History - archive collections

BIS open archive rules

The archives of the BIS enjoy special protection under the Bank's Headquarters Agreement (Art 3, 2). In the interest of openness and academic research, the Bank voluntarily decided to open its historical archive to the public in March 1998. 

Under the BIS open archive rules, all records relating to the Bank's business and operational activities which are over 30 years old are available for consultation, with the exception of a limited number of records that remain private or confidential even after 30 years have elapsed. It is within the BIS's discretion to determine which records will not be released for public consultation. Any such decision will normally be based on the principle of protection of personal privacy and of legitimate third-party interests. All files open for consultation are listed in the BIS Archive catalogue. 

The records are paper-based, with a selection of records relating to the Bank's activities during the period 1930-48 also available as scanned versions. In addition, the BIS Archive possesses a small photo collection.

Record groups

The records of the BIS are organised in seven groups, largely reflecting the BIS's organisational structure:

  • Organisation and Management of the BIS 
  • Banking 
  • Monetary and Economic Department
  • Accounting and loans
  • Establishment - building, security, HR policies, IT systems etc (this record group is not open to the public)
  • Finance and economics
  • History  

The record groups consist largely of various types of correspondence, internal communication and reports. Important collections include files on:

  • Reparations Office: secretariat files and a documentation library originating from the Berlin Reparations Office (Agent General for Reparations Parker Gilbert). These files were taken over by the BIS upon the dissolution of the Reparations Office in 1930. They document the administration of reparations during the 1920s, a function taken over by the BIS and performed until the suspension of reparations by the Lausanne Agreement (1932).
  • The administration of international loans issued in connection with the Dawes and Young Plans (Dawes and Young Loans).
  • The operation of the European Payments Union and the European Monetary Agreement from the late 1940s onward.
  • International credit facilities in the granting of which the BIS has been involved.
  • Expert meetings and conferences organised by the BIS or in which the BIS participated.
  • Papers of senior managers and of the first Presidents, as well as microfilms of a selection of T H McKittrick's papers from the Baker Library, Harvard University.
  • There are over 250 customer and counterparty files, documenting banking policy and banking transactions between the BIS and its counterparties from 1930 (mainly central banks and international institutions).

Detailed information on the BIS archive collections that have been released for consultation by external researchers can be found in the BIS Archive Guide.

Applying for access to the archives

The BIS Archive is located in the BIS Tower at Centralbahnplatz 2, Basel, and is open to researchers by appointment only. Opening times are normally Monday to Friday 09:00 to 12:30 and 14:00 to 17:30. The Archive is closed on Swiss public holidays, BIS Board meeting days and the day of the Annual General Meeting.

Please contact the BIS Archive at:

BIS Archive
Bank for International Settlements
CH-4002 Basel

Telephone: +41-61-280 80 61 or +41-61-280 82 81
Email: archive@bis.org

State your research interest and provide the name, address, telephone number and e-mail address of two referees who can vouch for your suitability to use the Archive. If you are a student, one of your referees should be your thesis or dissertation supervisor, or personal tutor. Also please include your home address (not professional address or post office box), to which your letter of invitation will be sent. 

Researchers will be sent a letter of invitation, which they must bring with them at the time of their visit, as well as valid identification bearing a photograph. A maximum of two researchers are granted access at any one time, as long as they are working jointly on a project. Researchers are permitted to use their own laptop and can bring a camera to take pictures of archival documents where this is permitted.