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From the archive to the future

In Archive

Editorial Staff

25 March 2020

Almost 15 years after it was created, our archive is being digitised. That's because we've got a real idea of the size of our material and how it is stored and filed, and taken a series measures that have made an indispensable tool of digital, with all its potential. Choosing digital for Eni's archive serves a double purpose. On the one hand, it will keep a good deal of our heritage safely stored in the long term (at the end of the three-year period 2018-2020, we will reach a sum of almost 3 million digital files). On the other, it opens the archive to requests from abroad, made digitally.

A super-archive

Eni's historical archive has a well-articulated structure, the result of a long process of care and work by many people. Set up in the 1980s by Enrico Mattei's assistant, Vincenzo Gandolfi, to store the chairman's letters, the historical archive office only took form almost 20 years later, when the Superintendent for Archives of Lazio expressed "great historical interest" in it. Multifaceted by its very nature, given its subject matter, the archive began to be gathered in 2006. Locating and bringing together the sources from their various offices and sites took years, what with physically moving, ordering and describing all the material. It involved a lot of projects, people and descriptions, first on paper then in digital form. The same wide range of work was done on the archive's structure, which also had to be moved about (around 40% of the material is still being filed, on top of the partial corrections that will need to be made on later arrivals). The most prestigious series, the first to be sent off for digitisation, were already in the process of being standardised and therefore met the requirements. As we went ahead with sending off the material, however, we realised that the complexity of the archive was making the software tools for automatic extraction harder and harder to use.

From problem to opportunity

Confronted with the impossibility of such a widespread standardisation process, the archivers chose to work only in teams alongside software managers and digitisers, whose support with every angle of the job was invaluable. This built a conceptual bridge, resolving the complexity of the archive and the linearity of the XMLs. This was a real work of cultural mediation, one that sometimes found itself balancing the digitaliser's need for the best solutions time-wise, with the archiver's need to respect the sources. It was on this principle that we worked on the individual series throughout, carefully reconstructing and browsing the layers of past work to find out where - and why - they need modifying, and where they need following up or completing.

The archive solution

The commitment of both parties to collaboration, and the archivers' desire to get the best possible work flow, to say nothing of the long distances that had to be covered, brought value to the work at every level. Work on the archive's structure is planned to end within the year. Every operation is traced, in order to recover the files afterwards, with a view to saving time and costs for both parties. The archive is a platform for excellence.