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DigiCULT
.
Info
9
may have been at least peripherally relat-
ed to the `big bang' in administration, gov-
ernment and society due to the rise of
the Internet and the Information Society.
Leaving mainframe computers behind in
favour of PCs and with more and more
people using networks and the Internet, the
old way of working with computers has
changed radically. Nowadays, the Internet
is much more pervasive; almost everyone
who uses a computer becomes a produc-
er of electronic documents as well as paper
ones. This represents a huge challenge ­ it
is in effect a new type of science that must
be learned, a revolution with new questions
and problems to be solved and (as yet) very
few experts and little practice.
T
here is often a feeling of isola-
tion among archivists. I think that
not enough young people are enter-
ing the profession, and often changes to
our ways of working and the accept-
ance of these new challenges are met with
resistance. The development of the field
is now being considered at both nation-
al and European level, as confirmed by
an international meeting several years
ago in Brussels, where archivists discussed
approaches to electronic archives in dif-
ferent countries.5 As a result of the meet-
ing, France set up a national programme
to respond to the needs of this new area
in archiving. One agency was created:
ADAE (Agence pour le Développement de
l'Administration électronique: http://www.
adae.gouv.fr), the official programme for
electronic administration; and the ADELE
Project (http://www.adae.gouv.fr/rubrique.
php3?id_rubrique=3), a three-year pro-
gramme (2004­2007) that comprises a stra-
tegic report and an action report.6 The
basic aim of the programme was that the
Archives Nationales would handle and care
for dematerialised documents from all the
French governmental and local institutions.
T
he Contemporary Archives deal with
central rather than local administra-
tion: documents that must be stored for his-
torical value, although, of course, a lot of
documents have the potential to become
historically significant. The Constance
project represents twenty years of experi-
ence in this area ­ an extreme rarity! One
problem is that there simply isn't enough
`critical mass' in smaller, local archives to
set up a centre for digital archives, therefore
it is extremely important to have a pool of
resources at a
national level which can sup-
port management of electronic documents
down at regional and local levels. France
is very centralised in terms of organisa-
tion and administration, which, although
it has advantages, is not ideal for the local
archives. The symbolism of having a nation-
al centre outside Paris is not to be under-
estimated! It is interesting that the Ministry
of Culture recently announced that a new
centre will be created in St Denis by 2009
or 2010 which will have some overlap with
the work of the Archives Nationales and
the Centre des Archives Contemporaines.
As yet it has not been confirmed exactly
what materials the new centre will take, so
the role of this new centre is still unclear.
Part of the problem in France is the sheer
scale of the task. In a way, it would be eas-
ier for a smaller country, as the quantity of
records that need to be preserved is less.
It is extremely important to
have a pool of resources at a
national level that can support
management of electronic docu-
ments down at regional and
local levels.
Centre des Archives Contemporaines
©
Daisy
Abbott,

HA
TII,

Uni
v
er
sity
of
Glasgo
w
,

2004
The Centre des Archives Contemporaines is close to the grounds of
Fontainebleau Castle
©
Daisy
Abbott,

HA
TII,

Uni
v
er
sity
of
Glasgo
w
,

2004
5 For more information, see http://europa.eu.int/ISPO/
dlm/dlm96/proceed-en1.pdf.
6 The strategic report can be downloaded in several for-
mats from http://www.adae.gouv.fr/article.php3?id_artic-
le=315.