One normally goes to Bourges for the fabulously beautiful cathedral, but we went to do research in the long-suffering Departmental Archives of Cher, which are located at the southern edge of town and which have an abnormal amount of damaged goods. We have seen some battered archives in our day, including the underground pit that was the National Archives of Uganda not longer after Amin got done with that poor and beautiful country. The condition of some of the registers we requested at Cher's departmental archives were really no better:
Other users gossiped and exchanged stories of waterlogged register books with pages nibbled away by mice. We were told by a beaming member of the staff:
"Fungus, termites, mice," he said, then shrugged and, rather as the French cheerily say "c'est la vie" he added: "That's archives!" No. It is not.
Happy days are on the horizon, however, for the archives are being expanded greatly, the facilities improved, and a preservation and microfilming programme is going on at a galloping pace. All of these efforts mean that the service is somewhat chaotic as well as that rather a significant amount of the civil and parish records are unavailable.
Like that of Haute-Saône, Cher's is another small departmental archives facility, with not much money and what they do have is going to the conservation programme, it would seem. No records are online. The usual registration is required and a paper card is given. The list of all holdings and their codes is on a database and there are two terminals available. Most, but not all records are requested via these terminals and delivered by trolley ever 15 minutes. There is no copier or printer for use by the patrons, so a digital camera is most necessary. Additionally, should anyone be planning a visit, it would be a good idea to allot an extra day or two, for there are a couple of odd regulations that inhibit work:
- The entire building is closed for an hour at lunchtime. (There are no restaurants nearby but there is a small canteen one can use, though the food is such as we had never thought to see in France.)
- There is a limit of twelve items -- whether original or microfilm -- that can be requested to view per day.
These mean that an efficient researcher will spend a lot of time waiting...or knocking off early and visiting the cathedral.
Archives départementales du Cher
Rue de Mazières
telephone: (+33) 2 48 55 82 60
©2010 Anne Morddel