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Public Archives of the contemporary period

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In the contemporary period, public authorities are also active at various levels of administration: local, provincial and federal public services that have been complemented by a number of institutions with regional and community competences in the course of consecutive state reforms.

Local archives

After the French Revolution, the municipalities lost their judicial power and their role as a registry, but as the influence of public authorities on economic and social life gradually increased, new competences were granted to the municipalities: law and order, security, civil status and administration of citizens, public works, transport, education, etc.

Today, many municipalities have handed over their archives from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to the State Archives.

Regional archives

The archives of regional authorities from the contemporary period (1795 and later) are mainly composed of archival documents from provincial administrations and their predecessors, the ‘Départements’ of the French period. But records from other public services are also part of it: external services of national or federal administrations and Flemish administrations, that is to say courts, mortgage registration offices, registration and domains offices, direct tax offices, etc.

Furthermore, the State Archives preserves the public records of the Brussels-Capital Region, the French Community and the German-speaking Community.

Flemish archives decree

The Flemish archives decree applies to over 3400 custodians (caretakers), which are all institutions responsible  for archives at administrative level: Flemish public authorities, local authorities and institutions for intercommunal cooperation.

On 3 May 2012, the Constitutional Court pronounced a judgement about the action for nullification against the Flemish archives decree of 9 July 2010 concerning the management of public archival records. This judgement can be found on the website of the Constitutional Court (judgement no. 57/2012, Role number 5093 and 5094; available versions: NL , FRDE).

The Court annulled the definition of archival documents and some parts of the scope of the decree whose provisions pertained to the following aspects:

  • The static archives of the municipalities, provinces, public social welfare centres (CPAS/OCMW/ÖSHZ), drainage and irrigation cooperatives and recognised cults;
  • The semi-static archives pertaining to civil status registers, police, fire service, pensions, the execution of federal legal provisions and missions devolved from the federal level.

Archives decree in the Walloon Region

The Archives Decree of the Walloon Region only applies to the public executive authorities of the Walloon Region (that is to say, not to the Walloon Parliament or to the institutions of the French Community).

National/federal archives

The National Archives in Brussels preserves the archives of the national/federal authorities, amongst which are the former ministries – today called Federal Public Services (FPS) and Public Planning Services (PPS) – and federal scientific and cultural institutions.

Notarial archives

Notaries must transfer originals and repertories that are more than 75 years old to the State Archives (law of 25 Ventôse of the year XI [16 March 1803] about the office of notary, amended by the law of 4th May 1999).

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