The old organization of Melk abbey’s archive was established by Philibert Hueber ( 1725) who set up an archive in Melk and in Vienna respectively. This double system was necessary, because abbots at that time frequented both residences equally and had to be able to make decisions based on all relevant records. Thus the division was caused by the administration and was certainly an advantage at the time, but it prevented an organic growth of the archive because related documents could often not be stored together due to the lack of space. The results were extensive finding aids which registered all items, but which were themselves so confusing, that the research work was already concentrated on the finding aid itself. When the monastery had to take over the archives of its manors as of 1848 after the agrarian reforms, it was accomplished by establishing a third archive which got the misleading name of economic archive. In 1935 the Viennese archive was transferred to Melk. So one had to consult three archives in one place for nearly every subject. The current reorganization structures the archive according to administrative provenance, with a new comprehensible and reasonable sequence: the administration of the abbey at the top, then all the departments, to which parishes, manors and other entities are attached in alphabetical order. A new plan collection was established because of format reasons.
With the exception of deeds and a few special items, Melk abbey archive was brought to the diocesan archive of St. Pölten between 1978 and 1980, where the reorganization took place. The inventories consist of 939 archival books (60 running meters), 1728 standard file boxes, 203 large-size file boxes and 544 numbered plans in 8 portfolios.
In 1999 the reorganized archive was newly arranged in modern archive rooms under the direction of archivist Prior Father Mag. Wilfried Kowarik OSB who managed the abbey archive until 20th January 2018.
Since June 2018 Father Ludwig Wenzl has managed Melk abbey archive.
Activities in the abbey archive
A Special Advent Transport
In the abbey archive, the Advent season of 2020 was characterized by the organization of records from the parish of Wullersdorf. Not only did Father Godhalm return from Wullersdorf to Melk abbey, but with him also a vast amount of different objects and documents from the Wullersdorf parsonage.
On December 11, delegations from the archive, the library and the construction department headed to Wullersdorf in four large vehicles to inspect and evaluate the treasures on-site, pack them up and relocate them to Melk abbey. One of the abbey archive’s collections is the furniture depot, which now boasts 20 more pieces, in part from the Baroque age. The library and the music archive also didn’t come away empty-handed, and furthermore numerous boxes with tableware, several paintings, and a bus full of documents found their way to the abbey. After a job well done and invigorated by Father Ludwig’s sausage and cheese rolls, we set off for home where in the days before we had made room in the archive for the new additions.
During the rest of the Advent season (and probably also afterwards) we are going to review the documents and integrate them into the existing inventory of the parish of Wullersdorf. One or two cups of tea and some Christmas music will give a festive touch to the task.
P. Mag. Ludwig Wenzl OSB
Leiter Kultur & Tourismus und Pforte, Archivar, Gymnasialprofessor, Cellerar, Wirtschafts- und Seniorenrat