By keeping documents of the state, a municipality, a church or a university, archives ensure the tradition of the administrative action. They also make sure that the organization of political parties or a corporation, or the history of the nobility is well documented.
But what about that part of history, that doesn’t take place in those regular and formal structures but nevertheless influences the development of society? New Social Movements, NGOs, other groups or people that are involved in struggles for freedom, emancipation and human rights are expressions of a pluralistic and vital society. Only the original documents of, e.g. the students, the women’s, the ecological or the peace movement or documents of the independent music scene tell us about this part of history that is often left out of official historiography.
In 2017 there exist about 100 Free Archives that collected more than 20.000 running meters documents of New Social Movements and other groups of civil society that would otherwise get lost as no official archive is responsible for collecting them.
This section intends to give an overview of the group of Free Archives, their organizational structures, their appraisal methods – and their collections about movements in East- and West-Germany since the 1960th. Additionally the important tasks Free Archives are fulfilling nowadays will be discussed.