Every month we discuss one archive which has been particularly useful for a French historian. This month, we follow Dr Alison Carrol (Brunel), who recently spent some time in Strasbourg, as she shares her insights into their departmental and municipal archives.
My work is about the return of Alsace to France in 1918, so I spend most of my research time at the Archives Départementales du Bas-Rhin in Strasbourg. The current archives are a new purpose-built building situated in a massive new regeneration project beside the canal (between the Esplanade and Neudorf quarters of town). They have a large, bright reading room with lots of seating (unlike the old building in rue Fischart, which would fill up quickly on certain days). You can sit anywhere, and after ordering your document (by computer) the number on your desk will light up when the documents are ready, which is generally about fifteen minutes later.
My work on the return of Alsace to France means that I generally use the D (departmental) and AL (Alsace-Lorraine) series and both have very detailed material. These are the series that most of the British and north American scholars that I have met there use, but, the archives also hold personal papers and have good records for earlier and later periods. As a result, there will normally be a number of genealogists, as well as researchers looking at other issues (recently I have known people visit the departmental archives in Strasbourg to look at a murder trial and France’s interwar military fortifications). The archivists are exceptionally helpful, and are more than happy to correspond over email if you would like to check their holdings before visiting. The website has some good pointers, but you really need to get into the archives and make use of the detailed hardcopy finding aids (located by the door as you enter the reading room) to get a sense of what the documents will contain. Cameras are allowed.
As well as the departmental archives, Strasbourg also has an exceptionally well-stocked municipal archive (http://archives.strasbourg.fr) that holds further personal papers, as well as municipal records, an excellent photo collection and a good secondary library. This is around five minutes walk from the departmental archives (along the canal), and is also a very welcoming place to work with a fantastic modern building and exhibitions on its ground floor. You can also visit the University Library (http://www.bnu.fr), which holds microfilm copies of the Alsatian press, and an excellent manuscript and photograph collection, as well as its enormous collection of secondary works. It’s on the other side of town in La Place de la République, and is worth a visit for the building and architecture in the square as well as its holdings. Branching out a little further, the departmental archives of the Haut-Rhin in Colmar are particularly strong on the nineteenth century and earlier (http://www.archives.haut-rhin.fr), and the municipal archives in Colmar (http://www.colmar.fr/archives-municipales-colmar) and Mulhouse (http://www.mulhouse.fr/fr/archives/) have good collections of local material. Both have very helpful archivists.
ARCHIVES DEPARTEMENTALES DU BAS-RHIN: KEY FACTS
ADDRESS: 6 Rue Philippe Dollinger, 67100 Strasbourg, France
GETTING THERE: Bus 21 stops right outside (stop ‘Aristide Briand’), Tram C or E stop a five minute walk away (stop ‘Winston Churchill’), although as Strasbourg is an incredibly cycle-friendly city, the best option is to hire a bike (http://www.velhop.strasbourg.eu) and use the bike parking outside the archives
OPENING HOURS: 8.30am-5.00pm
LUNCH BREAK: You can’t order documents between 11.45am-2pm.
Thanks for your insights Alison!