Securing the holdings of the Historical Archive of the City of Cologne

the holdings of the Historical Archive of the City of Cologne

The Historical Archive of the City of Cologne  ranks amomng the most important and largest municipal archives in Europe, distinguished by the large number of significant individual holdings, their continuity and the exceptionally high density of records.

The archive forms the written “Cologne city memory”. It stores a large number of documents from the history of the city of Cologne as well as the history of the Rhineland spanning a period over 1000 years making them accessible to its users.


Historisches Archiv der Stadt Köln - Neubau Außenansicht

The Historical Archive of the City of Cologne in numbers

shelf space





Project background

On March 3, 2009, faulty work during the construction of a subway tunnel led to the catastrophic collapse of the Historical Archive of the City of Cologne. In the process, the approximately 30 shelf kilometers of archival materials stored there were damaged, most of them suffering cracks to the point of fragmentation, buckling, compression, and damage caused by groundwater.

After the salvage phase was completed in 2011, during which about 95 percent of the buried archive material was recovered, the newly established Restoration and Digitization Center (RDZ) began sifting, restoring, and digitizing the holdings, a process that lasted until 2021.

During this phase, the search was on for systems that could scan the fragile holdings as gentle as possible. Due to the enormous amount of material to be handled and the workload for the staff, these also had to be as efficient as they were user-friendly.

The decision was made in favor of the first models in the book2net Flash and book2net Profi series, which have then been used since the end of 2011 at the latest. Thanks to the high depth of field of the book2net systems, not only files but also register volumes with thick pages can be scanned easily without readjustment.

Historical Archive of the City of Cologne, aerial view of the collapse site, March 4, 2009
©City of Cologne/Photo: Aerial view of the collapse site, March 4, 2009.
Historisches Archiv der Stadt Köln. zerstörte Siegel am Verbundbrief.
©City of Cologne/Photo: Stefanie Behrendt. Destroyed seal on the Verbundbrief
©Rheinisches Bildarchiv/Photo: Anna C. Wagner. Roughly recorded archive material in dry containers, March 13, 2009.
©Rheinisches Bildarchiv/Photo: Anna C. Wagner. Roughly recorded archive material in dry containers, March 13, 2009.
©Rheinisches Bildarchiv/Erfassungszentrum 13.03.2009 Restorers and students from Cologne and Bern during the rough sorting and cleaning of the archival materials.
©Stadt Köln Mitarbeiter des RDZ beim Scannen von Archivgut am book2net Profi
©City of Cologne. Employees of the RDZ scanning archive material on book2net Profi and book2net Flash scanners.
Mitarbeiter des Historischen Archivs Köln an der book2net Hornet
©City of Cologne/Historical Archive. Archive staff scanning archive material with the book2net Hornet A0.
Einblick in das Magazin des Neubaus des Historischen Archivs der Stadt Köln am Eifelwall
©Rheinisches Bildarchiv/Photo: Michael Albers. Insight into the magazine of the new building at Eifelwall, room documentation, 21.08.2012

book2net action

After the first book2net book scanners had been in use at the digitization center for 10 years, the old book2net Profi and Flash systems were replaced with updated models in the course of setting up the new building, which opened in September 2021. In addition, another A0 system was purchased.

The Historical Archives now has two book2net Profi A2 book scanners, and one each of book2net Flash A1 and book2net Hornet A0 book scanners with dual illumination units.

The scanners can be conveniently triggered by mouse click as well as on the device itself or by foot pedal. The live video preview allows you to check the scan area without having to trigger a scan first.

systems used

Profi A2 Flash A1 Hornet A0


Since 2010, well over 3 million digitized files have been created in the Historical Archive of the City of Cologne. These include both user scans of modern files and high-resolution scans of documents, photos, negatives, manuscripts and large formats (posters, plans and documents). Digitization is done on a project-by-project basis and in response to user requests. It enables the archival documents to be used without having to present the original and opens up new global user groups by publishing them in the Digital Historical Archive.

The book2net team is proud to have been making an important contribution to the preservation and indexing of these culturally and historically significant collections for a decade now.