Guide to the Archives
England & Scotland ||
By Mike Ryan
Any research in Barcelona will invariably bring you to the venerable Arxiu de la Corona de Aragón. One of the premier guides for the novice researcher with which the novice research can orient him/herself is:
Udina Martorell, Federico. Guia historica y descriptiva del Archivo de la Corona de Aragon. Madrid, 1986.
Though this guide talks about the archive's former location in the Ciutat Vella, it is still important in explaining how the archive's sources are arranged. It's also got a very interesting analysis of the history of the archive's development.
archive is accessible online.
From there, investigators can link to other archives' and libraries' websites in Spain and, broadly, to the Ministerio de Cultura.
Though the ACA is the premier research institution in Barcelona, it is hardly the only one. Additional archives and libraries that are present in the city include the Arxiu Histňric de la Ciutat; the Arxiu Diocesŕ de Barcelona; and the Biblioteca de Catalunya, among many, many others. Researchers interested in finding out about the plethora of archives in Barcelona and beyond would be wise to consult the Generalitat de Catalunya's 1999 publication, Directori dels Arxius de Catalunya. This guide lists all archives and libraries in Catalunya and provides the reader with locations, hours, contact information, websites, and guides to each institution.
An excellent website resource that Adam Kosto and Paul Freedman have compiled is their
Bibliography for the History of
Though it was last updated in the summer of 2001, it is invaluable for the researcher who wants to begin, or sharpen, his or her investigations. It's divided into six parts: Sources, Guides to Archives, Series, Quick Reference, Festschriften and Collected Studies, and Symposia.
There is also another excellent source for researchers who want to conduct research
related to Catalonia, but need to spend time in the United States before leaving:
the Hill Monastic Manuscript Library,
located in Collegeville, MN.
They've microfilmed the entirety of the holdings of the Diocesan Archive of Barcelona,
which is of utmost importance for researchers interested in any ecclesiastical-themed
research there. They also have residency stipends,
the Heckman Stipend,
awarded twice a year, specifically directed towards doctoral students and junior scholars.
Barcelona is not a cheap city in which to live. The last few years have seen it become a hipper place for the young and beautiful of Europe and, as a result, prices in housing have gone up accordingly. It is possible to find lodging within the city that is cheap, but it requires one usually to have LARGE resources at one's disposal, for one usually has to pay first and last month's rent up front. If one has an "in" in the city, friends, for instance, who live there and who can refer them to other apartments, that helps.
Researchers who reside in Barcelona often need to leave for other places and will request tenants to sublet their apartments. Joining list-servs such as Espora, offered by the Society for Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies (SSPHS); or Medieval-L, are extremely helpful in making those contacts.
Finally, the Consejo Superior de
Investigaciones Científicas has a residencia for scholars.
I've not lived here, so I can't attest to its quality, but it is very closely located to the Biblioteca
de Catalunya, in the Raval, a hip and growing part of Barcelona.
For getting around the city and knowing what's available to see and do, check out
the home page for the city.
This website also has an excellent, interactive map to the city, which permits one to find a host of institutions, restaurants, services, hotels, and the like.
(My two cents: the residencia is very nice and in a great neighborhood (next to the Biblioteca de Catalunya, but not very social. I recommend Home Hostel - far out, but great - Myra)
Spanish archives and libraries aren't as formal as French ones, but it still helps to have a sense of what's expected. Writing a letter before arrival, notifying the director of the archive about who you are and when you'll be arriving, isn't necessary, but it is quite useful. What IS necessary, however, is to come bearing a formal letter of introduction from your advisor and/or home institution. For the latter example, getting a seal from the president's office affixed to your introduction letter (usually a formality at American universities) helps immensely. Bring PLENTY of passport photos, too, since various investigators' carnets require them.
Begin by getting your carnet de investigador from the ACA. You'll need to meet with the director of the ACA, Jaume Riera i Sans, who is a dear individual. Once you get your carnet, it's good for three years. Showing your ACA carnet at other archives in Barcelona and Catalunya is usually sufficient to help get you carnets for other libraries and archives, but be sure to bring your introductory letter, just in case.
Dress is not especially formal. A sweater and a pair of clean jeans can suffice in the archives (especially in the winter.certain archives and libraries get very cold in Barcelona, even during the winter months, especially rainy February). Dress cleanly and modestly and you'll be fine.
