Archival research project: The unknown story of the Athens Municipal Library as part of the city’s history

ANTONOPOULOU, Georgia and SFIKA, Vasiliki (2019) Archival research project: The unknown story of the Athens Municipal Library as part of the city’s history. Paper presented at: IFLA WLIC 2019 - Athens, Greece - Libraries: dialogue for change in Session 271 - Local History and Genealogy with Asia & Oceania Section and Library History.

Bookmark or cite this item: http://library.ifla.org/id/eprint/2550
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Language: English (Original)
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Abstract

Archival research project: The unknown story of the Athens Municipal Library as part of the city’s history

The Municipal Library of Athens has an unknown story to tell. Although it constitutes one of the most important fields of implementing the municipality's cultural policy, its historic origins have faded, as almost two centuries have elapsed since its establishment. This realization set a challenge for the “City of Athens Historical Archives”, which, among other things, investigates the history of municipal services. Concurrently, the proclamation of Athens as "2018 World Book Capital", a project managed by the Municipality of Athens, prompted our research interest towards this direction. Our department discovered, recorded and studied the Library's archives for the first time. It thus became an important research tool through which multiple readings emerge. We investigated other archival units as well, in the process of reconstructing the Library’s compelling chronicle. In the course of our study, interviews were held in an attempt to connect living and latent memory. The Library, as a core of knowledge and interaction with the local community, has a lot to narrate. Information found in archival documents reflects institutional policies and political priorities that have established the Library’s presence in the city's cultural life. It highlights the vision and labor of its historic personalities, but also the adversities that shaped the current situation. Above all, the material suggests a two-way relationship between the Library and the city. The former shared the basic ideals of the latter’s local governance framework, under which it was organized, such as locality and democracy. At the same time, it assumed a supra-local capacity, enriching smaller libraries and institutions throughout Greece. Finally, it played a catalytic role in supporting students’ access to knowledge during difficult historical times. The Municipal Library, is regaining its historicity, while contributing to the city’s historical memory.

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