The Archive of the Saltworks in Bad Ischl Discover the countless historical treasures in the “Lehar Stöckl”
The smell of aged paper, leather, and floor wax hang in the air, and I know immediately: I’m in the right place! This is the “Lehar Stöckl” in Bad Ischl, where the archive of the saltworks has been housed on 125 m2 since 2021.
The reason for my visit is the formal handing-over of the “Guest Book” from Salzwelten Altaussee, which will find a safe home here and be made available for research purposes. That said, this archive contains far more than old logbooks with the signatures of visitors and former mineworkers: the collection of this library includes printed materials and manuscripts dating from the 16th century until today. Over 2100 titles and 5000 volumes are just waiting to be discovered and explored. This astonishing assemblage of unique documents features historical mine maps from the salt mines in Hall in Tirol as well as Bad Ischl, including the oldest-known side view of a mine in the German-speaking world (Hall in Tirol, 1531), as well as historic site maps of all the saltworks.
Furthermore, the archive contains glass plates, negatives, photographs, and photo albums with visual documentation of salt mining and the saltworks over the course of time. The collection also features photos taken of and by tour groups and prominent visitors of many eras as they explored the exhibition mine galleries that were open for the enjoyment of the general public, including those in Bad Ischl (closed 2001) as well as Hallstatt and Altaussee (the “Salzwelten” we are familiar with today).
The collection is further supplemented by countless exhibits from the world of salt mining, such as oil paintings and watercolors, sculptures, historical furniture, mineral collections, mine lamps and mining equipment.
Stewardship of the archive is currently the responsibility of three men: Thomas Nussbaumer, a veteran employee of Salinen Austria AG, Johann Kranabitl, a mining expert and college lecturer, and the famous journalist and publicist of the Traunspiegel, Alexander Savel. The three of them serve here on a voluntary basis, each contributing a treasure trove of personal knowledge. During our conversation, I noticed a gentleman painstakingly photographing some historical lists. As it turns out, he is currently researching the history of ceremonial folk militias in the Hallstatt area. “Thomas Nussbaumer phoned me because he had come across something interesting he thought I should take a closer look at”. In the Salzkammergut, it does indeed seem that everybody knows everybody else.
“As a schoolchild, I had to write a report about the salt mine.
In order to do so, I needed a number of books that were in the archive,
which I requested from the office that was responsible for such matters.
I wasn’t permitted to browse the archive on my own.
Instead, they found ‘my’ books for me, and the archivist laid them out in front of me.
I wasn’t even allowed to touch them or turn a page myself”.
- Johann Kranabitl
The history of the saltworks library
In September of 2008, the former corporate headquarters of the saltworks in Wirerstraße, Bad Ischl – which is where the main saltworks library was housed – were sold. The library collection was crated up and delivered to the Town Museum in Bad Ischl, while other property – such as cupboards and cabinets – was stored in the administration buildings of the saltworks in Ebensee and the salt mine in Bad Ischl.
On the 17th of December 2009, Salinen Austria AG and the municipality of Bad Ischl entered into a 99-year loan agreement for the contents of the main saltworks library. Within the scope of this agreement, Bad Ischl committed itself to preserving the collection appropriately and making it available to the general public.
After considering various ideas, the municipality of Bad Ischl decided to rehabilitate and adapt the “Léhar Stöckl,” located behind the Léhar Villa, to house the collection.
In autumn of 2020, the library collection and miscellaneous objects which had been warehoused at three different external locations were finally transferred to the refurbished “Lehár Stöckl”. The inspection and organization of the entire inventory was completed by Thomas Nussbaumer on 14 April 2021.
The Saltworks Archive (“Salinenarchiv”), as it is now known, was officially opened on September 14, 2021 by Ines Schiller, Mayor of Bad Ischl, and Kurt Thomanek, CEO of Salinen Austria.
The archive is purely a reference library and documents may not be borrowed. With the aid of a laptop, visitors can select the archived materials they wish to consult, which will then be set out by the archivist in the reading room for them to peruse.
Exact opening times and a comprehensive listing of archived materials are provided on the homepage of the City of Bad Ischl.
Enquiries pertaining to the contents of the archive as well as requests of specific materials can be sent via email to archivists:
DI Johann Kranabitl