Call for paper. Ghost Archives and shadow records

Archival City is a Tremplin project selected by the I-site Future of Gustave Eiffel University and funded over the period 2019-2023. Its aims are to propose new modes of intelligibility, visualization and use of urban archives, from six experimental and non-exclusive fields: Algiers, Paris, Jerusalem, Bologna, Quito and Chiang Mai. More information on Archival-City here: https://archivalcity.hypotheses.org

Archival City is organizing its fall 2022 symposium on the theme “Ghost Archives and Shadow Records”. It will be held at the National Archives (Pierrefite-sur-Seine site, metro line 13 Saint-Denis Université) on November 17 and 18, 2022.

Every record, file or archive is the ghost of something. Archives are related to institutions, events and people that can only be grasped through documents. This international symposium aims to explore every possible meaning of such paradoxical but fertile terms that express the relationships between documentary disappearance and conservation, and the lacuna and completeness of historical sources, as they perpetually interact with rationales for forgetting and strategies of memorialization. The present call for papers invites authors to reflect on “ghost archives” and “shadow records”, using three different meanings of these expressions, from the strictest to the widest sense.

In French, the expression “archive ghosts” (fantômes d’archives) is the technical term for the dummies, the cards which are put in the place of original documents or files that are currently being consulted by researchers. In a metaphoric sense, records which existed once and then disappeared can be called “ghost archives”. This term applies to an extremely wide group of records that are rarely studied as a whole: it includes both documentary collections which have been the object of a selection (as part of a controlled archival destruction operation or of a “wild” elimination), and those lost or struck by involuntary selections (natural or human). However, these lost, dispersed or missing archives leave traces and imprints, more or less visible: dummies lingering on the shelves, destruction registers, lists and inventories, summary descriptions, collections of copies or extracts, or catalogue records. Archivists and historians are finding it increasingly necessary to establish a method of investigation and critical analysis for use of these traces, in order to reconstitute or even to restitute these mutilated or destroyed archives. Historians are now more concerned about the heuristic challenges      related to the creation and conservation of documents, and to the role of archival institutions in these processes.

From a historiographical or epistemological point of view, shadow records are existing documentary sets which have not been the object of an archiving procedure. Indeed, they are not considered historical records and are not preserved as such. In some cases, these records are not considered to be of interest, but they survive for a number of reasons, and thus may become archives at a later stage. In other cases, the interest of these documents is recognized by their creators who choose not to transfer them to the service responsible for their archives, but instead choose to keep or even destroy them. In still other cases, operational, financial or technical reasons delay archiving, or even prevent it permanently. Finally, this concept of shadow records  intersects with a key contemporary challenge affecting archivists and historians who work on the documentation of the last thirty years, marked by the transformational adoption of computer technology. Indeed, the digital transformation has led to new archiving issues: in this case, digital sets which have been “saved” thanks to the inertia of digital data, but which have not been the object of an archiving procedure, can be considered “shadow records.”

Finally, from a historical and critical point of view, some documentary collections are actually archived but have become difficult to find or invisible over time because they have escaped the notice of researchers or because of the power relations within the field of intellectual knowledge. A lack of interest in some subjects can delay or prevent the creation of finding aids, which makes it more difficult to study or even to preserve these documents. In recent decades, numerous movements (postcolonial studies, gender studies) have tried to react to this “invisibilization” and have found the archival field to be in need of examination. The recognition of this “archival turn” has had the merit of reminding us that any constitution of archives meets a political logic of power relations. More recently, researchers have tried to qualify this approach in order to account for a more complex and varied archival landscape. Indeed, documentary sets are created, transformed, and used by a multitude of actors (political personnel, civil servants, intermediaries, historians, researchers, scholars, and professional archivists) guided by different logics. These interactions must be reconstituted in a precise and delicate manner that acknowledges different contexts.

Distinguishing all these “ghosts” or “shadows” from proper “archives” (i.e. sets of documents arranged in such a way as to be retrievable by a reader or user, and preserved for a long period of time), is a research challenge      gaining recognition today. Indeed, historians are showing a new willingness to make global comparisons. They also have new means at their disposal to do so. Studying the different forms of conservation and use of documents mobilized by different communities, societies and eras is thus an emerging research      objective.

