Reference code(s)Country code: CH
Repository code to be requested
The CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) Archive: fonds level description
c. 1950 - present
Level of description
Extent of the unit of description
c. 1000 linear metres (mainly paper records)
Name of creator
CERN - The European Organization for Nuclear Research (and related or predecessor bodies).
CERN came officially into being on 29 September 1954 and it still exists. It is located near Geneva and since 1965 has straddled the Swiss-French border. CERN grew from a new spirit of international cooperation following the Second World War. As well as the effects of the war itself, Europe's scientific prestige had suffered from the emigration of influential scientists. The first ideas for international laboratories were put forward as early as 1946 inside the United Nations Organization; but it was not until December 1949 that a commission of the European Cultural Conference held in Lausanne proposed the creation of a European Institute for nuclear science. A resolution was proposed at the fifth General Conference of UNESCO, in Florence on 7 June 1950. This was followed by a more explicit resolution at a meeting in Geneva on 12 December 1950 at the Centre Européen de la Culture. The resolution recommended that a laboratory be established, based on the construction of a large machine for accelerating elementary particles. Signature, by eleven States, of the Agreement constituting a "Council of Representatives of European States for Planning an International Laboratory and Organizing Other Forms of Co-operation in Nuclear Physics" was performed on 15 February 1952. The task of the Council and its executive was to draw up plans for the new laboratory and its equipment, and to draft an intergovernmental convention to place the organization on a permanent footing. The Council met for the first time in May 1952 and the Geneva location for the site was finally agreed upon at the third Council session. The Convention establishing the European Organization for Nuclear Research (still referred to by the Council's handy acronym, CERN) came into force on 29 September 1954 when the instruments of ratification of seven of the Member States were deposited at UNESCO House in Paris. Some amendments to the Convention were adopted on 18 January 1971.
Article II of this Convention describes CERN's mission: "The Organization shall provide for collaboration among European States in nuclear research of a pure scientific and fundamental character, and in research essentially related thereto. The Organization shall have no concern with work for military requirements and the results of its experimental and theoretical work shall be published or otherwise made generally available".
CERN's first accelerator, a 600 MeV proton Synchro-Cyclotron (SC) began operation in 1957; followed, in 1959, by the 28 GeV Proton Synchrotron (PS), for a time the world's highest energy accelerator. In 1965 the CERN site was extended into France, and the CERN Council approved the construction on this new site of the Intersecting Storage Rings (ISR) - the world's first proton collider, commissioned in 1971. 1971 also saw approval for the construction of a second laboratory, adjoining the existing site, with a 7-kilometre Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS) initially planned for an energy of 300 GeV. Although at first administratively separate, the two CERN laboratories were united in 1976. In 1972 a four ring 800 MeV Booster was completed to increase the injection energy of the PS, and a Linac (Linear Accelerator) was also added in 1978.
1976 saw the start of operation of the Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS), which reached a peak energy of 500 GeV at the end of 1978. In 1978 the SPS was converted into a proton-antiproton collider, incorporating an Antiproton Accumulator ring (AA). In 1983 came the historic discovery of the W-bosons (January) and the Z-boson (May), the long-sought carriers of the weak nuclear force, thus confirming the 'electroweak' theory unifying weak and electromagnetic forces. In 1984 Carlo Rubbia and Simon van der Meer received the Nobel Prize for Physics this work. In 1992 another CERN physicist, Georges Charpak, also received the Nobel Prize for Physics for his invention of the multiwire proportional chamber.
As soon as antiprotons became available, physicists realized how much could be learned by using them at low energy, so the Low Energy Antiproton Ring (LEAR) was built in 1984. Antiprotons accumulated in the AA were extracted, decelerated in the PS and then injected into LEAR for further deceleration. In 1986 a second ring, the Antiproton Collector (AC), was built around the existing AA in order to improve the antiproton production rate by a factor of 10. In 1998 the AC was transformed into the Antiproton Decelerator (AD), which will perform all the tasks that were previously done by the AC, AA, PS and LEAR. In September 1995 an international team at CERN succeeded in synthesizing atoms of antimatter from their constituent antiparticles.
In 1981 the CERN Council approved construction of the 27-kilometre Large Electron-Positron collider (LEP) ring, the largest scientific instrument ever constructed, with an initial operating energy of 50 GeV per beam. It came into operation in 1989, and in 1996 its energy was increased to allow production of pairs of W particles. By the time of its closure in 2000 it had achieved beams of over 104 GeV. In December 1991, CERN Council agreed to the construction of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in the LEP tunnel. LHC is due to become operational in 2006.
Some 6,500 scientists, over half the world's active particle physicists, use CERN facilities. They represent 500 universities and over 80 nationalities. CERN research work is also at the origin of a number of technological advances, the most famous being the World Wide Web. This was proposed in 1990 by Tim Berners-Lee, working with Robert Cailliau, as a way to improve information sharing for large high-energy physics collaborations with members all over the world. Other spin-offs include contributions to cancer therapy, medical and industrial imaging, radiation processing and electronics.
The twelve founding Member States were the Federal Republic of Germany, Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, Norway, The Netherlands, United Kingdom, Sweden, Switzerland and Yugoslavia.
