The EMBL Archive is the custodian of the Laboratory’s history. It preserves and shares archival holdings from across the Laboratory’s sites and activities in analogue and digital formats. As a whole, these holdings seek to capture the history of EMBL and European molecular biology, and the stories of those involved in the Laboratory’s ongoing scientific and institutional work.
Objective of the EMBL Archive
The purpose of the EMBL Archive is to collect, arrange, preserve and facilitate access to documentary heritage of enduring historical value created or received by EMBL as a product of its activities at any of its current and future sites. This specifically includes material from persons (e.g. current or former staff), and can include material from organisations closely associated to EMBL and/or the life sciences.
§2 of the EMBL Archive - Terms of Reference (2017)
The EMBL Archive has established an Oral Histories programme. This programme gathers interviews that, together, capture the development, history and ongoing missions and achievements of EMBL, its people and the European molecular biology landscape.
Working with Scientific Archives
How can archivists best collaborate with scientists to capture material for long-term preservation? The EMBL Archivist collaborates with archivists internationally to hone best practices for working with scientists and scientific archives so that creators, users and institutions continue to have access to original material that bears witness to scientific advances.
Building the EMBL Archive
The idea to start the EMBL Archive first came from the Alumni Association Board in 2009. The initiative was launched at the EMBL Staff-Alumni Reunion in 2010 and reported in EMBLetc in October 2010. Thanks to the efforts and vision of a dedicated group of alumni, facilitated by EMBL Alumni Relations, the idea garnered enthusiasm throughout the EMBL community and developed into a Laboratory-wide initiative. The Wellcome Trust in London also provided support and advice from the start of this initiative, and continues to do so. In January 2015, the first EMBL Archivist began working to formally establish the EMBL Archive, under the guidance of the EMBL Director General and the EMBL Directorate.
The EMBL Archivist is committed to working with staff from across the Laboratory and its sites to best capture, preserve and share the Laboratory’s scientific and institutional heritage.
Heidelberg, 25 August 2017 Opinion: Archives for Science In a 2007 letter published in Nature, biologists Sydney Brenner and Richard J. Roberts addressed the importance of scientific archives. To their fellow molecular biologists, they implored, “Let’s not wait until memories have faded and papers been discarded at the end of a career before deciding to save our heritage.” The legacy in danger of being lost is not the published record, which is preserved by libraries, but the unique material that complements it: laboratory notebooks, email exchanges and prototype instruments, to name a few. By telling the stories behind the science, the archival record reveals a glimpse into the past and, in turn, evidence of how science is carried out.