Cities are a particularly fertile ground for this research. Since their beginning, cities have      been sites where varied and often competing powers converge and clash. Each city is an archive in itself (of buildings, streets, toponyms…). Within cities, archival memory is more frequent, dense, and more intense, so it is always dispersed in multiple spaces and sites     . This situation creates ghost archives in the narrower sense (inventories, copies for multiple recipients). Sometimes, in the same city and at the same time, some institutions aim to preserve documentation while others set up counter-archival practices of oblivion that can have paradoxical effects (this is the well-known case of the Geniza in Cairo). More often, the coexistence and stratification of different institutions in a city generate document sets which are marked by different degrees of archival organization. More globally, the richness of urban archival material gives the opportunity to accurately trace the phenomena of documentary dispersion, disappearance, reconstitution and restitution, all of which this symposium will seek to make clear through the comparison of different cases and examples                

This focus on the urban context will finally also be positioned as an alternative to the traditional vision of archives as a mirror of the modern European state. It thus gives the opportunity to study ghost archives and shadow records over a long period of time and in different configurations, especially in local contexts.

Historians, archivists, historians of architecture, urbanism or cities, are invited to propose papers across these themes of “ghost archives” and “shadow records” in the urban context, paying special attention to its epistemological and comparative potential, and addressing topics such as:

– The (re)discovery of disappeared, relocated and dispersed urban archives.

– The “visibilization” of urban archives which have been overshadowed for various reasons (linguistic, political, archival, technological)

– The study of the loss or “invisibilization” of urban archives

– The reconstitution of these archives by their “ghosts” or “shadows”, or by other preserved traces

– Issues related to the integration of “ghost archives” or “shadow records” within a corpus of sources of a current or past research project.

To propose a paper, send:

– Statement of interest and summary proposal (maximum 3000 characters), before June 15.

– For selected papers, a draft must be sent before November 1st.

to paul.lecat@univ-eiffel.fr ; carole.lamoureux@univ-eiffel.fr 

The symposium will lead to a publication of its proceedings or of a dedicated issue in a journal.

Scientific Committee: Valérie Gouet-Brunet, Thierry Guillopé, Anne Lacourt, Carole Lamoureux, Nathalie Lancret, Paul Lecat, Vincent Lemire, Georges Lomné, Giuliano Milani, Frédéric Moret, Yann Potin, Pijika Pumketkao, Loïc Vadelorge

CoreTeam Workshop in Jerusalem (24-28 March 2022)

From March 24 to 28, the Archival City CoreTeam met in CRFJ – Jerusalem (www.crfj.org) to review the progress of the fields, to work on the future of the project and to meet with many local partners.

  • On Thursday 24th, a conference was held at the Ecole Biblique around Open Jerusalem and the publications “Au pied du Mur. Vie et mort du quartier maghrébin de Jérusalem (1187-1967)”, “Le moine sur le toit” and “A Liminal Church”. Stéphane Ancel, Vincent Lemire and Maria-Chiara Rioli presented their work. The video recording of the conference is fully accessible here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXS2udUa5Bg
  • Friday 25th was devoted to discussions and presentations at CRFJ, on the fields of Jerusalem, Chiang Mai, Quito and Algiers, as well as discussions on the technical convergence of Open Jerusalem and Archival City, and the cross-cutting use of the 3D modeling tool on many terrains.
  • On the morning of Saturday 26th, the CoreTeam had the opportunity to visit privately the Holy Sepulchre, as well as the future Custody Museum still under construction. We also had the opportunity to be invited by Mr. Khader Salameh to visit the archives of the Khalidiyya Library. The Khalidiyya contains the largest private collection of Arabic manuscripts in Palestine
  • Saturday 26th in the afternoon, the progress of the Bologna and Greater Paris projects was discussed at CRFJ, as well as a presentation of the results of the Allegoria partner project.
  • On the morning of Sunday 27th, the Archival City CoreTeam enjoyed a private visit of the ongoing archaeological excavations under the Western Wall Plaza ; then another private visit of the Haram al-Sharif, the Dome of the Rock, the El Aqsa Mosque and the Islamic Museum. Finally, the Archival City CoreTeam had the exceptional opportunity to visit the restoration center of ancient manuscripts.
  • Sunday 27th in the afternoon, the Coreteam worked at CRFJ on the finalization of the call for papers for the future symposium “Ghost archives, shadow records” that will be organized by the Archival City Project in the fall 2022. To be continued !

