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Archival documents

The State Archive preserves around 30 shelf-kilometres of archive materials in its storerooms, in analogue and digital form. The holdings are classified into various main divisions and structured in hierarchical order depending on the context and date of their creation.

The State Archive is the archive for the Canton of Bern and its legal predecessors.
The State Archive contains:

  • almost 30,000 shelf metres of documents
  • around 41,800 public deeds and charters
  • around 45,000 maps and plans
  • 1.2 million photographs and negatives

To search our holdings, use the online catalogue. You can search our archive inventory (Query) or make a general search of 34 Swiss archives on archivesonline.org.

  • Online inventory

  • Swiss Archive Portal «Archives Online»

Archival tectonics

You can use the archive plan search function to search the archival tectonics. The archive holdings are arranged into the following main divisions:

  • A Chancellery archive
  • B Administration archive
  • C State collections
  • D Special archive
  • E Aids

In addition, the holdings are sub-divided into sections (Abteilungen), holdings (Bestände), sub-holdings (Teilbestände) and series (Serien). Please note the information in the online inventory on how to use the inventory and on the history of the administration and the holdings. This information is found at the beginning and is not repeated for each individual archive holding. 

Provenance vs. pertinence holdings

The main Administration Archives division is also sub-divided according to date. It is important to be aware that the older sections contain pertinence holdings (reference number BB Roman), while the more recent sections are generally provenance materials (reference number BB Arabic), which are arranged in line with current archiving requirements according to their origins. This makes a systematic search within the organisational structure of a holding possible.

In the older pertinence holdings, documents on a variety of subjects are brought together to achieve factual cohesion. This method of organisation, which was customary in the past, has the disadvantage that the causal connection between the documents is no longer visible and a systematic search is difficult, because the holdings themselves lack a coherent structure. When searching a pertinence holding, therefore, archival materials often have to be systematically searched in order to find a specific document.

Archival materials available in analogue form

The majority of our holdings are only available in analogue form. They mainly comprise paper documents. Our online inventory contains entries at dossier level, i.e. the metadata for most dossiers, such as the title and period. The dossier itself and the documents it contains must on the other hand be ordered and consulted in the reading room.

Please note that in many cases the finding aids that are essential for searching and consulting the archival materials are only available in analogue form. Finding aids include physical or electronic directories, registers, card indexes, lists and organisational charts. Finding aids are marked in the online inventory. 

Archival materials available in digital form

As the means to digitise holdings are very limited, only selected archival materials can be digitised. We prioritise the digitisation of pictures, maps and plans that are in high demand from users. The digital images can be viewed in the online inventory as compressed JPG files. If the resolution is not sufficient for your purposes or if you need a different file format, we can make you a reproduction for a fee in accordance with the reproduction regulations.

Administrative units that meet the requirements for a legally compliant digital records and process management system should archive their documents in digital form. In the case of these so-called digital born documents, users are not only able to search in the online inventory for the metadata, but also have access to the primary data, provided the documents are no longer subject to a closure period. They also have rights of access, including online access.

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