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IMF Archives

FAQ for Searching IMF Archives Catalog

Last Updated: July 28, 2017

  1. What is the IMF Archives Catalog?
  2. What can I search for in the catalog?
  3. How can I search for records related to a specific person, country, or subject?
  4. Some records have person/institution, country, and subject keywords and others do not. Why is that?
  5. Fonds? Series? What do these mean?
  6. Why can't I see records for individual papers in the Departmental Files?
  7. Do you have any photographs? Audio or video?
  8. Are all documents available digitally?
  9. How do I request records from the Archival holdings that are not available digitally?
  10. Why can I see descriptions of documents I can't request?
  11. What are the access and copyright restrictions?
  1. What is the IMF Archives Catalog?
  2. This is the web search interface for the Fund's Archival holdings. Use it to search for public records held by the Fund Archives.

  3. What can I search for in the catalog?
  4. The IMF Archives catalog has two main components: (1) the Institutional Archives and (2) the Executive Board Documents. As a user, you can elect to search both components simultaneously, since they usually do not duplicate each other, or search them individually.

    The Institutional Archives are composed of the Bretton Woods Conference Collection, the Central Files Collection, and the records created by the departments of the IMF as they perform their business, documenting – for example – the decision making process, the IMF’s relations with member countries, and the use of IMF resources. The Departmental Records include, but are not limited to, correspondence, memos, cables, tables of data, and reports. Records are usually organized as they were created by the department: whether chronologically, by subject, by country, or by a member of senior management (e.g. a deputy managing director or a department head).

    The Executive Board Documents Collection consists of documents created for the Fund's Executive Board by either management or the departments. These include, but are not limited to, agendas and minutes of Board meetings, policy papers, staff reports, consultations with member countries, and papers on fiscal, monetary and economic policy issues.

  5. How can I search for records related to a specific person, country, or subject?
  6. The Fund's Archives uses controlled vocabulary lists to aid in the search for records relating to specific people, institutions, countries, subjects, or document creators. In either search form, click the "Browse Terms" button to bring up the appropriate index of terms. You can browse through the list of terms using the red arrow keys at the bottom of the window.

    If you wish to jump to a particular part of the alphabet, or know the term you are searching for is similar to several others, type one or more letters into the search box before clicking "Browse Terms." (i.e., "m" will open the window to the start of terms beginning with m, while "sec" will display the Secretary's Department, along with all its divisions.)

  7. Some records have person/institution, country, and subject keywords and others do not. Why is that?
  8. In the Institutional Archives, keywords were applied at the series level and above and sometimes added at the file level. In the Executive Board Collection, keywords were applied at the item level to most documents created after 1983, however only country keywords were applied to most documents prior to 1983.

    If your search using these fields comes up short, try searching again in the Combined Field Search or in the Title field. File level records in the Departmental Records will tend to have applicable keywords (e.g. country name, stand-by arrangement, oil facility, gold) in the title.

  9. Fonds? Series? What do these mean?
  10. Archivists use special terminology to describe levels of archival material. A brief description of the hierarchical archival descriptive levels and their use at the IMF follows, listed from top of the hierarchy to the most specific:

    • Fonds: The highest level of description, a fonds is the whole of the records created, accumulated or used by a corporate body or a person in the course of its or his/her activities or functions. A Fonds at the IMF corresponds to an existing or previously existing department (e.g. the European Department Fonds)
    • Collection: A Collection is an artificial assemblage of documents of any provenance brought together on the basis of some common characteristic (e.g. The Bretton Woods Conference Collection; Executive Board Documents Collection).
    • Sous-Fonds: Sous-fonds, or sub-fonds, are used to describe the organizational division level (below the department). Where possible, each division is given its own sous-fonds (e.g. Exchange and Trade Relations Department Stand-By Policies Division sous-fonds). However, in some departments, the divisions were reorganized with such frequency that separating them is effectively impossible. In these instances, a single Division Sous-fonds was created (e.g. Western Hemisphere Department Division Records Sous-fonds)
    • Series: An archival series is a set of files within a fonds or a sous-fonds grouped together because they relate to the same function or subject, result from the same activity, or have a common form (e.g. Country Files, Chronological Files or Director E. Walter Robichek Files)
    • Subseries: Where needed, subseries are used to further describe discrete groups of records within a particular series (e.g. 1987 Annual Meetings Photographs)
    • File: The file level describes individual file folders that contain documents (e.g. Australia - Sugar Buffer Stock Financing or Algeria – Correspondence). File records will have the dates associated with them, the departmental creator, and sometimes subject or country keywords, but generally relatively little additional metadata.
    • Item: In some instances the archival holdings will be described to the level of the individual items within the files. This usually only happens for digitized items (e.g. the Bretton Woods Conference Photographs or the Executive Board Collection). Most archival records are not described to the item level.
  11. Why can't I see records for individual papers in the Departmental Files?
  12. The Departmental Records contains millions of individual documents. In order to save processing time and make records available according to the IMF's access time rules, records are described to the level of the file folder, allowing researchers to determine which files might be of interest.

