Digital archives

Archives are nowadays almost unthinkable without a website, online catalogues and increasingly also online finding aids and digital collections. However, even when using overviews and repertories it is not easy to get a good view of these collections. Digital image galleries often contain archival records only as one element among other digitized images. Selecting collections with relevance for legal history is not an easy matter, too. Sometimes archives participate in digital portals for the cultural heritage of a town, a region or a specific discipline, subject or theme. You might therefore find relevant information also on my general page for digital collections. Some archival collections are to be found in libraries, and thus you might want to look also at digital libraries. It will not surprise you that this page shows gaps and omissions, but I try to present here at least to the best of my knowledge guides, overviews and portals. Comments and suggestions are most welcome!

On purpose I open here with an overview of existing archives, portal sites and online finding aids, to make you aware of the fact that digital archival collections form only a fraction of the materials kept in archives, described and catalogued by archivists. Some of the general overviews are very detailed. The second section brings you to digitized archival collections. This page might be nothing but just a stepping stone towards a Digital Archives Register, be it on a national, international or thematic level, but without such efforts you cannot start contemplating such enterprises. Having seen some initiatives without the URL’s to the end results is another consideration that has convinced me to create at least this page.

It is good to be aware of the differences in archival terminology. I use the word archives for the institutions which hold archival records and archival collections with files stemming from one source, thus forming a fonds as the French would say. I use finding aid and inventory as synonyms. In Dutch the word archief can stand for both the institution and a particular archival collection. You can learn much in this respect from the Multilingual Archival Terminology created by the International Council of Archives.

General organizations

  • International Council of Archives (ICA) – the international organisation for and of archivists and archives, with regional branches, standards and guidelines, and working committeees for several aspects
  • UNESCO Archives Portal – alas this useful portal is not maintained anymore
  • Archiefnet, Historisch Centrum Overijssel, Zwolle – this website offers a succinct guide to Dutch and Belgian archives and national archives worldwide, with an additional links collection, but alas it is no longer updated; interface Dutch and English
  • Koninklijke Vereniging van Archivarissen (KVAN) – the Royal Dutch Society of Archivists, the oldest organization of archivists worldwide
  • Open GLAM – an international platform aiming at an overview of digital collections of galleries, archives, libraries and museums

Archives in the Netherlands – General sites

For some subjects in Dutch history separate guides to archival sources have been published, many of them also accessible online at the Huygens Institute/ING, here a selection:

Archives worldwide: Overviews and portals – in alphabetical order for countries

General overviews

  • ArchiveGrid, OCLC – the beta-version portal of the firm known for its WorldCat library portal, with currently some 1,000 institutions
  • Archive im Internet, Archivschule Marburg – a generous overview of archives worldwide and many links; interface German and English
  • Repositories of Primary Sources, Terry Abraham, University of Idaho – Internet Archive – this wide ranging overview is no longer maintained since 2015, but the archived version can still be helpful
  • AHA Archives Wiki – a very helpful website of the American Historical Association, with also directories for countries not covered in it

Europe

Latin-America

USA and United Kingdom

  • ArchiveFinder, Chadwyck – a licensed database combining ArchivesUSA and NIDS UK/Ireland; luckily there is a successor to the British National Archives Register and similar websites, see below

Countries in alphabetical order

Australia

Austria

  • Archivregister, Österreichisches Staatsarchiv, Vienna – an overview of Austrian archives

Belarus

Belgium

Canada

  • ArchivesCanada – a portal to archives and archival research in Canada, with a good structured overview of institutions and virtual exhibits
  • Directory, Canadian Council of Archives – a database for searching repositories
  • Canadian National Digital Heritage Index (CNDHI) – a portal for searching digital collections
  • Politics and Government, Libraries and Archives Canada – an overview of major digital collections for these themes, but it is wise to look also at other sections of this portal
  • Archeion: Repository, Archives Association of Ontario – a database with nearly 180 archives

Costa Rica

Cuba

Czech Republic

  • Archivní fondy a sbírky v České republice (Archives and archival collections in the Czech Republic) – an overview in Czech, English, German and French, with among the archives the Národni archiv [National Archives], Prague (website in Czech and English)
  • Badatelna – a portal for the Czech state archives, the national library, the museum for Czech literature, and the archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the university of Prague

Denmark

  • Links til arkiver, Historie-Online – a concise overview of Danish archives and several useful portals
  • Arkivvejviser, Arkibas – a database for searching Danish archives, in particular for local history
  • Starbas.net – a portal for searching the online inventories of a number of communal archives
  • Dansk Kulturarv Digitaliseret, Det Kongelige Bibliotek – an overview of digitized cultural heritage collections, including digital archives
  • Øvrige samlinger, Riksarkivet – precisely these “Other collections” contain digitized sources for legal history, in particular for courts and prisons

Finland

  • Finna – a search portal for archives, libraries and museums in Finland; interface Finnish, Swedish and English

France

  • Archives de France – the general website of the French public archives with an overview of archives in departmental order; interface French, English and Spanish
  • Calames – a portal for the archival collections and libraries of French research libraries

Germany

Hungary

Iceland

Ireland

Italy

Mexico

New Zealand

Norway

  • Arkivportalen – a portal to archives in Norway with a searchable database

Poland

Portugal

  • Rede Portuguesa de Arquivos – the portal for public archives in Portugal; you can choose archives from the dropdown menu of the search field in the top right corner

Russia

  • ArcheoBiblioBase: Archives in Russia, International Institute for Social History, Amsterdam
  • The Russian Empire and Soviet Union: A Guide to Manuscripts and Archival Materials in the United States, Steven A. Grant and John H. Brown (eds.) (Boston, MA, 1980) – online as a database (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), in page view or PDF (Library of Congress, European Reading Room)

