The cooperation between the Nordic National Archives
Joint history of the Nordic countries
The Nordic countries, in Northern Europe, consist of five national states Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden and three autonomous regions, the Åland Islands, the Faroe Islands and Greenland.
The joint history of the Nordic countries and cultural origins, related language, similar values and administrative traditions make it easy for them to learn from each other by sharing knowledge and experience. That is the fundamental goal in the cooperation and it has benefited all the nations.
Each country is small but together they can accomplish more than each country on its own. Iceland has 330 thousand inhabitants, Denmark, Norway and Finland between 5 and 6 million and Sweden over 9 million. The population in the Nordic countries is little over 26 million people.
The national archives
The number of staff in all the national archives put together is around 1300 people (Denmark 250, Sweden 450, Norway 350, Finland 250 and Iceland 30. Åland Islands, the Faroe Islands and Greenland around 20), certainly not much in comparison to big countries, but it makes cooperation easier.
Cross-boundary cooperation, on various levels, evolved in the last century. It involves employees on all levels and it has proofed to be very relevant and rewarding. It increases quality and effectiveness. Therefore it has grown from one decade to the next.
Today it consists of these main factors:
- The Nordic Archives Conference,
- The publication of The Nordic Archives Journal (Nordisk Arkivnyt),
- Annual meetings of National Archivists,
- Regular expert seminars,
- The West Nordic Archives Conference
- The Nordic Archives Day,
- Benchmarking activities,
- A joint website, Nordisk Arkivportal
The Nordic Archives Conference
The Nordic conference of archivists grew out of the Nordic Historical Conferences that started early in the 19th century. The first Nordic Archives Conference was held in Stockholm in 1935 with 70 delegates. They have been held every third year. Each country takes turns in hosting it. And they have slowly grown in size. In 1971 the number of delegates was over 100 and now they are around 450.
This conference is open for all personnel in the Nordic archival community, both the public and the private sector. From this base, the Nordic Archival networks have widened and strengthened their cooperation.
In these conferences, all major themes or topics in the archives have been presented and discussed. They include the construction of archives, education for archivists, archives as research institutions, acquisition and disposal, archives and the agencies, archives catalogues, Long-term preservation of digital records, digitalization and access.
The Nordic Archives Journal
The archives conferences that started in 1935 met the need for cooperation for the first twenty years. In the Nordic Archives Conference in 1954, it was suggested to launch a Nordic journal for archivists. This was approved and the first issue was published in 1956.
The name Nordisk Arkivnyt means The Nordic Archives Journal. It brings news from the public state archives four times each year. It is printed in 1900 copies.
Its purpose is, like the conference’s, to give and receive information from all countries. The journal is distributed to all employees for free. Besides that, about 140 copies are distributed to individuals and libraries.
An editorial committee with one person from each country runs the journal. This committee meets once a year. In the near future, The Nordic Archives Journal will be published electronically.
Annual meetings of the general directors
Annual meetings of the Nordic National Archivists (the general directors) have been held regularly since the early 1980’s, sometimes they even meet twice a year.
The purpose of these meetings is similar as in other elements of our cooperation: Exchanging of ideas and experience. The director generals have the responsibility to plan joint arrangements and to plan the future.
A rather grand name Nordic Archives Academy was chosen for the very important educational network that the National Archives together are running. It is mainly seminars for experts. A forum where they meet, examine and discuss the challenges in their field. Usually, there is one seminar a year. Each country takes turns in holding it. Usually, between 20 and 30 experts attend them. Topics that have been studied in these seminars are for example Digital archiving, access and security.
Expert seminars for those who work with long-term preservation of digital records have been regularly held, every third year, since 1986.
Regular expert seminars (Nordisk Arkivakademi)
The West Nordic Archives Conference
In 1999 the national archives in the West Nordic countries (Iceland, Greenland, Faroe Islands) held for the first time a conference for their employees. The conference is held the year before The Nordic Archives Conference. Its aims are to raise the professionalism and competence of archivists in these very small archival communities. It was first held in Iceland 1999 and since then it has been held in turns in the other west Nordic nations. Delegates are few, around 30 each time. In 2002 the conference was in the Faroe Islands, in 2005 it was in Greenland, then in 2008 it was held again in Iceland, in 2011 it was arranged for the second time in the Faroe Islands and in 2014 it was the second time in Greenland.
The Nordic Archives Day
A joint outreach project, The Nordic Archives Day, started in 2001. It is held on the same day in all countries, the second Saturday in November, but sometimes the activities stretch over more days. Every third year the same theme is in all the countries. The Nordic Archives Day is coordinated by a Committee with members from all Nordic countries.
The goals of the Nordic Archives Day are:
- To raise the profile of the archives amongst the general public, politicians, decision-makers and funding bodies.
- To encourage new users to come to the archives. And therefore one of the most common activities on that day is to have an open house with presentations and exhibitions.
- To change the image of the domain and the archive profession and involve the archival community, in its broadest sense, in developing greater confidence in the archives.
- The Archives Day has in most places been a good step in reaching to the public. It has changed the way people see archives and also changed how the archives see themselves their work and role.
A new step towards changing ideas and practical experience is to let experts from all five countries benchmark some issues or tasks that the state archives have. Since 2005, five benchmarking reports have been published. They clarify the challenges in a specific field in each country and are guidelines for how to improve the work in that particular field – and get better results.
Benchmarking reports made by experts from all five countries:
A joint website
In 2013 the national archivists decided to create a Nordic website for the Nordic National Archives, to present and house all the joint activities the archives have. The portal for the Nordic National Archives is established with support from the Nordic council of ministers.
Thus, on the one hand, increasing the visibility of our cooperation to those outside the archives, and on the other hand giving the staff better access to information on what has been done so far, and to see what is on the agenda each time.