Duccio Bigazzi’s article, published in this issue, refers to the talk given by the author at the seminar “Business Archives: Arrangement and Consultation” held in Bergamo on May 8, 1991 by the Centro Studi e Ricerche Archivio di Bergamo in collaboration with the Foundation for Economic and Social History of Bergamo.
The article marked an important period in Bigazzi’s work on the subject of business archives. In 1989 he carried out a dynamic business archives survey organized by Franco della Perruta’s Lombard Institute. It was the first time that a survey was not directly carried out by an archival agency, even though in close collaboration with it. Also, in 1991 Bigazzi worked on a feasibility plan for a Business history center. This was a little known study set up by the Assi Foundation for the Milan Chamber of Commerce.
The author’s focus on the international dimension is clearly evident from the article’s structure. Bigazzi makes reference to three types of system, namely, the English, the French and the German cases. Although the three examples are quite differentiated, each of them is so coherently articulated as to be acknowledged as a model (this three-part divisionunderlies the 1991 Turin Conference). Bigazzi then summarizes the Italian experience, and offers his reflections on the business archives survey he had just completed.
It’s interesting to nota how the archives scenario has changed in the 14 years since the author first described it in his article. Some of the archives have lost their identity, having been incorporated by other enterprises; while others have left no trace behind. In various cases, i.e. the Mondadori case, working on the archives has led to the creation of cultural institutions with a life of their own, separate from the enterprises that generated them (the Mondadori Foundation). Other archives, even important ones, have gradually declined, parallel to the business crisis that they depict.
There is no doubt change is a structural element of business as Bigazzi points out. In the last paragraph of the article he warns the scientific community of the danger of dispersion that archives are intrinsically subject to. Surely, he couldn’t have imagined how rapidly and irreversibly change would take place. Hence the necessity for surveys whose function is to monitor business archives and to keep a record of their development.
A final remark concerns the subject of company museums. Duccio Bigazzi was particularly attentive to innovation and change in programs for preserving cultural assets in enterprises. There was a significant attempt to display the range and variety of these projectsin the journal “Archives and Enterprises”, even including a section on industrial archeology. However, Bigazzi’s article does not mention the numerous company museums that opened in the second half of the 90s. In fact, some of the archives mentioned by Bigazzi were never available to the public as such, but were inaugurated as museums instead.
This consideration helps us realize how quickly these new forms of accessibility to business culture have established themselves, but also demonstrates the great interest that the entrepreneurial system has shown toward them since their first tentative organizational efforts.
This article was passed on to me by Duccio Bigazzi in 1998 when he was involved in carrying out a descriptive on-line survey in the Milan area for the Centre of Business Culture. Special thanks go to Gianluca Perondi and Edoardo Borruso.
A survey of business archives in the greater Milan area
by Duccio Bigazzi