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National Archives, France

The National Archives of France in Paris is an important resource for scholars of early Louisiana architecture.

National Archives, France

Wikimedia Commons.

Reproduction of a color photograph of the Archives Nationales Main Building in Paris, France.

A vital resource for scholars of early Louisiana architecture, the Archives Nationales was created in 1790 to preserve French historical records. It operates under the authority of the Directorate of the Archives of France, in the Ministry of Culture, and its various departments, which were established in 1796. The largest in the world, the archives are divided into five centers. For the researcher of Louisiana architecture, the Centre des Archives d’Outre-Mer (Center for Overseas Archives) is the most fruitful. Created in 1966 and located in Aix-en-Provence, France, the archives contain records from the seventeenth through the twentieth century, covering forty present-day independent countries.

The resources for Louisiana architecture in the archives were brought to light when Samuel Wilson, Jr. was studying abroad on an American Institute of Architects scholarship, researching and transcribing Louisiana colonial documents in the French archives. In September 1938, a year before the outbreak of World War II, archivist M. De la Roncière helped locate additional Louisiana colonial documents and waived the usual time-consuming approval procedure so that Wilson could have photographs made of the plans. Roncière told Wilson, “Get a photographer here as soon as you can. I wish I could give you these things to take back because we might have a bomb through the roof any day.” Ignace Broutin, Alexander de Batz, Valentin Devin, Bernard Deverges, I. E. Gonichon, Jean Pierre Lassus, Pierre Le Blond de la Tour, and Adrien de Pauger are among the Louisiana architects whose work Wilson recorded.