Some people know how to let an idea take off and fly. We are enchanted to report that the Departmental Archives of Vendée have had an idea that soars.
Archives in France, as anywhere, can seem to be designed to discourage the non-academic researcher. The casual genealogist can be scowled out the door. This attitude is reflected in some of the websites of the various Deaprtmental Archives. Some, such as Mayenne, seem to welcome the enthusiasm of people researching their family history. Others seem to discourage them, by refusing to have an online presence, or by having one with the minimum of records digitised, or by charging fees for their use.
The Archives départementales de la Vendée have taken a big step toward encouraging, welcoming and -- most importantly -- collaborating with researchers. Following the path down which thousands of libraries have been striding, they have started a blog. Entitled L@boratoires des internautes, with a link to be found on their main page, this is their platform to reach out to and be involved with users.
Requesting that people write in and tell of their research projects and discoveries, the archivists provide suggestions, guidance, and may write about the work in progress. There is a section entitled "entraide" where readers ask for help in identification or research. This overlaps with a section for "Identification" where readers or the archivists themselves have uploaded photographs of people and places hoping for help in identifying them. Palaeography is covered in "Transcription" where people can upload pages, following certain instructions, and ask for help in reading them. Other readers contribute to the process.
The intention is to establish a collaborative link between users and caretakers of the archives that we find to be quite creative, open and innovative. If your research takes you to the website of the archives of Vendée, give it a go.
©2011 Anne Morddel