Food and Drink:
Barcelona's quickly becoming a culinary capital of Europe and it's one of the major benefits to working there (besides being in a beautiful city in and of itself). There are wonderful restaurants all around and about the city. Some of my personal favorites include:
C. de l´ Argenteria , 27
Tel. 93 319 34 23
Els Quatre Gats (Catalan)
C. Montsió 3
Tel. 93 302 41 40
Cal Pep (tapas)
Pl. de les Olles , 8
Tel. 93 310 79 61 // 93 319 61 83
Set Portes (paella)
Passeig Isabel II, 14
Tel. 93 319 30 33
There are also plenty of excellent (albeit a bit tourist-heavy) places to eat in the Eixample, on either side of the Rambla de Catalunya. AVOID all places on the Rambla, except for the Café de la Opera (across from the Liceu), for they are overpriced.
Communication and transportation:
Probably the best investment is to buy a triband cell phone, which permits one to use their cell phone in Europe. Cell phone culture in Barcelona is ubiquitous and many models are super cheap and easy. If you're planning on making many long-distance calls to the States, don't get a phone that requires card recharging, since it will be VERY expensive. They're good to go, though, for minimal calling activity at a minimal cost.
Internet cafés are also ubiquitous. The one that I used, when I lived there was Easy Internet café. They've two locations: one on the Ronda de Sant Pere and one at the end of the Rambles, both of which are essentially open almost 24 hours. The one at the end of the Rambles also has a work center, a la Kinko's. Easy Internet café is owned by the same people who own the budget airline, Easy Jet, which flies from Barcelona to major European cities for dirt-cheap.
Finally, Barcelona has an excellent mass-transit system of buses, trains, and metro lines. Going to any metro station will permit one to buy passes for up to three months, which can be used on bus and metro lines for an unlimited amount of time.
ENGLAND AND SCOTLAND
By Ann Higgins
I spent part of this summer doing research in Scotland and England, and would like to pass on some tips based on my experiences.
I spent three days in the National Library of Scotland (NLS) in Edinburgh
(I was at the NCS conference in July at the University of Glasgow and stayed
on for a few days), about a week and a half at the BL and three days at the
Bodleian and found all three libraries very welcoming and helpful.
The most important thing is to get in touch with the libraries ahead of
time, let them know why you want to work there, and make sure that you
have all required letters of introduction with you before you go there. Email
works well, but if you don't get a reply to your emails, be prepared to
call. I emailed the NLS and after several weeks went by, I called them
and found that their replies to me had bounced and they had no other way of
getting in touch. A mailing address in your initial email is thus a good
idea, as is a phone #. When I got to Oxford I found that my emails and
their replies were already in a file and I think that speeded things up a
bit. Different libraries have different admission rules. Most will want a
letter from your supervisor, but the application form for the Bodleian has a
section to be filled out by your supervisor. Download the form ahead of
time and make sure your supervisor fills that section out before you
Most libraries have no problem admitting legitimate grad students. For
the BL it has to be clear that you really need to get to see their specific
holdings--that other libraries don't have all you need. Also, the BL form
distinguishes between taught postgrad degrees and research degrees--make
sure you fill out the research degree part of the form or they won't let
you in very easily. Also, make sure your supervisor states clearly that you
are doing a PhD in his/her letter of introduction. Keep that letter with you
when you go to the library--some of the MSS I wanted to see were
classified as special or fragile and that letter allowed me to see them.
The BL does not charge for its admission card. The Bodleian does. For
10.00 pounds I had a choice between 6-months unlimited access or 12
separate days over 4 years. I chose the latter and used three. I found I used my
time very efficiently as a result and now have 9 days left in case I
I was working on 12th, 13th, and 14th century MSS. The BL is very
efficient--their holdings are computerized and it rarely took more than 30
minutes for a manuscript to reach my desk. I was working on just one MS
in Scotland, so after the first morning , it was very quick. The Bodleian is
less high-tech. Many of their MSS are not in the online catalogue, it can
take a couple of hours for them to deliver MSS, and it can sometimes take
a while even to get the shelf-mark until you get used to their system. When
I emailed them initially, they suggested I email them a couple of days
before I arrived to let them know the first three or four MSS I wanted to see. I
did, and when I got there they were waiting for me. I also quickly
developed the habit of dropping off several request slips before I left
each evening--that meant that the next morning the MSS were there and I could get
to work right away.
