Rorschach Archives and Collection
It is necessary to make an appointment with the archivist in advance. Books from the library can be borrowed when the Library of History of Medicine is open. Please note that, for conservational reasons, there aren't any documents on display.
The Rorschach Archives and Collection are dedicated to the Swiss psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach (1884-1922) - creator of the form interpretation test named after him (the "Rorschach Test"). The Rorschach Archives and Collection house records and other items from the estates of his wife Olga and two children Wadim and Elisabeth, as well as from the estates of former professional colleagues and of past presidents of the International Society of the Rorschach (ISR). The associated library with numerous publications from all over the world documents the reception and further development of Rorschach's work.
Initiated in 1957 by the Bernese psychiatrist Walter Morgenthaler (1882-1965) and later revived by the psychologist John E. Exner (1928-2006), the institution, administered by the University Library Bern (UB), fulfills an important function in the international Rorschach research. It is sponsored by the University Library Bern, the International Society of the Rorschach (ISR) and Verlag Hans Huber Hogrefe AG.
The Rorschach Archives and Collection can be used for academic purposes by anyone interested. Advance notice is required for research access to the archival material.
This material is freely accessible, apart from a few exceptions which are kept back from the public for reasons of data protection and preservation. There may be charges for and/or conditions of use. Reproductions are only permissible after consultation with the University Library Bern.
Apart from a small number of exceptions, all books may be borrowed. Articles from periodicals or journals are only available as photocopies.
The archival material is divided into what are referred to as funds, taking the origin into account, and described in English. They can be looked into in the HAN Archivbestände Rorschach Archives.
An overview (The Rorschach Archives Guide) as well as inventories for most of the funds are available for downloading in PDF format.
The heart of the Archives' holdings is the Hermann Rorschach fonds. It includes the ten cards, developed by Rorschach in 1918, which he used for testing purposes during the implementation of his perception diagnostic experiment, and which served as masters for their first publication in 1921 for publisher Ernst Bircher. There is also a large number of inkblot pictures the purpose of which is not known. The archival material also encompasses numerous test records compiled by Rorschach, complete with scoring, manuscripts on his "Perception Diagnostic Experiment" (form interpretation test), lecture notes, innumerable excerpts from all scientific disciplines, correspondence, photos, personal mementos and many drawings spanning the time from his schooldays until the last years of his life.
In 1919, the German psychiatrist Georg A. Roemer (1892-1972) was working as a volunteer in the Herisau convalescent and nursing home. This is where he found out about Rorschach's experiment and started creating his own inkblot pictures. Once back in Germany, he started his own test with inkblot pictures and started using Rorschach's test in a way that increasingly disconcerted the latter. The extensive archival material comprises his extended correspondence with Rorschach between 1919 and 1922. Roemer, having experimented for decades investigating new techniques for the preparation of inkblot pictures, left an immense number of sheets which are interesting for their aesthetic and artistic value. The letters received and sent by Roemer as well as other papers and non-published literature of the time are an important source of knowledge on the history of psychotherapy during the Nazi rule in Germany.
Rorschach’s colleague and friend Emil Oberholzer (1883-1958) headed a private practice in Zurich as a psychoanalyst and played an active part in Rorschach’s inkblot experiments from the very beginning. The fonds consists of the correspondence between himself and Rorschach in the years 1916 to 1922. This exchange of letters is interesting not only in relation to the origin and development of Rorschach's test procedure but also with regard to the psychoanalytical movement in Switzerland. As members of the executive committee of the Swiss Psycho-Analytical Society (Oberholzer as president, Rorschach as vice president) they discussed, alongside organizational questions, general issues concerning the institutional development of psychoanalysis.
The psychiatrist Walter Morgenthaler (1882-1965) played an important role in finding a publisher for Rorschach’s inkblot experiment. After Rorschach's death he was unremittingly committed to popularizing and institutionalizing the Rorschach method. He was Honorary President of the International Rorschach Society founded in 1952 and played an instrumental part in initiating the Rorschach Archives. The fund contains the correspondence with Rorschach, drawing an impressive picture of the difficulties encountered during the publication of “Psychodiagnostics”, and Morgenthaler’s correspondence pertaining to his lifelong commitment to the Rorschach Test. In addition there are Rorschach test protocols and papers concerning his teaching activity.
