MEET THE ARCHIVES – SPANISH COMMUNITY ARCHIVES AND REPRESENTING COMMUNITIES IN A CHANGING WORLD
“Tell us about your experiences or best practices in a post-corona world in five short stories.” Member-archives of the Section of Local, Municipal and Territorial Archivists network, share stories about their work at their archives in a changing world. The stories are centered on five themes: “Community archives and representing communities”, “childhood records”, “Outreach activities”, “local identity” and “the future”. The themes are inspired by the shifting responsibilities of the archives as we once knew them.
By Lluis-Esteve Casellas Serra, Municipal Archive of Girona and Centre for Image Research and Dissemination (CRDI)
COMMUNITY ARCHIVES AND REPRESENTING COMMUNITIES
The documentary testimony of feminist groups
The Municipal Archive of Girona follows an active policy of acquiring fonds from relevant people and entities in the municipality. One of the aims is to gather and preserve the documentary fonds of the city’s associations of all kinds. They can be of a recreational or cultural nature or dedicated to the defence of collective rights.
Recently, we have received the fonds of two feminist groups in the city: the fonds of Woman House of Girona (Casal de la Dona, in Catalan) and of the Collective for Equality of Girona (Col·lectiu per a la Igualtat de Girona). These associations were created in two different periods, the early 1980s and the first decade of the 21st century, and both worked to vindicate women’s rights.
The Woman House of Girona, active between 1980 and 1986, was made up of a group of women who worked on vi ndictive feminism, based on the analysis of texts by feminist authors and the self-knowledge of women (sexuality, right to one's own body, lesbianism, dependence, etc.). Among the events it organized are the collection of signatures in favour of the right to abortion or activities related to the 50th anniversary of women's suffrage in 1982.
The Collective for Equality of Girona, active between 2001 and 2010, worked to promote gender equality with events and debates on current social and cultural issues. Highlights include their participation in the organization of events for the International Day of Working Women (March 8) or the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (March 25)
Refugee children and archives
Because of the Spanish Civil War during the period between September 1936 and January 1939, nearly 3,000 people arrived at the city of Girona from different parts of Catalonia and Spain. They fled or have been evacuated from the occupied or combat zones towards the Republican rearguard. At the beginning, large groups of children arrived without their parents, but soon it was whole families that arrived at the city
They were accommodated in private homes or old convents of the city that were used as collective shelters. The City Council provided accommodation and food for the refugees. Unions and social entities such as the Committee for Worker Childhood (Comitè Pro Infància Obrera de Girona) also supported this task and worked to locate missing people and get families together.
Recently, a person from Madrid asked us for information about his grandmother who was evacuated as a child and fostered by a family in Girona between 1936 and 1940. The management of refugees by the City Council at that time is reflected in the documentation of the Municipal Archive. For this reason, we were able to locate the personal refugee file of his grandmother as well as find her name on the list of the subsidies that those who hosted refugees at home during the war received.
Archives can not change the past, but we can contribute to repairing the pain within such dramatic contexts like those affected by the war and subsequent displacement. It’s very satisfactory for all of us to sense the gratitude from the people to whom we can inform of their displaced relatives, some of whom never returned home, even if only a little bit.
Archival Workshops for the citizenship
The social function of archives has many facets, but perhaps the least common is the transfer of knowledge from archival practice itself. The AMGi and the CRDI have always had multiple outreach and citizen-oriented policies. In parallel, the transfer of archival knowledge has been a usual practice, even if usually limited to professional contexts. That is why the initiative to organize workshops aimed at citizens was a challenge for us. Could we capture the interest of citizens in preserving their personal and family archives? And even more so, would we know how to do it in a fun
and engaging way?
This was the idea and proposal for the International Archives Day 2013, entitled What will be remembered about us? How to preserve personal archives in the 21st century. We organized nine short and rotating workshops about different aspects of archival practice. The approach was to identify the problem, give basic recommendations and to make a not to do list. The activities were the following ones:
The personal archive: where do I start?
Old Documents: how do we protect them?
Vital records: my life in documents.
- My privacy and technology: what do I need to know?
- Computer security: am I doing it right?
- Photographs and family albums: how do I protect them?
My family photos: how do I digitise them?
Photographs on my computer, how do I organise them?
Videos and films: what should I do?
A quick survey allowed us to get 100% approval of three basic questions: Did you like it? Would you repeat it? Would you recommend these activities? For us, that was the beginning of a new kind of activities understood as services to citizens. Archival workshops are fun!
In last years and linked to different European projects, the Centre for Image Research and Dissemination (CRDI, abbreviated in Catalan) started to organise different events for the engagement of local communities. One of the initiatives was about rugby, a minority sport in Catalonia. The first rugby team in Girona was created in 1971, as part of GEiEG (Grup Excursionista i Esportiu Gironí), with thousands of players being involved since then. GEiEG is a sporting organisation in the city of Girona, founded in 1919, that donated the photographic fond to the Municipal Archive. GEiEG initially aimed to promote hiking and other cultural and recreational activities. Soon, however, they began to organise sports activities for amateurs, initially linked to athletics and then to all kinds of sports. Over the last hundred years, many people have been part of the organisation at some point. In 2021, as part of the Europeana Sport project, a documentary commemorating 50 years of rugby in Girona was created.
The documentary, produced by the CRDI, covers the half-century history of the rugby section of GEiEG while also aiming to highlight the culture of the sport by showing its intrinsic values and sharing the personal experiences of players and participants. The documentary features interviews alongside archive photographs and films. The film was first screened in October 2021 at Cinema Truffaut in Girona, as part of the Europeana Sport project, representing the culmination of a collaborative process with CRDI linking people with their cultural heritage.
3D digitisation of a Daguerreotype Collection
The Centre for Image Research and Dissemination (CRDI, abbreviated in Catalan) has been participating in European projects since 10 years. In these projects, there are always an approach for innovation, an opportunity to visualize the future for archives. In the last one, the WEAVE project (Widen European
Access to Cultural Communities via Europeana), the innovation part is the 3D digitisation of the daguerreotype collection. Daguerreotype represents the very beginning of photography and as such is highly relevant and interesting for different communities. The technique consists of an image in copper and silver and it is usually presented in a case or frame. It is the first world-wide photographic technique, started in 1839, and for its high costit was mainly used by the bourgeois class. Daguerreotypes are unique objects (they are direct positives that cannot be reproduced) of great heritage value. This unique experience in the history of photography wanted to be recreated with the greatest possible realism in the framework of the project.
For the WEAVE project, CRDI has curated a collection of 100 daguerreotype photographs and digitized them in 3D to be aggregated in Europeana. The fact of being able to present these objects in 3D is an achievement of great importance to the community linked to photography, a technology in force for 170 years that has strongly marked our culture. An unprecedented technological and social phenomenon in the framework of modern visual culture that is currently developing in the digital stage.