Accommodation and travel:
While I was in Scotland I stayed in Glasgow in a dorm run by the
University of Glasgow and took the train each day to Edinburgh. Because I was a
student (age is irrelevant if you are) I qualified for a Young Person's
Railcard (bring 20.00 pounds, a letter from your Dept saying you're a
full-time student and a photo [of you]) and that got me a discounted cheap
day return ticket to Edinburgh from Glasgow each day. I couldn't use the
train before 9:30 a.m. or between 4:30 and 6:30 each evening, but that
wasn't much of a problem. By 4:00 I was going cross-eyed from peering at
MSS anyway and ready to leave and go back to Glasgow. Alternatively, you
can spend the evening in Edinburgh. Commuting was a bit of a pain but, on
the plus side, I really liked Glasgow. It's a friendly city, --the
University's dorms are on the west end, a nice part of town-- and there are
some good pubs where people don't seem to mind strangers, so you can relax
in the evening. Because of the exchange rate, the cost of living is very
high in the UK for people from the US--another advantage of a dorm or
hostel, as you can buy food and use the kitchen facilities to cook meals
instead of having to eat out. The University Office that deals with
visitor accommodation is Conference and Visitor Services.
I stayed in the Murano Street dorm. It is the cheapest and a bit basic but quite OK. A huge plus is that the dorm laundry facilities are free--all you need is detergent!
I took a train from Glasgow to London. Train travel can be cheap or very
expensive, and it all depends on when and how you buy your ticket. A
month or so before I left the U.S. I went onto the British Rail website,
clicked the "planning your journey"
link, and eventually found a cheap ticket from Glasgow to London. It's a
hassle, and you have to commit to a specific time for your journey, but is
a great deal cheaper than buying a ticket when you get there. If the amount
of train travel you'll be doing makes it worthwhile, you can get a
BritRail pass before you leave the U.S.
When I was working in the BL I stayed in London with a friend so I have no
info on accommodation except to note that *everything* in London is
horribly expensive. I commuted to Oxford. It was tiring and time consuming but
cheaper than paying for a bed! My railcard saved me about 5.00 pounds
each day. For getting around London use the bus whenever possible. The
underground is expensive (2.00 a trip or 1.50 if you buy a carnet of ten),
crowded, hot and not always reliable, though sometimes it is the best way
to get to where you want to go. Buses work very well, especially if, as I was, you're near the center anyway, and they are comparatively cheap--1.00 per journey. You must have exact change and they prefer you to buy your ticket in advance from a machine, but most newsagents sell the Supersaver--a pad of 6 tickets for 4.20, i.e 70p
per ride--and that's the best way to go.
By Heather Parker
1. Skip the Underground and use the Bus pass - this will enable you to
see more of the city and help your sense of direction. When you read a
source - you will be better able determine distance. Sit on the top
and in the front. Walking as much as possible also helps with this.
Plus the bus pass is cheaper.
2. Check out the Royal Festival Hall - it is filled with historical
information and has a Poetry Library on the 5th floor. They have art,
cultural events and independent film festivals there. This is on the
3. The Tower of London - Simply a must for a Tudor fanatic. Just do
it once though.
4. Camden Town - a must of the suburbs for culture and social issues.
It comes up time and time again. I lived there for about 4 months. The
bohemian atmosphere negates the social problems, however much it is
apparent in the way people act and carry themselves.
5. New King's Road - From Sloane Square (take Bus #22 from Piccadilly
Circus-it is a GREAT ride..very scenic of central London) check out the
richness of the rich and walk down the King's Road. It is full of
antique shops. I work with a man on campus at UCF who owned one of them
- it has a very interesting quality. I lived more towards Fullham
Broadway and used to take weekend strolls down the King's Road into
Sloane Square. Nice place to look, not buy.
6. Green Park/Bond Street Art Galleries - The Art Galleries are
wonderful in London. There are a huge group of them around Green Park.
