Rheinisches Bildarchiv Köln
The Rheinisches Bildarchiv has been producing, collecting, preserving and promoting photographs in a wide variety of formats since it was founded in 1926. It is one of the largest art-historical photo archives in Germany and is unique as local authority institution. The RBA develops analogue and digital presentation strategies and cooperates with Cologne's museums and cultural institutions, many other image archives and the independent scene.
© Rheinisches Bildarchiv Köln, Michael Albers, rba_d056253_39, Waechter + Waechter Architekten BDA
Since 2010, the archive's holdings have increased fivefold. It now comprises around 5.5 million photographic images in many formats from 35mm to the largest glass negative (70x90 centimetres) and materials: glass and film negatives, slides in 35mm and medium format, positive prints and over 800,000 digital images. Currently, around 120 unique photographers' holdings have been identified, such as those of the well-known Cologne photographers August Sander, Karl Hugo Schmölz, August Kreyenkamp and Chargesheimer. The RBA owes the enormous increase in the number of holdings to the approximately 4 million negatives and slides from the analogue KölnMesse image archive with their great significance for the history of photography and culture in Cologne: among them all the photo documentations of Photokina, Art Cologne and the predecessor art fairs as well as all the other sections of the Cologne fairs.
The RBA's own photographers have been taking photographs for the city of Cologne since 1926. The RBA thus produces a considerable part of its archive stock itself. In this way, it differs significantly from archives that merely "record" passively, which are classically covered by archive regulations. The RBA works more like a photo agency and provides a comparable photo distribution service, but has non-profit status and thus a public educational mandate. Since 2012, the main instrument for international photo distribution and image provision has been the image database www.kulturelles-erbe-koeln.de (KEK).
In 2021, the Rheinisches Bildarchiv moved together with the Historical Archive into the new building at the Eifelwall. In 2022/2023, it takes part in the Artist Meets Archive Programme of the Internationale Photoszene for the third time and provides Lilly Lulay with the estate of the Cologne (stereo) photographer Karl-Heinz Hatlé. The estate was donated to the Rheinisches Bildarchivby the Cologne Gymnasium and Foundation Fund in 2008. Together with students from the Holweide Gesamtschule, Lulay will realise the first AMA jr. issue.