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New Reading Room Enhances Access to IAEA Archives

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The Reading Room is a modern space for viewing material from the IAEA Archives. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

A modernized reading room with enhanced access to the IAEA’s archives opened today for the benefit of researchers studying the Agency’s past. The archives contain a vast amount of records, providing a unique insight into an important aspect of world history over the last 60 years.

“Research about non-proliferation and the Cold War has been on the academic agenda for quite some time now, but this topic is often analysed only in the national context rather than using the IAEA’s archival holdings,” said Gabriella Ivacs, Head of Archives and Records Management at the IAEA.

The history of the IAEA’s technical cooperation programme reveals that it has been instrumental in creating institutions and facilities, introducing nuclear technologies in a safe and effective manner to developing countries around the world. “It is science diplomacy at work, at the height of the Cold War,” Ivacs said. The material shows that the IAEA specifically promoted science diplomacy where political, economic and traditional diplomatic tools failed.

Digitizing records

The spacious reading room opens in conjunction with the IAEA‘s efforts to digitize its archival holdings and it comes with a workstation dedicated specifically to access digitized material. It also has a separate area designated for IAEA staff to review classified archival information. “The IAEA is introducing many improvements to its archives and records management services,” said Thomas Haettenschwiller, Director of the IAEA’s Division of General Services. “The shift towards more comprehensive digitization is a major part of these efforts.”

The IAEA provides appointment-based, controlled access to its archives, which includes all IAEA documents worth of retention after 8 years. According to Leopold Kammerhofer, the IAEA’s senior archivist, the archives contain around 10,000 linear shelf metres of physical records in different media, including paper records, films, sound recordings, photographs, publications and architectural plans. Over 30,000 photographs are being digitized. Furthermore, terabytes of digitally born records reside on IAEA servers to be appraised and preserved as part of an on-going long-term preservation project. “The IAEA has a dual role in sharing and protecting information,” said Mary Alice Hayward, Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Management. “The addition of this reading room helps us fulfil these responsibilities.”   

There is a screen directly outside the Reading Room, displaying a slideshow of old IAEA photos, recordings of the first General Conferences and other major events. “The corridors get filled with the voices of former staff members, and their story is waiting to be told by researchers,” Kammerhofer said.

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Last update: 03 Oct 2017

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