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Pernambuco State Public Archives

A document – the richest and most complete data source – as precious as it is, becomes useless if not properly classified and catalogued.

Pernambuco State Public Archives

Article available in: PT-BR ESP

Last update: 06/12/2016

By: Semira Adler Vainsencher - N/I

History is made with documents.
Documents are the imprints left of the thoughts and deeds of the men in former times.
Among the thoughts and deeds, very few are those that leave visible evidence;
and such evidence, if any, is seldom lasting,
needing just any accident to erase them.
Now, every thought and every act that has not left
direct or indirect evidence, or whose visible evidence has disappeared,
becomes lost to history:
They are as if they had never existed.
For a lack of documents, the history of great periods
of humanity’s past may never be known.
For nothing can take the place of documents:
No documents, no history.
(unknown author)

The creation of a public archive is of paramount importance: it centralises a large number of documents in one place, and is also responsible for their selection, classification, cataloguing, restoration and conservation.

A document – the richest and most complete data source – as precious as it is, becomes useless if not properly classified and catalogued. Therefore it is accessibility that transforms it into an asset of public knowledge.

When the Campo das Princesas Palace was renovated in 1922, thousands of documents (considered only as “old papers”) belonging to the State’s historical archive, which had been archived since the administration of the Count of Boa Vista in 1842, were thrown into the Capibaribe River.

Given the very need, it was during the government of Judge José Neves Filho – federal intervenor in the State of Pernambuco – on 4 December 1945 that the State Public Archives (SPA) was established by Decree-Law 1,265. This intended to put a stop to the destruction of government documents, and open a space for all who wished to consult them. On the date of its creation, among the responsibilities of the SPA, Article 2 clearly read that it should keep and preserve:

I – the originals of all laws enacted by the executive branch, as well as its decrees, acts, ordinances and regulations;
II – historical documents of any kind;
III – copies of official correspondence by state authorities;
IV – completed administrative proceedings;
V – reports and memorials submitted by government-appointed committees, whatever the purpose;
VI – public documents of any kind that might be of historical, scientific or related interests;
VII – geographical maps created by public offices which are no longer of interest to them;
VIII – documents relating to state property;
IX – books, documents and papers of the extinct offices, and
X – documents, papers and books of any kind existing in the archives of the offices, which can be taken from them without compromising service.

Other responsibilities of the State Public Archives were as follows:

a) Prevent any document, book, map, report, memorial or paper of any kind, which has historical value, of the state and municipal agencies, including notary services, to be discarded without prior authorisation of the Director;
b) make arrangements with state and municipal agencies to ensure archiving and inventories of their files are made;
c) make inspections of all documents with historical value in the archives of state and local offices, including notary services;
d) publish a biannual journal for the dissemination of unpublished documents that are kept and the diffusion of historical subjects and the like;
e) keep and preserve any document, whether public or private, whose content may be of interest;
f) request private cultural institutions or state, local and federal agencies to lend documents, manuscripts, books and other papers to publish in its journal, whether belonging to the State or not;
g) promote and foster exchanges with institutions and similar agencies;
h) create a reading room for people interested in researching historical documents;
i) maintain an input register of books, papers and documents, specifying their origin and nature.

As can be seen, Decree-Law 1,265 stated that the SPA should publish a biannual scientific journal aiming to disseminate unpublished documents, as well as essays, articles and monographs on criticism, diplomacy, historical themes and related sciences. The Journal of the Public Archives has been published since 1946 until today.

The SPA then undertook an exhaustive cataloguing of very important documents, which remained stacked up in numerous places – including government agencies – sparing them from the destruction of time and insects.

Since the 1970s, the SPA has been called the Jordão Emerenciando State Public Archives (APEJE), in honour of its first director, whose management ran from 1945 to 1972. The Public Archives operates at 371 Rua do Imperador, in the neighbourhood of Santo Antônio, Recife.

Finally, it is worth noting that without the Jordão Emerenciano State Public Archives, many documents would simply no longer exist, and many historic chapters would remain as missing links: unable to have been restored or reconstructed and made available. The creation of the Public Archives, therefore, represents the end of a battle for knowledge and against cultural neglect. Therefore since 1946, the SPA has benefitted the population with its invaluable rescue of Pernambuco history and, consequently, the country itself.

Recife, 1 July 2003.
(Updated on 14 September 2007).
Translated by Peter Leamy, July 2016.


sources consulted

ARQUIVO Público Estadual de Pernambuco. [foto neste texto]. Disponível em:<>. Acesso em: 06 dez. 2016. 

REVISTA DO ARQUIVO PÚBLICO, Recife, 1º semestre, 1946.

REVISTA DO ARQUIVO PÚBLICO, Recife, 2º semestre, 1946.


how to quote this text

Source: VAINSENCHER, Semira Adler. Arquivo Público Estadual de Pernambuco. Pesquisa Escolar Online, Fundação Joaquim Nabuco, Recife. Disponível em: <>. Acesso em: dia  mês ano. Ex: 6 ago. 2009.