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Historical Archives of the European Union

Archiving through an international lens: take-aways from the HAEU

Archivist Cécile Robin, a conservator candidate at France’s Institute national du patrimoine, reflects on her one-month internship at the Historical Archives of the European Union.

17 April 2024


 As one of 50 conservator students enrolled in France’s premier institute for the training of heritage professionals, the Institute national du patrimoine (INP), archivist Cécile Robin may apply to any archives around the world for her practical traineeships. Why did she select the Historical Archives of the European Union (HAEU)?

“I imagined the HAEU would be a very unique place,” she explained. “Its special status and connection to the European Union makes it different from a national archives. I wanted to see how you could take such international deposits, and such an internationally diverse staff, and make it work.”

“In addition, I was also intrigued by what I read about the education programme, ” she continued. “I wanted to know how you could take the work we do in an archive,  and make it interesting and engaging for children.”

Four weeks in Florence

Cécile had just four weeks to observe and develop what she hoped would be a 360 degree understanding of how the Archives’ team works together. “I wanted to speak to as many people as possible. I spoke with everyone: the director, the archivists, the trainees, and the technical staff. I wanted to understand as much as possible about the work, and the national habits each person brings to the job.”

Cécile thus got a close look and a real feel for the management and work of the HAEU, ranging from staff and project management to archival classification, digitalisation, exhibitions, education and outreach.  

Among her take-aways, Cécile concluded that, when it comes to an archival staff characterised by a heterogeneous mix of expertise and nationalities, “you gain more than you lose.”

“Variations in the approach to archival description is always interesting. At the HAEU, the work is both individual and collaborative, and the permanent exchange among the archivists works very well.”

Cécile also left convinced of the potential for education programmes in cultural heritage institutions like archives. “When archivists classify and describe documents, such as photos, letters, or maps, we ask ourselves very simple questions. Even small children can understand this.”

The Historical Archives of the European Union has a long-standing partnership with the Institute national du patrimoine and its predecessor organisation l’École nationale des chartes. It regularly hosts INP students in the framework of the INP’s traineeship programme. 

Photo: Cécile Robin, at left, sat with staff and researchers in the HAEU's Walter Hallstein Room for her one-month traineeship. 

Last update: 17 April 2024

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