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ICMH Congress military archives

Istanbul 2023, the Turkish archives

the visit to the Turkish National Archives in Istanbul

by Lt. Col. Flavio Carbone, president of the CAM

On 8 September 2023, thanks to the full support of the Turkish Commission of Military History and specifically thanks to our colleague colonel (r) Bülent Durgun who accompanied us during the visit, a delegation of the Committee of Military Archives visited the National Archives in Istanbul.

Başbakanlık Osmanlı Arşivi (The Ottoman Archives of the Prime Minister’s Office, we can quote as the “Ottoman archives”) represents the principal repository for state archival documents related to the Ottoman Empire. 

8th September 2023, the visit to the National Archives in Istanbul. the CAM representative during the meeting with the Deputy Director, Dr. Sebahattin BAYRAM.

The Deputy Director of the Turkish National Archives in Istanbul, Dr. Sebahattin Bayram, welcomed the representative and the CAM had a very fruitful conversation regarding the Archives in Istanbul and the archival funds stored in one of the most important cities of Türkiye.

After the welcome and a first general presentation of the archives, we had the opportunity to continue the visit moving to the restoration area where the specialised personnel works on the documents.

Then we visited the storage rooms where all the documents are stored, showing us the characteristics of the rooms (according the International standards) and some type of documents.

In the archival storage, the archivist presented some documents related to the military life during the Ottoman Empire with some explanations by Professor Durgun.

The archivist showed the documents presented to the sultan for his final decision on daily basis. Our colleague Dulent Burgun explained the importance of those documents from the historical point of view.

Then the visit continued to the reading room, showing the area and the use of the tools for researchers available.

In the reading room, there is the possibility to have full access to the digitalised documents stored in the archives. It is possible to launch a research both with keywords or using the so called “tree”, following the structure of the archival funds.

The research can be done online as well and after the findings the researcher can buy a digital copy of the documents

Finally we finished our trip in the exhibition area where the archives have their permanent exhibition and it is possible to present temporary exhibitions related to special dates or specific themes.

At the end of the visit we thanked the Turkish colleagues who accompanied us, together with the Deputy Director of the Archives and our colleague Bulent Durgun.

It was a very interesting experience, confronting the members of the Committee with the all-around-the-world challenges that every archives lives on daily basis.

the model of the building (picture by Iulian Botoghina)
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CAM meeting declassified archives ICMH Congress military archives Reading room visit to archives

Istanbul congress, new engagements

The Committee of Military Archives provided an overview of the meeting held on 2nd September 2023 in Istanbul through a short post published just after the Congress.

According to the agenda of the Committee of Military Archives meeting in Istanbul one of the topic was CAM activities and specifically the blog results.

We presented the results of the working year 2022/2023 and our considerations in front of all the National Commissions during the General Assembly of the International Commission of Military History on 8th September according to the general program.

Now, we are happy to share more information on the CAM topics touched during our presentation.

The first slide of our presentation in front of the General Assembly

With the agenda the CAM presented:

  • the results of the Committee meeting;
  • the visit to the Istanbul national archives;
  • some updates on our committee;
  • the CAM blog and future activities;
  • the military archives online guide;
  • the CAM on X.

Regarding the meeting information, please see the dedicated post. Moving to the surprise we received at the end of the Congress, we were very happy to be invited for a visit to the Istanbul National Archives (we will dedicate a specific post on it).

Regarding the CAM blog, the steering committee decided to offer an overview of the facts and figures on the working year 2022-2023. On this point, we presented some suggestions to include more contributors.

Giving an overview of the results of the Military Archives Online Guide we can affirm that they are not so enthusiastic but we are still committed to continue our effort in this project.

At the end of the short speech we presented the decision of the CAM steering committee to open an X (former twitter) account in order to increase our visibility on the internet. Ideally, we would like to repost the tweet of national archives on the social network and to revive our job online.

Please feel free to follow us on X!

The conclusions presented by the CAM to the General Assembly

At the end, the CAM steering committee stated the conclusions as follows.

We will:

  • continue to promote our projects;
  • enlarge our actions to the National Commissions within the ICMH;
  • publish other posts on the blog;
  • engage more directly the Military National Archives.

