Tips for Research

Before you come to our Archives for the first time, please make sure you read as much as possible about the relevant subject. To obtain an overview of the literature you need for your topic, you will find it helpful to use our Library Catalogue. Further literature about Frankfurt can be found in the catalogues of the University Library and the Hessian Bibliography. Your first step should always be to find out whether there is already some literature on your research topic. It may even contain references to archived sources.

If you then decide to conduct your own research, you’ll find that our Institute is well worth a visit. Our resources include historic files, images, pamphlets, posters and photographs. Unlike books, our archived material mostly consists of unique items – documents of which only one copy is available. This means they are not available on loan and can only be viewed on our premises. You may find it helpful to prepare for your visit as follows:

  1. Try to narrow down your questions much as possible. A good question would be, for instance: “How did such-and-such a school develop between... and ...?”, whereas “I’m interested in the history of schools” is too wide to give you any usable results.
  2. Ask yourself whether the Institute for the History of Frankfurt is really the most suitable place or whether you might find better answers in other archives. Let’s continue with the example of schools: Frankfurt’s education authority is responsible, in particular, for school buildings, the provision of teaching materials and transporting students to and from the various schools. Questions such as the recruitment, employment and supervision of teachers, however, are handled by the State of Hesse. Only some of the relevant archives for your project may therefore be available at our Institute, while others can be found at the Hauptstaatsarchiv (Main Public Record Office) in Wiesbaden. It gets even more complicated if you want to study earlier periods. Until schools were nationalised in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, they came under the supervision of the Church. Until that time, therefore, any meaningful information on the history of a school was recorded in Church archives. In such a case, it is good to ask yourself before you come to us: Which institution was responsible for this particular sphere at the time and under whose authority? Was it the state, Frankfurt City Council or perhaps the Church?
  3. Quite often you’ll find it helpful to write to us briefly before coming to us. Just send us a brief summary of your question. Further details on this point can be found under User Support.
  4. A large amount of archived material can be found in our online databases, where you can conduct your own searches. You can use suitable keywords or drill down the structures of domains in the following databases: ISG Bild, our image database with photos, maps, street and road maps and posters (all with suitable descriptions) and ISG, a database of files, documents and official gazettes. These databases and detailed search instructions are available here.
  5. If you find suitable documents in ISG, you can order them directly through this database, and we will make it available to you for viewing in the Reading Room. In the case of paintings, maps, street and road maps and postcards, however, you will need to make an appointment with the relevant specialist. Contact details can be found here.

Further details about a visit to our Archives can be found here.