ICA SUV 2014 conference

The National Archives

Tuesday 11 February 2014


The French National Archives has graciously invited ICA-SUV Conference participants to visit the Pierrefitte -sur -Seine National Archives on July 7, 2014.

The National Archives preserve the records of the federal government (excluding ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs), as well as the minutes of the notaries in Paris and private fonds of national interest.

The National Archives was created during the French Revolution. In fact, during the previous Ancien Régime, there was no centralized archive for all offices and branches of government but only individual deposits (records of the Parliament, the Chamber of Accounts, Chancery, Secretariat of Foreign Affairs, etc. . .). On September 12, 1790, the National Constituent Assembly named its archive the National Archives.

Four years later, by the law of 7 Messidor Year II (25 June 1794), the National Convention defined the archives’ role and established a "central repository of the National Archives." The law declared three main principles that are still relevant today:

  • • a centralized National Archives;
  • • free access to the records by all French citizens;
  • • the need for a national archival network.

The Law of 5 Brumaire V (26 October 1796) completed it by introducing an archive in each prefecture of the department.

Subsequently, the National Archives incorporated the following collections:

  1. • the archives of central institutions abolished by the Revolution
  2. • the archives of ecclesiastical institutions (diocese , parishes , convents) of the diocese of Paris
  3. • the records seized from emigrants or convicts.

In 1808, Napoleon moved the National Archives to Hotel de Soubise, pending the construction of a specific building, the Champ-de-Mars, which, however, was never built.

During the nineteenth century, the National Archives began collecting records of administrative departments. The archives itself extended beyond the Hotel de Soubise with the construction of the "Grands Dépôts" under Louis Philippe and Napoleon III. Staff was formally educated (archivists were trained at the Ecole des Chartes), inventories and finding aids were published. In 1867, the National Archives Museum was created and the most significant documents were put on display.

In 1927, the Hotel de Rohan, occupied hitherto by the Government Printing Office, was assigned to the National Archives. This is where the minutes of the notaries of Paris were kept.

After World War II, the National Archives began to increasingly collect personal and family papers. Archives units were created inside key ministries to organize the collection and preservation of government records as quickly as possible.

The Paris archives buildings were soon full, with no more room left for contemporary deposits and transfers. Subsequently, in 1972, the old buildings of NATO in Fontainebleau were assigned to the National Archives. An ambitious project was designed, but only two units were actually built because the location was difficult to reach for researchers and did not sufficiently take into account the expansion of contemporary records and collections. Archives teams working at Fontainebleau developed expertise in contemporary archives and, in particular, in electronic archives.

The public interest in archival documents has been steadily increasing. In 1988 in Paris, a large building opened dedicated to the public, called the Caran (home and research center of the National Archives), and which brought together various reading rooms that coexisted until then.

Because the Paris and Fontainebleau storage sites were filling up and considering the remote location of Fontainebleau, the construction of a third site was planned in 1995. An association of researchers, archivists and genealogists, called " A city for archives " was formed in 2001 to push for the necessary political decision. Jacques Chirac, President of the Republic, and Lionel Jospin, Prime Minister, eventually approved the project.

In 2004, the government chose the Pierrefitte-sur-Seine location. Built by architect Massimiliano Fuksas, the new building is actually the largest archives repository in Europe and was inaugurated by François Hollande, President of the French Republic, on the 21 January 2013.

JPEG - 46.8 kb
Site des Archives Nationales-Pierrefitte
Gilles Raynaldy - Site des Archives nationales à Pierrefitte - Architecte Fuksas

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