To conclude, the Committee of Military Archives invites all the members of the National Commissions, all the delegates and attendees of the CAM meetings and all the volunteers to engage directly in this blog proposing themes and topics.

We will be more than happy to enjoy together.

8th September 2023, the visit to the National Archives in Istanbul. the CAM representative during the meeting with the Deputy Director, Dr. Sebahattin BAYRAM.

See you soon!

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CAM meeting ICMH Congress military archives

Istanbul 2023

Another fruitful meeting of the CAM

During the International Congress of Military History held in Istanbul between 3 and 8 September 2023, the Committee of Military Archives convenes in Istanbul for the annual meeting.

On 2 September the Committee of Military Archives met in presence in a very nice venue thanks to the availability of the Turkish Commission of Military History.

The meeting started regularly. After the initial discussion on the job done during the working year 2022/2023, the CAM received three presentations by professor Gültekin YILDIZ regarding the Turkish military archives, then colonel Marius CROITORU gave information regarding the Romanian Military Archives and finally our secretary-general Kathleen VAN ACKER presented some reflections on “a new international declassification”.

Eleven persons as national delegates, attendees, scholars from Austria, Belgium, Cameroon, Italy, Romania, Senegal, Türkiye, UK, USA were present.

The Committee of Military Archives thanks the Turkish Commission of Military History for the support provided during the congress.

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CAM meeting ICMH Congress military archives

CAM meeting in Wroclaw

By Flavio Carbone, CAM president

The meeting of the Committee of Military Archives held on 30 August 2022 in Wroclaw, at the Wroclaw University – Institute of History.

The Committe of Military Archives meeting

On 30 August 2022, the Committe of Military Archives convened in Wroclaw in the framework of the XLVII International Congress of Military History on the theme “Defence of the borders in military history” (28 August – 02 September 2021).

The first slide of the presentation during the CAM meeting

According to the agenda of the meeting, the Committee discussed for more than one hour of the main important topics as in the agenda:

– the Athens meeting – the Committee of Military Archives blog: facts and figures – the Military Archives Online Guide – conclusions

Eight attendees (delegates or observers) from 7 countries (Belgium, Italy, Spain, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Senegal).

After a quick introduction by each attendee, the discussion took place touching different topics of our agenda. The steering committee recapitulated the outcomes of the previous meeting held in Athens. Then the main topic was the blog, providing facts and figures, opening the discussion on possible new posts to enlarge the number of contributiors and spread the initiative in a wider community.

The main concern emerged during the meeting related to the Military Archives Online Guide.

The Military Archives Online Guide initiative has been launched since the Congress in Beijing in 2015. Unfortunately, the results were not as expected up to 2022, when the steering committee were able to see the efforts recognised thanks to the effort of Davide Borsani and the webmaster of the ICMH website.

The Military Archives Online Guide project would like to connect all the information regarding the military archives and military funds in other archives in one unique platform, the ICMH website. A dedicated post will be published in the close future.

One of the slides dedicated to the Military Archives Online Guide presenting some numbers

Because of the lack of time, the Committee planned to receive three presentations (by Kathleen Van Acker, Marius Croitoru and Patrick Nefors). Unfortunately, the organisation didn’t plan correctly the timeframe forcing the Committee to find another room available in the late afternoon.

The presentation at the end of the morning was held by our secretary-general, Kathleen Van Acker, speaking on “sources dans les archives: types et expériences”.

The CAM secretary-general presents her paper during the CAM meeting

In the late afternoon, finally we had the opportunity to book another room to continue our meeting and receive the presentations by Marius Croitoru on Romanian military national archives and Patrick Nefors on the Belgian military archives. The presentations will be published in future posts.

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CAM meeting ICMH Congress military archives visit to archives

Poland 2022

New activities in the Committee of Military Archives meetings

28th August-2nd September 2022, Wrocław-Opole, Poland

From 28 August to 2 September 2022, the Polish Commission of Military Hystory hosted the XLVII congress of the International Commission of Military History in Wroclaw and Opole. The CAM agreed with the Polish Commission point of contact, Professor Tomasz Ciesielski, the draft of our activities. So, on 29 August, the Committee, its delegates and other participants visited the Wroclaw State Archive.

