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Global Migration Centre

UNHCR Archival Project

About the project

From 2006 until 2008, UNHCR and the Graduate Institutes in Geneva undertook a cooperative research project funded by the Geneva International Academic Network (GIAN). The Project objectives included the archival description of over two hundred linear meters of Central Registry records, dating 1971-1984, held in the UN Refugee Agency Archives. The completed 1971-1984 is now posted in UNHCR website and already used by both internal and external researchers.

Following the success of the initial 2006-2008 cooperative project, UNHCR Archives and the Graduate Institute former PSGM undertook a second cooperative project for 2009-2010. During 2009 and the first quarter of 2010, concurrent with historical research review of the archives, the Programme has conducted the access review of the Central Registry archives records (Fonds 11, Series 2, Sub-series 600, 1971-1984). The purpose of this access review was to identify and remove from the files any pages containing refugee information that would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, and to replace chemical copies, which damage the other documents of the files, for acid-free copies.

Both UNHCR Archives and the Programme have agreed to continue their collaboration until the end of 2010 with a new project that aims to facilitate access of researchers to UNHCR archival holdings and increase the visibility of UNHCR Archives.

Information about UNHCR Archives is posted in the UNHCR public website under Resources/Archives and Records page. This page includes general information about the Archives holdings and the access conditions, and information about the archival holdings grouped in three categories: Headquarters Fonds, Field Fonds and External Fonds. For each Fond listed in the page, an International Standard Archival Description ISAD(G)description is posted. In addition to the ISAD(G)s Fonds 11 Records of the Central Registry Series 1 and Series 2, and Fonds 13 Records of the Office of the High Commissioners Series 1 to 3 include lists of the existing files.
Posting lists of files on the Internet allows researchers to select the files they wish to consult before their visit to the Archives, it also facilitates the work of the Archives staff who, otherwise, have to send personally to each researcher the list of files for the Fonds they are interested in.

A substantial part of UNCHR Fonds have already been listed but the lists need to be reviewed and migrated to a standard format before they can be posted in the Internet. Other Fonds have only a very summary description of their contents. The objectives of this project are, first, to facilitate work of the researchers and make available in the UNHCR Website the existing list of files open to public research, and second to produce an inventory of the existing finding aids that will allow the planning of the archival arrangement and description projects.


Concurrent with the historical research review of archives and under the supervision of UNHCR Archivist, the Programme has:

1. Produced an inventory of the existing finding aids for each UNHCR Fonds including ISAD(G) descriptions and list of files.

2. Selected with the Senior Archivist the finding aids that should be made available to researchers through UNHCR public website and:

  • Updated the information in the ISAD(G)s when necessary;
  • Migrated the list of files to an excel template that will be used to upload the information in the Livelink Records Server program;
  • Produced a version of the ISAD(G) and files list ready to be posted in the UNHCR Website.

This project has been undertaken by Dr Jérôme Elie, with the assitance of interns. The following Fonds lists have been created/verified:

  • Fonds UNHCR 02. Records of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, 1945-1948
  • Fonds UNHCR 03. Records of the International Refugee Organization, 1946-1951
  • Fonds UNHCR 04. Records of the United Nations office in Geneva, 1946-1974
  • Fonds UNHCR 05. Personal Papers of G.G.Kullman, 1931-1952
  • Fonds UNHCR 06. Collection of the Documentation Centre, Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, 1946-1952, 1959
  • Fonds UNHCR 07. Collective fonds regarding pre-UNHCR refugee matters, 1922-1953
  • Fonds UNHCR 09. Collective fonds regarding UNHCR matters, 1951-1965
  • Fonds UNHCR 11/4. Records of the Central Registry , Classified project files, 1955-1977
  • Fonds UNHCR 33. Records of the Office in Portugal, 1977-1998
  • Fonds UNHCR 47. Records of the Office in Austria, 1949 1974 (predominant 1954 1974) 


Project Team


Jérôme B. Elie, Project Director