Another junket! The Departmental Archives of Finistère can be found in Quimper, a town of storybook charm, most of it lost on the archives administrators, it would seem, who have a very modern building of some luxury, including odd art in the courtyard and peculiar plumbing choices.
This Departmental Archives has always given the impression of being somewhat anti-researchers. For years, they refused to have a website and rather churlishly replied to questions about it, as if users were the enemy. Finally, they succumbed to the malady of modern technology and built a website and made some parish and civil registrations accessible online.
This must have hurt until someone had the inspiration to use the website the further to discourage visitors to the archives. Swathes of the archives have become unavailable to users, for they have been determined as needing conservation work. Just in case you might think of going for a visit anyway, the website causes panic by saying that all holdings are contaminated with mould and fungus, much mould and much fungus, which could seriously damage your health, you are warned. You are advised to discuss any archival research with your doctor first.
Well, we have haunted second-hand book shops in the tropics that were so full of mould and fungus that the staff wore cloth masks over their noses and mouths and that we, on entering, felt our lungs seize up and writhe under the assault of parasitically damp air, so we thought we could cope with a spot of Breton mould. The hours are stated as beginning at 8.30, but they were at 9.00 the day we went, so we waited out in the rain with the rest of the researchers who had been fooled by the website.
This is one of the departments that suffered great losses during the Allied bombing, so the holdings are not massive. The few cartons we dared to examine (taking our life in our hands if the website is to be believed) revealed yet more destruction. Possibly an archivist took these documents home and a child with a pair of scissors got at them?
Apparently, the child was making a collection of heading designs, which are, indeed, very pretty:
In spite of the place seemingly run by a madman, the young staff at the desk were wonderfully helpful, cheerful and efficient. Is a change afoot or is this mutinous behaviour?
We request that everyone who has the slightest impulse to go to these archives do so, if only to encourage the young staff and to rattle the madman's cage.
Archives départementales du Finistère
5 allée Henri Bourde de la Rogerie
tel: 02 98 95 31 69
©2014 Anne Morddel