“The Open Society Archives (OSA) at Central European University is an archival laboratory. While actively collecting, preserving, and making openly accessible documents related to recent history and human rights, we continue to experiment with new ways to contextualize primary sources, developing innovative tools to explore, represent, or bridge traditional archival collections in a digital environment. Our approach to acquisition is increasingly proactive and inclusive, and we actively seek out non-traditional material, material previously marginalized based on its content, social origin, or form. At OSA Archivum, professional archival work is integrated with public programs, and our Galeria Centralis serves as the focal point of exhibitions, performances, film screenings, lectures, and seminars. Through all of these endeavors, we advocate: open access and transparency in public administration; equal rights to information; the ethical use of private data; open formats and open standards; and broad access to cultural heritage.
From the outset OSA Archivum has been and remains an “archive of copies”, interested more in the content than in the materiality of the documents under our care. Our traditional archival holdings comprise approximately 7,000 linear meters of records. Based on their provenance as well as their focus, OSA Archivum holdings are divided into three main groups.
Communism, the Cold War, and their Afterlife: Fonds include the extensive collection of the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) Research Institute, background and reference material accumulated during 45 years of activity. The collection is an essential source on the post-war political, social, and economic history of the region. We also hold the personal papers of a range of political, cultural, and counter-culture figures from the Cold War Era to the present and several series of Soviet, Polish and Hungarian underground literature, which when taken together constitute one the world’s largest samizdat collections.
Human Rights: Includes fonds created by non-governmental and supra-governmental organizations as well as individuals active in post-war Central and Eastern Europe documenting human rights violations and war crimes. Most important among these fonds are the UN Expert Commission on Investigating War Crimes in the Former Yugoslavia, the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF), Index on Censorship as well as the Physicians for Human Rights (PHR).
Soros Foundations Network and the Central European University: As the official archives of the Soros foundations network and Central European University (CEU), OSA Archivum is responsible for the long-term preservation of and access to network records. We also supply records management services to network entities and offices, and it is in this capacity that in 2005 we launched a digital repository called the Soros Network Archival Portal (SNAP).
The region’s recent history and human rights record and the Soros foundations’ specific mission are strongly interconnected, and thus the above categories serve only as a starting point for research. To assist researchers in making better use of our holdings, OSA Archivum has established a series of Reference Information Papers (RIP) on selected topics.
Audiovisual Collections and Library
OSA Archivum’s rapidly growing audiovisual collection comprises both archival holdings and material from our film library. We are actively collecting with the intent to establish an audiovisual research center and a non-circulating video library of regional propaganda; historical, feature and documentary films; as well as regional TV news programs, historical home movies, and amateur footage.
OSA Library houses a non-circulating reference library and a collection of more than 6,500 dailies and journals published from the 1950s onwards in more than 40 languages. It also offers special publications from the region: numerous titles of informal and regional press and ephemera.
Digital Archival Laboratory
One of OSA Archivum’s aims is to broaden access to primary sources by overcoming technical, legal, geographic, and socio-cultural barriers. The Open Access Movement has made a valuable contribution by opening up scholarly sources to a wider audience, and OSA Archivum has fully supported this movement by taking a leading role in the Budapest Open Access Initiative. Nevertheless, as it stands the concept of open access is mostly limited to scholarly publication and almost completely excludes archives and primary source material. This has negative implications for the shape of historiography and humanities scholarship. Our goal is to extend the concept of Open Access to include archival materials. To realize this we have developed a strategy which includes large-scale digitization, multilingual description, and the implementation of open-source solutions and open standards. We also seek to meet current international benchmarks by becoming a trusted digital repository.”