Emmaus International

Florine Catteau is Emmaus International’s archivist. Her role is to preserve, file and promote the Abbé Pierre and Emmaus archives. These archives are a real historical and cultural treasure.

You have been working as an archivist for Emmaus International since 2011, what does your work involve?

I work at the ANMT (National Archives of the Working World) in Roubaix, where Abbé Pierre left some of his archives. By choosing Emmaus International as his sole, universal legatee, Abbé Pierre left all of his archives to us! Emmaus International is in charge of filing, preserving and promoting these archives as well as the archives of the Emmaus Movement. As Emmaus International’s archivist, I’m involved in doing just that.
My main job is to manage the inventory and to file the thousands of documents we have at our disposal - photos, posters, sound files and audio-visual documents. This work is aimed at making the archives more accessible and to be able to share them with the public. I help select content for exhibitions, communication tools, Facebook posts and recently for the Act Emmaus platform which is helping people (re)discover the numerous struggles led by Abbé Pierre, some of which were little known until now.

What is the total volume of these archives and what do you find in there?

IMG 5892The archives we have in Roubaix span across 300 metres of shelves and they are very diverse in nature. Abbé Pierre’s personal paper-format archives (diaries, letters, drawings, etc.) represent about 10% of the documents and Emmaus International’s paper archives represent about 45% of the total. There are also different types of images including photographs, albums, thumbnails and negatives and different types of sound and audio-visual documents including magnetic wires, magnetic tapes, LPs, audio cassettes, compact disks, micro-cassettes, video cassettes, Betacam, 16mm films, 35mm, 8mm, super 8, DVDs (13%) and posters (6%).

Why is it important to preserve these archives?

Preserving these archives is important for our history and culture, they are a real gem for researchers but they are also very useful for administrative reasons, to help justify our rights. As Abbé Pierre’s sole legatee it is Emmaus International’s duty, you could say, to preserve his archives and to protect his memory.

However, we must accept that no document will last forever so the archives must be preserved in the best possible conditions. At the ANMT the Abbé Pierre and Emmaus International archives are kept in optimal conditions, at the right temperature and humidity level and away from any direct sunlight.
Some documents are more fragile than others, such as slides, for example. Audio-visual and sound files are also fragile and can be easily affected by any changes in temperature or humidity. In light of this what we have to do is to digitalise this content using professional technology and with help from external service providers and all of that costs a lot of money.

The first archives placed in the ANMT were put there by Abbé Pierre himself in 2000. Why did he choose the ANMT?

The ANMT is under the responsibility of the Ministry of Culture, whose mission is to collect, file, preserve, communicate and promote the archives of stakeholders from economic and social life (businesses, trade unions, professional organisations, associations, architects and urbanists).
The ANMT preserves the archives of other associations such as Restaurants du Cœur, Secours Populaire and also trade unions.

In December 2000 Abbé Pierre and Emmaus International chose to put their archives in the hands of the ANMT. As well as the optimal conditions offered, the ANMT site also enables the public to consult the archives from their reading room (as long as the archive owner has agreed to this).

A unique partnership between Emmaus International and the ANMT means that I am an employee of Emmaus International but I am based in Roubaix at the ANMT site and thus I can work on filing and promoting the archives and have access to their professional equipment: high-performance scanners, ability to send very large files, etc.

You spend your time looking at Abbé Pierre’s and Emmaus’ archives, it must be fascinating!

IMG 5898I feel like I’m “building our heritage” for future generations in my work and that’s very rewarding! Sometimes I come across extraordinary documents - I particularly enjoy filing photos from Abbé Pierre’s travels in countries such as Gabon, Peru, Canada, Japan, Denmark, Australia, etc. I’ve travelled the world too thanks to these photos!

I didn’t know much about Emmaus and Abbé Pierre before I became Emmaus International’s archivist. As I discovered the archives I was surprised to see how Emmaus is such a diverse, international movement and above all I was surprised by its extraordinary leader. I still wonder – even today – how just one man, a man with health issues as well, could do so many things in one lifetime! Abbé Pierre lived a thousand lives and when he believed in a cause he was always ready to provide support, show indignation, fight or denounce. 

How can the public consult these archives?

You can consult the archives, upon request, from the ANMT’s reading room. I regularly receive requests to consult the archives from university researchers or peoples working on publications/documentaries. Some individuals also request to consult the archives following a personal involvement in the Emmaus movement, such as attending youth camps in the 1970s.

Thanks to the partnership between the ANMT and Emmaus International we held the ‘Abbe Pierre: Brother to the Poor, Activist for Peace’ exhibition here at the ANMT from December 2012 to April 2013. The exhibition was made using the archives and it will be reborn as it has recently been edited to be presented as a travelling exhibition! This year is one of commemoration 10 years on from the death of Abbé Pierre and the idea is to have our archives travelling across France as part of the events planned for 2017. If you wish to see the exhibition then please fill out the form on the ANMT’s website (http://www.archivesnationales.culture.gouv.fr/camt/).


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