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Archive

1. HISTORY OF THE BNE ARCHIVE

Concern for the organisation and system of the Biblioteca Nacional Archive dates back to the 18th century. The Constitutions of the Real Bibliotheca, enacted by Charles III on 11 December 1761, devote a whole chapter, XI, to the Archive: “There will be an Archive with three keys where the Accounts, Accounting books, Details and Register that have been concluded, Orders, Letters, Memorials, Inventories and other Papers and Instruments belonging to the Real Bibliotheca will be kept. One of the keys will be kept by the Senior Librarian, the other by the oldest Librarian and the third by whoever is in charge of the Archive; and this Librarian will be responsible for organising it and drafting an inventory and an up-to-date Index of all the papers therein, as stipulated in Chap. VIII. Num. VI. of these Constitutions”. Almost one century later, article 63 of the Royal Decree of 7 January 1857, enacting the Regulations governing the Biblioteca Nacional, stipulated that the Official Secretary should act as Archivist and keep “in good order all the papers and documents that should be kept in the Library and pertain to its history, system and organisation”.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Biblioteca Nacional Archive was divided and its documentation was split into two parts: Historic and administrative. Indeed, the Royal Decree of 18 October 1901, which enacted the regulations governing the system and service of State-funded public libraries, included the “responsibility for the archives of the respective establishments” in the remit of their Secretaries, bringing in an important new provision in the case of the Biblioteca Nacional, where “the Catalogues and Inventories not in use, old accounts already approved by the Court, personnel files of deceased staff members, literary correspondence, the registers and other documents that are not expected to be required for regular buiness, will form an independent series for the history of the establishment in its Manuscripts Section” (art. 26.1). However, this provision would not be strictly complied with, and part of the Archive then known as “Secretariat books and papers” would be mixed with the manuscripts collections, even being given the call numbers pertaining to this section. This explains why it is difficult today to find part of the documentation belonging the Archive, because some of the call numbers originally given to documents do not correspond with those in use today.

Article 42 of the Order of the National Education Ministry of 20 December 1957, enacting the new Biblioteca Nacional Regulations, defines the remit of the General Secretary as the head of administrative services. Among the duties of the latter are “conserving and maintaining the Administrative Archive of the Biblioteca Nacional in perfect order and drawing up statistics and an Annual Report.”

The lesser role that the Archive has played within the Biblioteca Nacional in recent years reached its lowest point midway through the 1980's. Royal Decree 848/1986, of 25 April, which defined the functions and basic organic structure of the Biblioteca Nacional, eliminated the General Secretariat, amongst other bodies, and from then on there was no BNE official in charge of the institution's Archive. This situation coincided with the start of renovation works on the building in Paseo de Recoletos, which had fatal consequences for the Archive. After it was moved around a number of times with no supervision and no one in charge of its integrity, it became totally disordered. In 2002, an archivist position was created and occupied by an official from the Cuerpo Facultativo de Archiveros, Bibliotecarios y Arqueólogos, and programmes were set up to organise and describe the documentary assets.

2. CLASSIFICATION CHART

The Archive of the Biblioteca Nacional de España conserves documentation of great importance, not only for studying the institution but for understanding the cultural history of Spain in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

The provisional classification chart shown below is the result of ongoing work to identify the documentation. It reflects how the Biblioteca Nacional documentary assets are organised and provides basic details on their structure (section and series names and start and end dates). The disparity in the information provided from one section to another is due to the fact that the chart is provisional and that the documentation identification tasks have not yet been concluded.

The documentation currently conserved in the depositories of the Biblioteca Nacional Archive extends to approximately 540 metres. Only one tenth of the total has hitherto been organised and described. The offices of the different services and departments comprising the body hold a considerable volume of documentation, which will shortly be transferred to the Archive.

Download the classification chart