29 August 2022, Professor Tomasz Ciesielski introduces the CAM members and other ICMH congress participants to the Wroclaw State Archive

On 30 August the Committee of Military Archives had its first meeting in the morning at the Wroclaw University – Institute of History.

29 August 2022, the CAM Secretary-General introduces her paper on “Sources dans les archives: types et expériences”

The session was suspended because some delegates had other obligations on the same day presenting their papers. So the Committee convened again in the late afternoon in the hotel where the session continued.

29 August 2022, in the afternoon Col Marius Croitoru, Romanian delegate to the CAM, presents the Romanian Military Archive to the Committee.

Initially, with a first tour of the table the delegates and the attendees presented themselves. The first part of the meeting has been reserved to the approval of the minutes of the meeting held in Athens in 2021 (see the post published here). The presentation moved to the Committee of Military Archives blog, providing some facts and figures of the job done along the year September 2021 / August 2022. The steering committee asked for a strong support by the delegates and the friends of the CAM in order to launch the Military Archives Online Guide harvesting campaign during the year September 2022 / August 2023. Finally, the presentation ended with some conclusions agreed by the delegates.

Because of the lack of time, the Committee decided to meet again in the late afternoon thanks to the availability of the meeting rooms booked in the hotel. During the second phase of the meeting the delegates received the presentation of the Romanian Military Archives (see the post published in our blog) by their director, Colonel Marius Croitoru, and the archives of the Belgian War Heritage Institute by Dr. Patrick Nefors.

On 1 September, the congress moved to Opole, hosting one of the session at the Opole State Archive. Thanks to the full support of the Opole Archive Director, Professor Miroslav Lenart, the CAM members and other participants to the congress had the opportunity to visit the archives briefly.

Opole 1st September 2022, the CAM steering committee together with Marius Croitoru, Romanian delegate to the Committee, and other participants to the congress in front of the Opole State Archive main entrance.

In other posts, the steering committee will present the visits to the State Archives in Poland.

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ICMH Congress military archives

Declassification and GDPR in military archives

By Kathleen Van Acker, Archivist with the section Classified Archives (Belgian Ministry of Defense).

The Committee of Military Archives thanks Kathleen Van Acker, our Secretary General, for her committment and her participation to this blog after she presented “new privacy rules and declassificationin Belgium during the 2021 CAM meeting

A topic that is always present during CAM meetings is the classification and declassification of military archives. This year we once more discussed this topic, exchanging views and practices.

It was also part of my presentation. However classified information and declassification is only one problem archivists have to deal with. In my opinion privacy can be a much more difficult topic when dealing with information in military files. Both topics were discussed in my briefing where I presented the section Classified Archives (Belgian Ministry of Defense) and our regulations and methods for dealing with classified information and personal data.

An example of a declassified document in the section Classified Archives

Classified information and classified archives.

Military archives contain classified information, this is a reality military archivist have to work with.

They have to walk the thin line between providing information to researchers and be careful not to break the rules on classification or give information which may endanger national security or individuals.

Does this mean that classified archives are by no means accessible to researchers? No, after all the purpose of classification is to protect information, and not to keep information away from the public. 

With the passage of time classified information can become less sensitive, and may be declassified and made public.

In Belgian law only the person who classified the document can declassify the document or give his/her permission to declassify (art.5 de la Loi relative à la classification et aux habilitations de sécurité, 11 décembre 1998) Which means that a lot of requests are send to ask for declassification. This procedure is used in “ad hoc” demands: A researchers asks for information, the archivists scan the files and if they find a classified document they evaluate whether the information is still sensible. If not, they send a request to the person, organisation (or his successor) with a demand to declassify. When they get the official permission, the documents and/or file is also officially declassified and open to the public.

A second method is used for larger archives. It treats complete archive funds that are being declassified and transferred to the War Heritage Museum or the National Archives as a whole. The most recent example is the archive fund of World War I which was declassified and transferred to the War Heritage Museum. This procedure takes a lot of time. First a detailed inventory is made of the archives, including remarks about potential sensible documents. The inventory is examined by the Commission of Archives, which gives its permission to declassify, followed by an official declassification note from the Minister of Defense.

The presentation held by Kathleen Van Acker during the Congress in Athens on 29 August 2021

Personal data protection.

