Cologne City Archives Disaster

On March 3, 2009 the Cologne City Archives collapsed, burying thousands of precious historical documents under layers of muck and rubble.. The Archives building was destroyed as well as two apartment buildings next door and two lives were lost.

The collections held at the Archives dated back to 922 AD. It held 65,000 documents, 104,000 maps and a half-million photographs. The manuscripts and letters of Nobel Prize winner Heinrich Böll and Jacques Offenbach, a 19th century cellist and opera composer, were stored at the Archives as well as those of Weimar Republic politician Wilhelm Marx and German-Jewish composer Ferdinand Hiller.

At the end of April 2009 Vicki Lee, the head conservator at the Archives traveled to Cologne to assist in the recovery accompanying a group of Blue Shield participants, primarily from The Netherlands.

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  • News report from Der Spiegel about the collapse of the Archives.

  • Photos of the disaster site immediately after the collapse.
  • Photos of the beginning of the rescue effort a few days after the collapse, with some overhead shots of the whole site.
  • More photos of rescue efforts, a few weeks after the collapse.
  • April 2009: A month after the collapse.
  • June 2009 Three months after the collapse.
  • July 2009 Four months after the collapse.

  • Information about the Archives at
  • Updates on the recovery process from June 2009.



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