Attached to the Ministry of Culture, the National Archives have kept the State archives since the VIIe century. Composed of millions of documents, their value lies as much in their contribution to historical knowledge and individual and collective memory as in their heritage interest. Some of these documents materialize the founding events of our history. They are essential milestones in the construction of our contemporary society. They are factors of cohesion and question our present.

For the first time, the Ministry of Culture and the National Archives decided to put these emblematic documents of the Nation’s history directly in contact with the public, by launching the cycle The Essentials, in partnership with France Culture and the Institut national de l'audiovisuel. From September 2021, every three months, one of these “essentials” will be on display at the Hotel de Soubise, on the 4the borough of Paris. Roselyne Bachelot-Narquin will open this cycle on Monday, September 13, 2021 at 6:30 pm, in the presence of Jean-Louis Debré, President of the Superior Council of Archives.

This is the Declaration of Human and Citizen’s Rights of 1789, the founding text, inscribed by UNESCO in the Memory of the World Register, which opens this cycle. From September 15, 2021 to January 3, 2022, it will be exhibited and shown alongside the 1791 Constitution, whose preamble it forms. Visitors will also be able to admire the bronze plaque on which it was engraved and which was to be installed in the column of Liberty which it was intended to erect on the ruins of the Bastille: witness of the monarchical era, this plaque was shelled by a mass, the “national sheep” in 1793 and preserved as a compression.

In the spring of 2022, the decree abolishing slavery of 1848 followed the 1789 declaration. The following documents will be selected by the public, on site and online, from an indicative list that they will be free to complete themselves. From the trial of the Templars in 1307 to the law abolishing the death penalty in 1981 through the Edict of Nantes of 1598, the law of separation of the Churches and the State of 1905 or the ordinance establishing the right to vote of women in 1944, these are fundamental documents that our fellow citizens will be able to approach and learn more about.

Access to these iconic documents will be free of charge, in accordance with the principle of «democratic accountability» at the heart of public archives since the Revolution. This access will also be adapted to all audiences. Particular attention has been paid to its accessibility to persons with disabilities.