BLOG: Navigating the Archivo General de la Nación (Argentina) by Ashley Kerr

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Ashley Kerr is an Associate Professor of Spanish and Latin American Studies at the University of Idaho. Her first book, Sex, Skulls, and Citizens: Gender and Racial Science in Argentina, 1870-1910, was named the best book of 2020 by the Nineteenth Century section of LASA and was a PROSE award finalist. She is currently working on a manuscript that analyzes how the Buenos Aires Zoo and representations of its animal inhabitants were used to shape porteño society at the turn of the century, as well as how the animals and zoo visitors responded to those projects. As part of a year-long sabbatical, Ashley spent August-December 2022 doing archival research in Buenos Aires. Work done for this project has informed the following blog post. If you would also like to contribute to this blog, please contact Gretchen Pierce at or by filling out this Google Form. I'm looking for new posts for the summer months.

Navigating the Archivo General de la Nación (Argentina)

Many scholars who have worked in Argentina in the past will have memories of the Archivo General de la Nación’s (AGN) previous location in a far too small and antiquated building at Av. Leandro N. Alem 246. While historic, the building was uncomfortable and the archivists frequently complained about poor working conditions and unstable storage for extremely valuable materials.

Fortunately, the AGN has now reopened in Parque Patricios (Rondeau 2277) on the south side of the city (see Figures 1 and 2). It is in a modern building on the site of the former “new” Caseros Prison, now a “Sitio de la Memoria” for the political prisoners murdered there. Free guided visits are offered on Tuesdays at noon and can be reserved online a week in advance. If you’re at all interested in archival workings, the tour is worth an hour of your day. 

Figure 1: the new building (photo by author).

Figure 2: the new AGN building. Behind, a panoptic reminder of the site’s former purpose. In the foreground, a plaque honoring the political prisoners incarcerated there (photo by author).

While Parque Patricios is a bit further away from other archives, there are many buses that go to the neighborhood and the Caseros subway stop is only about 3 blocks away from the AGN. It’s also important to note that the AGN’s library is still at the Av. Leandro N. Alem site and most twentieth-century documents are located in San Telmo, Av. Paseo Colón 1093, 4th floor. More on determining which site you need to visit in the next section.

The AGN houses written, visual, and audio materials from the colonial period until the 20th century. Figuring out what exactly they have can be a bit of a challenge. The first thing to note is that there are actually two AGN websites that you will need to use. The first is Here, clicking on the circular pink button labeled “Estado de fondos documentales” will take you to a list of the different collections. Many, but not all, have digital inventories and descriptions that you can access from this page. Clicking on the yellow circle in the same row labeled “Cine, audio y video en línea” takes you to another page where you can search and access digitized audiovisual materials.  Finally, if you scroll down the page to the rectangular photo icons, clicking on “Biblioteca” will take you to a description of the AGN library, a searchable catalogue, and a collection of digital books.

Once you’ve identified the materials you wish to consult, or if you haven’t found what you’re looking for and need more help, go to the second website,, and register. After registering, you are taken to a home page where you can request services and reserve a time to visit. As not all the materials have been transferred from the old site to the new building yet, you must make an inquiry before reserving a turn at the AGN. Click on the purple “Realizá tu consulta” and submit a short request to confirm 1) if the AGN possesses the materials you’re looking for, 2) their location, and 3) if they’re currently accessible. You will usually receive a response in 24 hours.

Once you have your response, you need to schedule a time to visit. On the same page, click “Solicitá tu turno.” You’ll be given the chance to choose the location and the day. All times are from 10:30am-3:30pm. You will also need to list which materials you plan to consult. When I was last in the AGN, they were scheduling approximately two weeks out (although you can request further in advance), so keep that in mind when you’re planning your visit to Buenos Aires. Shortly after requesting your appointment, you’ll receive a confirmation email.

IMPORTANT: You must use latex gloves when accessing the materials and they request you bring your own. If you do not bring your own, they sometimes have some you can use but will likely give you a very hard time about it.

On the day of your appointment, show up with your passport or Argentine National Identity Document (DNI) (they will not accept a copy or a photo) and go to the front desk. There, they will register you and direct you to a small room with free lockers. You can bring in pencils, half sheets of paper, laptops, digital cameras, and cell phones. You must leave anything else, including bags, jackets, notebooks, books, etc. in the lockers.

Head upstairs to the reference desk and speak with the archivists about what you’re looking for. They have many paper catalogs that are far more complete than what is available online. You will give your name, tell the archivist what you wish to consult, and they will identify the location of your materials and put in a request. Although you have already listed the materials when you scheduled your visit, the archivist will not necessarily have that information. You’ll then go to the adjoining reading room, which is large and comfortable. Give your name at the front desk before taking a seat. You can connect to very good Wi-Fi via a QR code on the wall and they have extra pencils if needed. There are also clean bathrooms right next to the reading room.

An archivist will bring you your materials (see Figures 3 and 4 for a sample legajo and ledger). You can request up to three legajos per visit but may only consult one at a time. You may take photos without flash. When you’re done, return the materials at the front desk. Go back to the first room to request more or head downstairs, grab your bag, and sign out.

Figure 3: an example of a legajo (photo by author).

Figure 4: a ledger from the Clemente Onelli archive (photo by author).

The Archivo General de la Nación has a rich collection of documents and images that are invaluable to scholars studying the Río de la Plata region. Given that the new location makes consulting these materials easier and more comfortable than before, I highly recommend a visit!

In my next post, I’ll explain the process for navigating the National Library in Buenos Aires, another place where I spent many, many hours and an excellent complement to a trip to the AGN. Finally, in my third and final post I’ll talk about one of the most exciting experiences I’ve had in my career: being granted access to the untouched archive at Ecoparque, formally the Jardín Zoológico de Buenos Aires.


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Thanks Ashley, that’s very useful information. Looking forward to the next two instalments.
Chris Maxworthy