CoreTeam Meeting 28/01/2022

Archival City holds its first CoreTeam meeting of the year 2022. With a year and a half to go before the end of the project, this meeting is crucial for setting the main directions.
Organised on the Descartes campus of Gustave Eiffel University, in person and with the presence of Vincent Lemire, director of Archival City, the CoreTeam meeting will be held on Friday 28 January 2022, in room C006 of the Bois-de-l’etang building between 10am and 4pm. The following topics will be discussed

  • Organisation of the upcoming international conference
  • Budgetary orientation for the next two years
  • Choice of technical solutions.
  • Organisation of future trips
  • Progress of the various study areas

DocAsie Seminar

The Archival City – Chiang-Mai team participates in the DocAsie annual seminar. The theme of the 2021 seminar is the development and funding of Asian collections.
Nathalie Lancret, Pijika Pumketkao and Pascal Fort will present their work with a presentation entitled : Archival city, Documenter la ville ordinaire de l’Asie du Sud-est : Etude de cas de Chiang Mai.

link to the program and online registration

AC-Alger. Une cartographie des fonds d’archives

L’un des objectifs que s’est assigné Archival City-Alger est le repérage et la présentation des fonds d’archives qui permettent d’informer l’histoire de la ville. Il nous a semblé intéressant de proposer aux chercheuses et chercheurs les premiers résultats d’un inventaire qui ne saurait avoir de fin.

La cartographie ici proposée n’est qu’une esquisse. Ainsi sera-t-elle continûment mise à jour : ajouts de notices, modifications et rectifications nécessaires, réagencement des catégories utilisées, etc.

Voir en plein écran

Photographie du chapô : Dépôt des archives départementales d’Alger (1934, par l’archiviste René Labande ; disponible dans ANF-AB-XXXI-C 293).

The Philibert collection at the municipal library of Toulon: understanding the value of a heterogenous body of items

Since 1973, the city of Toulon has held a collection of documents and other items of exceptional richness for historians writing about the history of Algiers and, to a lesser extent, Algeria itself and even other parts of the Maghreb1. The purchase of these documents by Marcel Philibert, the last chairman of the Comité du Vieil Alger (Committee for Old Algiers, or CVA), involved more than 21,000 items of all kinds. This committee, which was very active from its foundation in 1905 to the independence of Algeria and which feverishly maintains itself as a European social network in Algeria thereafter, is better known thanks to the work of historians of heritage and architecture2.

Continuer la lecture de The Philibert collection at the municipal library of Toulon: understanding the value of a heterogenous body of items
  1. See a very synthetic presentation on the Toulon municipal library website (https://toulon.fr/envie-bouger/article/fonds-particuliers). I would like to thank all the workers of the Lagoubran annex and especially Véronique Gillain for the reception and the presentation of Philibert papers []
  2. OULEBSIR Nabila, Les usages du patrimoine. Monuments, musées et politique coloniale en Algérie (1830 – 1930), Paris, Éditions de la MSH, 2004, 411 p., p. 240 – 247 ; HUEBER Juliette, « Documenter le patrimoine et l’architecture d’Alger : les Feuillets d’El-Djezaïr », Architecture Beyond Europe, 13, 2018 [online] ; on the erosion of the CVA activities after independance, have a look to BRACCO Hélène, L’autre face des « Européens » en Algérie indépendante, Paris, Éditions Paris-Méditerranée, « Documents et témoignages », 1999, 223 p., p. 115 : « Même après l’indépendance, au cercle des amis du vieil Alger, on aurait aimé avoir des familles algériennes. Il y en a qui viennent à nos réunions, nos conférences, mais à peine une ou deux » (testimony of Miss Ch., borned in 1933). On the intellectual environment of Algiers university, see L’orientalisme en train de se faire. Une enquête collective dans les archives de René Basset, forthcoming at the EHESS Editions at spring 2021 (coordinated by M. Bossaert, A. Jomier and E. Szurek, with contributions from students, archivists and a librarian) and Margo Stemmelin current PhD (« Alger, capitale orientaliste ? Vie intellectuelle et culturelle en Algérie coloniale (1880 – 1930) », started in 2018). []