    When sections of the archival holdings are digitized, the Fund Archives has generally taken it as an opportunity to collect item-level descriptions of that particular section. This includes the entirety of the Executive Board Documents Collection. Some of the photographic collections have also been described to the individual photograph, though most of them are described at the file level or higher.

  13. Do you have any photographs? Audio or video?
  14. The Fund Archives has a large photographic collection consisting of over 400,000 photographs taken by both IMF staff photographers and commercial photographers. They detail Executive Directors, Managing Directors, other senior Fund staff, and visits from representatives of member countries, Fund events, committees, the Headquarters buildings, and other subjects. Also included in the collection are photographs from the Bretton Woods Conference and the Inaugural Meetings of 1946.

    The Archives also maintains a substantial collection of audio recordings on reel-to-reel and cassette tapes. Most of the recordings are of Annual Meetings and other main events by the Executive Board and Board of Governors, and also include press conferences and training information. Unfortunately, due to format issues, this collection is not yet available to the public.

  15. Are all documents available digitally?
  16. No. Most of the Fund's records are paper-based, and it is not economically feasible to scan everything. Certain sections of the holdings (i.e.: the Executive Board Documents Collection, the Bretton Woods Collection, parts of the Central Files - Country Files Series) have been digitized, and the digital versions are available through this web site. The majority of the Departmental Records, however, remain only accessible in paper. As new digital files become available, they will be made accessible through this website.

  17. How do I request records from the Archival holdings that are not available digitally?
  18. Paper records are only available onsite at the IMF Archives. External researchers can contact the reference staff by e-mail, mail, telephone or fax (in English only) through the following means:


    Mail Address:
    International Monetary Fund
    Archives and Records Management
    c/o Reference Archivist
    Room CN-200
    700 19th St., NW,
    Washington, D.C. 20431


    Click here for more information about onsite visits.

  19. Why can I see descriptions of documents I can't request?
  20. Access to Archival holdings is based on elapsed time, with Departmental Records more than twenty (20) years old and not otherwise classified available to the public. However, the IMF Archives receives records from the departments in tranches that do not always correspond to the time rules. In order to streamline the work, the Archives process all the documents in a tranche at the same time. Descriptions of records newer than twenty years are provided, however the records themselves may not be accessed until they have met the time rule’s requirements.

  21. What are the access and copyright restrictions?
  22. Unless further restricted, Executive Board documents are available either three (3) or five (5) years after creation, and Institutional Archives are available twenty (20) years after creation however, access will not to be granted to the following series of records:

    • legal documents protected by attorney-client privilege;
    • confidential documentary materials provided to the IMF by external parties, including member countries, their agencies and central banks, unless such parties consent to their declassification;
    • personnel files, medical and other records pertaining to individuals; and records and proceedings of the IMF Grievance Committee.

    Classified records are removed from the archival holdings until their declassification by the relevant authority; in those instances, a form informs researchers that information was removed from the file and for which reason. Declassified records are re-integrated into the archival holdings and marked as such.

    This site contains digitized material to which the IMF does not hold copyright. A single copy may be made by an individual for his/her own private, non-commercial use. For all other purposes, it is the responsibility of the individual to obtain permission for use from the copyright owner.

    Further details on access and copyright can be found here.