The City Archives of Helsinki
Name: Helsinki City Archives
The City of Helsinki's first archive was for many centuries a reinforced chest in which was kept the most important property and accounting documents as well as records of the administrative and city courts. From the 19th century on, the general practice was to keep the growing volume of records in department attics and cellars, and in the secretarial rooms of the different bodies. In the early decades of the 20th century, this type of archiving was still common.
Serious steps were first taken to plan a city archive for Helsinki in 1929, but the founding of the archive was delayed until 1945. For the first decades of its existence the City Archives had to operate in very inadequate and decentralised premises and its work focused on the collection of old archive material and putting this material into good order.
After a long wait, the City Archives obtained its present archive and office premises at the Kallio department building in 1965, and it has operated in this location ever since. The archive space is estimated to be sufficient until at least the year 2010. The Helsinki City Archives merged with the City of Helsinki Urban Facts in 1990, after 45 years as an independent department.
The City Archives has throughout its existence focused on records management alongside storage, information and research services. Since the 1970s the City Archives has also engaged in document conservation and has actively arranged exhibitions.
The Helsinki City Archives has 11 kilometres of document shelves. The oldest documents date from the early 18th century and the latest from the 1990s. Most of the archive material consists of municipal department and institute archives but there is also a full kilometre of private archives. Large and important archives include the city administrative court, the city council and the city board, city planning and school archives. Among the most interesting private archives are those of the cancelled 1940 Olympic Games and the Olympics held in 1952.
City departments must send all documents older than 20 years old requiring long-term preservation to the City Archives for safe-keeping. If some department stops operating, it must send more recent documents to the City Archives as well. Private archives are sent to the City Archives by Helsinki organisations, small companies, families, housing companies and private individuals. Because there are many specialist field archives in Finland such as those of trade unions, political parties, business life and sporting bodies, the City Archives do not collect these types of archives.
An archive catalogue has been prepared of all the archives stored in the City Archives. In addition, the City Archives has a general catalogue published in book form and on the Internet. Many kinds of special directories are also available.
For the use of researchers, the City Archives has a powerful copier, many microfilm reading and copying machines, and one microfilm digitisation device. The City Archives has a library that sheds light on the history of Helsinki. Researchers also have at their disposal one microcomputer offering connections to the Internet and library catalogues.