About three weeks ago, all patrons of the National Archives in the Marais received an invitation to a ceremony and champagne reception to celebrate the beginning of the construction of a new archives building, expected to open in 2013. (The photo above is of the site.) It will have lots of artworks by Pascal Convert and sculptures by Antony Gormley. The entry will be arranged by Susanna Fritscher.
Mme. Isabelle Neuschwander, the Directrice of the Archives nationales made a speech lauding this new building. The slameur (slam poet) Ami Karim, recited his poem giving thanks for this part of the national heritage being placed in his neighbourhood «Il en faut de la place pour garder le temps». He then recited four more poems to general applause.
Are we pleased? Well, yes and no. It is the same old argument with these things, really. A new building is much needed, no doubt, for the French are keen recorders of detail and the national archives are mushrooming. Yet, this new building will be in Pierrefitte-sur-Seine, far outside the centre of Paris, making research much, much more difficult for students, professors, and us. All archives post-1790 will be sent to Pierrefitte.
Part of the archives collection has all ready been hived off to the site at Fontainebleau, well beyond the métro system. Another major part of the collection -- that dealing with ex-colonies -- has been relocated to Aix-en-Provence, hundreds of kilometers away in the south. The diplomatic archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs -- which used to be on the Quai d'Orsay in the centre of Paris -- have just opened in a new building in La Corneuve, again in the remote suburbs. While we sympathize with the need for more space and modern facilities, we deplore the scattering of the archives around the country, especially as there is no loan system among them, and there is very little duplication of microfilms.
The champagne was much appreciated, but our feathers were not unruffled in the least.
©2009 Anne Morddel
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