Three Archives in Bratislava

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A review of the Slovak National Archive, the Archive of the Comenius University, and the Central Archive of the Slovak Academy of Sciences in Bratislava (Slovenský národný archív, Archív Univerzity Komenského, Ústredný archív Slovenskej akadémie vied), Bratislava, Slovakia.

The main focus of my dissertation is to investigate the dynamics of Slovak cultural and scientific elites and their role in the transfer and introduction of foreign socio-political concepts into the Slovak context. The main actors of my project are the cultural and scientific elites. For my research I visited a few archives in Slovakia, some of them in Bratislava. The first of them was the Slovak National Archive (SNA) in Bratislava, then the Archive of the Comenius University in Bratislava and the Central Archive of the Slovak Academy of Sciences.

The Slovak National Archive in Bratislava (SNA)

The SNA is the main and the biggest archive of Slovakia. The address of SNA is Drotárska cesta 42, 840 05 Bratislava. It is accessible by buses No. 207 from Hodza place or No. 64 from SAV (Slovenská akadémia vied) station to the station Vozovňa Hroboňova and from there by bus No. 41, to the station SNA (Slovenský narodný archív). Cross the road, walk 50 meters up the hill and you will see a big white-red building. You will find the reading room (so-called bádateľňa) on the first floor, on the right side behind the main entrance. Researchers could consult the archive website to get the latest information, but the original website does not exist anymore, and the new website does not have an English version. There are information about the archive and its stocks directly on the page of the Ministry of the Interior (on this page you will find a list of all state archives in Slovakia and information about their archival documents and regional scope). The main thing to know is that the reading room is open from Monday to Thursday from 8:00 am and closes at 3:15 pm. There are no summer holidays. You get the material two to three days after you ordered it, that means, you have to order the material at the latest on Wednesday, if you want to see the stock (Bestand, archívny fond) on Monday. There are no lunch facilities, but across the street is a small food shop, for lunch you can use a lunch room on the same floor as the reading room.

The fonds can be viewed through the searcher mask archival vademedum, which does not provide the online search in stocks. The page gives only a list of it, so before using the materials you have to look at the archive indexes and catalogs. To look at materials, it is recommended to ask a few days in advance by phone or e-mail. When you visit the archive it is necessary to store your personal things into the cabinet before entering the reading room and get back to the office of Mrs. Slezaková, who will give you a research form (so called bádateľský list). You have to supply all the necessary personal data, including your topic of study, and sign a statement that the information from the archives materials will be used only for the purposes set out in the research form. You will also receive information about the archive’s rules for research, also available online (only in Slovakian language). After filling in the research form you will be provided with archival indexes and catalogs of documents, in which you can find the number of the archival box with documents relevant for your research. The archivist will provide 3 archival boxes or 10 single documents (so called jednotliviny) at a time. In the case of microfilm copies of archival documents, the staff usually provides 5 microfilms and sometimes more at a time. The journal and newspaper collections can supply you with 5 volumes of magazines and newspapers. When you know the numbers of the archival boxes, you fill in the archival request form (name, topic, name of the fund and the number of the box) and give it to Mrs. Slezáková. When you get the boxes, you always have to sign the research form, in order to get the boxes from your request.

In the reading room a researcher may use reprographic equipment for making photocopies only upon written request, which must be approved by the director of the archive. The researcher can look up information about the prices for reproduction in the price list in the archive’s reading room. During my last visit the fee for a camera was 14 euros per day. You can pay in cash to Mr. Magura in the same office as Mrs. Slezáková, and remember to be polite, patient and professional at all times!

There is actually accommodation within the archive’s building, so you can save a lot of time getting back and forth. For the accommodation you have to contact the secretary of the archive director Mrs. Pappová via her e-mail address. There is a kitchen, a bathroom and three rooms (two with one bed and one with three beds); it is partly furnished like in former communist times, so it is like a “journey into the past!” If you use documents of the archive, you do not pay anything for the accommodation, if not, you pay 5 Euro per night. You will not find anything that is cheaper and so close to the center of the city like here. One negative aspect is that you do not have any internet access in the flat and also at the whole archive.

The Archive of the Comenius University

This archive contains documents and materials related to the Comenius University in Bratislava, and in fact, more research needs to be done on the history of the establishment of the Comenius University. There are two archives: the address of the main department is Archív – Rektorát UK on Šafárikovo nám. 6 (which is also the postal address), near to the main building of the Comenius University, where you will find just a few archival fonds related to the most important scientists of the university. It is easily accessible by bus or tram/streetcar (in the direction of Štefánikovo námestie).