Across from the Ritz down Dover Road..there are some nice galleries and
pubs. Bus 22 will take you past this from the Picadilly - Sloane Square
7. St. Katherine's Docks is a quietly tucked away place to grab
something to eat or enjoy watching people. It is near Tower Bridge and
the Tower of London.
8. Covent Garden, Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus - Anyone who
goes to London will see this touristy side of it all. But what is
awesome in my perspective is the close proximity of the British Library.
It is I'd say within 20-30 minutes walking distance. I had a friend
there who drove the buses. One day he had us walking everywhere. It
definitely gave me a great sense of direction at a later time.
9. Wimbledon - it is a long bus ride south from Central London so
worth taking the train if you are in a hurry, but definitely worth the
bus ride if you like scenery. It has a quaint village feel to it. A
little further South is Kingston. It happens to have a wonderful
shopping complex if you are in need of goods you are thinking of from
home. A lot of selection and because you are out of Central London, a
little less pricey.
10. Durham, Nottingham, and York have quality historical sites -
however Lincoln left the most medieval impression on me. The houses are
butted up against the cathedral and the castle is merely blocks away.
You can see everything in the city from the castle wall. Reading is a
nice suburb, a bit too modern in some perspectives. I went to Brighton
- the only thing that was incredibly worth it was the Royal Pavilion.
Definitely worth a day trip.
Working in French Archives
by Catherine Barrett
For those of us working on French topics, work in the French archives is a crucial part of our research. There is a treasure trove of material in these repositories, and even though historians have been quite thorough in their inventories, transcriptions and translations, there are still many opportunities for scholars to present new material based on their archival findings. Following a trail of archival references is an exciting process, but it often requires patience and humility.
Because there are so many documents, and because they have been organized differently at different times in the history of France, finding the document you want may be a complicated process. You will save valuable time by doing your homework before you arrive at the archives, and the archives staff will be grateful to you for presenting them with specific reference requests for your material. On the other hand, much must be said for the pleasure of meandering for harvest once you are actually there. If you have the time, browse the bookshelves in the rooms that hold inventories, study inventory indexes at leisure, make your own inventory of the card catalog, or study the references to either side of your focus. It is often in this way that new connections and discoveries are made.
The documents contained in the archives take many forms, and although you will probably be working with microfilm at the National Archives if you are looking at medieval documents, in the departmental archives you are more likely to be working with original material. Unless the inventory tells you what form the document is in, you may be surprised to find that what you requested is a roll of parchment pieces stitched together with gut and requiring at least three desk spaces for study area!
Following is a description of how documents in the National Archives are organized including further references, a sample research trail for honing in on a document, and a description of the physical layout of the archives and practical information. I also spent time in the Departmental Archives at Albi (for the département of Tarn ), at the Biblio thèque Méridionale and at the municipal library in Toulouse, and brief descriptions of those experiences follow below. Professor Bob Stacey of the History Department at the University of Washington has kindly allowed me to include portions of his handout on doing research in French archives as part of this presentation.
BACKGROUND AND ORGANIZATION
There are three basic levels of organization of archival material in France: the central governmental archive (AN or CHAN = Centre historique des archives nationales) in Paris, the departmental archives (one in each département , or territorial division created after the Revolution), and the municipal libraries (which can rival any of the larger depots for material held).
An excellent place to begin for the history of document creation in Capetian France is the “Postscript” (pages 394-423) of John Baldwin’s book The Government of Philip Augustus (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986). Baldwin tells the story of how the archives were created, follows the history of their organization, and includes a description of their present organization. He describes documents as belonging to the categories of chronicles, charters, fiscal accounts, the Royal Archives ( Trésor des Chartes ), Registers (with explanations of their letter categories), and Norman Exchequer Judgments. Other good sources of historical information about French record-keeping are: Joseph Strayer, The Administration of Normandy under Saint Louis (Cambridge, Mass, 1932), and also by Strayer, The Reign of Philip the Fair (1980). For an introduction in English to the organization of the records in the AN, see Laura Levine Frader, “A Guide to the Archives Nationales,” French Historical Studies 15 (1987), 170-172, and E.A.R. Brown, “The Library of Congress Microfilm Collection of Unpublished Inventories for the Archives Nationales, Paris,” ibid, 15 (1988), 759-777. Another excellent guide to the AN is written in German: Werner Paravicini, Das Nationalarchiv in Paris. Ein Fuhrer zu den Bestanden aus dem Mittelalter under der Fruhen Neuzeit ( Munich 1980). Finally, the web site for the AN has detailed descriptions of what to expect there, so it will save you time to read it before you leave home (see link below).
