Mr President of the Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris (Marcel POCHARD), Mrs General Delegate of the Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris (Sylviane TARSOT-GILLERY), Ambassadors (from Greece and Belgium)Director General of Heritage (Philippe BÉLAVAL), Director of the National Archives (Isabelle NEUSCHWANDER), Presidents and Directors, Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends,

“The historian is obliged to use the written word, the archives, but the written word is misleading. It does not reflect reality.”
If this assertion by the great historian Emmanuel LE ROY-LADURIE seems provocative to us, it is because we are, in my opinion rightly, convinced of the crucial importance of archives. We all know that archives are the real, solid and tangible sources of our memory, a kind of constant guarantee of a reference to facts. The work of a Michel FOUCAULT, for example, has given us back what Arlette FARGE aptly called «the taste of the archive», the meaning of this guarantee all the more indispensable as we live in a regime where debate and dialogue must, to be fruitful, based on facts and texts.
This is why, from the beginning, our Republic was built on its documentary memory, that is to say on its archives, more eloquent than the divine right of old. In this regard, it is quite remarkable that it was the French Revolution, at the very time when it was carrying out an act of rupture, that decided to create a national form of memory, precisely the one that has been perpetuated to us.
The omission or even the abolition of archives is the characteristic of totalitarian states: you all have in mind this «Commissariat aux archives», in 1984 of George ORWELL, this «Commarch» of the «Ministry of Truth», which gives a clear place to memory and, even worse, falsifies it. You also remember the books that are burned in Fahrenheit 451, by Ray BRADBURY and TRUFFAUT, where it is all Culture that is engulfed in a great hole of memory.
It is for all these fundamental reasons, because the Ministry of Culture is a ministry of memory, that I attach great importance to our archives and that I wished to be present among you today, on the occasion of a great moment for their enrichment, the deposit of archives of no less than a century of life within the Cité universitaire internationale de Paris.
I would therefore like to warmly thank the President of the City, Mr. Marcel POCHARD, his Delegate General, Mrs. Sylviane TARSOT-GILLERY, who took the initiative in 2008 of this process, the Head of Mission of the Archives at the Ministry of National Education, of Higher Education and Research, Mr. Fabien OPPERMANN, and of course Martine de BOISDEFFRE, who spent eight years at the Archives de France, did the remarkable work that everyone knows and recognizes him. I would like to greet the new Director General of Heritage, Philippe BELAVAL, who is a connoisseur of archives. Everyone has grasped the immense stakes for the national community, as well as for the international community, of which the City is one of the main places of welcome in our territory.
These archives, very rich, are first paid into the funds of the site of Fontainebleau, and will soon be transferred to that of Pierrefitte-sur-Seine, of which I had the pleasure of laying the first stone last September, and that marks the voluntarism of our archives policy and the desire to establish cultural places in environments that are often frustrated. This new location, which is also like one of the clauses of a new republican pact, will thus contribute to the necessary development and enhancement of this territory of Seine-Saint-Denis, and thereby fully participate in what I call “culture for each person”: for each person in his peculiarity, his personality, his difference, whether of origin, of environment, of sensitivity, or precisely of territory.
In this respect, the Cité universitaire internationale is faithful to the social spirit that has inspired it since its origins, as evidenced in particular by the resident admission records that we are given to see in this very interesting exhibition. I notice, for example, in one of these cases, a young man “whose family lives on Reunion Island […] and who risks, when he arrives in the metropolis, since he has no family in France, finding himself without a place to stay in Paris, if he cannot get a room at the Cité universitaire”. He holds a law degree from the Faculty of Algiers and has just been demobilized after serving for 20 months in the Far East Brigade, and his name is… Raymond BARRE. The fate of a future Prime Minister may have been decided on the day the decision was made to grant him a room and to give him, if I may say so, among you, the “right of the city”!
This event, which brings us together today, is also emblematic of the close cooperation that exists between the Ministry of Culture and Communication, and the Ministry of National Education, Higher Education and Research. It is thus part of an extremely positive dynamic that is manifesting itself in many other fields: I am thinking, in particular, of arts and cultural education at school, recently implemented with my colleague Luc CHATEL, and whose portal of the arts is the most tangible sign – if I may say so with regard to the virtual digital space.
But to remain precisely as close as possible to the archive and its most direct, material and intimate presence, I would like to highlight the exceptional contribution that these archives represent in terms of our knowledge of life at the Cité Universitaire throughout the 20th century. The cultural life, in particular, evidenced by these documents – the concerts, the plays (performed in particular at the Théâtre de la Cité internationale), the symposia, the meetings of all kinds that took place there, but also, of course, the exceptionally diverse architectural achievements that have given each House its own colour – all of this draws a multiple face that is the very face of our society and our culture. One of the most eloquent examples of this richness and diversity is Aimé CÉSAIRE’s present letter. These archives also allow us to see, to read and to feel in what very concrete way the City played, even before the existence of the ERASMUS programme, an essential role in the cultural exchanges between France and the rest of the world, the way it embodied, as she continues to do today, our country’s openness to the outside world, its capacity for dialogue and its character, not only “international”, but truly multicultural. It is not, of course, a question of a multiculturalism of communities, which is not part of our conception or our values, but of a multiculturalism of individuals and individuals, who knows how to conjoin and combine the differences between each and the plural unity of the community, which is primarily the university community. University goes here, for a long time and perhaps more than anywhere else, together with universality.
The deposit of these archives will thus help us to build the memorial bases of this "knowledge society" which we wish for because we know that this is where the key to the future lies: the collaboration between the National Archives of Pierrefitte and the Condorcet-Paris-Aubervilliers university campus, which will open in 2012 and will be one of the very first European centres in the field of humanities and social sciences, will be its emblem.
Because of course the initial joke of LE ROY-LADURIE aims above all to remind us of the requirement of interpretation of the archives. And this is precisely what the new pole will allow. Without interpretation, the texts are silent, they are, so to speak, a dead letter. They wait for human spirits to animate them and to entrust to us a little of their secret, which is also ours to each and every one, as well as a foundation of our shared memory and our living together.
Thank you.