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Information about City Archives

Photo: Tuukka Jaromaa

Materials of the City Archives

The documents contained in the City Archives of the City of Helsinki mainly consist of documents resulting from the operation of the city’s departments and units.  Documents requiring permanent storage from the City’s departments and services are placed in the archives when they are aged more than 20 years. 

In addition, the City Archives accept private archive materials related to Helsinki. All in all, there are almost 15 shelf kilometres of documents. The City Archives is Finland’s largest municipal central archive.

The oldest document in the archives is a letter of Juhana III from 1569, granting special rights to the burghers of Helsinki.

The Great Northern War caused a lot of damage to Helsinki. The city was burned down during the Greater Wrath in 1713, which also destroyed the archives. Helsinki was only released from occupation in 1721 when Russia and Sweden made peace in Uusikaupunki.

Helsinki was occupied again during the Russo–Swedish War in 1741–1743. The Russians took over the city in August 1742 and left after peace was agreed in Turku the following year. Again, Helsinki suffered massive damage.

The oldest continuous document series of the City Archives start from the 1720s. These include many series of the Registry Office.

The decree on municipal boards of cities was given in 1873, and accordingly, a City Council was established in Helsinki to lead the municipal administration in 1875. The treasurer’s office was the body preparing and implementing the decisions of the Council. This body was renamed to City Board in 1930.

The administration of the city started to develop rapidly after 1875. The city’s departments and units became established and assumed more and more duties as the city expanded strongly from the 1880s on.

Also the volume of documents increased rapidly in pace with the city’s public operations. Directories covering the decisions of the City Council and the Treasurer’s office / the City Board and committees as well as the operation of departments and units start already in 1875. These decisions and reports are included in the book series “Kertomukset Helsingin kaupungin kunnallishallinnosta” (stories of the municipal administration of Helsinki) which can be found in electronic form on the web site of the City Archives.

More specific information concerning the collections is available in the Sinetti archive data system and in the archive lists and directories of the research hall service.  The archive data system also stores a significant portion of the maps and drawings as well as paper documents of the City Archives in a digital format.  

The documents in the City Archives are public as a rule. Customers are allowed to study the documents in the research hall of the City Archives.  The documents may be used free of charge, but a charge is collected for copies. The City Archives houses a reference library on Helsinki.

Establishment of the City Archives

The city’s statistical office made several propositions to establish city archives in the 1920s and the 1930s, all without results.

The City Board established an archives committee in the middle of the war in 1942.  In its report, the committee proposed that City Archives be founded. Also the responsibilities for storing documents related to the proposed great annexation had an effect on the establishment of the City Archives.

The City Board discussed the establishment of the City Archives in 1943, but practical decisions were only made at the end of 1944. The operation of the City Archives started in February 1945 with the first city archivist, Pentti Renvall, starting his duties.

Renvall soon moved to other duties and was replaced by Ragnar Rosén, former director of the Vyborg provincial archives. Rosén took over the responsibility of the establishment on an operational basis and the development of the City Archives. The first offices were located at Sofiankatu 1 and Sofiankatu 4.

The City Archives got new offices at Runeberginkatu 10 in 1953.  In 1945–1964, the City Archives held storage rooms at various addresses.

After years of waiting, new, contemporary premises designed by architects Kaija and Heikki Sirén were completed for the City Archives in the Kallio public office building in 1965. The storage rooms with sliding shelves, automatic temperature and humidity regulation and the level of fire security were top of the line in Scandinavia at the time.

During construction, future storage needs were anticipated, stating that there should be enough storage space to last until approximately 2010. At the same time, the materials of the City Archives were all collected to the same place.

Two departments – City Archives and City Statistics – were joined together as City of Helsinki Urban Facts on 1 July 1990. The renovation of the Kallio public office building began in 2001. At the end of summer 2003, the City Archives were able to move back to the renovated premises.

At the beginning of 2011, the Ahjo intermediate archives were established at the City Archives for the city’s new document management system. Premises were found at Meritalo in Haapaniemenkatu 7–9.

09.12.2019 09:17