In 1919, Hans Behn-Eschenburg (1893-1934) worked as a voluntary doctor in the Herisau convalescent and nursing home. He examined school children using Rorschach's test method in his dissertation. As it seemed unlikely that Rorschach's cards would soon be printed, a new test series was created specifically for this purpose under the aegis of Rorschach. In 1920 he joined the Swiss Psycho-Analytical Society and, after training at the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute, opened a private practice in 1924 in Zurich. In addition to manuscripts and papers on psychoanalytic topics, the fonds contain correspondence and other documents pertaining to his dissertation, which was published a few weeks after Rorschach's "Psychodiagnostics" in 1921 under the title "Psychological Schoolchildren Tests with the Form Interpretation Test".
Arnold Weber (1894-1976) played an important role for Hermann Rorschach inasmuch as he provided him in 1921 and 1922 with test protocols of musicians and other talented persons for “blind diagnosis”. Later, alongside his teaching at the university, he worked as a psychoanalyst in private practice, where he made full use of the Rorschach Test. The fonds contain the aforementioned test protocols including Rorschach’s elaborate evaluations. There are also numerous test protocols and papers on his teaching as well as his correspondence with Rorschach’s widow Olga Rorschach.
Emil Lüthy (1890-1966), a nephew of Emil Oberholzer, was a painter and one of the first members of the Swiss Psycho-Analytical Society. In his capacity as a painter he was consulted by Rorschach in matters of art psychology. The fonds contain among other things correspondence with Rorschach and drawings relating to Rorschach's test methods.
The psychiatrist Max Müller (1894-1980) became acquainted with Rorschach in 1921. Familiar with the Rorschach method and together with Emil Oberholzer, he began, in 1933, a research program with the intention of assembling as many results as possible using the Rorschach method applied to the average healthy population in order to determine standard scores. The fonds contain several hundred protocols bearing personal characterizations of those tested.
Marguerite Loosli-Usteri (1893-1958), a distinguished expert on the Rorschach Test and the first to make an attempt at systematic instruction in the use of the Rorschach method, was the first President of the International Rorschach Society. The fonds consist of numerous test protocols, correspondence and manuscripts relating to her research activities, teaching and writing and her work in the International Rorschach Society.
The psychiatrist Kenower W. Bash (1913-1986), an authority on Jungian psychology and the Rorschach method, was President of the International Rorschach Society from 1981 to 1986. The fonds consis of test protocols, manuscripts relating to Bash's research activities, teaching and writing related to the Rorschach Test and to his commitment in the International Rorschach Society.
Psychiatrist and psychologist Adolf Friedemann (1902-1981) was the long-term Head of the Institute for Psychohygiene in Biel and totally familiar with the Rorschach Test. He was Chairman of the Rorschach Commission of the Swiss Psychological Association from 1960 to 1975. In 1960, he also became President of the International Rorschach Society, an office he held until 1981. The fonds comprise test results obtained through a test developed by a certain Theo Lüdi and with Zulliger's Z-Test.
Russian-born Olga Štempelin (1878-1961) married Hermann Rorschach in 1910. She herself a physician, she had to support their two children Elisabeth and Wadim when her husband died in 1922. The fonds consist of photos and personal records, correspondence and some lecture notes.
Elisabeth Rorschach (1917-2006), daughter of Olga and Hermann Rorschach, remained unmarried and without offspring. Her excellent knowledge of English made her an important addressee for inquiries concerning her father and his estate from anglophone countries. The fonds include photos and other biographical documents, correspondence and a CV of her father's sister.
Wadim Rorschach (1919-2010), son of Olga and Hermann Rorschach and like his father a psychiatrist, had no offspring. After the death of his mother and together with his sister Elisabeth, he kept their father’s papers which they successively donated to the Rorschach Archives from 1998 onward. Among other things, the fonds contain biographical items and correspondence.
Online access to the fonds
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The library contains journal articles, reprints (separata), monographs, congress reports and dissertations on the Rorschach Test in many languages; the collection currently totals around 700 monographs and around 5000 journal articles and reprints. Regular contributions arrive in the form of journals on the Rorschach Test, and as periodicals from Japanese, South American, Spanish, Scandinavian, Dutch and East European Rorschach societies and groups. The library also houses books and reprints owned by Hermann Rorschach.
The catalog of printed items of the Rorschach Archives is part of the IDS Basel Bern Catalog. Please read the information on searching the Rorschach Archives before you enter the IDS Basel Bern Catalog.
Archive documents can be consulted in the Reading Room of the Library of the Institute for the History of Medicine (IMG). An appointment in advance is necessary.
