In mid-March 2020, the reading room of the Archives and Records Management Section (ARMS), which frequently accommodates as many as six researchers at a time, emptied out as many services were shut down and staff started to work remotely.
Since then, ARMS has provided researchers access to UN archives solely by digitizing items.
This has resulted in ARMS making over one million pages available online since the pandemic began, with over 200,000 pages sent to researchers in response to their specific requests.
In addition to paper records, ARMS scanned hundreds of photographs for use in publications, documentaries, and exhibitions around the world.
One of these opened to great acclaim at the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum in China.
The pictures come from the archives of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (1943-1948), which, in a lesser-known part of history, resettled thousands of Jewish refugees who had fled to Shanghai during the Second World War.
On 12 July, 16 months after closing, ARMS welcomed back two enthusiastic researchers.
One had travelled from Switzerland and the other from the U.S. state of Massachusetts to examine the history of the Organization at the UN Archives.
To make this possible, ARMS implemented stringent safety protocols in consultation with the management of the Department of Operational Support (DOS). All researchers are required to present proof of full vaccination against COVID-19.
Only two researchers are allowed on-site at a time, to facilitate maximum possible distancing, and they are required to wear masks the entire time they are on the premises.
Although these restrictions are somewhat inconvenient, there has been a strong demand for the available space, and we look forward to welcoming others during the summer until we fully reopen.
It is far cry from pre-pandemic days, but it is a step in the right direction and brings ARMS operations closer to its clients, and closer to a sense of normalcy.
Originally published in UN Intranet (iSeek)
23 July 2021