Posted on 04 March 2021
In December 2020, the Council Archives organised a regular file transfer for long-term preservation and public access, from its deposits in Brussels to the Historical Archives of the EU in Florence. This has always been a challenging job, but with the Covid pandemic has become even more complex.
The Council of the EU has documented this archival voyage from Brussels to Florence in a video along with an article, both published on the Council Intranet and now made available to the public on the HAEU website. The article and the video were prepared by Alicia Fernandez Martinez, Council of the EU, DG. COMM.
According to the Council regulation of 354/1983, transfers to the Historical Archives of the EU (HAEU) must be done annually, so 2020 could not be an exception. Initially planned for the end of October, this year's transfer had to be postponed up to December due to the critical Covid-19 situation in Belgium and in Italy.
The transferal consisted of nine pallets having 718 archival boxes with 2253 files in total that include the legislative acts adopted by the institution in 1977,1986, and 1987 as well as some files on the sessions of the Council-COREPER. In Florence, they will be preserved permanently in the EU Historical Archives deposits, together with the archives of the other EU Institutions.
This is a work that requires a lot of coordination among different parties to be able to move with total security quite a big quantity of historic files. But this time the pandemic circumstances have made it even more complicated as all the staff involved had to follow scrupulously all the GSC safety measures related to Covid-19.
It is a matter of organisation
The Council Archives are responsible for ensuring that all necessary physical preparation work has been carried out before a transfer to Florence is made.
There is a primary and careful work to make sure that the files will be preserved for as long as possible. These measures include a description of work, digitization of files, preparation of batches of metadata associated with digitized documents. There is also a physical preparation of files for long-term preservation (removal of staples, paper clips, and tape, making substitute copies when the original is too degraded, etc.).
Once this is done and upon the Archives request, the Transport Service team starts the preparation of pallets, selection of the transport company, agreement of the date of the loading of the truck, as well as the organization of the entire trip in coordination with the colleagues in Florence.
After a long journey, the documents reach the EU Historical Archives in Florence where are carefully controlled by the HAEU archivists. The files will be stored in rooms equipped with modern compactus rangement systems, and digital control of temperature and humidity that is perfectly calculated for the preservation of paper documents. The HAEU ensures access to the files either online via their website or in their reading room so they are available to the public.
We want to thank all colleagues in Brussels and Florence without whom this work, so important for the Council Heritage, would not have been possible: Isabel Ramos, from Transport Services (ORG.3.B.S2) as well Angelo Carpintieri and the movers' team (ORG.3.B.S1.B1) and Dimitri Lazzeri, Laura Burgassi, Mary Carr and the director of the HAEU, our friend Dieter Schlenker.
A bit of history
The memory and history of the European Union are kept in an unique 15th century residence on the hills of Florence, Villa Salviati. This building, surrounded by beautiful gardens, had to have an extensive restructuring to create 10,000 linear meters of shelving in a subterraneous deposit with the aim to hold the files of the EU.
The Historical Archives of the European Union was established in 1983 following the regulation by the Council of the European Communities and the decision by the Commission of the European Communities to open their historical archives to the public. In 2000 the Italian State purchased Villa Salviati to house the Historical Archives of the European Union and since October 2010 became home of the HAEU.
The HAEU preserves and makes accessible the archival holdings of EU Institutions and Agencies according to the 30 years rule governing access to archives of the European Union. It is also a research center dedicated to the archival preservation and study of European integration and is part of the European University Institute.
It also collects and preserves private papers of individuals, movements, and international organizations involved in the European integration process; facilitates research on the history of the European Union and its predecessor institutions; promotes public interest in European integration and enhances transparency in the functioning of European Union Institutions.
Watch the video documenting the file transfer to Florence in December 2020