Invitation to submit papers

Call for Papers: ICARUS Convention #28 “Private and Public Archives in the 21st Century”

ICARUS – International Centre for Archival Research (Time Machine Organisation Founding Member) is currently organising its 28th convention to be held in Paris from 23-25 May 2022. The event will take place at the conference center of the Campus Condorcet in Paris-Aubervilliers and is co-organised by the Institut de Recherche et d’Histoire des Textes (CNRS), also a Time Machine Organisation Founding Member, with the support of the French Ministry of Culture and the National Archives of France (Archives nationales).

The conference will study the most innovative and successful initiatives aiming at an integrated approach of private and public records of the past, present and future. It will seek to define means of action towards an optimal consideration of private records and their specificities in relation to public archives.

Preface: Private and Public Archives in the 21st century

Archival science makes one of its most fundamental dichotomies by separating public and private archives or records. There are, nonetheless, numerous overlaps. Private papers cover an immense scope of documents, from correspondence to parish bulletins, from narrative texts to accounts and to family photographs and home movies. Acquisitions and donations of private documents allow public archives everywhere to complete their collections, and thus to record the history of various actors.

In France and elsewhere, large-scale collecting operations are undertaken either to have private records enter public heritage, as was the case with the so-called ‘great collection’ of documents regarding the first World War or for archival documents to be created ad hoc, like the ‘Lockdown Memories’ operation. Crowdsourcing illustrates yet another aspect of the moving frontiers between private and public records: For instance in the case of public birth or death registers associated with parish registers that can be considered to be public or private material depending on their dates or countries they originate in, but also in the case of iconographic documentation and press material of private origin. Participative processes encourage individuals to directly create public data, not only the metadata they may enrich existing documents with but also complete documents (e.g. the testaments of French soldiers in public archives).

The relationship between these two types of archivalia is also strongly shaped by each country’s own history, and especially by the phases of confiscation or transfer of archival collections (secularisation, etc.) they may have experienced; the French case is a good illustration of this, due to the massive consequences of the seizures made under the Revolution and of the in-depth restructuration of the archival landscape that ensued.

ICARUS’ origins and activities are at the roots of its implication in the complementary treatment and promotion of public and private records. For the benefit of researchers and historians, the Monasterium, Matricula, and Topothek portals give united access to documents held in private institutions as well as in public archives, according to the nature of the documents more than to their repositories or to the status of the corresponding institution. The Topotheques capitalise on technical progress to conduct digital operations of collection and promotion without having to impose property transfers, especially for the archives held by individuals or associations.

Submission guidelines

Submission deadline: 25 January 2022

The conference will focus on the following main topics:

  1. The relevance of the different concepts and the consequences their use have on the archivists’ and historians’ practice. All in all, the distinction between ‘public’ and ‘private’ is in archival matters as well as in others of recent creation. This distinction may seem to be a quite evident one, but is actually not always obvious, as shown by the growing use of private means of communication in institutional decision processes. Moreover, their treatment and the related legislation can greatly vary from a country to another.
    It will thus be useful to reflect on this dichotomy and on the consequences it may have, especially regarding the following points: (a) the nature of the documentation affected by it, (b) the relevant definitions in the different countries; public archival practices (and their related institutions and different levels), private archival practices (business archives, records of private institutions, private papers etc.), (c) the information these records transmit (what are the differences between the documents being kept? Does the private or public nature of the collections have a role in shaping or structuring the information? (d) conditions of preservation and chances of survival for the documents (e) questions of communicability (delays, rules, exceptions), (f) collect, inventory and communicate: juridical questions (preservation, definition and change of the related status, historical collections, ‘restitutions’ from the private sector to public institutions or from one State to another).
  2. The intersections between private and public sectors in archival matters allow for a large array of possibilities, but also for a considerable amount of questions. Beyond their separation and their different ways of organizing, their growing interactions give food for thought. From this point of view, ‘public’ and ‘private’ can be applied to the records themselves, but also to various actors that have moving positions and roles – for instance, public institutions addressing private individuals do finally address ‘the public’. 
    The following topics could be especially analysed: (a) Modes and tools of promotion; (b) the broader public and the suitable tools of promotion; (c) the possibilities for creating transversal tools; (d) digital collection and promotion; (e) the implication of the private sector in the constitution of public heritage and the implication of public actors in the management of private collections.
  3. In addition to the opportunities that digital technologies already offer to the collection and promotion of documents, cutting-edge sectors are currently developing that could greatly contribute to them, but do potentially raise some problems on the technical as well as on the ethical level.
    The following points could be addressed: (a) artificial intelligence applied to cultural heritage, and especially (b) the impact on the access to archival documents of the use of indexing tools (facial recognition, indexation of iconography) or of computerized transcription; (c) technological and ethical questions.

Call for papers parameters at a glance

For further information like contact details of the Conference Committee, the conference programme and registration details, click the button below to reach the convention’s website.