The study of documentary sources was considered until recently a stronghold for scholars, a field restricted to the scientific and academic sphere that created an interpretative rather than physical barrier towards our past. Fortunately the current files are open to all audiences which boosts a more critical, polyhedral and transverse knowledge of history.
And this is because the documentation kept in the archives, mainly with administrative value, is able to offer different interpretations and be the subject of various studies. A population census of the nineteenth century helps us to understand not only the local demographics and households, but also the social stratigraphy, its distribution in the urban core, literacy, productive sectors, etc. A municipal budget that nowadays has economic and administrative value may likewise be shredded in each of its items and studied as an anthropological source because it captures the traditions, celebrations or everyday activities, and other political and social considerations.
The unique physical characteristics of paper documentation -support of the documentation until the recent incorporation of the electronic document- and the cares that its preservation requires regarding temperature and relative humidity control, adds to the vicissitudes of history like wars, lawsuits or inadequate facilities.
Due to these factors, without forgetting that our Villa, then University of San Juan and Benimagrell, belonged to the city of Alicante, the oldest document kept in AMSJA dates from 1847. The documentary series on taxes and levies, budgets, censuses of inhabitants and minutes of the plenary council started in the second half of the nineteenth century.
The AMSJA currently has modern facilities, including a large consultation room with an auxiliary library specialized in local topics and its own exhibition space in which to carry out dissemination activities of their funds.
Among the services offered to citizens, professionals and researchers who wish to approach to documentary sources, you can get advice on the use and study of documents, access to information and preventive conservation of media, visits and didactic workshops, etc.
Like all municipal archives, the AMSJA holds the documentary fund of the institution to which it belongs, the documents produced and received by the City Council of Sant Joan d’Alacant. But it also has funds from other local institutions such as the Agrarian Chamber, political and trade union organizations of the municipality and files of people and families who have wanted to deposit their documents here so that they can be studied by all.
The nearly 9,000 documentary installation units that are stored in the AMSJA form a kind of collective memory of the history of our town. The documents can speak to us if we want to listen to them and they deserve all our care so that they can continue doing so to the new generations.
Did you know that…??
One of the oldest and most prominent documents to study our town is the homicide trial between Saracens preserved by the Archive of the Crown of Aragon. This legal process from 1315, with its interrogations, declarations and other formalities, could seem like an arid document. Nevertheless it has been a key source for diverse historical, anthropological and toponymy studies that have derived from it and that reveal it as the oldest description known of the people who inhabited this area of the Horta, by capturing references to their economy, beliefs and ways of life.