Archivum Rhenanum: Project and portal of German and French archives on the upper Rhine. A workshop report.

Lecture at ICARUS-meeting, 26.6.2013, Dublin; Elisabeth Steiger/city archives Speyer


In my presentation I will briefly introduce a German-French project.

1.    Introduction 

The short-title of the project is “Archivum Rhenanum”, it’s a cross-border project. Archivum Rhenanum runs under the support of the ‘Interreg IV Upper Rhine “. It has a term from January 2013 to the summer of 2015. The European Regional Development Fund financed the project with about 156,000 EURO. The program is also implemented and promoted by Switzerland (as a Non-EU-Member).

 From the German side, the states of Baden-Württemberg and Rheinland-Pfalz are involved. From France, the two departments in Alsace are involved.

The output considerations are:

A long common history of ups and downs

Tradition problems because of a distributed storage 

Research problems = caused by history, language, archives …

 The portal as solution

 Archive and the Internet: Research tools (= catalogs) – Bullet point “retroconversion”

 Digital presentations (it´s for charters): how much percent is possible?!

  Digitization: Virtual reconstruction of tradition, service orientation, conservation

 Basic question:

  • Portals as aggregators (DDB Europeana …)
  • Easier accesss for smaller archives through regional portals

Here you can see the possibilities of the Interreg-promoting, if you take the whole of the European Union in the view. In the north of Switzerland the producing zone for the Upper Rhine is located. There is also the project located.

2.  Starting position

Now a few words to the beginning of the project and its starting position: Especially cross-border projects show us the need for virtual reconstruction of historical tradition. This is also perceived by the public. And also the political and administrative decision-makers in regional bodies can be convinced.

In the archives of the Upper Rhine different sources are retained. They are a cultural asset that plays a role for the memory and the backbone of a touristic and cultural presentation and marketing of the Upper Rhine region and its monuments. The distributed storage in archives on both sides of the Rhine (and so in two or three countries) has led to researches which terminate very often at the present border, the Rhine. Due to the varied history of the region, the cross border reconstruction of tradition has been a great desideratum. The conclusion: The historic memory, which is kept in the archives of the upper Rhine, is a “difficult memory”.

The reasons are:

The region and its inhabitants frequently changed their nationality, once the one side was occupied by France, several times the Alsace was occupied by Germany.
Many residents had to flee after or during the wars.

3.  Project partners

Who works with the project? As co-financing partners, the two Alsatian regional archives (Archives départementales du Haut-Rhin/Colmar; Archives départementales du Bas-Rhin/Straßburg), the big Generallandesarchiv Karlsruhe, the city archives of Freiburg and of Speyer are involved. A project can only be successful if it is embedded and linked to many institutions and partners in the region.

This is documented by the participation of almost 25 other clubs, archives and scientific institutions in “Archivum Rhenanum”. Some other archives have indicated an interest in working together. ICARUS is also on board.

4.   Project goals 

One of the primary project goals is the extensive digitization of archival materials with cross-border implications. These are supplemented by deepened development work as well as conservation measures. A common portal with German and French surface is intended to facilitate the access to digital networked presentations: Currently, the construction of this portal is in progress. In addition to deciding on a product, of course, there are also questions to clarify concerning the import or export of data and of images; also possibilities of presentation and editing (keyword: collaboration, crowdsourcing), and of course the long-term availability of the portal. The portal will also include comprehensive information of the cross-border tradition-situation on the Upper Rhine. It is also provided to enable searches in larger contexts (for example in the German Digital Library, the Europeana and other online offerings from archives) beyond the portal. The central medium for all project partners and for the mediation of the project in the region’s population will be a bilingual website.

Since November 2012, a German and a French blog based on the easy-to-use software “Word Press” are available. The two blogs are interactive and open for the communication with users. New posts are easy to put online and can easily be “shared”. That of course also meets the EU requirements for communication and mediation of the project to the public.

You may already see it:

The integration in the Digital Humanities is secured: The Franco-German humanities blog portal “” forms the perfect background for the blogs. There we have already made very good experiences with our conference blog on the subject Web 2.0. Other applications of social media complete the offer of “Archivum Rhenanum”. The project workers regularly tweet (@ARhenanum or @ARhenanum_fr) and also use their own Facebook pages and the image-network “Pinterest”.

5. Key activities

The key activities in the project will deal with the medieval stocks and archival documents until the end of the 16th century. An extension of the project for later periods, that is up to the large German-French conflicts of the 19th and the first half of the 20th century, is provided. 

6.  Outlook

The involved archives will take various measures during the project to make it a success. In addition to the development and the editing of the archive collections of course digitization will stand in the foreground. The permanent presentation will be made ​​possible through the still built up (bilingual) portal. For all projects demanded by the EU, mediation to the public is essential: The in principal singularly existing cultural heritage of archives is presented as “historical memory”. During the project, a historical regional network should be established and deepened. Through regular events and meetings, the project should be made known.

The project has been presented to the public in the context of kick-off events in Colmar and Freiburg in February 2012. A number of ensuing lectures and presentations and especially the press reports clearly show that the kept safe of archives historical “heritage on the Rhine” is an important subject. From this perspective the project also seems to have potential to be respected beyond the narrow archival sphere.


So, at the end of my presentation we can only hope that the project helps to deepen these already  in many areas of life existing bridges between the regions on the Upper Rhine. The archives protect the (historical) “heritage on the Rhine”, so they are the justified supporters of a project for the presentation of cultural heritage on the Upper Rhine!

Thank you very much for your attention! 


Joachim Kemper

Stadt- und Stiftsarchiv Aschaffenburg

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Joachim Kemper (1. Juli 2013). Archivum Rhenanum: Project and portal of German and French archives on the upper Rhine. A workshop report. Archivum Rhenanum. Abgerufen am 20. Juli 2024 von

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