Our Le Havre junket was extended to include a day of research at the Municipal Archives. They are housed in an old bastion, the Fort de Tourneville. Though the archives part of the building has been done up very nicely, the rest of the fort is still being repaired and restored, so there is a sense, on entering, of being in the wrong place, of being in a maze of scaffolding, of being at risk from plummeting construction materials or pots of paint.
Signage is not yet completed and, the day that we went anyway, it was no hive of activity but more of an eerie, empty, abandoned place where the sea wind howled. There was not a soul to give directions. We persevered in our wanderings and found the entry to an exhibition -- no one visiting and no one at the desk -- where there were some stairs, so we went up them. At the top, in light and warmth, were half a dozen cheerful archivists, glad to see us and ready to help. Apparently they found it quite a joke that we had managed to locate them, as if members of the public were not really meant to do so.
We filled out the usual forms and handed over our list of requests based on research we had done on the finding aids using the archives' website. The helpful young man at the desk asked "Is this everything? I don't want to have to make two trips." Wherever it was that he had to go, it took only five minutes, for he rolled in a trolley laden with our requested cartons. The person at the desk was relieved every fifteen minutes, and we never saw the same person twice; from this we infer that the facility was very well staffed. We also inferred some sort of festivity in the back room as people were increasingly jolly and affectionate with one another.
The finding aids are numerous and extremely detailed, making these archives very easy to use. Our focus was on the Naval and Port Archives and we were amazed and overjoyed to find certain categories to be more complete than those found in the Marine Archives of the Service Historique de la Défense. Excellent research day.
One of the archivists had told us that the Saint Marie Cemetery was just up the road and that it contained some graves from the mid-nineteenth century. So we went and discovered many graves and a memorial to British dead of World War One ships. In the chapel are provided maps showing the tombs of artists or naval heroes. Even on a sunny day, a cemetery is a sad place.
Archives Municipales du Havre
Fort de Tourneville
55 rue du 329e
76620 Le Havre
©2017 Anne Morddel