About the National Archives

The “Richard Wagner Museum with National Archives and Research Centre of the Richard Wagner Foundation Bayreuth” is the central and by far the largest and most important Wagner collection worldwide and has been under the direction of Dr. Sven Friedrich since 1993.

The cornerstone of the National Archives of the Richard Wagner Foundation is the Richard Wagner Family Archives (also known as Richard Wagner Archives/Wahnfried Archives), which was acquired when the Foundation was established in 1973. In the course of establishing the Richard Wagner Foundation Bayreuth in 1973, the Wagner family sold the archives for 12.4 million DM to the three sponsors of the Foundation: the Federal Republic of Germany, the Upper Franconian Foundation and the Bavarian State Foundation, which in turn gave it to the Richard Wagner Foundation Bayreuth on permanent loan to manage within the framework of a public institution .

The archives and libraries of the former municipal Richard Wagner memorial site represent an additional component. They themselves are based on the library of Carl Friedrich Glasenapp (1847-1915), author of the first and most comprehensive biography of Wagner, and a collection of various written and image documents. The director of the Richard Wagner Memorial, Dr. Manfred Eger (1927-2016), also took over the administration of the National Archives with the opening of the Richard Wagner Museum Bayreuth in Wahnfried House in 1976. The archives and administrative offices were originally located on the premises of the “Chamberlain House ” at Wahnfriedstraße 1, immediately next to Wahnfried House.


Since 1986, the Wolfgang Wagner endowment has been part of the Richard Wagner Museum and National Archives. It contains material about the history of the Bayreuth Festival from 1951 to 1986 and represents the chronological continuation of the Richard Wagner family archives. After the reopening of the museum on 26th July, 2015, the shelves full of documentary material (in total some 230 metres in length!) were moved to Wahnfried House. By December 2016, the archives’ academic staff were able to unpack these items and pre-sort them for the first time, so that the materials could be made available to users of the National Archives on request.

The formal archival indexing, cataloguing and finally digitisation of the materials is currently being planned, following the digitisation project of the manuscripts from Richard and Cosima Wagner’s estate.

Contacts at the National Archives

Who manages which collection?

The responsibilities of the National Archives

In accordance with the statutes of the Richard Wagner Foundation Bayreuth, the National Archives manages and preserves its holdings according to the appropriate scientific and conservatorial principles governing librarianship and archiving systems.

Furthermore, it is directed to collect and preserve written and pictorial documents as well as printed works and objects relating to the life, work and lasting impact of Richard Wagner in order to make them available to the public as a central research resource for scientific research and publications as well as for permanent and special exhibitions of the Richard Wagner Museum (Wahnfried House).
The collections of the National Archives

The most important collection is Richard and Cosima Wagner’s handwritten estate, that is, Richard Wagner’s music, poetry and prose manuscripts.

The holdings of the National Archives

The most important collection is Richard and Cosima Wagner’s handwritten estate, i.e. Richard Wagner’s music, poetry and prose manuscripts.

Handwritten libretti, composition and developed drafts as well as Richard Wagner’s full scores and fair copies

Almost 5,000 letters, draft letter and telegrams from Richard Wagner, including 1,450 handwritten letters and over 3,000 transcripts

Dictation manuscript of Richard Wagner’s autobiography “Mein Leben” (My Life)

All handwritten diaries of Cosima Wagner

More than 900 handwritten letters and approx. 450 transcripts of Cosima Wagner’s letters

Several thousand letters written by members of the Wagner/Liszt families and other correspondents

Siegfried Wagner’s artistic estate, including the original handwritten scores of his operas

Certificates and other biographical documents

Handwritten estate of Houston Stewart Chamberlain with about 16,500 archival items

Archives of the Bayreuth Festival Administration up to 1945

Richard Wagner’s Dresden library with just over 400 volumes

Richard Wagner’s Wahnfried library with around 2,300 volumes

Research library with more than 40,000 bibliographic items (from the holdings of the Richard Wagner Memorial)

Houston Stewart Chamberlain’s library with around 12,500 volumes

Wolfgang Wagner endowment with the press and picture archives, files, correspondence, drafts, models, excerpts from the stage direction and other materials related to the productions of the Bayreuth Festival from 1951 to 1986.

Picture archive with approx. 13,000 pictures

Sound archive with 12,000 titles

Pictures and busts of Richard Wagner and the family,

Other personal belongings of Richard Wagner and his family.

Catalogues and inventories

Dresden library

Richard Wagner’s Dresden library with just over 400 volumes.
(in German)

Festival Archives

Archives of the Bayreuth Festival Administration until 1945.
(in German)

Wahnfried Library

Richard Wagner’s Wahnfried Library with around 2,300 volumes.
(in German)

Performance database of the Bayreuth Festival

All performances from 1951 to the present day with cast, conductors and directing teams
as well as further information on almost all persons named.


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