The question of the dispersal of archives is intrinsically linked to their accessibility— documents which remain in private hands are by definition less likely to be preserved in an enduring manner, and the chances of the archive fonds remaining intact are less certain.
From its very beginnings— indeed this was one of the main motivations behind its foundation— the IMEC's mission has included the conservation of archives from the private domain, notably the records of publishing houses, and making them accessible to the public. This was not self-evident at the time, and, in order to per-suade the owners of these archives, the IMEC developed a legal guarantee in the form of a deposit contract that allowed the depositor to retain the material ownership of the fonds. The growth of the IMEC archives centre was unprecedented in the 1990s; individuals, such as authors, artists, book trade professionals, or their estates, proved to be very interested in the deposit contract, and the centre could then respond to the need to preserve literary papers and the growing demand for them on the part of researchers. Over time, the IMEC has put in place a system that is even more secure, based on a contribution agreement, in which the material ownership of the documents is transferred to the Institute.
The participation of the IMEC in the Diasporic Literary Archives Network fitted into the Institute's further reflections on this original aim. The first presentations within this project retraced the different initiatives being taken to prevent the risk of dispersion for business and personal archives. In addition to the support provided by public bodies, which has been growing in this area (the IMEC benefits from subsidies from the French Ministry of Culture and the Regional Council of Normandy), new establishments (validated by the Archives of France) are also working to provide optimal conditions for the conservation and security of archives in an environment that is particularly appreciated by scholars: the Abbey of Ardenne, near to Caen. It was in this location that one of the Network's “workshops” was held in 2013, with the objective of bringing together professionals of the book trade (publishers, literary agents, press officers) and university researchers, as well as booksellers and manuscript dealers.