Archivists are used to dealing with personal data protection, but for the last couple of years the protection  of those data has been under steady attention and as a result of that the protection measures have become more and more extensive. 

Since 25 May 2018 we have the GDPR or General Data Protection Regulation in the EU, a binding legislative act which must be applied across the Union. The key principle of the GDPR is data minimisation. To use the terminology in the GDPR: “Personal data should be collected and processed only if it is really necessary to do so (…) only as long as it is necessary in order to achieve the purpose for which the personal data was collected” (art.5).

Luckily the GDPR left some room for exemptions, one of them is “archiving purposes in the public interest”, or archives would no longer contain any personal data in the future.
EU lawmakers acknowledged that archives are important and even necessary to enforce fundamental and democratic rights an stated that “personal data may be stored for longer periods insofar as the personal data will be processed solely for archiving purposes in the public interest, scientific or historical research purposes”(art.5).

This definition can be confusing to people not dealing with this kind of information, but they can trust archives services: they will not disclose their personal data incorrectly, because:

  • Archivists only select those documents for permanent preservation that are necessary for historical research or to enforce human rights;
  • Storing personal data is not the same as giving access: the closure period can vary in different countries. 

Important for historical research is that the GDPR protects personal data of living persons, not the personal data of deceased persons. It seems simple, but how can archivists know that the person is deceased? They can assume that persons born more than hundred years ago are no longer alive. In cases where the 100-years mark isn’t reached, archivists can ask for a prove of decease (eg. an obituary). 

The poster related to the exposition “History of the Belgian Military Intelligence and Security Service”.

It is clear that in case of a declassification request and handling personal data, archivists will have to make case-by-case assessments. Much to the frustrations of researchers sometimes, these procedures take time and a lot of careful consideration, but I learned that informing the researchers about this way of working and the tight legislation we have to deal with, makes them understand the delays or the refusal to access in the worst case. 

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CAM meeting ICMH Congress

Athens, August 2021

The Committe of Military Archives meeting

On 29th August 2021, the Committe of Military Archives convened in Athens in the framework of the XLVI International Congress of Military History on the theme “Independence wars since the XVIII Century” (29 August – 03 September 2021).

The Hellenic Military Archives presentation by Pigi Kalogeraton

According to the agenda of the meeting, the Committee discussed for 2 hours of the main important topics as in the agenda. Ten attendees (delegates or observers) from 8 countries (Belgium, Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Romania, Turkey and USA).

After a quick introduction by each attendee, the discussion took place and then two presentations were held by Pigi Kalogerakou (on the Hellenic Military Archives within the Ministry of Defence) and Kathleen Van Acker (new privacy rules and declassification). The presentations will be published in future posts.

The Hellenic Military Archives presentation by Pigi Kalogeraton (2)

The first main outcome is connected an initiative that the Committee launched some years ago. The CAM decided to continue the project launched by the previous steering committee led by Michael Steidel, the Online Guide of Military Archives

The Online Guide of Military Archives project (see below the ICMH Newsletter n. 35 – June 2021, pp. 20-21 where there is an history of the guide as well) has the aim to become a gateway the help researchers and scholars to find the most important military archives or archives with significant military archival funds.

The form is very simple and it takes about 30 minutes to be filled with the all the relevant information. No specific requirements are needed to fill the form.

At the moment, a first group of national commissions members of the ICMH sent the template filled as proposed (the template is available in the ICMH Newsletter as above, p. 22). As far as a second group of national commissions will send other filled forms, the Guide will be available on-line on the ICMH website. The subsequent forms will be added subsequently.

The declassification process presentation by Kathleen Van Acker

The second main outcome of the discussion was related to “Mars&Janus”, the CAM newsletter according to the Statutes. The newsletter has not been published since 2010. So to re-launch the information strategy of the Committe, it has been approved to transform the newletter in a permanent blog hosted on line (here the presentation). There are some reasons behind the decision. The most important, in our view, is to spread as much as we can the information and products that CAM received.

So the steering committee of the CAM decided to move to Hypotheses.org because it is a platform for humanities and social science research blogs. The texts are in open access and they are not intended at specialists solely; in this regard it could be raise more to a broad audience.

The results of the meeting have been presented to the general assembly of the International Commission of Military History on 3 September 2021.

 
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