A public service open to all, the Municipal Archives, whose beginnings date back to the Middle Ages, are involved in bringing together and making known the sources of the city’s and its people’s history.
The origin of the municipal Archives dates back to the foundation of the town council of Bordeaux, known as Jurade, at the end of the XII century, thanks to the privileges given by the Dukes of Aquitaine, Aliénor of Aquitaine and Jean-sans-Terre.
In 1377, a first written trace recounts the appointment of the first three known archivists: Arnaud Vital, Vital de Villeneuve and Etienne Gueyraud, public notaries. The Archives followed the Jurade to its different locations: Saint-Eloi town hall, the old middle school of Guyenne in 1773, the middle school of Madeleine (today known as the lycée Montaigne) in 1889 and finally to the Rohan Palais, from 1835.
The fire, which gutted the city hall during the night of July 13 1862, was a major drama in the history of the Bordeaux archives: with the flames rapidly reaching the documents, they were watered and thrown out of windows into the gardens, where they stayed for a week before being grouped together in several successive sites.
The result was an irreparable loss and a total disorganization of medieval and Ancient Regime documents, and this is still visible today.
In 1864, the Archives moved to their new premises within the city hall. They were housed in the pavilion in the north-west aisle, overlooking the garden.
In the 1920s, the storage units were completely full. Having no possibility to extend the premises, the city council decided to move in 1936. The chosen site was the Hôtel de Ragueneau which had been disused since the abolition of the municipal octroi (an entrance tax on goods) on January 1 1928. The new archives centre opened its doors to the public on March 16 1939. It offered very modern conditions for the time: a vast reading room, metal, free standing storage units, an exhibition room in the hall and also in the anteroom of the city archivist.
With the storage units reaching saturation point at the end of the 1950s, extensions were built (1959 and 1981). An annex was brought into service in 1993.
This facility meant it has been and is still possible today to continue collecting archives from the city administration, collections of private origin and several tens of thousands of iconographic documents.
Today, the Bordeaux municipal Archives store 12 linear kilometers of documents of all kinds, registries, stacks, maps, engravings, photographs, digital data, which makes it one of the main municipal archive holdings in France, alongside cities such as Lyon, Marseille or Toulouse.
In 2015, the municipal Archives will move to the right bank of the Garonne River, into the premises of the old Magasins Généraux, which has been renovated and transformed into a cultural establishment by the Belgian architects Robbrecht en Daem.