Archives at Risk

Disasters often strike archive services: the collapse of the building that housed the Historical Archive of the City of Cologne, for example, burying 90% of their holdings; or the fire that ravaged Glasgow School of Art including their library. In both cases archives professionals from across the world offered their support and practical help.

All too often the threats that archives face are economic – in this austerity climate heritage and cultural services are frequently at risk from severely reduced budgets or even closure. In this situation fellow professionals can help by advocating and campaigning via professional bodies such as the Archives and Records Association.

Sadly another European archive is now at risk, but from political forces rather than natural ones. The Central European University in Budapest, Hungary, is threatened with closure after the government introduced legislation that requires the university to comply with certain criteria that it will not be able to meet. Commentators believe that the government wishes to close an institution noted for its liberal policies.

The closure of CEU threatens its archival holdings. Csaba Szilagyi, Head of Human Rights Program and Acting Chief Archivist at CEU, has asked for support:

As you know, the Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives, an internationally known human rights archives dealing with the history (and afterlife) of communism and Cold War, and of human rights movements and violations worldwide is an organic part of CEU. Our activities and collections are therefore also in danger.

It is time for friends, supporters, and educational and academic communities to defend our institution and the independence of higher education institutions around the globe. Please visit the CEU website to see how you can help.

As fellow university archivists, myself and my team want to express support for our colleagues at CEU caught up in this situation, and we hope that they are able to secure the safe future of their archive collection.