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How to use the archives

Preparing for the visit

Studying relevant literature in depth is the basis of successful work in archives. If it is based on material from archives, technical literature will contain precise indications of the documents used, and thus information about the relevant archives and their holdings. Ideally, you would also find correct reference numbers (which can be used for ordering).

Bucheinbände aus dem 18. Jahrhundert © OESTA

Nowadays, preliminary information about the archive community in general and the holdings and collections of specific archives can conveniently be researched via the Internet; quality and density of the information available online is also rising.

For more in-depth information you may want to consult (older) printed guides to archives and inventories which are mostly available in all major archives and record centres in Austria and abroad due to exchange of publication programmes, as well as in important (specialised) libraries.

The Austrian State Archives have an online archive information system Archivinformationssystem, (offering a broad range of options for preliminary research).

Preliminary contact with the archives

If you have established that documents relevant for your research project are kept by the Austrian State Archives, please get in touch with the department in charge in due time, and in any event no later than 14 days before you wish to visit, specifying your research request in as much detail as possible.

Eingangsbereich des Österreichischen Staatsarchivs © OESTA

This way, there will still be time to clarify matters in case of misunderstandings or ambiguities, and an unsuccessful visit to the archives can be avoided – or your visit can be replanned, if necessary.

It will only be possible to order records or other units to be available to you on the first day of your visit if you have specific and valid archival reference numbers and send timely advance notification in writing (at least one week before the visit).

Otherwise, you will have to look up reference number suited for ordering on your own by consulting the archival finding aids or agency registers. The archive department in charge will be happy to give you advance information and advice on how to proceed. It is in your interest to wait for the archive department's reply before you travel.

It is not required to book a desk. If you want to consult private legacies, family archives or archives of noble families which have only been deposited with the Austrian State Archives but are not part of the archival holdings, please bear in mind that consultation may require the written approval of the owner. The archive department in charge will be happy to provide relevant information.

User request

For consultation of archival records and library material of the Austrian State Archives, you need to fill in a user request form ("Forscherbogen") in the reading room once per calendar year (stating personal particulars, topic of interest and purpose of use). A separate form has to be completed for each archival department concerned in case of interdepartmental research.

By doing so, you confirm that you accept the regulations for use of the Austrian State Archives and commit to sending a voucher copy to the library of the Austrian State Archives as soon as your work has been published in print or as an (unprinted) university thesis, or if it has been approved.

Please submit the completed user request form and a photo ID to the staff member on main duty in the reading room. Once the staff member has initialled the request, it will be approved by the head of department in charge unless there are any impediments to granting your request.

The records you consult will subsequently be entered into the user request form and struck off when you return them. Please make sure that all records have been struck off upon termination of your archive visit, and report such termination of your research to the staff member on main duty if you do not plan any further consultation during the calendar year. Your user request form will then be filed away.

Arbeitssituation im Lesesaal © OESTA

During your visit to the Austrian State Archives, the user request form and your reader’s card will be your "ID". Whenever you go to the reading room, you have to retrieve the form from the staff member on main duty and submit it to the support staff who will hand you the material prepared for you.

User card

Consultation of archival holdings and library stocks of the Austrian State Archives is subject to a charge (weekly or 5-day pass 10 Euro; monthly or 20-day pass 21 Euro; annual pass 42 Euro.).

Before archival records or library material can be handed to you, you must have obtained a visitor pass (user card) from the cash desk of the Austrian State Archives.

Support staff will stamp the dates on which you visit the archives into the weekly and monthly passes because these can be used any day on which the archives are open to the public.

Preliminary advice

Two staff members of the Austrian State Archives per shift (morning and afternoon) will be in charge of supervising the reading room (main duty, support). The staff member on main duty is a higher-grade official who will take you through the initial administrative steps and give you general preliminary advice. He/she will give you the finding aids available in the reading room and relevant for your research project. Overviews of finding aids are available for the archive departments "Allgemeines Verwaltungsarchiv", "Archiv der Republik" and "Kriegsarchiv".

Beratungsgespräch im Lesesaal © OESTA

The central reading room of the Austrian State Archives (Nottendorfer Gasse) is the reading room of four out of five archive departments of the Austrian State Archives; at the same time it is the room where books from the library can be obtained. In case of special queries, the official on duty will put you in touch with the subject specialist in charge of your research specialty.

