A number of Foreign Ministry departments moved to Nantes over 50 years ago, in 1965. The decision to relocate part of the Ministry’s administration was taken by Minister Maurice Couve de Murville, who was implementing President Charles de Gaulle’s planning policy.
The first to move to Nantes in 1965 was the Civil Registry Office for French Nationals Overseas.
The Archives Directorate soon followed. In 1966, it took possession of building in the east of Nantes, on Rue du Casterneau. The advantage of this former military horse feed depot built in 1870 was that it could be cheaply transformed into an archives depot.
This building stored all the archives repatriated from foreign diplomatic and consular posts to this building, as due to a lack of space, these archives could not be stored at Quai d’Orsay and some were stored in the National Archives.
In 1987, the requirements of the Act of 3 January 1979 on the archives, the increasingly pressing requests from researchers and the saturation of the reading room in Paris led to the creation of a consultation room and a small team led by a curator in charge of the collections and their communication. The Nantes “annex”, which had become a fully-functioning archives department, acquired its current name: the Nantes Diplomatic Archives Centre.
From then on, collections from overseas posts were repatriated in line with a consistent and systematic policy.
As the pace of repatriations increased, further steps were required. The wooden-framed feed depot, which had a wooden framework, was soon overflowing and a new building was needed. Construction started on a new building, designed by Thierry Van de Wyngaert. This building was inaugurated in 1996 and can hold 37 linear kilometres of archives.
Renovation works carried out on the old building in 1997 enabled a spacious, 50-seat reading room and an exhibition hall to be opened.
Today, the Nantes Diplomatic Archives Centre holds 30 linear kilometres of archives from diplomatic and consular posts, the oldest of which date back to the 16th century.