The City Archives of Bergen

Name: Bergen Byarkiv
Adress: Allehelgensgt 5
Telephone: +47 55 56 62 83
Fax: +47 55 56 62 82
Name of director : Arne Skivenes
Number of employees: 12
Opening hours mon, thur, fri: 9 - 15, wed: 9 -20, tue: readingroom closed

The City Archives is the archival institution of Bergen Municipality. It takes care of archival material from all kinds of municipal activity, as well as from companies, organisatons and individuals in Bergen. The City Archives handles records management programs and daily archival routines and systems within the municipality.

The City Archives is the largest documentation centre regarding historical information from 1700 onwards on the Bergen Municipality and city life in general. It is consulted by executive officers, researchers, bur most frequently by the general public who wants information on themselves and their surroundings.

The City Archives of Bergen is entrusted with the following four tasks:

  • to develop and control the archival functions of the municipality
  • to keep, safeguard and service the archives that are no longer in daily use by the administration
  • to facilitate the use of the archives as sources for government and research.
  • to receive and collect private archives of interest to the city and to promote the knowledge of city history

The latter task is partly carried out through the foundation Local History Archives of Bergen, partly in the City Archives' own capacity.


The City Archives keeps approximately 12.000 linear shelf metres of archives.

The holdings mainly lie within the time frame of 1702 - 1985. The oldest document is the citizens' roll from 1550, the most recent from the present year. The geographical area covered is mainly limited to the present border of Bergen Municipality, inluding the former municipalities of Arna/Haus, Fana, Laksevag, Arstad, Asane etc. Some private archives contain information from the county of Hordaland or the whole Western Norway.

The municipal administrations represented in the holdings include:

  • City government, city council
  • School administration and schools
  • Social services administration and social institutions
  • Health administration and institutions
  • Engineering (roads, water and sewerage)
  • City development office
  • Building authorities
  • Harbour authorities
  • etc.

The City Archives also keeps older records from branches of adminstration of former municipal provenance: taxation, hospitals, secondary schools, municipal church administration etc.

In cooperation with Local History Archives of Bergen, the City Archives keeps approximately 3500 linear metres of private archives. The main groups are companies (particularly within textile industry, paper industry, brewery, shipyards, architects and entrepreneurs, merchants), organisations (particularly branch organisations for trade and industry, trade unions, scout organisations, boys' guards, sports organisations etc), foundations (hospitals, poor houses, legacies) and individuals (scientists, politicians, writers).

The collection policy of the City Archives is to cover municipal archives within Bergen and, in cooperation with other archival institutions, also the private archives within the same area, with a few exceptions taken care of by others. The private archives work is mainly carried out through Local History Archives of Bergen, being a foundation with more than 100 organisation and company members. These form the basis for an independant economy, enabling the payment of salary for one person to work on private archives.

Catalogues, finding aids etc.

The main catalogue contains close to 2000 archival fonds. Even though the most important ones are properly arranged and described, there is still a heavy backlog of non-catalogued archives, due to the massive acquisitions since 1979 within a limited time and with limited resources.

The electronic catalogue system ASTA - which is a Norwegian standard program - is installed, and will during the coming years be the central finding aid for the public. The work of transferring information from the old paper-based lists to the database is timeconsuming.

Facilities for users

The reading room will seat 6-9 persons. There is one special table for working with maps and plans. Portable computers can be used in the reading room. Users can order photocopies or photos. The paper-based main catalogue is displayed for used in the reception area. There is also a small exhibition space and a combined lecture room and meeting room. The City Archives has established a net site, giving general information on the services and presenting some archival groups. A library of 20.000 volumes is accessible for the public from the reading room. There is no lunch room or pause room for the public, but the City Hall canteen is quite close.

Brief history

The first centuries of the history of the city, the archives were kept in the City Hall. We know little of the contents of these old archives, because the they were destroyed in the Great City Fire of 1702. The only books to be rescued were the citizen's roll from 1550 and the law book.

I 1793 the city gate was restored by a private citizen, and two rooms were used as archives chambers. This proved to be no solution, rather the beginning of a long and sad story of neglect and decay. The ventilation was unsufficient and the papers soon started to get moldy. No one had the archives as special task. From time to time, in 1856, 1869, 1908, 19030's and 1970 the newspapers and some historians alarmed the public with horror stories of the conditions, and demanded that the city establish a proper city archives. In 1971 the old books and papers that by now had acquired the name "the City Gate Archives" were moved to the Regional State Archives for safekeeping.

I 1975 the city established a committe to elucidate the question of city archives. In 1976 preliminary work was started, and in 1979 the position as city archivist was established, as the last of the larger cities in Norway. As a preliminary solution, the City Archives in 1978 were housed in Allehelgensgate 5, where it is still situated.

The offices, reading room and facilities for the public are to be found in the 3rd floor of Allehelgensgate 5, in which building also the main strongroom lies. Several other strongrooms are scattered around the city. It has to be admitted that this is of some inconvenience to the public and staff, and make the process of producing requested documentation cumbersome.

The main task during the years from 1979 has been to collect and safeguard the older archival material from the city and to answer questions about it from the public. This will continue to be the most resource-demanding activities. At present the main challenge is to monitor the ongoing transformation from a paper-based archival system to a all electronic archival system for the city.


The offices and public facilities of the City Archives occupy the 3rd floor of Allehelgensgt. 5. (Photo: GSJ)
The reading room and part of the library (Photo: GSJ).
In 1792 the citizen Lauritz H.Nicolaysen financed the refurbishing of the old City Gate, including making two chambers for the City archives in the building. The representatives of the City made him this honorary memorial plaque. It is now in the reading room of the City Archives. (Photo: GSJ).