As you exit the Ai Archivo bar in Santa Croce, you will see over the canal, beside the Frari, the door to the State Archives. There are some 75,000 linear metres of shelf space, that’s about 48 miles, full of archive boxes. The First Rule of running an archive is to never discard anything, so there are documents from about 1200.
And if you turn right after leaving the Ai Archivo, cross one bridge and you’ll see some rubbish bins. Big deal, you might think, a magnet for rats and seagulls. But those bins are where the Archive dumps its rubbish, should they choose to discard anything, contravening the above First Rule.
A couple of years ago, there must have been a housekeeping blitz in the Archive, rubbish piled up around the bins. Toner cartridges, CRT screens, cardboard boxes, paper, whatever. And a wooden archive box.
We instantly grabbed it.
It is a little smaller than A3, would hold a pile of paper three inches thick, has a hinged wooden lid, and is labelled “Busto No 4, Console Russo, Lettere, 1781. On another defaced label, the numbers 1386 – 1394 can be made out. I think it is probably 250 years old, maybe older, and the marking out for the for the dovetailed joints is still visible. We call it the Venice Box, and keep our maps, passports, left over euros and Venezia Unica cards in it.
It is worth keeping an eye on those rubbish bins. You might just get lucky.