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Introduction to the archive of the BBAW

The archive of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities is among the oldest and most comprehensive of the academy archives in the world, with archival sources that have been handed down since the last decade of the 17th century. Only the archive of the Royal Society, founded in London in 1662, and the Académie des Sciences in Paris, which came into being in 1666, have older holdings. The diversity, uniqueness and the continuity of the holdings that have been handed down have contributed to making the academy archive one of the most significant establishments for the custody of the history of German and European sciences and culture. With its numerous literary holdings which were transferred from the Literaturarchiv-Gesellschaft in 1944, it also functions as an archive for literature. The academy archive is one of the oldest facilities of Berlin’s Academy of Sciences. Its sources range from the original hand-written drafts of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz to the scientific manuscripts, letters and diaries of the Nobel Prize winners Theodor Mommsen, Wilhelm Ostwald and Otto Warburg. Since the year in which it was founded, more than 3 000 outstanding representatives of the humanities and natural sciences have worked as members of Berlin’s Academy of Sciences. There are presently over 250 full members, retired members and extraordinary members. The entire archival holdings of the Academy, which have been accumulated throughout its 300 year-old history, presently comprise 6 000 running metres of official documents and private papers, over 2 000 items of art property (paintings, sculptures including busts and medals, graphic art and handicraft), around 40 000 photographs on the history of the Academy and the Sciences, over 500 tape recordings, 260 films and video cassettes and a collection of around 30 000 newspaper cuttings.

The archive records have been subdivided into the historical department, the department of academy records since 1945, the department of private papers and the collections department.

Each department contains archival sources of great historical value which are indispensable both to the academy and to the history of knowledge. It is the duty of the archive to safe-keep this unique fund of sources, to add to it by transferring further archival material and by supplementing its collections, to describe it methodically according to scientific archival principles and to make it accessible for academic use. In addition to opening up the archive holdings for the archive user and providing information, the archive publishes archival sources on the history of the academy and the sciences in publications of its own.

The use of the archival sources of the academy archive takes place in accordance with the Order of the Archive, the Utilisation Order and the Scale of Charges and Fees for the use of the archive of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities.


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