The AN holdings are grouped into four fonds: the Ancien Regime (this includes anything before 1789), material from the years 1789-1940, Marine et Outre-Mer, and Fonds Divers. For each of the four fonds, there are several levels of finding aids, but the five volume Etat générale des fonds , ed. Jean Favier (1978-1980) is the place to start. Medieval material will be found mainly in Volume 1, l’Ancien Regime, but also in the Fonds Divers volume, since Fonds Divers comprises all privately donated records to the AN regardless of their date. Note also that pp. 399-406 in the Fonds Divers volume lists corrections to the Ancien Regime volume.
Volume 1 of the Etat générale des fonds, L’Ancien Regime , describes each series contained within the fond by their letter designations (which are also described in the reference literature mentioned above). The Etat générale provides a short history of each series (i.e. what the documents are, their approximate dates, and where they came from). It also gives a descriptive title to each reference number within each series. Chadwyck-Healey (Pro-Quest) also offers on microfilm more than 700 previously unpublished finding aids from the Salle des inventaires, half of which pertain to the Ancien Regime fonds, but access is through subscription which your library may or may not have. The Library of Congress also has microfilm copies of most of these inventories and repertories, and these microfilm copies can be borrowed through Interlibrary Loan. For a list of the Library of Congress holdings, see the article by E.A.R. Brown in French Historical Studies 15 (1988), 759-777.
A SAMPLE SEARCH
My research primarily concerns Count Raymond VII of Toulouse and towns north of Toulouse for which he issued charters. I took four simultaneous paths of research before I left home to determine what I would request when I arrived in Paris at the AN. Once there, I added further references to my request list after I had browsed through material only available at the AN.
My four research paths were:
- Listing specific references to primary sources from secondary literature. This can be an excellent way to begin your search in the Etat générale des fonds if you are still trying to pin down the context within which your documents might be found. For example, I had read in Edgard Boutaric’s Saint Louis et Alphonse de Poitiers that Raymond VII worked to acquire land through purchases and exchanges after 1229. Boutaric gave references that included the register letter and number in the Trésor des Chartes (all of them from JJ19), and the number of the specific reference. I began my work in the microfilm room at the AN with these references, knowing there was no inventory for this register. Miraculously, JJ19, which contains about 196 acts directed by Raymond VII, was written in a beautifully clear Gothic textura script. Thus it was relatively easy to scroll my way to the documents I was interested in – although I ended up photographing the entire register.
- Browsing the five volume inventory of the Layettes (layettes contain incoming documents, and registres are usually outgoing documents) edited by Teulet, Delaborde, and Berger (published in Paris between 1863 and 1909 – the searchable title is: Layettes du Trésor des Chartes ). These books are organized chronologically and have comprehensive indexes and cross-references that tell you where copies of documents are kept. For example, I noted all references to Raymond VII, and to specific towns that I was interested in. Going to those pages, I found partial or entire transcriptions of the references, and their reference letters and numbers at the AN and elsewhere.
- Copying pages 185-230 of Volume 1 of the Etat générale des fonds, L’Ancien Regime (edited by Jean Favier), so that I had a hard copy of the Series J and JJ of the Trésor des Chartes to make notes on. This invaluable source is now available online. Follow this path: from the home page of the AN http://www.archivesnationales.culture.gouv.fr/, click on Le Site de Paris (this is the center containing the medieval documents) _ (and then under Les fonds d’archives) : Instruments de recherche et bases de données, etc . _ (then under Inventaires et répertoires en ligne) : Fonds publiques de l’Ancien Régime _ Inventaires, répertoires et bases de données dans l’ordre de classement . From that page you should be able to see the summaries of the series and then click on the series that you need for the inventory. I took a hard copy of this with me to the AN so that I could make notes as to which documents were inventoried and by whom.
