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The Archives Department

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Since the foundation of the Missions Étrangères de Paris in the seventeenth century, the archives have been collected and stored by Jean-Marc Odam, a layman assigned to take care of the material concerns of the seminary. He was assigned to write the letters of directors.

During the French Revolution and during the reign of Napoleon, part of the archive, especially documents concerning the properties and financial transactions was confiscated by the state authorities.

It is only in the mid-nineteenth century, that the archives began to be classified in a systematic way. In 1867, Fr. Jean Rousseille was appointed as archivist. It was in hiP. Adrien Launay dans son bureaus time and under his leadership that the collections of archives were bound in volumes.

In 1882, Father Adrien Launay was appointed as the head of the archives department and 

he continued the work of his predecessor. The board of directors entrusted him with the compilation of the analytical and the alphabetical tables of the archive volumes. He compiled many works with help of a team of seminarians and priests.

Since then, many archivists followed Father Launay and continued to gather information regarding missions and to compile the obituaries of the missionaries. 

The work of the archives

“The archives are documents, regardless of their date, form and medium, produced or received by any person or entity and by any public or private service in the exercise of their activity.” Art. L. 211-1 of Book II of the code of heritage.

The archives department’s mission is to collect, classify, preserve, communicate and promote the archives of the Missions Étrangères de Paris.


To maintain the heritage of the MEP and make it available, one of the fundamental tasks is to collect and search for the documents produced by the fathers of the Missions Étrangères de Paris.

The department collects the archives not only in Paris but also in all mission countries.

The collection saves the written, oral, graphic and electronic memory of the Society for future generations. The collections are also enriched by the donations and by the purchases of the documents of private individuals, companies and associations..

1 -  Number 7085 : chinese catechism of F. Gennevoise, donated of F. Masson (SJ) in june 2015.
2 - Photo album of F. Noël with portraits of missionaries XIXème siècle, buy in 2013.


In order to make available the documents collected, the staff of the archives does the work of sorting and classification. This demands a meticulous work and a good knowledge of the Society. The classification results in making inventories and research tools that describe a set of documents of the archives.


The written archives are stored in the mobile shelves in the store of the building at 28 Rue de Babylone. Maps and plans are kept horizontally in the furniture designed for this purpose in the same building. The iconographic archives are in the main building at 128 Rue du Bac

Conservation also involves the restoration and digitization of documents. The Department must transfer data from the old support in order to transmit to future generations.

The archives bound in volumes were fully microfilmed and are being digitized in our premises

The researchers also have their share of responsibility when they work with the original documents. They must always ensure that they handle them delicately without damaging them

1 -  Furniture of maps and plans
2 - Shelving of manuscripts archives
3 - Microfilm reader
4 - Copibook


Salle de lecture

The archives are available to all for free. Communication involves no automatic right to reproduction.

The archives of the Missions Étrangères de Paris wish to communicate to the public the history and written heritage of the Society, through publications, website, exhibitions, visits…

All these means enable valuing the heritage of Missions Étrangères de Paris.



The advisory role

The archives department is available to the various services and establishments of the Missions Étrangères de Paris to give information and to answer your questions concerning the archives and its collection.

- What are archives?

- What should be documented?

- How to file the archived documents?

- Should we keep everything?

Archivists advice you and along with you they try to come up with the right solution to the problems concerning classification.