Découvrez les bibliothèques de la Ville de Genève
Toute l'offre culturelle

  • La Bibliothèque de Genève déploie sur 4 sites un patrimoine écrit, imprimé, musical et iconographique unique qu’elle sélectionne, protège, valorise et transmet au grand public comme au public scientifique.
  • Site internet de la Bibliothèque de Genève

  • Les Bibliothèques municipales sont des lieux de rencontre, de découverte et de partage qui vous proposent de nombreux documents à emprunter ainsi que des activités gratuites pour petit-e-s et grand-e-s.
  • Site Internet des Bibliothèques municipales

  • Les musées d’art et d’histoire, le Musée d’ethnographie et le Museum d’histoire naturelle, les Conservatoires et Jardin botaniques et le Fond municipal d’art contemporain proposent un accès à leur bibliothèque scientifique .
  • Site internet

  • Vous avez une question et vous souhaitez une réponse personnalisée? Le réseau des bibliothèques genevoises vous offre, en moins de trois jours, un résultat fiable et des sources identifiées.
  • Service Interroge


The death of a loved one, an estate without heirs, a change of address, even the simple need to tidy up or put one’s papers in order, these are some of the reasons why we part with objects and souvenirs. And often such souvenirs include family papers and records; these are generally made up of several types of documents:

– Documents that are saved as souvenirs and which serve as a support for memory, e.g., photograph albums, school notebooks, family correspondence, sometimes even travel logs or autobiographical texts, diaries for example.

– Documents that are kept for legal or administrative reasons, e.g., vital records like birth certificates or marriage licenses, copies of contracts, estate settlements, title deeds, diplomas, bank records, reports on renovation work.

– Documents of a more professional nature and connected with the kind of work done by a family member: manuscripts of lectures or professional talks given, reading notes, manuscripts of works in literature, science or music, documentation collected for studying a certain subject (newspaper clippings, brochures, etc.), datebooks, correspondence with colleagues.

– If a family member was the secretary or president of an association, choir, or club: minutes of committees or assemblies, circulars, etc.

– Sometimes papers are neatly arranged in files or boxes with titles affixed to them. Sometimes they have been stored loose in boxes and drawers, or on the shelves of a bookcase, making it naturally more difficult to analyze them. One often wonders if they are of use to anyone still, if they might interest someone—maybe a historian centuries from now? Wouldn’t it be easier just to toss everything out?

Throw away... or keep?

Of course the wastepaper basket offers the distinct advantage of a quick and easy solution, but won’t future generations blame us for the destruction? Along with the papers aren’t we destroying an interesting or important page from the country’s memory? Perhaps! It isn’t only the famous who are of interest to posterity, on the contrary.

In each of Switzerland’s cantons there exist libraries and archives with specialists who are ready to see to it that individuals’ papers are classified, inventoried, arranged in envelopes and boxes, and put at the disposal of interested researchers in accordance with the conditions laid out by agreement with the donors.

Private records form an essential part of our heritage. Coming from families, private individuals, associations, and businesses, they help to illustrate the less documented aspects of our history. For the papers of a teacher, researcher, or figure from the intellectual or cultural world in the broad sense of the word, proper conservation of records ensures that his or her work will continue to exist for generations. It will be there for other researchers to study and draw inspiration from.

Here are a few questions we are often asked at the Bibliothèque

Q: Why should one offer records to the Bibliothèque?

A: In the Department of manuscripts, records are inventoried and conserved by professionals and this is done in excellent conditions.

Our institution is widely known and respected, and draws researchers from both Geneva and abroad. It can guarantee both the long-term survival of any records it is entrusted with, and such records being made available for research in keeping with a strict code of ethics.

When donating private records to the Bibliothèque de Genève, a family or well-known figure can be sure that their records help to write the history of our age by shedding light on aspects that differ from those found in official documents.

Q: Must I sort out my records before donating them to the Bibliothèque?

R: No, or only with great prudence. The library’s seasoned archivists are well versed in the methods for evaluating documents and the needs of research. They have been trained to select and sort out documents that are worth preserving. You run the risk of destroying items that seem to you of no interest but which in fact constitute living tokens of a moment in history. It is important, however, to put your records in order and identify them.

Q: My records contain confidential documents which I don’t want just anyone poking around in.

R: Sensitive personal data must and will be protected, in accordance with both federal and cantonal legislation. You can stipulate access restrictions with your donation which will be valid for a period to be worked out with the Bibliothèque.

Q: Won’t I need to donate part of my records to another institution?

R: It is always a disappointment when a collection of papers or records is broken up. A collection of documents is a group of all kinds of items (papers, pictures) that every natural or legal person, or administrative body, automatically and organically forms simply because of their duties or activity. The collection ought to maintain its integrity. The respect of the collection as a whole is a principle. An individual document from an archival collection is always defined by its context.

Q: Will my family have access to these papers once they are conserved in the Bibliothèque?

R: Absolutely!

Q: Do my papers have any market value?

R: To be of interest to the manuscript market, the author of the document must be a famous person. Dealers break up the collection, and a document that is purchased by a private individual is most often lost to research. People in possession of such records and papers often have an inflated idea of the market value of the documents. While the Bibliothèque’s staff are not authorized to estimate the market value of your papers, they can offer you their opinion on their rarity and interest. Trying to turn the fruits of human thought into cash is always regrettable.

Q: Can I benefit from a tax credit for donating papers to the library?

R: Possibly. The Genevan law of 1 December 1995 on dation in payment (loi D 3 35) and its application regulation of 30 September 1996 (D 3 35.01) allow for the possibility that estate or donation taxes inter vivos may be totally or partly settled through the transference of intellectual property.

Promenade des Bastions 8
1205 Genève

T: +41 22 418 28 00
F: +41 22 418 28 01

The Department of manuscripts and private records
T: +41 22 418 28 25