Feature Archive: Les Archives départementales du Calvados

Each month, a researcher shares their experiences of using a particular archive. The overall aim of this section is to create a database of the different archives available to those working on French and Francophone studies that will be of help particularly to students just starting out in research

Camille Mahé is a PhD student at Sciences Po Paris and the University of Warwick, working on children’s experiences of the post-war period in Western Europe. Here she talks about the Archives départementales du Calvados.

The Archives départementales (AD) du Calvados are located in Caen, Normandy, and were created in 1796. The AD of the Calvados are an important local centre of archives in France, as they contain more than 60 kilometres of documents and more than 600 kilometres of microfilms.

For those who are not familiar with local French archives and want to have an overview of the content, the search engine on the website is very useful, particularly the one that has been created for World War II documents
(http://archives.calvados.mnesys.fr/?id=recherche_guidee_plan_detail&raz=1&doc=accounts/mnesys_cg14/datas/ir/Recherche%20par%20plan%20de%20classement/FRAD014_001748.xml ). This specific collection is divided into nine categories (including Reconstruction, Iconography, prefecture, private archives, etc), each of which is divided in sub-categories. Therefore, you can have a look at the inventory and prepare for your visit in advance. It is advisable to send an email to the archivists to receive further information and ask for help. Paper inventories can be consulted in the reading room.

Those who are working on World War II can also find additional sources thanks to the “recherche par formulaires”, where photographs (Fonds Delassalle) or newspapers (Ouest France, Journal de Normandy, etc) of the period can easily be found. It is also important to note that research opportunities dealing with that period exist in Caen with other centres of research (Mémorial de Caen, Archives municipales de Caen, Bureau des archives des victimes des conflits contemporains (BAVCC)), and many Museum in the region (Musée du débarquement/D Day Museum in Arromanches, Musée des Civils dans la Guerre/Civils in Wartime Memorial in Falaise, etc).

The AD also holds many archives from other periods, which were saved from the bombing and fighting during the D-Day Landings and the Liberation of France. Those from the Ancien Régime are rich and diverse (they deal with Justice, the University, abbeys, etc), and there are also those from revolutionary period and modern period. The oldest archives are official documents relating to William the Conqueror. Finally, the AD also holds private archives, videos and records.

Helpfully, the AD of the Calvados are currently digitalizing their documents. As a consequence, some are directly available from home. Others however are only accessible from the computers in the archives, but without any restrictions.

Access: the AD of the Calvados are located in Caen, (2 hours from Paris by train, and for those who are coming from UK, Caen is also accessible by ferry from Ouistreham). The building is not in the city centre (Postal address: 61, rue de Lion sur Mer, 14 000 Caen), but is accessible by bus and tram.

The archives are open from Monday to Friday between 8:30 am and 5 pm.
Email: archives@calvados.fr
Website: https://archives.calvados.fr/accueil.html

Many thanks for this, Camille!

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