Get to know our project partners: National Archive of Norway: Joint Nordic initiative on Sámi archives

The National Archivists in Finland, Sweden and Norway agreed to raise the cross-border Sámi archival challenges to a Nordic level. The Sámi community extends across the national borders between Norway, Sweden, Finland (and Russia). The Sámi people’s archive situation is therefore in a special position and the Sámi archive issues should be included in long-term Nordic co-operation.

A Sámi with his reindeer herd, ca. 1980. Photo: Koji TSUDA. Archive: The National Archives of Norway/Sámi Archives/Koji Tsuda.

The international archival community are now starting to recognize indigenous peoples ́ right to preserve, manage and control their own cultural heritage on their premises. This has been written down in the declaration “Challenging and Decolonizing the Archive”, presented in Tandanya – Adelaide following the ICA 2019. Another sign is the newly established ICA Indigenous Matters Expert Group.

Mutual needs
Access to relevant archives is a key to one´s own history and makes it possible to link past times with present and future, and thus contribute to identity creation and new knowledge.

The archives of the Nordic national archival institutions should ideally reflect a comprehensive documentation of all parts of the society. Collecting archives can help to strengthen the Sámi languages ​​and make them more visible. The archival institutions therefore need to develop more appropriate means of collecting, preserving and enhancing the availability of the Sámi archival material.

Strategic partnerships
There is a great need for a joint Nordic initiative to give better access to Sámi archival material in the national archives and other cultural heritage institutions concerned. The National Archivists see it as a common goal to anchor future project collaborations in strategic forms of cooperation at a Nordic level.

  • Work together with Nordic universities in order to establish a university degree in archival and information science with a Sámi perspective.
  • Develop guidelines for collecting and preserving Sámi archives and documentation within the Nordic area.
  • Improve the search for Sámi archive material in the national archive databases.
  • Find new ways to disseminate Sámi archival material and show how Sámi history can be conveyed through archive material.

National Archive of Norway

How can archives help young people to use their materials?

Archives have a very rich and wide contribution to offer to society.  Their role goes beyond historical scholarship and are a key resource to other disciplines as well.

The “European Digital Treasures” project, funded by the European Commission, brings together the knowledge and skills of the National Archives and information technology to develop a sustainable and attractive tool linked to young user education on how to use archives (archival literacy).

Archival literacy is the ability to recognise the need for information, to identify the sources needed to address a given problem or issue as well as to find evaluate and organise the required information and to use this information effectively to address the problem or issue at hand.

Although young people and students may be familiar with how to use libraries, however not all students are capable of transfer this knowledge to working with archival materials. Such instruction is an important part of the mission of archives and special collections because it inspires learning.

Young people benefit from working with archival materials. Students are able to connect with people whose first-hand accounts they used; such an experience makes history real for them. Students learn important attributes and experience ‘doing history’ like a real historian. Through archival research students manage to connect evidence with valid historical arguments and learning to approach sources with scepticism demonstrate their acquisition of critical thinking skills.

Students develop an understanding of how to use evidence in creating historical accounts. Unpublished archival materials instil in students the desire to pursue independent research. It excites students, sparks their imagination, generates new questions and implants a desire to learn more.

This online archival literacy course aims at empowering students to cultivate critical thinking and to understand how through evidence, how historical accounts are created.

Teaching students how to access archival sources will not be restricted to just history.

The archive can be used to gain insight into and an understanding of past geographies, laws, social structures and religious beliefs, just to mention a few. Human geographers use archival research to examine past geographical phenomena such as migrations, urbanisation, and population redistribution.

Archival research utilising photographs, maps, and informal recordings or observations can also help in the recovery of data about our changing natural landscapes and climate. One has to keep in mind that the contents of archival collections were constructed through the social, cultural, political, and economic circumstances of their creation, preservation, and curation.

Young people and students will benefit from this course by developing their ability to look at evidence from sources with valid arguments and acquire critical thinking skills.

Leonard Callus, National Archives of Malta 

for more information read here

Why use original documents? Why are archives important?

People have always been fascinated by history and already the earliest cultures tried to leave evidence of their existence and their work behind and to document them. This fascination has remained unbroken to this day, and the catchphrase “learning from history” is still often used. This inevitably raises the question of what history actually is or what it is composed of.


Primary sources form the basis of any historical topic, which have often been kept, organized and made accessible in archives for centuries. Archives can therefore justifiably be called the custodians of history, since they keep the documents on which history is based. Archival materials can cover a very broad spectrum and range from classic documents such as files, charters or letters, to tables and other compilations, to cartographic products such as plans and maps.

The “European Digital Treasures” project, funded by the European Commission, took precisely this fact as its starting point and tried in a variety of ways to bring original documents, i.e. archive materials, closer to a wider audience and to make them easier to use.


The intensive and conscious preoccupation with original documents brings history to life and gives laypeople a deeper understanding of the context. Interrogation protocols of the 17th century peasants by the secular and ecclesiastical authorities convey a direct and better understanding of the mass expulsions in the course of the Counter Reformation and the peasant uprisings of the 16th century become more vivid, when one looks at contemporary illustrations of the various criminal courts after the suppression.

Of course, not every original document is to be taken at face value and the extent of the objectivity of a source must always be questioned. But even if an original source obviously quite consciously wants to convey a very specific image of history, it is in any case authentic from the relevant time and thus a contemporary document.

Ultimately, one of the goals of the project mentioned is to raise awareness of what historiography is based on and to always question whether historical works have a solid source base or – as so often – are free inventions or at least untenable interpretations that do not stand up to source-based evidence. That is why the project operates in all its activities, be it exhibitions, the provision of prepared teaching materials for schools, intelligent game design or the design and production of marketing products exclusively with original documents from the treasuries of history – the archives.


Dr. Karl Heinz