A Protracted Lockdown: The WHO Archives and Research on the History of International Public Health Today

Document Type : Short Communication


Ph.D. Candidate, Teaching Assistant, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva, Switzerland


The WHO Archives in Geneva has been closed to researchers and the public since March 11, 2020. The Archives hold valuable, vast official correspondences, documents, photographs, and other kinds of dated records of the World Health Organization and related defunct establishments dating back to 1907. The closure of the archives became necessary in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic and the general lockdown that attended it. While normalcy has since returned in virtually every institution and sector across the globe, the closure of the WHO Archives has continued unbroken for over 2 years and 4 months with grave implications for research and scholarship on the history of international public health. This essay is a critique of that protracted closure which is now clearly unnecessary and unjustifiable. It is also a call for an urgent end to it in the interest of the fundamental right of access to information, and knowledge production.


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