This month, Niall MacGalloway (St Andrews) talks us through the archives in and around Nice that he used during his work on the Italian occupation of south-eastern France during the Second World War.
My work in the archives in the Alpes-Maritimes primarily concerned the Italian occupation during the Second World War, so I spent most of my time in the Archives départementales des Alpes-Maritimes, and the in the Archives Municipales of Nice, Cannes and Menton.
Nice is the second-busiest airport in France, and as such is extremely accessible for British scholars.
The Archives départementales have recently migrated to the Préfecture, which is a little bit out of town. Nonetheless, you can catch a bus from the central train station on any bus marked CADAM (Centre Administrative des Alpes-Maritimes). It’s the last stop (even past the airport) so you won’t miss it. The upside to this is that the reading room is modern, bright and user-friendly. Lockers are located in the central foyer and operate by a key, so no need to bring a euro. The archivists are friendly and if the reading room is quiet will quite happily exceed your ten-item-per-day limit. The catalogue is partially available online, but for those consulting the Second World War, a full catalogue has been posted here: https://www.departement06.fr/documents/Import/decouvrir-les-am/instrurecherche_sources2emguerre.pdf
The downside is that there is no café in the building, so bring a packed lunch. A vending machine is available, but this goes little beyond bottled water and chocolate. There is an extension of the tramline underway at the time of writing to the Préfecture, so those planning a future visit may be lucky enough to benefit from the completion. This is the only archive that I encountered with wi-fi. The archivists will provide the password.
In addition to the Archives départementales, those planning research in the south-east can benefit enormously from the Archives Municipales, located in Nice, Cannes and Menton. In Nice, these can be reached by almost any bus heading east – the stop for these is Fabron. The Nice archives are located in an old villa on the Avenue de Fabron (https://www.nice.fr/fr/culture/patrimoine/inventaires-et-archives). It is located within a cluster of high-rise residential buildings, but is reasonably well signposted. Advance registration is not necessary, and the archivists will fetch documents requested by hand. The reading room is in the old dining room, and makes for majestic surroundings. Cameras and pencils are permitted. There is a library upstairs with local newspapers, etc. but you must request access from the archivist. There is no café, but a supermarket near the bus stop and a cluster of cafés sell baguettes and hot food.
In Cannes, the Archives Municipales are located high in the hills away from the glitz and glam of the city in the Villa Montrose (http://www.cannes.com/fr/culture/archives-municipales.html). The location is worth checking online before a visit as most tourist maps will not show this far inland. When you leave the station, head away from the coast, and up the winding roads into the hills. If the streets start to become quiet and filled with local cats, you’re on the right track! These were the only archivists I encountered who voluntarily spoke English, and are extremely helpful. The archives are located in the reception room of the villa, and paper catalogues are located on sight. Documents are ordered at the desk, and are brought upon request. There is no locker room, but bags are permitted in the reading room.
The Archives Municipales in Menton are located in the Mairie, where the rue Saint-Charles meets the rue de la République (http://www.menton.fr/Les-archives-municipales.html). These are centrally located and signs can be followed to the Mairie. Alternatively, exit the train station, take the rue Henry Gréville, and the sixth right-hand turn onto the rue Saint-Charles. In Menton, the Archives Municipales also contain a small library with exclusively local material. Archivists are helpful and in my case voluntarily produced as-yet uncatalogued documents. Being centrally located, the Archives are surrounded by cafés, which is helpful given that they close for lunch.
In Nice, there is a well-stocked public library – the Bibliothèque Louis Nucéra – which is located inside the Musée d’art modern et d’art contemporain in Place Garibaldi (http://bmvr.nice.fr/EXPLOITATION/bibliotheque-louis-nuecra.aspx). This is even open on Sunday afternoons and has an extensive local history section. Arrive promptly as this is where local children study for the Bac.
Prior registration is not necessary for any of these archives, and if you plan a trip during the warmer months, you can sit in the sun and enjoy lunch. The downside is, of course, that the south-east becomes quite expensive in the tourist season, so it is worth taking this into consideration if pricing a trip for grants.
KEY FACTS (Archives départementales):
Address: Centre administratif départemental, Bâtiment Charles Ginesy, 147 boulevard du Mercantour, Nice
Getting there: Bus numbers 9 and 10 (marked CADAM). An extension of the tramline is ongoing (completion date unknown)
Opening hours: Monday to Friday, 8.45 – 5.45 (last orders for documents, 4.00)