The Historical Archive and the Documentary Centre

Written by  Enrico Spinelli

An original cultural design with a strategically important future.

Since 1753, Palazzo Paradiso and its Library have been well known as an essential point of reference for the city, representing its distinctive cultural tradition: between the Renaissance and the twentieth century, through Ariosto and Tasso, from Monti to Govoni, the collections of the Ariostea Library are an allegory for literary Ferrara. Today a new element is in place: the book collection from via Scienze has been united with the documentary deposit which, after centuries of accumulation, will be housed in the new seat of the Archivio Storico Comunale. The archive’s new home is a modern building – formerly the “Garibaldi” school – in via Giuoco del pallone, recently refurbished in order to preserve the cultural heritage of the Comune. The Municipal Historical Archive, so close to the Ariostea in both ideal and reality, is to original documents what the city’s Library is to books. In this way the two are closely connected, creating an original cultural innovation: the Documentary Centre. Other ancient archives, such as that that of the Este family or the Papal Legation, have been lost - the first transferred to Modena along with the splendid Ducal Library, the second destroyed in the course of operations during the last world war. So the Comune’s Archive today represents an indispensable documentary resource: its papers reflect the city’s history continuously from the 14th to the 20th century. The Historical Archive is now housed in one of the most modern headquarters the Region can offer, conceived expressly for the conservation of documents. The original building has been modified through a complex project by the architect Lidia Spano, which has rendered the structure ideally suited for housing the Institute and the services it provides. On the first floor is the area dedicated to the public, with a Reading Room and the various necessary research tools (inventories, indices, catalogues etc).There is a space for cultural activities such as seminars, exhibitions and teaching, and then an office area. On the two floors above as well as the lower ground floor there are document storage areas, with systems for the constant monitoring of temperature and humidity. The structure is protected by anti-theft and anti-fire security devices; the documents are conserved in special dual fronted metal shelving units, of a ‘compact’ type, on rolling stacks. The furnishing is modern but retains a substantial quantity of antique elements taken from the original municipal archive or from the Ariostea Library. Old and new coexist in a functional and aesthetically harmonious fashion. The Institute is equipped with special facilities and technology: the dedicated Photographic Collection Room and the Restoration Room serve both the Archive and the Ariostea, which will share services, organisation and work projects. The Institute also runs and edits the special Online Portal SIA.Fe

(Archive Information System of Ferrara), certified by UNESCO, promoting knowledge of the regional archives of various kinds and origins via the web.

The recent location of the University of Ferrara’s Department of Historical Sciences and the University Institute for Advanced Study (Istituto Universitario di Studi Superiori - IUSS) in the adjacent via Paradiso offers the promising prospect of cultural interaction between the Archive and the nearby university.