Call for Papers for Special Issue of Comma on “Archives and climate change”

Rising temperatures, shifting climate zones, extreme weather events: climate change poses a great threat to humans and ecosystems. Along with many other social sectors and institutions, archives and archivists are also threatened by these changes. They will only be able to safeguard the documentary heritage of humankind in the long term if global warming is stopped and rising temperatures are reversed. Business as usual is not possible, not even for archivists.

Archivists must also do their part to combat climate change and prevent climate-damaging emissions. Energy-efficient buildings and the use of renewable energies and of natural and reusable materials support climate protection. Technical facilities and professional standards must promote sustainability. "Green archives" function in harmony with ecological requirements, operate in climate-conscious and resource-conserving manners, and reduce their carbon footprint.

In their core tasks, such as evaluating and selecting materials for long-term preservation and access, archivists can also safeguard climate and environmentally-relevant information. Future generations should be able to research the causes, consequences and (hopefully successful) mitigation of climate change. Records that document the climate can be specifically made available for research on environmental history. The historical causes and consequences of environmental pollution and climate change can be illustrated through exhibitions, conferences and online activities.

At the same time, it is important to adapt archives to climate change and to make provisions for disasters. Floods, fires or extreme storms can damage or destroy archives and their holdings. Shifting climate zones also mean that new animal species and microorganisms can appear that endanger archival materials. Possible changes and dangers differ from region to region. In extreme cases, archives have to be relocated and their documents secured elsewhere. National and international cooperation can help in this regard.

To explore these important topics further, the International Council on Archives’ journal Comma invites submissions for a special issue dedicated to the topic of "Archives and Climate Change". We encourage contributions on how archivists worldwide are facing the challenges of climate change and thus share examples that can also be applied in other regions.


Proposals for texts with a short summary should be sent by February 28th 2022, to the special editor of this issue, Frans Smit, e-mail

Articles may be up to 6,000 words. Comma welcomes submissions in any of the seven languages of the journal: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Russian, and Spanish. The guidelines for submission of articles can be found in English and French.