive material from the Museum für Völkerkunde (now known as the Ethnologisches Museum) and the Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte are stored at the museums themselves. Please contact the museums directly with requests.

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, some of them also online. 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 Collections Online: the Online portal for the collections of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin and the bpk-Bildagentur.

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

Monday: 2 pm
Tuesday to Friday: 10 am and 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 at the Zentralarchiv is subject to a fee. For microfilmed documents, paper copies can be made by users directly, using the microfilm reader in the reading room. This service will be charged. 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.

Photographing archival material in the Lesesaal is allowed under certain conditions. The photographs are only to be used as materials for the purpose that was declared in the request form.

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