Following the decision to closure Reykjavík’s Municipal Archive, the Icelandic Society of Historians has called upon university professors, history teachers, and all others with an interest in the preservation of historical documents to speak out against the budget saving measure.
Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson’s proposal was approved by the Reykjavík City Council last week, March 2, with a four-member majority. The measure was proposed in a report by accounting firm KPMG, which outlined future possibilities for the archive, and their respective costs to the city. Under the mayor’s proposal, operations of the Reykjavík Municipal Archive would be combined with the National Archives, with a focus on digital preservation. While the Reykjavík Municipal Archive would cease to be an independent entity, the documents contained there would be digitised under the plan.
The Society of Historians likewise urged the Reykjavík City Council to postpone all decisions on the future of the archive until relevant experts can be consulted.
The Society of Historians stated: “It is not intended to cast doubt on the ability of the National Museum to take care of this project […] However, it would be a step backwards if the nation’s largest municipality was the first to close down its archives. It is also harmful that this is being done without consultation or cooperation of the archive or other experts. It is important, especially in the age of disinformation and fake news to not reduce our ability to preserve and communicate history.”
The society has also raised questions of the future of other cultural and historical institutions given this precedent.
Working Group Appointed
In response to some of these criticisms, Minister of Culture and Trade Lilja Dögg Alfreðsdóttir has appointed a working group to assess the future organisation of archives, and to create a strategy for the digitisation and long-term storage of archival documents.
According to Lilja, “There have been major changes in the activities of archives both in Iceland and abroad, and their administrative role has increased at the expense of their cultural and research role. It is imperative that a comprehensive review be made of how the future arrangement of archives will be arranged, how to accelerate the adoption of digital solutions, to use economies of scale and to explore possibilities for further cooperation.”
The working group is to deliver a report on their finding no later than September 10, 2023.