About the collection
The Swiss Economic Archives (SWA) has been taking over the archive collections of companies, associations and individuals for more than 100 years. Today, the SWA is a part of the University Library Basel. This collection includes more than 500 economic archives from the year 1750 until today, geographically covering all of Switzerland but with a main focus on the Basel region. There are internal business documents such as minutes and accounting records, sample books, photographs and plans. The archiving follows the principle of provenance which means that documents coming from the same corporate bodies or individuals are kept together. They are all private archives, that is the documents are from private, non-government actors. The collection is divided into economic branches. The private archives are complemented by the economic documentation.
Search portal swisscollections
Search portal "SWA Search"
Search portal swisscollections
Strikes, labour relations
Architecture, building industry
Information books (credit ratings of business partners)
Parts of company archives Alusuisse, all digitised documents, among them:
- Schweizerische Metallurgische Gesellschaft, minutes of general meeting and board of directors (1887-1894, SWA PA 600 b D 1-0-1 and SWA PA 600 b D 2-0-1)
- Minutes board of directors (1888-1920, SWA PA 600 b D 2-22)
- Minutes board of directors (1916-1931, SWA PA 600 b D 2-1 II)
- Minutes board of directors (1932-1984, SWA PA 600 b D 2-1)
- Minutes committee of the board of directors (1888-1920, SWA PA 600 b D 3-0)
- Minutes general meeting (1888-1995, SWA PA 600 b D 1-1)
- Annual reports (1888-1999, SWA PA 600 b C 1)
- Articles of association (1888-1987, SWA PA 600 b B 1-2)
- Digitized industrial films (1940-1980, SWA PA 600 b q, access via Memobase+ station in our reading room)
- Ledgers of the Basel firm (SWA HS 420 B)
- Letter copy books of the Basel firm (SWA HS 420 C)
- Ledgers of the Nantes affiliate (SWA HS 420 D)
- Letter copy books of the Nantes affiliate (SWA HS 420 E)
- Slave trade documents (SWA HS 420 N)
Tourism and hotels
Textile industry and trade
The archives of notable merchants and industrialists, such as the Segerhof and the Württembergerhof, date back to the 18th century. They may be considered as European cultural assets of the first rank. The files of large schappe spinning mills document the factory industrialisation of the 19th century, for example Schappe AG or Alioth.
Several collections of companies and organisations represent the silk ribbon industry, e.g. theBasler Bandfabrik and the Bandpropaganda-Comité.
Banks and industry
The Basler Bankierverein, a merger of private bankers, represents a major investment in the railway construction. Documents by food retailer Usego, the shipping company Schweizerische Reederei, the Schweizerhall chemical works, Suter + Suter architects, the Hero canning factory and the aluminium producer Alusuisse represent modern times.
Organisations and personal archives
Personal archives and papers, including that of the economists Stephan Bauer and Fritz Mangold, housekeeping books and the archives of business associations, illustrate the environment in which the companies operated.
The files and posters from the Armbrust / Schweizer Woche organisations document the efforts made for a national economic propaganda and for a mark of origin for Swiss products.
The archives of companies, organisations, and individuals are searchable in the search portal swisscollections.
swisscollections is your gateway to historical and modern collections in Swiss libaries and archives.
All the archives can also be found in the search portal swisscovery Basel. For orders, you will always use swisscovery.
swisscovery Basel is the catalogue of the Basel library network.
Search for a collection and its structure
An overview of the structure and order of the indexed archive collections can be found in the tectonics of archives in swisscollections. You can filter the search results by facets.
All archive collections can be found in our search portal SWA Search. Please use the facet "object type" ("Archivmaterial..."), und the facet "level". The facet "Hierarchy/Context" allows an overview of the structure and order of the archive collections.
Furthermore, the archival fonds can be found in the register of economic archives in Switzerland arCHeco.
Searching for a specific document
In the search portal SWA Search you can use the "Basic search" and filter the results using the facets. You can also search directly in the facets, e.g. for a firm or person.
Alternatively, you can use the search portal swisscovery.
State of indexing
The economic archives are recorded on the level of series or files/dossiers in their entirety in the search portal swisscovery and in swisscollections.
Newly acquired collections are at first documented as a whole at fonds level.
Selected economic archives, or parts of them, are available digitally on the platform e-manuscripta. The priority for digitisation conforms to specific criteria: frequently used holdings; historically important holdings holdings; holdings typical for the SWA; connection to Basel and relevance to the University of Basel; documents with dense or high information content; conservational aspects (protection of holdings, digitisability).
The focus of the digitisation is on older, small to medium-sized collections (typical for the SWA) which have a connection to Basel but are of interest well beyond Basel’s borders, e.g. collections from the textile industry or colonisation societies. Of the more recent or larger collections, core series with high information content – such as minutes – are digitalised.
Amstutz, Irene/Wiesmann, Matthias. Sammeln - Ordnen - Vermitteln: SWA - Schweizerisches Wirtschaftsarchiv: 1910-2010. Basel 2010. (PDF, in German).
Archive documents can generally be ordered directly from the search portal swisscovery.
You will need a swisscovery user account for ordering.
When placing your order, please state when you would like to consult the documents.
Orders made before 16:00 are usually available at the Special reading room of the University Business and Economics Library - Swiss Economic Archives after 30 minutes.
There may be use restrictions. Where this is the case, there is no order button in the catalogue. For questions about these documents, please contact us.
Digitised industrial films are accessible via the AV workstation (Memoriav+) in the reading room.
Unlike the material in the economic documentation, the economic archives contain internal business documents which have never been intended for the general public. Because of that, there is a protection period of 30 years after closing the files for the most recent archives. Special protection periods are applied to documents with personal data.
Use restrictions are only summarily provided in the catalogue. Users are responsible for their own compliance with the restrictions regarding copyright and protection of privacy laws.
You are allowed to take photographs of the archives (without using a flash); photocopies are not permitted.
Contact us for professional reproductions of documents from the economic archives. Fees set by the digitisation centre of the University Library Basel apply; die Rechnungsstellung erfolgt direkt über die UB. Reproductions of plans of the Suter + Suter (CH SWA PA 510) portfolio are created by an external repro-service provider.
For the publication (print or online) of images or documents from the SWA, the repro guidelines at the University Library Basel (PDF, in German) apply.
Citing from SWA holdings
Please note the citation guidelines (PDF, in German) for documents from the SWA.
Loans for exhibitions
For loans, please conctact us.
A selection of digitised sources
History competition HISTORIA
HISTORIA, the Swiss national history competition, honours outstanding works by young people between the ages of 14 and 21, that were written in the field of history.
The current topic for 2023-2025 is Youth in movement. There are several historical sources in the Swiss Economic Archives that would be suitable as a starting point for research.
What does business have to do with youth? In earlier centuries people did not live as long. To a certain extent, young people grew up more quickly. Entry into working life and the establishment of a household often occurred early. In other words, there were many workers and entrepreneurs, who by today’s standards, were still almost young people.
Read old German scripts
The ad fontes portal offers exercises and reference options for old manuscripts.
Guided tours in the Swiss Economic Archives
Would you like a taste of archive air? Examine original documents closely? Please contact us.