“I spent my first few months collecting materials from foreign offices. I am always delighted to find someone who hoards documents!”
Describe your role
“Most of my time is spent describing and recording archival material. I spent the first few months collecting materials from foreign offices. I was always delighted to find someone who hoarded documents! The rest of the time I am collecting materials or – most fascinating of all – using the archives to research a historical question.”
What kind of documents do you look after?
The Pictet family archives carry material back even to the 15C. There are paintings, books and letters between Pictets and such historical figures as Napoleon I, Madame de Staël, Victor Hugo, Voltaire and Franz Liszt. "The Bank archives are somewhat thinner on historical material, though some partners kept documents, ledgers, that sort of thing,” says Laurent. “From the 19th century the most interesting is the correspondence between Edouard Pictet (the first Pictet family partner) and Cavour, a leader of Italian unification, about the creation of a railway system in his native Piedmont."
How are they stored?
“Each document is placed in its own special envelope which neutralises the acidity in modern paper. Many people think that archiving is about classification, like a library. But it’s not – it’s broadly chronological, and all about provenance and context, so you should never separate documents that you find together.”
What was your most interesting discovery?
“A photocopy of the Manuel de l’Inspecteur (dated 1959) on office behaviour. The original was long thought to have been destroyed. It contains memos ranging from advice on ethical behaviour to occasionally lighter matters such as whether women should be allowed to smoke in the office.”
How did you come to Pictet?
“I joined in 2007. I’d been working in the Red Cross archives and was planning to be a history teacher. Then, after a year working on the Swiss Pavilion at the World Expo in Japan, I was casting around for some temporary work. Pictet was looking for a part-time archivist to complete the documentary work that had been started in 2006 after the bicentenary. I thought, why not? As it happens, this temporary job has lasted nine years and continues to intrigue me every day.”