- Accessing inventories at home. For example, studying the book Les Archives nationales: état des inventaires publié sous la direction de Jean Favier, ( Paris 1985 ). Volume I lists the contents in the Ancien Regime and follows the same numerical order as the Etat générale . Here is the process I followed in coordinating work in the Etat générale and the Etat des inventaires. First, from the Etat générale I noted the cotes of the Layettes which interested me (these are organized by area, so I focused on Languedoc) , and then I went through the Registres (some of these are organized by subject and some chronologically) . In the Registres, I noted all within my time period of 1222-1350. Then I went to the Etat des inventaires to see who might have written an inventory of those cotes. If I could not get a copy of that inventory before I left, I went to the Salle des inventaires at the AN, found that book and used its index to made notes on my copy listing cotes from the Etat générale . For example, the Etat générale lists the cotes JJ 58 – 60 as relating to the reign of Philippe V. These cotes had been inventoried by J. Guerout in 1966. I used the index of Guerout’s inventory to scan for references to the towns that interested me, and in that way made a list of references to request from the Salle des microfilms.
PHYSICAL LAYOUT OF THE AN
The old days of having to be at the archives first thing in the morning and literally run to get a place to sit are over, and the new building is very comfortable and has plenty of places to work. Also, the archives are open all day there is a nice stretch of uninterrupted working time. After you walk through the gates on the rue des Quatres Fils you will pass through a courtyard, thence into the building where a guard will look into your bookbag. Then you’ll walk straight ahead, beyond the stair, to a little office where you’ll buy your ID card and get your picture taken. In 2006 an annual card was 30 Euros. I had letters of introduction with me, but never needed to use them for either the national or departmental archives. You’ll go back to the caisse (whose office is to the right as you walk in) to pay for the card, then back to pick it up, and you’re good to go after you check your stuff in the cloakroom. You must check everything except loose sheets of paper, pencils, cameras (always used without flash), and laptops. The rules are less stringent in the Salle des Microfilms, where I saw bound notebooks being used. If there are no tokens to use for the lockers (often the case), one Euro piece works. You’ll find a plastic bag and a hanger. You can put the things you want to carry with you in the clear plastic bag. Most of the concern is with what you do in the reading room on the second floor because that’s where the original documents are kept. So be prepared to show them everything as you enter and exit that room.
The AN building itself has four floors. The ground floor contains the information counter, cloakroom, caisse, restrooms, computers for your use, and lounge (where there are vending machines – but I always brought my lunch or went to one of the numerous closeby cafes). The first floor is the Salle des Inventaires; the second is the Salle de Lecture; and the third, where you will probably spend most of your time, is the Salle des Microfilms. The vast majority of the medieval documents in the AN are on microfilm, and you will be expected to consult them in this way, unless you can justify the need to consult original documents, which are stored on the second floor in the Salle de Lecture. Access to all of these rooms is gained by inserting your ID card into a reader slot by the side of the door.
In the Salle des Microfilms . The first thing you need to do is order your documents (this can be done online if you have your ID already). But if you order them from one of the terminals at the AN, it doesn’t take very long (sometimes only 1/2 hour – it’s not like other archives where they have regularly scheduled deliveries), so I suggest that you go up to the third floor first and order your documents, ask how long they think it will take, then spend some time in the Salle des Inventaires, or even at the current exhibit in the Archives Museum around the block. The first time that you order documents through their system you will probably need help. It’s a multi-step process that can be confusing. I found the staff to be most kind, especially a young man named Frédy Sapotille (who, incidentally, is fascinated by the American deserts and the West). You will probably also need help with the microfilm machines, and especially with the printers if you use them. If you print material from the microfilms, you use special machines to print it out, then deliver it to the président (s) (those who preside over the room) with your count. They give you an invoice that you take downstairs to the caisse, and after you return with the receipt you can have your copies. I found that most of the time it was easiest to simply take photos of the microfilm material, but it depends on the legibility. With the printers you can play with the contrast and finesse the result more effectively.
Digital cameras are excellent tools for recording microfilm material. You should have a camera with a minimum 7 million pixel capacity. I have been very happy with the results of my Canon Power Shot SD550 Digital Elph, and it cost me about $300. It came with a great software tool: the Canon Zoom Browser, which enables me to zoom in on images and study the script at close range. Don’t forget to take an extra memory chip for your camera, and keep your battery charged! Be sure to take extra CD’s or jump drives to serve as back ups. It was so efficient to shoot the pages that I was studying that I went through my memory quickly. My modus operandi was to take a picture of anything that was remotely connected to my subject (knowing that my time at the AN was very limited) so I was capturing a huge amount of images. I would fill the memory card of the camera, then go downstairs for a break and transfer the images to my computer and start over. Back in my hotel room in the evening, I would copy the images in the computer to separate discs so I had a back up.
