Archival training session: concepts, tools and practices

by Stéphane Ancel

• The workshop entitled «Archives Nationales – atelier méthodologique pour l’équipe de chercheurs du projet Open Jerusalem» was held on the 4th December at the National Archives of France (NAF) historical site in Paris, and continued on the 5th December at its new site in Pierrefitte-sur-Seine. Supported by the National Archives of France and the ERC-financed research project “Opening Jerusalem Archives : For a Connected History of “Citadinité” in the Holy City (1840-1940)”, this workshop was conceived and organized by Yann Potin, archivist at the NAF and member of the ERC Open Jerusalem project.

• This workshop represented the first step of a long-lasting and fruitful partnership between the NAF and Open Jerusalem project. The importance of a deep understanding and knowledge of archival management principles, concepts and practices is crucial for OJ researchers. The workshop aimed so at giving to them methods and tools for describing archival materials and at establishing a mutual methodological approach to archives. For that purpose instructive presentations and training were done by members of the NAF.

• On the 4th December, at the Parisian site of the NAF, the workshop was welcomed by Yann Potin (NAF) and Béatrice Hérold (NAF). After expressing their wish for a fruitful partnership between the NAF and the ERC project, both of them underlined the absolute necessity of a mutual approach for describing archives during the Open Jerusalem project work. Each participant to the workshop was then asked to present his own work, difficulties and demands about the description and analysis of archival materials in Jerusalem. From this round table resulted first thoughts and perspectives, and crucial notions concerning archives could be like that presented and discussed.

• Yann Potin guided then all participants in the stores of the NAF. He explained the history of the institution, the way of classification and its evolution, and he showed several precious items preserved there.

• In her presentation entitled “Notions juridiques: propriété et communicabilité des archives”, Marie-Françoise Limon-Bonnet (NAF) presented to the participants the legal notions concerning archives in France. She explained how to define archival material, in legal terms, according to their origin and to the creator of the documents. Public and private archives were thus defined and dissociated, and the question of the availability of documents for research was explained and discussed.

• Then Leyla Dakhli (CNRS – CMB Berlin) and Naomi Nicolas-Kaufman (SEUA – TLHub) presented a new tool for participative translation works: the program called TLHub. All potentialities of the program were showed and the participants could be trained for using it.

• On the 5th December, at the new site of the NAF in Pierrefitte-sur-Seine, the workshop started under the supervision of Emmanuelle Giry (NAF) and Emeline Rotolo (NAF) and concerned the diplomatic approach of contemporary archives. At first, the history of French diplomatic and some important notions were explained. Then, the participants could have been trained to the description of different types of files from the NAF. Marie-Alpais Torcheboeuf (conservator, Fondation de Chambrun) presented also the characteristic of archival materials produced by religious institutions in focusing on those of the Ecole biblique de Jérusalem.

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• Then Jessica Huygue (NAF) and Stéphane Méziache (NAF) exposed to the participants all issues concerning digitisation of archival materials. Jessica Huygue explained processes followed by the NAF for digitizing archives. She exposed crucial steps to be followed for digitizing documents, especially the establishment of clear protocol for naming digital files. Stéphane Méziache gave to the audience his technical advises concerning devises and tools for digitisation process of documents. The problem posed by the creation a common protocol for description of archives (a “feuille de récolement”) was also discussed.

• All the participants of the workshop could visit offices of the National Archives devoted to the preservationand restoration of documents. Laurent Martin (NAF) explained some crucial questions linked to the preservation of documents. That way, he made the participants aware of good behaviors that the researcher has to follow in order to preserve the documents he is studying.

Frédéric Douat (Archives départementales du 92 – Haut de Seine) shared with the participants his field research experience. He explained how he could have access to different types of archives, in public and private institutions. He focused also on the main information that researchers have to collect about an archive funds.

Patricia Coste and Habiboussa Mansour (NAF) explained politics launched by the National Archives concerning the management of disasters and the preservation of archives where they are stored.

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• Finally, Béatrice Hérold (NAF) presented different protocols for the description of archival materials. The standards called ISAD-G (General International Standard Archival Description), for the description of archival funds, and ISSAR-CPF(International Standard Archival Authority Record for Corporate Bodies, Persons and Families), for the description of the creators of archives were explained to participants. The latter were also introduced to the use of the XML standards for encoding archival finding aids called EAD (Encoded Archival Description), and for encoding information about the creators of archival materials called EAC-CPF (Encoded Archival Context – Corporate bodies, Persons and Families). The workshop ended with the presentation of the characteristics of SOSIE program (“Saisie en Open office pour la Structuration d’Instrument de recherché en EAD”) used by the NAF.


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