Preserving and promoting the Lutheran communion’s institutional memory
The LWF Archives, housed at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, preserve the records of the Lutheran World Convention, the Lutheran World Federation, and the Christian World Communions. The collection contains paper documents, photographs, sound tapes, films and videos, and publications representing some 1,000 running meters, the institutional and historical memory of the Lutheran Communion. Their digitalization process ensures long-term access, for future generations, to this unique and invaluable heritage consisting of milestone moments of the Lutheran World Federation.
LWF Digital Archives, Library, and Museum
Search the online inventories of LWF Archives
- LWF PAPER ARCHIVES
- LWF FILM AND VIDEO ARCHIVES
- LWF SOUND ARCHIVES
- LWF PUBLICATIONS 1947 - 2017
- LWF ASSEMBLIES AND COUNCILS RESOLUTIONS
- Choose your language (de, en, fr)
Please note that the description of the archives is in English. The language of the documents is largely English, but other languages as well.
- We recommend starting with the Archive plan search
Step down the hierarchy of the Archive Plan by clicking on "+" and select the relevant archival units. By clicking on the title, you get the detail view with full information about the item. Turn back to the hierarchical view by clicking the icon "Localize in archive plan" on the left.
- Full text search
Search in all fields of description. It is recommended when you have specific key words as, e.g., names of persons. Use quotation marks if your key word is a compound term (e.g. "Ecclesiology").
- Field search
Search in one or several specific fields of description. That is recommended when you want to search for a reference code.
- Descriptor search
This allows you to search by subject, person, events and conferences, geographical names, LWF governing bodies, programs, units and sister organizations. The first step is to find your descriptor(s). The second step (on the right) is to start a search with the selected descriptor. Analyze your results: be aware of the description level of every result and of the reference code (codes beginning with a number are paper archives, those beginning with a letter are audiovisual documents). Localize your result by clicking on the archive plan icon (AP).
Stored on the Internet Archive platform, are a dozen of digitized collections of publications, including Assemblies, Ecumenism, Missions, Theology, Youth, Women, World Service, LWF regions, and Lutheran World.
Conditions of use
Researchers should read and follow the LWF Archives Rules and Fees; must complete, sign and send the LWF Archives Request Form, two weeks prior to a planned visit, to email@example.com:
- Consultation must follow the LWF Archives Rules and Fees and will only be approved upon request and appointment. It is free of charge.
- Access is granted to all files of LWF Archives after 20 years, calculated from the date on which the requested file is closed. In any particular case, the LWF may revoke open access to any document at any time when it asserts preponderant interests.
- Users must be accompanied by LWF at all times, in order to access the repositories, or be in possession of an explicit authorization.
- Personal devices, such as cameras or phones (without flash) are allowed but require previous authorization from the LWF staff.
- The LWF claims copyright on its archives. Copyright of archives of depositors or depositing organizations is governed by a specific agreement between the LWF and the depositor.
- Users citing or employing LWF archival sources must quote the source "Archives of the Lutheran World Federation" or "LWF Archives," and in case of use of an image, the quote should read "by permission of The Lutheran World Federation," and by indicating the exact archival reference number.
- Member Churches Lutheran Archives
- World Council of Churches Archives
- Universal Declaration of Archives
- Guide to International Organizations’ Archives in Geneva
The LWF Archives collection predates the 1947 founding of the organization, and includes documents that are nearly 100 years old. Shortly after the LWF’s founding Assembly in Lund, Sweden in 1947, a Committee on History started exploring ways and means to establish permanent archives for the LWF. At the 1952 Assembly in Hanover, Germany, together with the other departments, an archive service was officially created. Finally in 1957, a German archivist was invited to Geneva to set up permanent archives. He introduced an archival system and organized the documents that had accumulated since 1945 when a representative of the Lutheran World Convention (LWC), the forerunner of the LWF, set an office in Geneva. Today most of the pictures and publications are digitalized and the 1 km archives boxes inventoried online, available on the LWF website
Consistent documentation of routine and milestone moments of an organization is critical for safeguard institutional memory. While the LWF itself was founded in 1947, LWF Archives hold material that is nearly 100 years old. They are located in the Ecumenical Center in Geneva
Officially established by the Second LWF Assembly in 1952, as were other LWF departments, they contain around 1 km of linear papers, laid end to end, and respond to requests from both within the organization and externally. They include records of LWF governing bodies, correspondence, LWF publications and reports, periodicals and newsletters, newspaper clippings, biography files, films, slides, photographs, videos and sound recordings, as well as a databank of resolutions by the governing bodies. The treasured collection covers the agendas and minutes from the Executive Committee of the LWF predecessor body, the Lutheran World Convention, 1923 - 1946.
Researchers and other individuals seeking information often request specific historical documents such as Assembly reports and speeches, people involved in the global Lutheran history, theological debates, correspondence, specific issues or themes, and photo, audio and video recordings.
The mandate of the service is to:
- maintain permanent archives documenting LWF activities, theological debate and developments in the Lutheran Communion;
- facilitate and stimulate research;
- assist staff and visiting researchers;
- collect material pertaining to Lutheranism worldwide;
- liaise with Lutheran archives and libraries;
- promote Lutheran heritage through exhibitions.
Photo: LWF Archives