Strengthening Modern Greek Collections
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Business Archives in Greece:
The Example of the Historical Archives
of the National Bank of Greece
Archivist, Chief of the Historical Archives, National Bank of Greece
The object of the present paper is to present the archival program,
the archival collections and the organisational structure of the
Historical Archives of the National Bank of Greece.
Initiatives to preserve corporate archives in Greece have been
taken in the past and especially in recent years by certain companies,
which created in-house archives services, and by several public
and private institutions, which included business archives in their
Most large public and private companies employ staff to manage
their current records but very few maintain separate historical
archive units, Among Greek Banks, the National Bank of Greece which,
established in 1841, is the oldest operating bank in the country,
is the only bank which maintains a historical archival department.
A concerted effort was also made in the 1980s to preserve the archives
of large public banks: The Agricultural Bank, the Commercial Bank
and the Hellenic Bank for Industrial Development (ETBA), followed
the example of the National Bank of Greece. Unfortunately these
efforts where interrupted for financial reasons at the beginning
of the '90s. Today, the Cultural Foundation of the ETBA and the
Cultural Foundation of the Agricultural Bank are renewing their
efforts to create in-house archives services in the banking sector.
Most important is the desire expressed by senior officers of the
Bank of Greece to study the possibility of creating an archives
service in the Public Relations Department of the Bank of Greece.
The Establishment of the National Bank of Greece (1841)
The National Bank of Greece (N.B.G-), which was founded in 1841,
is the oldest operating bank in the country, It began as a private
discount and mortgage institution, with the monopoly of issuing
bank notes until the foundation of the Bank of Greece in 1928.
During the years following its foundation, the bank, restructured
its administrative system and expanded its banking services, becoming
a complex and multi-faceted institution. It combined the functions
of a note-issuing bank with those of a mortgage and commercial
deposit bank; it developed agrarian credit, and assumed the right
to invest capital in transport services, maritime and real estate
enterprises. These investments were later expanded to include ail
sectors of the Greek economy, with interim loans and open accounts.
The bank occasionally assisted public finances by issuing public
loans and participating in public works. Within the framework of
the economic restructuring and monetary stabilisation, which took
place in the inter-war period, the N.B.G. was deprived of its mortgage
activities, its agrarian credit business, and its exclusive right
to issue bank notes in Greece. The N.B.G. took over several banks
such as, The Pronomiouchos Trapeza Epirothessalias (Privileged
Bank of Epirothessaly, 1899), Trapeza Kritis (Bank of Crete, 1919),
Trapeza Anatolis (Banque d' Orient, 1932), Trapeza Epagelmatikis
Pistis (1965), Trapeza Chiou. The National Bank of Greece merged
with the Bank of Athens in 1953 and with the Ethniki Ktimatiki
Trapeza Ellados (The National Mortgage Bank of Greece) in 1998.
The Historical Archives of the National Bank of Greece
The first attempt to create an in-house Historical Archives Department
of the National Bank of Greece was made in 1938 when the Governor
decided that the centenary of the foundation of the bank should
be celebrated in 1941. Between 1938 and 1941 the historical documents
of the bank were transferred to the Historical Archives Division.
The Second World War suspended the celebrations of the centenary
and the activities of the Historical Archives until 1962 when a
renewed attempt was made to activate it. The dictatorship in 1967
suspended once again these efforts.
Finally, from 1977 onwards. a Committee composed of senior bank
officials and historians has been appointed to reactivate and develop
the Historical Archives and a Historical Research Program on Economic
At present in the Historical Archives Department coexist two main
areas of activities. the Archival and the Historical Research.
The Historical Archives Department is part of the General Secretariat
and is divided in two offices: the Documentation Services office
and the Research Programs office.
Archival Program and Collections
During the last 20 years the Historical Archives Department has
developed a specific acquisition strategy and is collaborating
very closely with the records management department in the appraisal
of the bank's records. Various departments of the bank such as
the records management department, the legal department and the
historical archives are in the process of revising the records'
retention schedule as now series of records are being produced
for which no retention provisions have been made. Another matter
of concern is the problem of preserving electronic records. The
acquisition policy of the Historical Archives Department gives
absolute priority to the acquisition of the bank's in- house records.
Permission has to be granted by the governor and the administration
board before legal custody of these records can be transferred
to the Historical Archives Department. In 1994 the National Bank
of Greece decided to allow access to all records created by the
bank from 1841 to December 1953, Thus the Historical Archives today
hold all the archives of the bank from 1841-1900, part of the archives
from 1900-1953 and is in the process to transfer to its facilities
the remaining records of historical value from the 1900-1953 period.
Special collections of the Historical Archives include photos,
films and blueprints.
The Historical Archives Department also tries to acquire and preserve
- The personal archives of the bank's Governors and senior officials
- The records of banks which were taken over by or merged with
the National Bank,
- The records of private companies, which came under the ownership
of the bank
The archival material is arranged in fonds, each fond is arranged
in series, series in sub-series, sub-series in files.
The archival material is arranged, described and microfilmed.
Microfilming is executed in the Historical Archives which is for
this reason equipped with two microfilming cameras Elke Senator,
a microfilm developer, a microfilm duplicator and an ultrasonic
splicer. The archives at present amount to 2.500 linear metres,
of which 80% has already been arranged and microfilmed,
The Historical Archives Department has produced a series of finding
aids. Several of these finding aids, such as the General Inventory
of the Historical Archives of the National Bank of Greece (1980),
the Inventory of the documents of the archival series on Public
Loans (1995), the index on the National Bank loans defrayed by
deed of bonds (1988), and the index on the Return of Securities
(1992), have already been published.
In 1994, the Bank decided to establish an Information system in
the Historical Archives of the National Bank of Greece in order
to support archival operations (electronic access and documentation
of archival material, document microfilming, document image processing,
data base management and electronic finding aids), reference services
to researchers, the electronic publication of selected historical
documents, the communication of the documents of the Historical
Archives through national and international computer networks and
the Historical Archives administrative functions.
The public has access to the archival documents held by the bank
at the end of a period of years from their creation after permission
is granted by the governor and the administration board tolhe historical
archives services. This permission actually covers the period up
to 1953 provided that personal privacy against indiscretions is
protected. The Historical Archives of the National Bank of Greece
have regulations concerning access and discipline in the reading
room. For security reasons the readers must fill out an application
form and prove their identity. The historical archives of the bank
supply document reproduction services such as photocopying, copies
or prints of microfiches, microfilming and photography.
The Historical Archives of the National Bank of Greece are interested
in acquiring microfilm copies of archival material pertaining to
the history of the bank and the economic history of Greece held
in other archival institution in Greece and abroad. The Historical
Archives have already acquired such archival documents from the
Foreign Office and from the French Foreign Ministry, and from the
Russian Foreign Ministry.
Research Program and Publications
From 1977 to 1991, the Committee for Historical Research had developed
a program of monographs concerning subjects related to the history
of the economic development of Greece and the role of the National
Bank of Greece. Since 1995, a new long-lasting interdisciplinary
program has been developed concerning three main topics. Sources
of Economic History, the History of the National Bank of Greece
and the Economic History of Contemporary Greece. To date the bank
has published 38 studies covering subjects concerning the history
of agricultural development in Greece, the history of the development
of the banking system, the history of industrial development and
banking capital, economic and financial development, and the history
and evolution of salaries.