Archives History and Mandate
From its creation, the Library was intended to be the custodian of the League’s institutional memory. At the planning stage of the building, in the 1930s, a large space was reserved to house a League of Nations Museum. At the same time, the League of Nations Library started developing archival collections on the history of international relations. In 1931, an essential archival "fonds" on the Peace Movement was acquired: the private papers of Alfred Fried and Bertha von Suttner, Austrian Pacifists from the end of the nineteenth century. These archives, along with the Museum Collections, formed the Historical Collections of the Library.
In 1946, at the demise of the League, the Library, and all other League of Nations assets - i.e. the archives of the Secretariat and the building -, were turned over to the newly created United Nations. While some of the League's files were transferred to the Departments and Sections of the United Nations Secretariat to serve as the foundations of their administrative or political activities, the bulk of the League's archives was kept in the vaults of the Palais des Nations.
In the late 1950s, at a time when historians started focusing their attention on the League of Nations archives, the files that had been transferred to New York gradually found their way back to Geneva, and were placed under the custody of the Library. Thanks to funds offered by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the League of Nations archives were classified, lists were established, and the archives were finally opened to the general public in 1969. The League of Nations Archives and Historical Collections became a Library Unit, and a special Reading Room was established within the Library's premises.
During the same period, the UNOG registry and records management functions were placed under the authority of the Administration Division, General Services.
In June 2000, having identified the need to reform records management procedures, and to ensure a stronger coordination between records management and the management of historical archives, the UNOG Director-General transferred all UNOG archive-related functions to the Library. With this transfer, the mandate of the Records, Registry and Archives Unit is as follows:
- Coordination of records management for all UNOG departments (including UNOG Administration, Conference Services and Information Divisions, as well as the Secretariat of the Economic Commission for Europe, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development);
- Management of all historical archives for the League of Nations (1919-1946), and for UNOG (from 1945);
- Management of the collection of League of Nations Official Documents;
- Management of the League of Nations Museum;
- Management of the UNOG Photo Library.
Semi-current records and historical archives represent a total of 10 linear kilometres of textual records.