Many of the departmental archives have good web sites with their inventories listed online, but if they don’t, that is probably the first thing that you want to consult when you visit. I suggest that you tell the person at the front desk who you are and what you are working on, and ask if there is anyone who can give you a little tour of the layout – where the inventories are, and how they have organized their bookshelves. At your first visit you will be given an access ID card, just as at the AN, only it might be free (there was no charge in Albi). You’ll receive a number that will correspond with the desk to be used (again, just as with the Salle des Lecture at the AN), and you are expected to lock everything except loose sheets of paper, pencils, camera and computer in a locker. To order documents, I used the computer stations when possible, but often they were not functioning and I had to ask for help. In Albi, deliveries of material were scheduled every few hours, so while I waited for your documents I studied the catalog and bookshelves, where I found a wealth of regional resources.
I have only worked in one municipal library, that in Toulouse. They have a special reading room for older material which is very well lit and comfortable. Here, computer stations are used to access the catalog and determine if material is on the open shelves or must be requested. Again, best to introduce yourself to the main desk and ask for help with the process of requesting material, and again, no one had any problem with my using my camera to record documents. If I needed to hold a book over a series of days, that was possible also. One word of caution: this library was heavily used by students and scholars, and so to make sure that I could get a seat I had to get there early. Don’t be surprised if you arrive in the afternoon to find all the seats taken in a municipal library near a university.
Portal to several sites related to archives: http://www.loc.gov/rr/international/european/france/resources/fr-libraries.html
Home page for National Archives:
Site listing addresses for Departmental Archives:
General information on Departmental Archives:
Hotels, Paris . I have only one recommendation (simply because of limited experience and because I like this place), and that is the Hotel du Marais. It’s inexpensive, only a few blocks from the AN, and when I stayed there they gave me a discount with my Archives ID card. There’s also a fabulous neighborhood restaurant down the street (Le Mâchon , 16 rue Commines, run by Christian). Hotel du Marais: http://www.hoteldumarais.com/
Apartments Paris . There are several sites online worth exploring. Although I didn’t use this group in the end, I almost committed to one of their apartments. I was pleased with the communication with them and would use their services in the future: http://www.apartrentals.com/. It may look like a ritzy site, but they do have low end rentals too. The Appartager site listed below also works for Paris. And, the IMS (International Medieval Society) often has offers come through on their list-serv about rentals, or you could write one of their members resident in Paris and ask for info. Their web site is: http://www.ims-paris.org/.
Apartments Elsewhere . For longer stays, try this site for sharing houses and apartments – also recommended by Jochen Schenk, I noticed. http://www.appartager.com/. It may take a little time to find what you want, but it’s a great way to meet new people and have an adventure! I found a very comfortable place to stay for a month in Toulouse that cost me $300. The other useful site that I’ve found is the French gîte site: http://www.gites-de-france.com/gites/fr/gites_ruraux. These are rooms in houses or cottages, usually in rural areas. You can click on the British flag to read it in English, but I’ve found that you get a larger selection if you work it in French (naturally there are several proprietors that don’t speak English and so they don’t list their gîtes on the English site).
Train . Order tickets 30 days in advance if possible for cost savings – also this way you can consider first class, which can be nice. It’s very easy to order online with a credit card, but don’t plan on using the machines at the station to print them out because they often don’t work except with French credit cards. Rather, give yourself enough time to pick them up in person at a train station. If possible, find a local, small, or out of the way station to pick them up at.
Cars. I’ve found the cheapest rental or leasing service to be Europe-by-Car: http://www.ebctravel.com/. Phone 800-223-1516. You can’t reserve online, and you pay in advance, but their prices are great and so is their service. They have pick up points at several locations throughout Europe.
Air. Using the cheapos like Ryan Air can save you money, but keep in mind that their airports are often out of the way and require linking transportation. Don’t use them if you’re on a tight schedule, because their flights are not very dependable.
