The project to create the Historical Archive of Argentine Co-operativism (AHCA) originated in the need to collect, display and link the documents that constitute the historical heritage of the co-operative movement in our country. Although there are archives that preserve the documentary heritage of some co-operatives, they are isolated and disconnected, and researchers, co-operative members and other interested parties have little access to that valuable material.
COOPERAR together with Universidad de Tres de Febrero, Idelcoop, Iucoop and the Historical Archive of Credit Co-operativism, promoted this project to build a documentary center and a guide to co-operative archives that allows to systematize, locate, and help in the preservation of existing documents in different formats, with the aim of making them available to researchers and the co-operative movement, for the preservation of its historical memory.
There is a great variety of co-operative entities in the Argentine territory, the origin of some of which dates back to the end of the 19th century—89% of the country's departments and districts have at least one co-operative entity. Most of them are grouped into federations and confederations. Built to meet the common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations of their associates, some have changed over time and others no longer exist, but they are all a part of the identity of the communities that created and accompanied them in their development.
Co-operative entities are companies and form a social movement. Therefore, they keep record of the set of administrative data and information required by the law, but also have a highly rich and vast amount of other documents that correspond to their history as part of the social movement.
For different reasons, the historical memory of the Argentine co-operativism has not been systematically and completely preserved. The lack of adequate preservation and dissemination of collective memory in social movements threatens their development, growth and democratic operation. Not knowing their own historical journey makes it impossible for entities to learn and share those lessons, while also isolates them from the rest of the organizations of the solidarity economy.
On the contrary, knowledge of its institutional history is essential for the collective construction and dissemination of its ideas, as well as to solve specific problems within and between co-operatives. The socialization of memory makes it possible to strengthen the collective identity, and the sense of belonging. It also helps to question past situations or precepts that have been idealized, and allows for the inclusive and democratic thinking of strategies and guidelines of the specific practice. Additionally, it facilitates collaboration between entities and promotes the dissemination of the movement's culture.
These are some of the ideas that motivate the creation of the Archive, which aims to search for, preserve, organize and disseminate documentary, newspaper, oral and audiovisual material, essential for the reconstruction of the co-operative movement history and to spread its culture and that of the different organizations linked to the social and solidarity economy.