7, Place de Fontenoy
FR 75352 Paris 07 SP
The Archives Service of UNESCO was established in 1947.
The first holdings were inherited from its predecessors: the International Institute of Intellectual Co-operation - IICI, the Preparatory Commission of UNESCO, the Conference of Allied Ministers of Education - CAME (partly throughout the Preparatory Commission, partly transferred from London in 1948) and the Conference for the Establishment of UNESCO.
UNESCO records start in 1946 with the first General Conference and Executive Board Documents.
In 1995, the Records Management were added to the responsibility of the UNESCO archives, from than on also occupied with the classification and codification of all programme sector files.
In 2005, the UNESCO Archives launched an electronic records management initiative in order to archive the growing number of e-mails and electronic documents.
The UNESCO archives are situated at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France. The extraterritoriality of all UNESCO records is specifically stipulated in the Headquarters Agreement and they have to be preserved in premises belonging to or rented by the Organization.
The decision to establish the Archives Unit of UNESCO was taken during the first General Conference of the Organisation in 1946 (Conference, 1st session, resolution - 1 C/Records p.274).
Since its creation in 1947 the UNESCO Archives have always had an officially recognized status on the organizational charts of the Organization.
From being a sub-section of the UNESCO Library, Documentation and Statistical Services in the first year of its existence, the archives became a division of the Department of Exchange of Information in 1948 and changed into a unit of the Central Administration Service one year later. During the following 11 years the archives constituted a division (from 1950-1955) and later a section (from 1955-1961) of the Bureau of Conference Planning and General Services.
In 1961 the Archives were transferred to the Department of Cultural Activities becoming a section of the UNESCO Library Division with which they kept associated for the following 6 years.
During the years 1967-1990 the Archives were, in different administrative set-ups, associated with UNESCO's Programme of General Information (PGI) and the Communication Sector.
From 1990 to 1995 the Archives Service was part of the Archives and Micrography Section within the Bureau of Documentation, Informatics Services and Telecommunication (DIT), which was part of the Administration Sector.
Following the creation of the Bureau for Support and Services (BSS) in 1995, the responsibility for the Records Management of the organisation were added to the Archives Section which became the Archives, Records Management and Microform Division. Later on, the Archives and Records Management Unit became part of the newly created Division of Information Systems and Telecommunication (DIT).
Subsequently, UNESCO's Archives and Records Management Section (ARC) formed part of the Information Services Section (ISS). The latter belonged to the Division of Information Systems and Telecommunication (DIT), under the overall supervision of the Assistant Director General for Administration (ADG/ADM).
From 2020, the UNESCO Archives unit formed part of the restructured Bureau of Digital Business Solutions (DBS).
The UNESCO Archives are the institutional memory of the Organization. They are constituted by materials received or prepared by the Organization in the exercise of its functions.
The mission of the Archives is twofold: to document the history and activities of the Organization since 1945 (and its predecessors) to the present day and to help the Secretariat to manage its records today in order to ensure their preservation and accessibility.
See Archives and Records Policy Statement (RMC/98/INF/2 Rev.) from 19 March 1998.
The holdings of the Archives consist of circa 10.000 linear meters of occupied shelving of textual records and documents, photographs, sound recordings, and 120.000 microfiches.
They include all categories of records that reflect the execution of the Organization's activities since 1946: agreements, contracts and other written instruments, correspondence files, reports, manuscripts, documents, publications, photographs, films, micro-copies, sound recordings and other documentary material.
In addition, the holdings also comprise documents, correspondence files and publications of the bodies that preceded UNESCO, i.e.
Major inventories are available on-line via AtoM, UNESCO's archival description database, or UNESDOC, UNESCO's main repository for official documents and publications. Undigitized inventories may also be consulted in the Archives Reading Room.
UNESDOC, which is UNESCO's documentary database, provides bibliographical records and on-line access to a very significant part of UNESCO's documents (75,000 documents available on-line in full text versions by June 2007; and 230,000 as of June 2023).
