Controversy over State Archives appointment, ANAI: let it be an opportunity to reflect on critical issues

The Italian National Archival Association (ANAI) has intervened on the highly contested appointment of Andrea De Pasquale as superintendent of the Central State Archives. For ANAI, the affair should be occasions to reflect on the dramatic critical issues in the sector.

On the matter of the appointment of Andrea De Pasquale as superintendent of theCentral State Archives in Rome, theItalian National Archival Association (ANAI) has also intervened, following the much controversy aroused by the appointment, which was also followed by a note from Culture Minister Dario Franceschini, to express its considerations on the matter. ANAI spoke on both issues, that of competence and that of politics.

On the first point, ANAI speficia that “we do not consider it appropriate to express ourselves on the candidates’ curricula or their evaluation which, institutionally, is up to other bodies. It is the primary task of our Association to protect and defend the profession, without entering into the merits of individual career paths. And we want to recall that in the past, too, the Association has been unwilling to comment on appointments that have placed people without specific training at the head of archival institutes, even those of primary importance. Such choices by the Ministry are the inevitable consequence of the ill-considered policy of strong weakening of the Administration’s staff, especially of management positions, implemented for at least two decades and which our Association has loudly and forcefully contested in the numerous documents prepared and in the initiatives organized on several occasions.”

Regarding the political implications of the appointment, ANAI reiterates, “we understand the concerns, and we cannot help but make our own the vigilant attention of the Associations of the families of the victims of terrorism so that the process of desecrating and making available documents on the events that constitute a central juncture in the recent history of our country is defended and strengthened. That path has long been tortuous and made difficult by attitudes that have not always been cooperative on the part of state bodies in the long battle to establish the truth about the massacres. We are fully aware of the concrete risks, already noted, that the application of directives not implemented with due scientific rigor and civic conscience entails. In this sense we have long shared all the concerns expressed in this regard by the families of the victims and never yet fully dispelled, regardless even of the case now raised. We would like to emphasize, however, that the Associations of the families of the victims perform an important function of stimulating and controlling the operations of pouring and making available the documentation on the massacres through the Advisory Committee, a collegial body composed not only of the Superintendent of the Central State Archives, who coordinates it, but also of a representative of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, of scholars of repute, and of representatives of the Archival Administration. It is also thanks to the work of this Committee, and to the role played by the Associations and all the other components, that it has been possible to arrive in recent weeks at the issuance of the new Draghi Directive, which also marks, in the forms of desecration and in the method of disbursements, some steps forward in the direction of overcoming the limitations of the previous Directives, repeatedly repeatedly denounced, including recently at a conference dedicated to the subject and organized precisely by ANAI, in collaboration with the Flamigni Archives and the Central State Archives. However, the knot of adequate funding for a real implementation of the directives still remains unresolved. But, we want to strongly emphasize, it is the commitment and expertise of State archivists that are the most effective form of reassurance with respect to the fears feared in the operations of acquisition, description and communication of declassified documentation. It is precisely these competencies that represent the most robust guarantee of impartiality in the exercise of protection aimed at making available to all the entire archival heritage converged in the institutes, regardless of the historical or moral judgment on their producer subjects, according to the dictate of Article 9 and the often forgotten Article 21 of the Constitution of the Republic.”

As for the case of theacquisition of the Rauti archive, ANAI points out “that often an archive, and in particular that of a public personality, does not constitute an objective and neutral mirror of the existential path of the subject who produced it, but its self-representation that the heirs, material and spiritual, not infrequently try to consolidate and reaffirm. Let this reflection, which has been frequently forgotten even in the past, serve as a warning, not so much to diminish the potential as a historical source of such archives, which indeed precisely because of their nature and gaps take on multiple meanings, as to remind all those who approach them ? archivists, librarians, historians, researchers ? that the exercise of rigorous criticism is essential to sorting them, describing them, consulting them and using them within their own paths of study. The recent transition of the Central State Archives to a first-level executive office, as well as its designation as the site deputed to the construction of the preservation pole for the digital archives of central and peripheral state bodies, has been appreciated by the entire archivists and interpreted as a political act of clear commitment on the part of the Minister to give prominence to archives, and in particular, to the Institute that preserves the memory of the unified State, together with that of women and men from politics, the world of culture, the arts and the economic life of the country and who had an important part in its history. It is precisely because of this key role that the Central State Archives would have deserved long ago to be talked about so much.” The ANAI explains that “for too many years now, the Institute has been in dire straits, plagued by increasingly serious staff shortages, an inadequate staffing plan and shrinking services to users, but also by the lack of space in the repositories for new acquisitions, the (irreversible?) of its facilities, without the frequent alarms raised by the Archival Administration and the numerous complaints of our Association, as well as others and others, ever having found a concrete hearing.”

For ANAI, in conclusion, the confrontation of these weeks could be an opportunity to put the critical issues of the Central State Archives and the other institutes at the center of the table, “finally giving life to a series of extraordinary interventions that will put institutes and staff in the conditions to operate and fulfill their mission. It will be the interventions in favor of the archives that will put the most solid and concrete embankment against the fears of manipulation and concealment of the documentary heritage in which the history of our country is represented. For the sake of clarity, while we are still debating, and probably will be debating for a long time, as the Minister’s statements have by no means dampened the controversy, we would like to reiterate what are the fixed points and the common sentiments that animate us, beyond the evaluations of the individual case: the centrality of archivists’ skills in any operation of preservation, valorization and accessibility of protected documents; the civil and we would like to say constitutional value of archivists’ tasks; the utmost concern for the proper and transparent management of all documentation and especially that connected to painful and unforgettable moments in recent history. A concern that we share not only with the families of the victims but with all democratic citizens.”

Controversy over State Archives appointment, ANAI: let it be an opportunity to reflect on critical issues
Controversy over State Archives appointment, ANAI: let it be an opportunity to reflect on critical issues

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