The municipal council (city council and parish council / parish council) is the focal point of municipal self-government. Its decision-making documents are central to the municipal archives and to historical research both locally and nationally. They contain the narrative of the local implementation of state policies and sources of political life from grassroots to organizations and parties. The municipal council is also an employer and deals with both large- and small-scale tasks. Its decision-making protocols are thus a gateway to both tangible human destinies and political decisions, as well as the strategic level and the level of government.

Dr. Søren Bitsch Christensen, PhD, Director of the Aarhus City Archives


In 2020, the National Association of Local Authorities celebrated the 50th anniversary of the local government reform in 1970. As part of the local government reforms, the country’s municipalities were reduced from 1098 to 277, and the distinction between parish and market town municipalities was formally abolished. The Organization of Danish Archives (ODA) wished to commemorate this anniversary by commencing a large-scale digitization project of decentralized archival material, with the involvement of volunteers throughout the country.

As early as 2017, ODA began coordinating a nationwide scanning and transcribing effort of the minutes and protocols from parish and municipal councils nationwide. The digitization and transcription of these negotiation protocols will make them more readable, searchable in full text, and accessible to everyone through the project’s website. RETRO will make a wealth of new studies possible for researchers, students and citizens when they wish to study local and national conditions in Denmark’s history now and in the future.

In close collaboration with ODA, Danish Archives share the efforts to prioritize the municipal councils’ negotiation protocols as one of the most important historical sources for understanding the lives and decision-making processes of local communities. The digitization efforts of these sources are important for the preservation of the protocols and provide an opportunity to reach new target groups in the dissemination of history. The RETRO project has been initiated with exactly those considerations in mind.

Supporters of RETRO

The Organization of Danish Archives is an inter-archival organization and network association for the Danish §7-archives. The archives consist of municipal and regional institutions that are open to the public. The responsibility of ODA is to make it possible for these archives to participate in nationwide collaborations on professional and common challenges such as digitization and collection activities. While ODA co-finances RETRO, the project secretariat is located organizationally at The Aarhus City Archives.


The following parties and foundations have contributed financially to making this project possible:

  • The Organization of Danish Archives (ODA)
  • The digitization of parish council minutes from Aarhus has been paid for by the Arhus Municipality Archives Committee “De danske arkivers almindelige virke og budgetter”
  • Region Midtjyllands kulturpulje for 2019
  • The Augustinus Foundation, The Louis-Hansen Foundation and the Velux Foundation
  • The State Archive, Rigsarkivet, has provided scanning equipment for the sub-project “Roots of Democracy”.

Besøg ODAs hjemmeside

Advisory Board

In addition to the contributors to the project, RETRO also has an advisory board. Their role is to be both sparring partners and ambassadors for the RETRO-project and must, among other things, help find research projects and uncover how the software Transkribus can be used in practice.

The follow-up group currently consists  of:

  • Charlotte Voss, president of ODA og Director of Gladsaxe Archives
  • Niels Elers Koch, Director of Trap Danmark and Lex.dk
  • Nina Javette Koefoed, Associate professor of history at The Department of Culture and Society, Aarhus University
  • Helle Strandgaard Jensen, Associate professor of history at The Department of Culture and Society, Aarhus University
  • Allan Vestergaard, Head of the User Service department at The Danish National Archives (Rigsarkivet)
  • Max Odsbjerg Pedersen, information specialist at The Royal Library (Det Kgl. Bibliotek)