The history of the Research Unit for Onomastics begins with a decision by the Federal Council of Switzerland from 1938. In this decision, the Swiss Cantons were obliged to form committees responsible for the selection and spelling of toponyms on official maps. In 1942/43 the committee of the Canton of Bern started its work.
Unlike other cantons, the Canton of Bern from the outset dispatched people to each municipality to record the dialectal names in phonetic script from the local inhabitants.
At the same, attestations of toponyms were collected from various historical records.
Originally located at the Falkenplatz in Bern, the Research Unit for Onomastics, which is nowadays part of the German Department, hosts the collection of the materials. The total stock of index cards is ca. 1 million.
The onomastic collection consists of two parts
a) "Living" attestations
Recorded in phonetic script.
Sorted by municipality, then alphabetically.
b) Historical attestations
Excerpted and transcribed from historical sources.