History of International Council of Archives

ICA in the XXth century

1931 – Under the aegis of the League of Nations the Institute for Intellectual Co-operation creates a Permanent Consultative Committee on Archives.

1934 – The Committee publishes the first International Guide on Archives.

1948 – The International Council on Archives (ICA) is created on 9 June, now celebrated as International Archives Day, as UNESCO seeks to promote non-governmental organisations. Charles Samaran, Director-General of the Archives de France is the first Chairman. The Council immediately begins a lifelong process of co-operation with sister organisations such as IFLA, ICOM, and ICOMOS.

1950 – The ICA holds its first assembly and its first Congress and Archivum, the first official journal of the ICA, is born out of the proceedings of the Congress. Throughout the Cold War the ICA persists in opening access to archives to historians regardless of political boundaries, with the financial and intellectual support of UNESCO. This is achieved through the ICA promoting the sharing of microfilmed records with countries lacking such records and its publication of the 60-volume Guide to the Sources of the History of Nations between 1958 and 1984.

1960 – As independence replaces colonialism in many countries ICA delivers programmes to enable developing countries to develop their own archives along with creating relevant ICA branches. By the 1970s nearly all the developing countries have established archival services.

1968 – The first regional Branch is created in South East Asia (SARBICA) to enable countries sharing similar conditions to actively participate in ICA and collaborate with each other. By 2009 there are 13 branches covering the globe.

1970 – The Committee on Archival Development is formed. It operates the International Archival Development Fund (FIDA) which supports archives in developing countries.

1976 – The first two Sections (covering Professional Archivists’ Associations and International Organisations) are established, enabling professionals sharing similar professional issues to come together. By 2009 there are 13 sections covering various aspects of professional knowledge.

1979 – With ICA’s close co-operation UNESCO starts publishing RAMP (Records and Archives Management Programme) Studies which deal with basic professional issues, authored by experts and published in a range of languages.  Numerous studies go on to be published.

1993 – Sees the start of extensive co-operation between the ICA and the Council of Europe to promote the modernisation of archives in Europe. ICA also promotes the importance of the access of archives.

1994 – ICA publishes the its first standard, the International Standard on Archival Description (ISAD(G)). This is rapidly adopted by archivists around the world and signals the start of the ICA producing a suite of standards for describing collections.

1995 – The Declaration of the ICA Executive Board at Guangzhou recommends a pragmatic approach in the settlement of archival claims arising from archives removed during war or colonialisation. The ICA, in co-operation with UNESCO, provides legal concepts and principles. UNESCO recommends the concept of shared heritage.

1996 – The ICA adopts its Code of Ethics for archive professionals across the world.

1996 – The First International Congress on Archives outside Europe and North America is held in Beijing. China assumes the presidency of ICA for four years at the end of the Congress.

1997 – The Council of Europe publishes the ICA’s reference document to facilitate the settlement of archival claims arising from war, military occupancy and states succession to assist with competing claims over removed archival collections.

ICA in the XXIth century

2000 – The Council of Europe issues Recommendation no R13 creating a European Policy on Access to Archives as a result of intensive ICA lobbying.

2001 – The Council of Europe issues Recommendation no R15 on the teaching of history following on from its Access to Archives policy.

2003 – Archibishop Desmond Tutu delivers the keynote address at the CITRA conference in Capetown, South Africa.

2007 – The first version of the toolkit Record Keeping for Good Governance, developed by the Pacific branch (PARBICA,) is launched at PARBICA 12 conference in Noumea, New Caledonia.

2008 – ICA celebrates its sixtieth birthday and holds its Congress in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

2009 – ICA holds a meeting of its Programme Commission in Montevideo, Uruguay. This results in major decisions to fund and endorse a wide range of projects throughout the world that will contribute to the achievement of ICA’s strategic objectives.

2009 – ICA supports the first meeting of WARBICA, west African branch of the organization, in Africa (Dakar, Senegal) since the branch was created in 1977. Malta, smallest country of the European Union, hosts the International Conference of the Round table on Archives.

2010 – ICA reactivates the FIDA (International Fund for Archival Development) by naming a board of trustees, and launching a call for projects. South Korea hosts the ICA Executive Board meeting in the framework of the first International Archives and Culture Exhibition (IACE 2010, Seoul, South Korea, June 2010). At its General Annual Meeting, ICA approves the Universal Declaration on Archives.

2011- On the 10th of November, the UNESCO General Conference in its plenary session adopts the Universal Declaration on Archives.

2012 – Annual General Meeting at the time of the International Congress in Brisbane, Australia. Members adopt a new constitution which: extends voting rights to category C (institutional) members; changes AGM to General Assembly; obolishes CITRA in favour of Annual Conference open to all members; establishes Forum of National Archivists (FAN). The AGM also approved the Principles of Access to Archives, recognising the distinction between legal authority for access and the publication of finding aids.

2013 – First Annual Conference, organised on a self-financing basis, held in Brussels with over 500 participants.

Archives constitute the memory of nations and societies, shape their identity, and are a cornerstone of the information society. By providing evidence of human actions and transactions, archives support administration and underlie the rights of individuals, organisations and states. By guaranteeing citizens’ rights of access to official information and to knowledge of their history, archives are fundamental to identity, democracy, accountability and good governance.

The Mission, Aim and Objectives are enshrined in the ICA’s Constitution.


The mission of the International Council on Archives (ICA) is to promote the preservation and use of archives around the world. In pursuing this mission, ICA works for the protection and enhancement of the memory of the world and to improve communication while respecting cultural diversity.


The aim of the ICA is to promote the management and use of records and archives, and the preservation of the archival heritage of humanity around the world, through the sharing of experiences, research and ideas on professional archival and records management matters, and on the management and organisation of archival institutions.


The objectives of the ICA are to:


  • Encourage and support the development of archives in all countries, in co-operation with other organisations, including international agencies, governmental and non-governmental.


  • Promote, organize and co-ordinate best practice, the development of standards and other activities in the field of records and archives management.


  • Establish, maintain and strengthen relations between archivists of all countries and between all institutions, professional bodies and other organisations, public and private, wherever located, which are concerned with the administration or preservation of records and archives, or with the professional training of archivists, especially through the exchange of information.


  • Facilitate the interpretation and use of archives by making their content more widely known and by encouraging greater access to them.

Take action

  • Undertake any relevant activities which support its aim.

The Secretariat

The Secretariat is the operational heart of the ICA. It is responsible for the day to day operation of ICA’s organization, including communications with other ICA bodies and individual members, relations with partner organizations, and administration of ICA’s governance meetings. It comprises a small staff based in Paris and is headed by the Secretary General, who acts as the organization’s Executive Director.

Paris – France