Spain

Suriname

  • Archievenoverzicht, Nationaal Archief Suriname, Paramaribo – an overview of the collections held in this national archive

Sweden

Switzerland

Ukraine

  • Archives in Ukraine – the portal of the state archives; interface Ukranian, Russian and English

United Kingdom

United States of America

Vatican City

  • Archivio Segreto Vaticano (ASV) – the online overview of archival collections at the ASV in ArchiveGrid is based on the Michigan project (1984-2004), but you will need older printed guides, too; the most recent is by Francis Blouin et alii (eds.), An Inventory and Guide to Historical Documents of the Holy See (Oxford 1998) which incidentally goes beyond the ASV; see also the introduction of the Vatican Film Library, St. Louis University


Other archival portals:

Digital archival collections – in alphabetical order of countries

Worldwide

  • Endangered Archives Programme (EAP), British Library – the great project to support the conservation and digitization of fragile or otherwise endangered archives and libraries

Australia

Austria

Belgium

  • ‘Belgium’s digital archival treasures: a survey’, Rik Raetschelders, Porta Historica – a fine survey from 2013 with copious comments and direct links
  • Searching the States’ Archives collection – the search portal of the Belgian state archives, with both online inventories and increasingly digitized items
  • Archiefbank Brugge, Stadsarchief Brugge (Bruges) – access to finding aids and some digitized collections [First World War ordinances and proclamations], see also the heritage portal Erfgoed Brugge
  • Scabinatus 4000, Archives de l’État de Liège – a project of the Université de Liège to digitize a series of régistres des échevins, aldermen’s registers from 1409 to 1797; the years 1409 to 1510 are already accessible
  • Itinera Nova, Stadsarchief Leuven – in cooperation with the University of Cologne aldermen’s registers from 1365 to 1792 are transcribed and digitized

Canada

Czech Republic

  • Digitalni badatelna, Národni archiv – digital collections of the Czech national archives; interface Czech and English

Denmark

  • ArkivDK – a database leading you to finding aids of Danish archives and where present also digitized materials
  • Arkivalieronline, Rigsarkivet – searching for and looking at digitized records from the Danish national archives; interface Danish and English
  • Kilder på nettet, Københavns Stadtarchiv – digitized police registers and much more from Copenhagen; note the nifty multilingual interface
  • The Danish West-Indies, Rigsarkivet – 5 million scans of document concerning 250 years of Danish presence in the Caribbean, in particular on the Virgin Islands

Europe

Finland

France

Germany

Hungary

  • Hungaricana – at this portal you will find several archival collections, with medieval charters, documents from Budapest, royal letters and decrees, a census from 1767 and much more
  • Hungarian Archives Portal – quick access to digitized resources, with also a bibliography; interface Hungarian, English and German
  • Adatbasizokonline (Databases Online) – a portal to online archival databases with overviews for categories and repositories, and for subjects; interface in five languages
  • Budapest Fóváros Levéltára (Budapest City Archive) – with a number of digitized archival collections (criminal procedures, notarial deeds, inheritance cases); interface Hungarian, English and German

Iceland

Indonesia

Ireland

Italy

Latin America

Mexico

Netherlands

  • Ga het NA, Nationaal Archief, Den Haag – the search portal of the Dutch national archives; increasingly digitized items are added to the online inventories, among them for example a series of the “Prize Papers” from the High Court of Admiralty kept at Kew
  • Boedelbank, Meertens Instituut/KNAW, Amsterdam – a searchable database for the texts of Early Modern house inventories showing the movable goods and belongings of deceased persons
  • RemDoc: Rembrandt Documents, Huygens Institute, The Hague and Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen – a database with transcribed documents concerning or mentioning Rembrandt van Rijn, a lot of them are legal documents
  • The Amboyna Conspiracy Trial, Monash University – a digital collection – also for educational use – about a case confronting the Dutch and English at the island Ambon in the Indonesian archipelago in 1623

Norway

  • Digitalarkivet, Arkivverket – the digital archive of the Norwegian governmental archives, with also a small but interesting digital library; interface Norse and English

Poland

Portugal

Puerto Rico

  • Puerto Rican Slave Documents, New York Public Library – 67 documents about slavery (1867-1872)
  • Puerto Rico Civil Court Documents, Internet Archive, University of Connecticut Libraries and CRL, Chicago – 235 documents of an appelate court, the Corte de Primera Instancia at Arecibo, between 1844 and 1900

Rumania

  • Arhiva Medievalâ României – an international project for the digitization of medieval documents, as for now already some 55,000 documents

Spain

  • Portal de Archivos Españoles (PARES)- searching using the tree structure at this portal to Spanish online inventories and digitized archival records and manuscripts can be daunting, but most rewarding, too; many collections are important for Latin-American history, and there a lot of sub-domains – the online guide Taming PARES by Scott Cave and Ashleigh Dean is a must-read to unlock all riches
  • Fondos documentales, Archivos Históricos de la Región de Murcia – digitized medieval charters, acts of collegiate chaters and socio-economic documents

Sweden

  • SVAR, Digitala forskarsalen, Riksarkivet, Stockholm – the sheer variety of digitized resources at the Swedish national archives is impressive

Suriname

  • Archieven online, Nationaal Archief Suriname, Paramaribo – 35 digital collections

Switzerland

Taiwan

Turkey

United Kingdom

United States

Vatican City

  • Atti ufficiali della Santa Sede – a digital collection with the officials acts in the Acta Sanctae Sedis (1865-1908). the Acta Apostolicae Sedis from 1909 onwards, and acts and documents concerning the Vatican during the Second World War

More links