By Jochen Schenk
Here are some ideas concerning the BN in Paris, Rue Richelieu (where most of the old stuff is). Opening hours are available at their web site. If I remember correctly, then the Manuscript Reading Room (which is on the first floor, main building) stays open Mo-Fr 9.00-17.00 and Sa 10.00-17.00. To get into the manuscript room you need a reader's ticket with the right access code. This can be obtained from the admissions office (if you enter the main building, turn right. It's at the end of the corridor). You have to pay for your tickets. Two days (carte 2 jours) cost Euro 4,50; fifteen days (carte 15 jours) Euro 30 (Euro 15 for students); and the annual ticket (carte annuelle) Euro 46 (Euro 23 for students). It is important that when you apply for a ticket you have a passport or any other documentation with your picture on it ready. You also need a letter of recommendation which states the reason for your visit and which sources and literature you are likely to consult. The letter can be in English (in which case the librarian will pretend to understand it), must be written on formal (meaning departmental) paper (because that the librarian WILL understand), and should bear a seal. Very likely the librarian will not understand everything in the letter if it is in English. Therefore make sure that you ask to have access to manuscripts AND secondary literature when you order your reader's ticket. That way you can use your card in the Mitterrand library as well, which is where most of the 'new' books are. If you want to consult maps or coins, then say so, too.
The knowledge of English among staff in both the Richelieu and the Mitterrand library is poor. And to understand how the system works, once you have made it to the manuscript room, can be a very slow and frustrating process if you don't know what the other person is talking about. In a nutshell, this is what they will try to explain to you: Upon you entering the reading room, the first librarian (sitting at a desk at the entrance) will take your reader's pass and put it away. In return you will receive the key for one of the lockers outside, a paper slip with today's date (which you have to wave in his face whenever you leave or enter the room), and a plastic plaque with your seat number on it. If you know the signature you want, write it on one of the order slips which are available at the reception desk and take it to the librarian at the far end of the room. Before you give it to him, however, make sure you check for a possible microfilm copy (the catalogue is also at the far end of the room) and, if necessary, add that number to the signature. The librarian will take your plastic badge and the order slip and give you a another plastic badge in a different colour instead. With this you go back to your place and wait for a third librarian to bring the book/manuscript etc. If you ordered a microfilm, then you will be allotted to one of the reading machines. Once you have finished your reading, take whatever you were consulting and your plastic badge back to the desk at the far end, where you will receive your first plastic badge back. With that AND the paper slip with today's date on it AND your computer and all other belongings you then have to proceed to the desk in the middle of the room. Here yet another librarian will inspect your belongings for stolen treasures. Provided the 12th century manuscript under your arm is really yours, he or she will take your paper slip with the date on it away and give you a blue paper slip instead. This and the plastic badge you take to the 'porter' at the door, who will take both (and give you nothing). Once you have opened your locker, return the key and you'll get your reader's ticket back. It is really that easy.....
The catalogues are in the library and easy to consult. You can also do a preliminary search online. Most of the staff is really helpful, although one of them (a young man who, unfortunately, seems to be the receptionist-in-chief) is... well... not. Make sure you arrive early, as the reading room is not big and often already booked out by 10.00.
If you are planning to spend more than three weeks in Paris it is worth signing up with Appartager. Here you have access to a database of people (French, American or other) on the lookout for house-/flat-/room-mates in Paris. Depending on your budget, you'll be able to move into lodgings in a nice or not so nice arrondissement, for which you will share the rent with others. What you make of Paris is really up to you. Just make sure you have a great time. And don't fall for Pigalle, Champs Elysee and Montmartre. Oberkampf and Republique is where the fun is!
By Meredith Cohen
For those of you who study French topics and/or conduct research in
France, please allow me to introduce the International Medieval
The IMS Paris is a non-profit association that aims to optimize the
academic research experience by providing information and assisting
with access to the wide range of opportunities offered to medievalists
in Paris and in France. By facilitating communications among
independent researchers and the different French institutions or
academics through meetings, presentations, and visits, the IMS Paris
aims to improve academic exchange and promote interdisciplinary and
international scholarship. The Society is a cooperative association
that relies on the participation of its members to realize its goals.
For more information about the International Medieval Society, Paris.