Western Society for French History

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Statement on Proposed Reforms to French Archival Conservation Policies

The Governing Council of the WSFH has joined with several scholarly organizations to send a statement (see below) to the French Ministry of Culture regarding the news a few days ago that the Ministry of Culture is considering a policy to reduce current and future holdings of the French national and departmental archives. (see Le Monde of 14 November 2017): 

As historians of France and the Francophone world, we join our French colleagues in expressing alarm at the proposal, revealed in Le Monde on 14 November 2017, to revise the policies governing the conservation of French government archives. We are especially concerned by the concept of “archives essentielles,” advanced as the criterion for eliminating present and future archival holdings, and by the idea that digitization be substituted for the conservation of physical documents. We recognize that there are practical considerations of space and cost that go into any conservation decisions. Not everything can be preserved. But as researchers who make extensive use of the national and departmental archives overseen by the Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication, we are puzzled by the sudden shortage of space so soon after the opening of the new Archives nationales site at Pierrefitte, designed specifically to expand the storage capacity of the Archives nationales now and in the future. Digitization is not a magic bullet solution to problems of space and cost, either. Initial processing and electronic storage entail considerable expense, and technological obsolescence makes digitized materials highly vulnerable to degradation and rapid inaccessibility. These risks make digitization an unacceptable alternative to physical preservation.

As representatives of the international scholarly community of historians of France, we see a real danger that undermining the guiding archival fundamental principles of transparency and accessibility will marginalize the practice of French history and endanger its leading position within the discipline of history worldwide. Because we agree that archives and the access they provide to the past are “essentielles pour les générations futures” of both the French Republic and the international research community, we urge the Ministry of Culture to consult fully with citizens, archivists, and historians before taking any steps that might result in the destruction or elimination of irreplaceable archival materials. 

Signed,

Executive Committee, French Colonial Historical Society
Executive Committee, Society for French Historical Studies
Governing Council, Western Society for French History
Editorial board, H-France
Trustees, Society for the Study of French History
Executive Committee, George Rudé Society
Executive Committee, Australian Society for French Studies

A petition, "Les archives ne sont pas des stocks à réduire! Elles sont la mémoire de la nation" can be found here.  

AHA Statement on Confederate Monuments

As an Affiliated Society of the American Historical Association, the WSFH endorses the AHA's August 2017 statement on Confederate Monuments: "The tragic events in Charlottesville, Virginia, have re-ignited debate about the place of Confederate monuments in public spaces, as well as related conversations about the role of Confederate, neo-Nazi, and white supremacist imagery in American political culture...The AHA has also released the following statement, approved by AHA Council August 28, 2017, about the role of history and historians in these public conversations. Rather than seeking to provide definitive answers to the questions posed by individual monuments, the AHA emphasizes the imperative of understanding historical context in any consideration of removing or recontextualizing monuments, or renaming public spaces." For the full statement please see this link: AHA Statement.

 

 

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