Seminar Archives and History of Urban Pollution

Coordinated by Stéphane Frioux (University of Lyon 2, LARHRA) and Loïc Vadelorge (Gustave Eiffel University, ACP)

Link to the sessions

Presentation of the seminar

The emergence of the « anthropocene » has contributed in recent years to putting the issues of air, water and soil pollution on the political and social agenda. Industrial accidents such as structural pollution (lead, asbestos, arsenic, mercury, etc.) have a considerable impact on urban societies and, widely publicized in the media, are part of the widespread crisis of confidence that weakens the governance of urban areas. In this context, historical knowledge can and must contribute to the debate by placing environmental crises in a spatial and temporal perspective, making it possible to grasp the issues at stake, even beyond public health problems.
This historical perspective on contemporary pollution requires a reflection articulating the knowledge and description of available funds, often technical, and the construction of relevant corpuses for research. Thus, at the beginning of the century, environmental history has profitably exploited the files of establishments classified as dangerous, inconvenient and unhealthy since 1810. This task, which is in the public interest, has every interest in relying on collaboration between researchers and archivists, both of whom are today subject to strong social demand.
It is this collaboration that we propose to test through the launch of an exploratory seminar dedicated to archives and the history of urban pollution. This seminar will be supported by two research institutions interested in this issue: on the one hand, the LARHRA, a joint research unit of the CNRS, under the supervision of the Universities Lumière-Lyon 2, Jean Moulin-Lyon 3, Grenoble-Alpes and the ENS of Lyon and on the other hand, the Archival City program, funded by the ISITE Future of the University of Paris-Est and supported by the ACP laboratory (EA 3350) of the University Gustave Eiffel and the Labex Urban Futures.
The sessions of the seminar will be organized around cross presentations by archivists and researchers from several disciplines, and will aim to shed light on the state of potential sources for a history of urban pollution, the history and description of the collections built up, the state of the research instruments available or to be built up, the conditions of public access to these collections, and the way in which research constitutes the corpus collections. It will also aim to bring together the problems of research on pollution, whether they stem from fundamental research carried out in the university context or from research and mediation provided by archive services in response to social demand (surveys, oral archive campaigns, fundraising by companies or associations, exhibitions, publications, etc.).
The seminar is open and intended for an audience of archivists, master’s students, doctoral students and researchers.

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