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Centre Historique des Archives Nationales de France (CHAN)

Page history last edited by Paul Keenan 13 years, 8 months ago

Date of tip: 20 May 2005 (last research visit dates back to February 2005)

Source: Takeshi Yamamoto, T.Yamamoto@lse.ac.uk


Warning! The original home of the CARAN is currently being refurbished. The following information concerns the archive’s temporary home.  


Location: 60, rue des Francs-Bourgeois (Hôtel Soubise), 75141 Paris (Metro Rambuteau line 11 is the nearest station. Walk down along rue des Francs Bourgeois in the opposite direction of the Pompidou Centre. Then you can find the archive on your left hand side); Tel: 01 40 27 64 19 (or 64 20).


Possible Accommodation: Hard to recommend a place in particular, but would suggest consulting “craig’s list” ahead of time, it is one of the best sites available: http://paris.craigslist.org/.


Language: French. A few members of staff can speak a bit of English, which was helpful for me at the first stage.


Getting started: I strongly recommend arriving at the archive before 9.00 a.m. in order to get a place in the reading room, because the archive is very busy almost everyday. The website is pretty useless, so it is very likely that you will need to go to the reading room to consult the indexes. Note: for the classified files, such as the 5th Republic Presidential Papers, it can take a long time to get access to the documents, so you need to plan ahead and expect to make two trips to Paris. On your first day, when going to check the index, you can get a one-day pass, probably after a long wait for a seat ticket! When queuing, you will be asked whether you have a readers’ card for the archive. You can reply that you will have it issued after queuing. You can get a one-day pass in a room on the left side of the entrance. At the same time you will do the registration with your ID. One of the staff speaks English. After that you will get a piece of paper with your number, which is the one-day pass. You can have your readers’ card issued later.

After leaving your belongings in the locker room, you have to up the stairs on the right side of the entrance. The reading room is on the first floor. At your place in the reading room, you can firstly read document catalogues, which are held in the room. Then you can order documents through computers or filling an order form. In the reading room, there are some staffs/archivists, who will tell you how to order documents when you ask.

Before you leave the archive, you can make your readers’ card in the room on the left side of the entrance again. Or it might be better to do it on your next visit, if you don’t start to read documents from the next day. You don’t need a photo ID. They will take a photo on the spot for your card. The reader’s card is a permanent one, no expired date printed. Instead, you have to buy a one-week card (5 Euros) or one-year card (10 Euros student discount – 20 Euros for non students). You have to show both your readers’ card and a one-week/one-year card from the next time. The one-year card is actually a pink piece of paper. Warning: Don’t lose this pink piece of paper, you will need it again if you come back to the archives within one year of when it was issued. 


Opening Hours: The reading room is opened from 9.00 am to 6.00pm from Monday to Saturday. But you cannot order new documents nor obtain a reader’s card on Saturday. The archive is closed for the usual holidays in France.


General working conditions: The temporary reading room has only 88 places. But it seems more than 100 people visit the archive every day. Therefore I suggest you should arrive there at least 15 minutes before the opening hour if you don’t want to waste time. Saturdays are not busy, though. If all places are taken, you have to obtain a ticket, and then in the entrance room until your number is called out. Once the reading room is full, it works on a one person out, one person in basis. No food and beverage (including water) are allowed in the reading room.


Consultation: If ordered documents have arrived in the holding place, you can get document tickets in the area next to the reading room. If you show your user card to a staff there, he/she will check whether they have received your document tickets. If you get document tickets, pass the one for the volume that you want to read to a member of staff, then he/she will bring the document from the holding place. You can read a maximum of five documents per day, which means you can get five document tickets even if you ordered more than five. If you want to hold documents, demand a staff prolongation showing all the tickets each time you leave the archive. You keep your tickets until you finish reading the documents.


Policy on technology: Researchers can use their own computers in the Reading Room. Personal copiers and scanners are not permitted. Generally speaking, digital cameras for copying documents is allowed in a specific section. However, not all documents can be photographed. The document tickets clarify that for each individual volume. In the case of the 5th Republic Presidential papers, for example, you are not allowed to use a digital camera (nor take photocopies for that matter).  


Photocopy policy: Photocopies of documents may be ordered in the Reading Room. A self-service copier is not permitted. If you want to take photocopies, ask the archivists about it, then you have to fill a form for photocopies. I don’t know in details about photocopies in the archive, for example about how much cost will it take, because I never did it.


Particularities: I only consulted the George Pompidou’s presidential papers, and there are plenty of other types of material there. Therefore my experiences in the Archives Nationales is fairly limited and narrow. 

As for foods and beverage, there are only a few vending machines on the ground floor, which serves drinks (hot and cold) and several small snacks like chocolate bars. You have to leave the archives for lunch. The archive is in the centre of Paris. There are many restaurants, bakeries, and cafes around the archive. 


How to apply for classified files: You have to fill a specific form, listing the documents you want to see, and it helps to provide a letter from your supervisor supporting your case. Then you have to wait for the response from the head of the archives. In the case of the 5th Republic Presidential papers, for example, most requests tend to be accepted, but it is no by means automatic. In addition, it is hard to know exactly how long you will have to wait before getting answer. I had to wait for 6 weeks to receive the letter from the archive, but I have heard of cases when someone had to wait 5-6 months. After receiving the letter, you have to call the reading a few days in advance in order to get the documents. If your time and money permit, it would be better to visit Paris a few days just for order documents beforehand. 


Contact name in case of questions regarding classified files: There is no specific person to contact; basically, it depends which section of the archive is dealing with the volumes you are interested in; for example, you have la section du 19ème siècle for 19th century documents, la section du 20ème siècle for 20th century documents, etc…


General Assessment: The biggest complaint is the time taken to access to documents, though it depends on which documents you consult. Two-month waiting is too long. In my case, the prohibition of taking photocopies was also irritating. However, staffs and archivists in the archive are very kind. Once I got use to the archive, the reading room was comfortable. As I mentioned above, my experiences in the archive are very limited, therefore I have little knowledge about other collections of the archive. Nor did I use the microfilm room.

The greatest advantage of the archive is its location. Enjoy Paris after reading documents (or in the case that all places are filled because you can not get up early enough in the morning)!

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