Yugoslavia left in 1961. Austria and Spain joined in 1959 and 1961 respectively - Spain left in 1969 but rejoined in 1983. Portugal joined in 1985, Finland and Poland in 1991, Hungary in 1992, the Czech and Slovak Republics in 1993 and Bulgaria in 1999, bringing the number of Member States to 20 in 2001.
States with Observer status (in 2001) are Israel, Japan, the Russian Federation, Turkey, Yugoslavia (status suspended after UN embargo, June 1992), the European Commission and UNESCO.
Immediate source of acquisition or transfer
The CERN Archive was created in 1980 as part of the CERN History Study. Most of the documents were collected from within CERN. Some collections of personal papers were also donated by persons associated with CERN. Copies of important relevant documents from other archives, e.g. UNESCO, are also included.
Scope and content
The CERN Archive aims to cover all aspects of CERN's activities, from before its creation in 1954 up to the present day. It includes:
- Official documents produced by the CERN Council and its Committees (Committee of Council, Scientific Policy Committee and Finance Committee)
- Files of previous Directors-General
- Files of the CERN Management and CERN Divisions (including unpublished CERN Divisional reports, technical notes, specifications, notes and minutes of meetings)
- Files of selected physicists and other staff
- Material documenting selected Experiments and Collaborations at CERN
The CERN Archive is also custodian of The Pauli Archive, which contains the papers of Nobel laureate (1945) physicist, Wolfgang Pauli.
Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information
Records are selected by the archivist, with advice from the Archive Committee and the Divisional Records Officers. Normally, selected records series are accepted in their entirety, with no destruction except of duplicates.
Further accruals are expected and the active collection of material is ongoing.
System of arrangement
The original order of material has been respected wherever possible. New material is normally received in the form of large accessions comprising a number of series e.g. meetings, correspondence, etc. Many of the accessions consist of papers created or accumulated by individuals during their careers at CERN; for this reason they have been catalogued as 'personal' collections, i.e. by the name of the individual rather than by the part of the organization to which they belonged.
To make it easier to find material in the Archive, a guide has been compiled in which all the collections are listed in groups corresponding to the following functions carried out at CERN:
- CERN Council
- CERN Management
- Theoretical Physics
- Accelerators (construction and running)
- Experimental physics
- Experimental physics facilities
- Information Technology
- Supporting Services, Technical and Administration
Conditions governing access
The rules governing access to the CERN Archives are defined in the "Rules applicable to archival material and archiving at CERN" published at CERN as CERN operational circular No 3 (1997). A brief summary is given below.
External users (persons who are not or are no longer members of the personnel of CERN) must send a written request to the Archivist. If access is requested to archival material which does not have free-access status, the request is forwarded to the Director-General to obtain authorization for consultation. Requests for access to documents or files with restricted access must be of justified interest and the intended use of the information extracted must be disclosed.
There exist three levels of access according to the type of archived material.
- Free access applies to the majority of the scientific and technical material archived. These include :
- All non-confidential documents of Council over five years old.
- All non-confidential documents (unrestricted distribution) of CERN experiment committees and of technical and scientific committees and boards.
- All CERN divisional reports, technical notes, specifications, etc. with free distribution.
- All CERN documents intended for the public domain.
In general, collections of a scientific nature from CERN staff (except documents or files marked confidential).
- Restricted access applies to documents with restricted distribution, to files containing administrative documents (in particular correspondence), and to some declassified confidential material. In general, files with a closing date of less than 30 years have restricted access, as do documents less that 30 years old produced by the subordinate bodies of Council (Committee of Council, Scientific Policy Committee and Finance Committee).
- Protected access applies to confidential material for a period of thirty years, which may be extended in exceptional cases to fifty years. Sensitive information, in particular pertaining to individuals, is confidential.
Conditions governing reproduction
Copyright CERN in most cases. Copies may only be made with the authorization of the Archivist and, when necessary, the originators of the document concerned.
Language / scripts of material
Documents are mainly in one or both of CERN's official languages: English and French. However a significant body of material exists also in German and Italian, and a smaller number in some other languages (mainly European).
Items are listed to file/box level in the CERN Archive database.
Searchable descriptions of collections within the CERN Archive are being drawn up according to the General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G)
Existence and location of originals
Some early documents relating to the creation of CERN are copies of items in the UNESCO Archive, Paris.
- History of CERN Volumes I and II / by A. Hermann, J. Krige, U. Mersits and D. Pestre; Amsterdam, North Holland Publishers.
- Vol. I: "Launching the European Organization for Nuclear Research" (1987, 622 pp.)
- Vol. II: "Building and Running the Laboratory" (1990, 902 pp.)
- History of CERN Volume III / J. Krige, Editor; Amsterdam, North Holland Publishers (1996, 674 pp.)
- Antimatter, the ultimate mirror / by Gordon Fraser; Cambridge, Cambridge University Press (2000, 213 pp.)
- How the web was born: the story of the World Wide Web / by James Gillies and Robert Cailliau; Oxford, Oxford University Press (2000, 372 pp.)
- The Quark machines: how Europe fought the particle physics war / by G. Fraser; Bristol IOP (1997, 210 pp.)
Description prepared by Anita Hollier
Date(s) of description: Geneva, the 11th April 2001.