Visit to the Stadtarchive Köln – OUT – 15th June 2022

Wednesday June 15th was probably one of the hottest days so far in 2022 but that didn’t stop 16 brave CLCC members from meeting up at the new Kölner Stadtarchiv on Luxemburger Strasse for a guided tour.

As always, we met for lunch first, in Hafez, a restaurant with Persian cuisine quite near the Stadtarchiv. We were the only guests but we were all so busy catching up with each other’s news and deciding on what to choose from the interesting menu that we seemed to fill at least half the restaurant. Some of us, myself included, shared delicious platters of cold starters and salads with our neighbours and considering the outside temperature this was perfect. Walking the short distance to the archive building was a bit of an adventure with all the building/road works but we arrived safe and sound.

Our guide, Mrs Henderson, was very friendly and competent and she gave us a quick run-down on the recent history of the archive and what it contains – basically public records of the inhabitants of Cologne. After the previous building collapsed in 2009, the staff with artefacts and documents were housed in various buildings around the city until the enormous task of planning and building the new Kölner Stadtarchiv could be completed. We were all amazed to hear that ‘only’ about 5% of the collection in the previous building seems to have been lost. Ms Henderson explained some of the processes of drying and restoring the documentsan almost unbelievable amount of work. Interestingly we learned that severly damaged/torn documents have been reconstructed using a giant scanner and software created to help restore shredded STASI documents!

We were also impressed to hear that EVERY artefact/document has its own bar code as does every box in which they are stored . Some of us felt that being able to put your hand on any item in your house at short notice via a bar code would be a great idea.

Finally we visited one of the reading rooms where the public can do research on their own projects. Our lovely guide stressed that it is a PUBLIC city archive and as such the documents and professional help from the archivists are available to the public free of charge.

The building itself is brand new and one positive result of the disaster of 2009 is that Cologne’s Stadtarchiv is ecologically and technologically one of the most up to date archives in Europe.

After this very pleasant tour some of us adjourned to a nearby café, SÜDLICHT, for refreshments. I loved the iced capuccino- just the iced drink, no ice-cream, perfect to round off our OUT-Meeting.

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