The second site is in Staré grunty č. 55, Bratislava – Karlova Ves. This is not so easy to find. You can walk to the archive from the bus and tram station Molecova (bus 32 or 33, streetcar 4, 5, 6 or 9). Alternatively you can take bus 139 in the direction Slávičie údolie once you get to Molecova station; the bus will take you to the station Archive UK. Do note that the station for the bus 139 is not actually at the same place as the Molecova station! From Molecova you cross the street on the right, turn left and in a few meters you will see the station of the bus 139. When you get off the bus, you will see the inscription of a few institutions or companies, you get up the stairs to the main entrance into a campus, and in the fourth building is the archive. You have to go to the second floor, where you can find the reading room, between the director’s office and the offices of the other archivists. This is an interesting set up because you end up in the middle of the action as the archivists go by their daily business. In the reading room there are only two tables, so if you want to work with the material, make a call or write an e-mail before you go to the archive.

To do research in the archive you should ask a few days in advance by phone or e-mail. Before you start to study the indexes and catalogs of the archive, you have to fill in a research form, and you have to provide all the necessary personal data, and indicate your topic of study. The director of the archive Mr. Viliam Csáder is very kind and will discuss your topic with you and assist in finding the right catalogs and documents for your research.

Researchers should consult the archive website to get the latest information, but the website of archive is unfortunately not working (at the time of writing – January 2013), so for your research you have to seek help from the archivists. If they understand what you need, then you will get the indexes (register), from which you can choose what you need. It was my experience, that in comparison to the Slovak National archive you can consult as many files as you can handle in one day. The opening times are Monday to Thursday from 8.00 am till 3.30 pm. On Friday you can visit other archives or libraries in Bratislava or, if you ask politely and explain that you have a short stay in Bratislava, it is possible to search for documents also on Friday. When I was there, I could scan as many boxes and files as I was able to manage on one day. You can use a digital camera; the fee is 7 euros per day. You have to pay careful attention to the small piece of paper with the logo/signature of the archive, which you have to put on each item before taking a photo.

There is no possibility to get a coffee or some snacks, so bring something with you or buy something in the Lidl-shop on Molecova. On the first floor is a lunch room.

The Central Archive of the Slovak Academy of Sciences

The Central Archive of the Slovak Academy of Sciences (SAV) houses documents releated to the predecessors of the SAV (Šafárikova academic society from 1926, then Slovak Academic Society from 1938, then Slovak Academy of Sciences and Arts from 1942, and the Artistic and Scientific Council from 1945). The SAV Archive also preserves records of the administrative bodies of the Academy, its scientific and specialized departments from 1953 onwards, and also documents about the activities of scientific societies in Slovakia. The detailed documentation on scientific figures is invaluable.

The address of the SAV is Dúbravská cesta 9, 84105 Bratislava. It is accessible by all buses which stop at the bus station Patrónka. Go down into the underground crossing, keep straight on for 20-30 meters and then turn into the street Dúbravská cesta. You can use the first entrance into the main campus of the Academy, where many of the Academy’s institutes and part of the library are located. Go straight to the Political Institute, in the next building on the second floor you will find directions to the archive and the reading room. Researchers can consult the archive’s website to get the latest information, but the website is only available in Slovak language. The opening times are from Monday to Thursday 8.00 am to 3.00 pm and on Fridays from 8.00 to noon.

The procedure for gaining access to the archive’s holdings is just like many others; you have to fill in the research form, and check the indexes and catalogs. When you know the name and number of the archival box or file, you file a request. At this archive there are two depositories, one of them is in the same building and the other is off-site. So depending on what documents you are looking for, they may arrive on the same day or you may have to wait until the following day. There is also a library, which houses the periodicals of the SAV and its predecessors.

In the area of the SAV there are two possibilities for lunch: one of them is a larger institutional dining room, another one is a small cafeteria/buffet at the second entrance into the area, where you can grab a coffee and also buy something to eat. There are also some shops across the street. The archive’s secretary can be somewhat mistrustful in the beginning; most of the time the secretary sits in the reading room and watches you as you work. The reading room is furnished with two tables, chairs and bookshelves around three sides of the room from the seventies with lots of things piled on the floor. Since there is only one table for working, it is recommended that you make a call before you go to the archive just to make sure there is space.

Stanislava Kolková
PhD Candidate
Leibniz Graduate School for Cultures of Knowledge in Central European Contexts
Herder-Institut in Marburg
stanislava.kolkova@herder-institut.de

Image: Slovak National Archives in Bratislava. Earth in Pictures.

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