The paper files transferred to the Archives and Records Management Unit for archival preservation are currently registered in the SharePoint RECMAN database, which already contains almost 136 500 entries (as of June 2023). It is only available for internal users.
By appointment from Monday to Friday, 14h00 to 17h30. Researchers can also work in the UNESCO Library in the mornings once they have their materials. UNESCO is closed on French national holidays.
For UNESCO Secretariat and Delegations:
Please contact email@example.com to schedule a visit during office hours or visit us in the Archives Reading Room from 14h00 to 17h30.
Access to the Archives
Researchers coming to the UNESCO Archives for the first time are asked to make an appointment by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. For information related to hours, building access, and protocols for handling archival materials, see the UNESCO Archives website: Visit Us.
Access to the holdings
UNESCO official documents, including field mission reports, and publications are, as a general rule, freely accessible in the reading room of the UNESCO Archives. However, documents marked restricted or confidential may only be consulted before twenty years if the prior agreement of the relevant unit of the Secretariat has been obtained.
As a general rule, Secretariat correspondence and administrative files are open for consultation after twenty years, counted from the most recent item in the file.
The following Secretariat records are open for consultation only after fifty years:
(a) files containing exceptionally sensitive information on relations between UNESCO and its Member States, between UNESCO and the United Nations, intergovernmental and nongovernmental
(b) files containing papers which, if divulged, might injure the reputation, affect the privacy or endanger the safety of individuals;
(c) personnel files of officials or agents of UNESCO;
(d) confidential files of the offices of the UNESCO Director-General, Deputy Director-General and Assistant Directors-General.
Access to a document or file not yet within the open consultation period may be granted by the Chief Archivist on an exceptional basis with the agreement of the appropriate official(s) or unit(s) of the Secretariat provided that:
(a) the Chief Archivist is satisfied that the applicant, who may be required to provide documentary evidence to this effect, has a legitimate interest in the material;
(b) the granting of access would in no way be detrimental to the interests of the Organization.
The Organization cannot exempt researchers from any copyright liabilities that may exist pertinent to the copyright ownership of material in the UNESCO Archives.
Researchers are required to deposit with the UNESCO Archives one copy of any text that, in whole or in part, is based on or relates to material made available from the archives of the Organization.
The UNESCO Archives are located in UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France. The Archives reading room is located in the main building at 7, Place de Fontenoy, 75007, Paris. Access to the reading room is through the UNESCO Library, one floor down.
Public transport to UNESCO Headquarters:
Metro line 6 (Cambronne), line 8 (Ecole Militaire), line 10 (Ségur), Bus line 28 and 87.
Researchers coming to UNESCO can use the reading room of the archives, which offers seating and tables for 10 researchers and is equipped with a microfiche reader-printer, a photocopy machine and a computer.
The UNESCO Archives does not offer research services but rather gives advice and provide support for any kind of research activity.
There is no charge to researcher for use of records or for limited copying at UNESCO. The UNESCO Archives reserves the right to refuse copy services if the materials are likely to be damaged or if materials must be altered to make copying possible. This applies to bound books and extremely fragile materials.
UNESCO Archives does not have a scanning service. However, since the global COVID-19 pandemic from 2020 to 2023, we make every effort to fulfill reasonable requests for document scanning within the limits of our staff resources.
Researchers are encouraged to bring a digital camera to the reading room to make their own copies of accessible materials, subject to preservation and related considerations.
Users of the UNESCO Archives can use the public areas of UNESCO headquarters (cafeteria, restaurant, refreshment rooms with hot drinks vending machines and water dispenser, garden etc.).
Created by Julia Pohle, June 2009. Revised with identifier by AWT 07-03-2013. Other form of name added, AWT, 26-09-2014. Hours and services revised, AWT, 21-7-2015. Updated by Eng Sengsavang, June 2023.