PG Study Day 2016

Previous postgraduate events

PG Study Day Panel Report

Keynote address from Dr. Tom Stammers

Listen to Tom Stammers Keynote

'Patrimoine' was at the heart of the ASMCF-SSFH Postgraduate Study Day. We were interested in exploring this multifaceted topic in an era when many sites of heritage are in financial and physical danger, and as digitalisation poses ever more complicated questions for the preservation of the past on many different levels.

As such, we invited Teresa Vernon from the British Library and Emeliene Rotolo from the Justice section of the Archives nationales talk about their two respective institutions and the notion of 'patrimoine' for them. Although Teresa could not make it on the day she did send us her presentation and Dr. Charlotte Faucher was able to give a thorough reflection on her experience on archival research.

Teresa Vernon, Lead Curator of the Romance Section at the British Library was keen to give an overview of the multiple sources that the BL holds – for example, manuscripts, printed collections, images, newspapers, government publications, as well as more modern formats such as sound and moving images. Her presentation emphasised that the BL's French printed collection was second only to that of the Bibliothèque nationale de France and contained a different selection to that offered by the BnF. Such collections include the Modern Historical Collection from 1603 to the present, the Michel Saint Denis theatre archive including documents on the BBC during WW2, Archives unbound for French newspapers, and the three collections of French Revolutionary Tracts. The BL also offers collaborative PhD projects.

Emeline Rotolo gave a historical, theoretical and practical guide to the Archives nationales. Recounting its formation, she explained how the archives used to be carried to the battlefields but soon realising the destruction this caused, a central instruction was created. She then spoke about the creation of the Archives nationales as we know the public institution today in 1790 with the French Revolution, and especially the law of 7 messidor an II (25 June 1794) which centralised the state's archives, rendered them accessible, and created a national archival network.

Emeline problematized the notion of the 'archive' and archive methodology, inciting us to reflect on what was absent from the archive, not just in what was missing, but in how we understand 'archives' following the evolution of the term and the collection in the past as well as the present. She underlined the 'mise en scène' of the archive, from the institutional building – often grand and impressive – to the way archives are preserved – in the 'armoir de fer', in imposing stacks and shelves, to the boxes we often work with – to the actual document as an image. On a more practical note, Emeline covered how the classification of archives had changed over the centuries, how the Archives nationales is divided between Paris (until 1789), Pierrefitte (1789-present), Fontainebleau (state administration), Aix (outre-Mer) and Roubaix (monde du travail), and how the online inventory (salles des inventaires virtuelle) works: This in turn led to a consideration on archives in the twenty-first century, not just the digitalisation projects and the choice of documents that this entails, but also how documents which are created digitally should be classified and what this will do to the function of the archivist.

Dr. Charlotte Faucher then added to Emeline's presentation by speaking of her experience of archival research for her PhD. She highlighted the importance of planning ahead and of checking where the archives were and if there might be a series of permissions to access the documents, and how to factor these in to your research trip. Charlotte then covered some of the first steps of archival research which can appear intimidating, such as the registration process, how to use the digital and paper inventories, how to order the documents, getting a place, and the photograph rules. She also spoke about the 'dérogation' which some dread, and revealed that 90% of 'dérogation' demands are authorised. She very helpfully listed several funding sources, such as the ASMCF Peter Morris Postgraduate Fund, the ASMCF Initiative Fund (, SSFH's Research Grant (, those offered by the Society for French Studies, and other organisations such as the Entente Cordiale scholarship and how the French History Network blog has a series of entries called 'Feature Archive' about using specific archives which offer a good entry point (

In short, there was a lot to nourish our thoughts on 'patrimoine' whatever our period may be.