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Business Archives in Greece:
The Example of the Historical Archives of the National Bank of Greece

Nikos Pantelakis,
Archivist, Chief of the Historical Archives, National Bank of Greece

Introduction

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 holdings

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 History.

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

  1.  The personal archives of the bank's Governors and senior officials
  2.  The records of banks which were taken over by or merged with the National Bank,
  3.  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,

Finding aids

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.

Information System

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.

Access

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.

Documentation Program

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.

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  June 17, 2016
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