Algiers’ banking institutions: the example of the BNP Paribas archives

            Banking centres in cities, and especially colonial cities, have only very recently and tentatively been the subject of in-depth historical research[1]. In terms of the importance of both banks and the companies in which they are shareholders in the urban space, the field of historiographic possibilities is vast. Moreover, clearly re-situating and measuring urban investment in banks and their relationships with other figures (elected officials, owners and other, diverse notables) in colonial cities has been made possible by a recent crop of monographs on a range of institutions and figures[2].

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Progress in archival descriptions

The Croissance growth phase, into which the Archival City project moved in late 2020, will allow the archival inventory coordination site to continue the work of identifying pertinent archives for each of the seven areas of study, their description according to current standards, publication and recognition for the next two years.

Continuer la lecture de Progress in archival descriptions

The Importance of Administrative Directories as a Guide to Sources for the History of Grand Paris: The Example of 1885

Digitised, but not yet available online, the administrative directories of Paris and the département of the Seine held at the Archives de Paris, cover the period 1883-1980. As Elsa Camus’ research for Archival City has shown, using the complementary funds of the Library of the Hôtel de Ville we can go back to the days before, the Third Republic as two directories are referenced there for the years 1844 and 1850, plus a third for the year 1880. The first directory in the digitised collection, for 1883, is of limited interest for research into the history of Grand Paris (greater Paris). It contains only 83 pages and merely lists the main workers at the prefecture, without mentioning names, remits or addresses. The first truly useful directory for our research is the one published in 1885 by the Préfecture de la Seine and printed at the municipal printworks (document 1). The publication should be closely associated with the development of the Paris administration, under the auspices of prefect Eugène Poubelle (1883-1896). In fact, under his mandate the administrative directory was published regularly, under the title Personnel et attributions des services de la préfecture du département de la Seine et de la Ville de Paris (Personnel and their Remits of the Departments of the Prefecture of the Département of the Seine and the City of Paris).

Continuer la lecture de The Importance of Administrative Directories as a Guide to Sources for the History of Grand Paris: The Example of 1885

Archives and the history of urban pollution: framework elements

Why choose this subject? There is barely anything original in holding a workshop around the theme of pollution in 2020, the subject has been on the environmental history agenda for several decades now. In France, the publication in 2002 of the outcome of the Clermont-Ferrand symposium on pollution in urban and industrial societies[1], followed by the defence of Geneviève Massard-Guilbaud[2]‘s research, is a good indicator of historians’ interest in a social history of pollution in the industrial age, an interest which had already produced isolated initiatives here and there, mainly focused on city-dwellers’ sensitivity to disturbance expressed through petitions, letters and 19th century investigation files[3]. In the English-speaking world, the work of historians Martin Melosi[4] and Joel Tarr[5] on pollution goes back to the 1990s, the time of classic works such as [6] The Search for the Ultimate Sink and The Sanitary City[7]

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Core-Team Meeting. November 2020

On Friday 20 November a new Core-Team meeting was held. This session provided an opportunity to discuss the numerous meetings between archivist Elsa Camus and the local teams in Quito and Chiang Mai on the description and standardisation of data resulting from the work of researchers.
Several seminars will be organised at the end of the year and at the beginning of 2021.
The Archival City team has also decided to open a new line of research around urban pollution archives, following the previous seminar.