Support in research
Answering written inquiries
Exhibition loans (on request)
Formal obligation for archive customers
History of the collection
The foundation of the Rorschach Archives, later renamed “The Hermann Rorschach Archives and Collection”, is due to the Bernese psychiatrist Walter Morgenthaler. When Rorschach was looking for a publisher for his test method, Morgenthaler helped him have his "Psychodiagnostics" published by Ernst Bircher in Bern. The book was published in 1921 as the second volume of the series “Arbeiten zur angewandten Psychiatrie“ (Works in Applied Psychiatry), edited by Morgenthaler. After Rorschach's untimely death in 1922, Morgenthaler committed himself to spreading and institutionalizing the Rorschach method. Following his suggestion the Swiss Psychological Association established the Rorschach Commission, which aimed to deal with all questions on teaching the Rorschach method and on Rorschach research. After its foundation in 1952, this task was taken over by the International Rorschach Society (today known as the International Society of the Rorschach, ISR). The Rorschach Commission started planning the establishment of the international Rorschach Archives, which have been managed by the University Library Bern (UB) since 1957.
When first created, the Archives managed to acquire important publications on the Rorschach Test as well as two important sets of correspondence. Apart from photos from the family, these sets of correspondence remained the only original documents for decades. Contact between the partners thus stagnated as did the extension of the archives.
It was only at the start of the 1990s that relations between the University Library Bern and the International Society of the Rorschach were reactivated. Jointly the two institutions managed to extend the collection of printed publications, reorganize it and record it electronically in entirety. Hermann Rorschach's two children gave a considerable part of their father's personal papers to the Archives. Another substantial contribution to the collection was the donation of records and other items formally belonging to Rorschach's pupil and colleague Georg A. Roemer. Inquiries in Switzerland and abroad led to the discovery of further important documents.
Since 1998 the archives had been housed at Dalmazirain 11, Bern. Two years later, the International Society of the Rorschach, and the University Library Bern, together with Verlag Hans Huber, celebrated the official opening of "The Hermann Rorschach Archives and Museum", which included a small exhibition of documents and personal items. After a fire in the building in May 2012 the archives had to be evacuated for safety reasons. They are now located in the Institute for the History of Medicine of the University of Bern. The former museum part has been closed.
Short biography of Hermann Rorschach (1884–1922)
Hermann Rorschach was born on November 8, 1884, in Zurich, the eldest of four children. Two years later, his family moved to Schaffhausen, where his father taught art. In 1897, at the age of twelve, he lost his mother and seven years later his father died after a long illness.
After finishing high school in 1904 he studied geology and botany at the Académie de Neuchâtel for one semester and afterwards completed a course in French at the Université de Dijon in France. In the fall of 1904, Rorschach started studying medicine at the University of Zurich.
At the age of twenty-two, he decided to become a psychiatrist. During the winter semester of 1906/1907 he studied in Berlin, from where he traveled to Russia for the first time. He then registered to study at the University of Bern for one semester. In the fall of 1907, Rorschach then reregistered at the University of Zurich from which he graduated in the spring of 1909.
After his exams he once again traveled to Russia, before taking up a post as a resident physician in the Thurgovian psychiatric hospital in Münsterlingen in 1909. In 1910 he married fellow student Olga Stempelin from Kazan/Russia.
His doctoral dissertation "Über Reflexhalluzinationen und verwandte Erscheinungen" (Reflex Hallucinations and Related Phenomena), supervised by Eugen Bleuler, was published in 1912. In April 1913, Rorschach terminated his post in the psychiatric hospital in Münsterlingen and then worked for a few months in the psychiatric clinic in Münsingen (near Bern).
At the end of 1913, the Rorschach-Stempelins traveled to Russia where Hermann Rorschach obtained a well paid position in the fashionable Krjukovo Sanatorium near Moscow.
In the summer of 1914, Rorschach returned to Switzerland and accepted a poorly paid position as an assistant doctor in the Waldau Psychiatric Hospital near Bern. In the fall of 1915, he left his position there and became an associate director in the Appenzell-Ausserrhodischen Psychiatric Hospital in Herisau on November 1, 1915.
His "Psychodiagnostics" book was published in the spring of 1921. The test method it presented became world-famous as the "Rorschach Test".
On April 2, 1922, at the age of thirty-seven, Hermann Rorschach died of a belatedly diagnosed appendicitis. He left two small children.