Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives (OSA)


The Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives (OSA) at Central European University (CEU) is a complex archival institution. OSA is both a  repository  of important collections, primarily related to the history of the Cold War and grave international human rights violations, and a  laboratory  of archival experiments on new ways of assessing, contextualizing, presenting, and making use of archival documents.

OSA is a research institute dealing with archival, taxonomical, informational and historical problems related to its holdings, and also reflecting on the role, obligations, and limits (as well as on overcoming these) of repositories that preserve important historical sources. As an archival institution, OSA seeks to work in a self-reflective way, problematizing its existence, its tasks, its practices. OSA  serves reasearchers coming to work in the archives, and at the same time works together with them, drawing upon their experience to assess and evaluate its holdings and practices. Together with the International Visegrad Fund, OSA provides research fellowships to scholars who are encouraged to digitize, tag, comment, and make publicly available the documents they find in our holdings in the Parallel Archive. We develop tools to help all those interested in our collections to digitize the documents, to organize, tag, and—if they wish—share them; to build virtual collections, and import primary documents from other sources.

OSA, its holdings, and the research based on our collections, are the basis of an expanding teaching  program. OSA receives students from the CEU and institutions around the globe, who come here to study the role and use of archival evidence, the changing functions of the archives, how to build trust in new types of archival institutions, and the special methodological problems of studying the sources of the fantasies on which the Cold War was constructed. Our professional archival and research work is integrated with complex public programs, some of which we also archive, and our Galeria Centralis serves as the focal point of exhibitions, performances, installations, film screenings, lectures, and seminars.

OSA is an archive of the copy,  meaning that we are primarily interested in the content, rather than the materiality of our documents; we actively seek out non-traditional documents—material previously marginalized based on its content, social origin, or form. OSA is also “an archive of last resort,” helping important organizations and institutions whose holdings are in danger for organizational, ideological or political reasons, to find a secure and professional archive for their endangered documents. Through all of these endeavors, OSA advocates open access, equal rights to information, the ethical use of private data, open formats and open standards, and broad access to cultural heritage; and fight globally for the opening of archival collections. OSA is one of the original signatories of the Budapest Open Access Initiative.

One of OSA’s aims is to  broaden access  to primary sources by overcoming technical, legal, geographic, and socio-cultural barriers. The Open Access Movement has made a valuable contribution by opening up scholarly sources to a wider audience. Nevertheless, as it stands, the concept of open access is still mostly limited to scholarly publications, and excludes archives and primary source material. This has negative implications for the shape of historiography and humanities scholarship. Our goal is to extend the concept of open access to include archival holdings. This is one of the reasons we have developed a strategy which includes large-scale digitization, multilingual description, and the implementation of open-source solutions and open standards. The use of current international benchmarks, and our collaboration in large-scale international digitization programs, serve to secure our status as a trusted digital repository.

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