The Gelders Archief, the regional historical center for the province of Gelderland, moved to a new building. On the very first day it was open to the public (18 June 2013), I went there for some research.
The new building is located at the Westervoortsedijk in Arnhem, on the river Rhine. The entrance is wonderful: a multi-functional hallway also functions as exhibition space and lecture hall. The reading room is a lot smaller than the previous one and only has about 30 seats. As a new service, free public wifi is available.
The Gelders Archief is shifting towards providing online access to the records, which is why they need less capacity in the reading rooms. The most popular records, such as the civil registration and church records, are already available online as indexes at WieWasWie and their own website; digital images will be added in the near future. The catalogs and finding aids are also available at the Gelders Archief website and can no longer be consulted in the reading room in paper form.
The new building not only houses the public venues but also the repository that holds the records. The collection includes records of the province of Gelderland and its predecessors, the municipality of Arnhem, archives created by noble families and many more.
Some records that were previously stored off-site are now available on-site, such as the archives of the governor of the province. Other records that better fit the collection of other archives were transferred there. This is especially important when doing research in the Achterhoek (area around Aalten and Winterswijk), because the following records for that region are now available at the Erfgoedcentrum Achterhoek en Liemers [Achterhoek and Liemers Heritage Center] in Doetinchem instead of at the Gelders Archief:
- Church records
- Court records
- Notarial records
Despite all of these changes, my experience was positive as ever. Even on this very first day, I was able to access all the records I needed. Minor issues with software that didn’t know that the records had moved were quickly resolved by the helpful staff. Having to wait for a staff member to buzz you out when you leave the reading room takes some getting used to, both for visitors and staff, but is an understandable measure to protect the collection.
For me personally, the removal of the Achterhoek archives to Doetinchem is unfortunate since it adds another 30 minutes to my travel time, but it’s great for researchers in the Achterhoek to have all the sources in one easily accessible location. And all of us who don’t live near Arnhem benefit from the focus that the Gelders Archief places on online access.