The scientific archivist will usually be familiar with ongoing research in his/her special field and able to give guidance about the general situation concerning sources as well as existing literature. For details as to contents, it will normally be required to study the sources.

Support staff will hand you the archival records or books prepared for you and is in charge of photocopier maintenance.

Order process

If, with the help of finding aids, you have identified the reference numbers of records that can be ordered, please complete the order forms available in the reading room (name, date and valid reference number, i.e. group of holdings, holdings, series, number of volume, number of archives box etc.).

Arbeitssituation im Lesesaal © OESTA

A separate order form has to be filled for each archival unit unless the units ordered are directly consecutive units.
The order forms are sorted according to departments, and according to groups of holdings within the department pigeonholes. The staff member on main duty will help you with addressing the order forms correctly.

Please note that orders are subject to restrictions: a maximum of three archives boxes or bundles, or 10 pieces (maps, plans, pictures etc.) may be ordered per day.

The material will be available in your user pigeonhole no later than two days after ordering. It will remain reserved for you for 4 weeks. If they are not used, the archival records or books will be returned automatically after this period.

Reading room rules

Desks in the reading room are used according to the first-come first-served principle. Large maps, plans and drawings may only be consulted on the desks specially designated for reading maps in the front section of the reading room. Special rules apply to certain archival records (e.g. the ennoblement acts in the "Allgemeines Verwaltungsarchiv").

Each desk is equipped with a socket for laptop computers.

It is not permitted to take bags, laptop covers, coats, umbrellas, food, beverages etc. to the reading room. Please keep these in the lockers in the cloakroom next to the reading room.

Making or taking phone calls in the reading room is not permitted. Please consider other users and switch your mobile phone off or keep it in silent mode while you are in the reading room.

You will not be allowed to use more than one archival unit at your desk. In your user request form, you commit yourself to handling the archival records and library material available to you carefully. The order within an archival unit must not be changed. Presumed defects or losses must be reported to the supervisor.

Unless you use a laptop, you may only use pencils for taking notes. If necessary, these can be provided to you by the Austrian State Archives.

After use, please hand the archival unit back to the return desk and ask it to be struck from your user request form if you do not need it any longer. If you want to continue consulting it, it will remain in your pigeonhole and continue to be reserved for you.


The reading room is equipped with coin-operated photocopiers. The small change required can be obtained from the coin changing machine in the cloakroom or the staff member on support duty.

As a matter of principle, self-service copying of the following materials is prohibited:

  • archival records dating pre-1900
  • bound archival records (registered, bound manuscripts, stapled files with narrow left margins)
  • maps, plans and large-format written material
  • photographs
  • written material bearing seals
  • index cards
  • fire files of the Allgemeines Verwaltungsarchiv
  • representations of coats of arms from the ennoblement acts in the Allgemeines Verwaltungsarchiv
  • books from the library of the Austrian State Archives prohibited from copying

Moreover, the staff member on main duty may prohibit self-service copying for good cause, in particular for considerations of preservation.

Arbeit am Planscanner © OESTA

Archival records and library material which is subject to the prohibition of self-service copying will be reproduced for you by the copying and photography office. The type of reproduction will depend on the nature and state of the original. Bound archival records will not be photocopied as a matter of principle.

A form (including a price list) is available for reproduction orders; please state the written material to be reproduced and the type of reproduction as well as any special requests when you complete the form. Moreover, please place identification strips.

The archival record to be reproduced must not be taken out of the container; even if only parts of a unit is to be reproduced; it must be handed to the support staff member on duty in the reading room with the reproduction order in its entirety. The reproductions will then be available at the cash desk of the Austrian State Archives or may be posted to you on request.

Illustrations showing archival records from the Austrian State Archives or extracts from these may only be published with the consent of the Archives against payment of the reproduction charge, and stating the source of the illustration.

Rules concerning reproductions of archival records from the Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv may deviate from the above as microfilming and photography have been outsourced to private-sector companies.


Food, beverages and smoking are prohibited in the reading room. You may consume refreshments you have brought with you in the recreation zone outside the reading room. Vending machines for coffee, soft drinks and snacks are located in the recreation zone.