James, Cardinal Gibbons was a key figure in American Catholic history as a major leader and spokesman of the Church during a tumultuous time of industrial growth, contentious immigration, and structural change in American society. He was also a founder and first Chancellor of The Catholic University of America (CUA), where his presence on campus is commemorated by Gibbons Hall (see image below). He also presides over the CUA campus in many guises, most notably as a marble bust in McMahon Hall and a large oil on canvas painting in Mullen Library. There is also a small collection of his archival papers preserved in the CUA Archives and another, larger cache with the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
My colleague Dr. Maria Mazzenga has blogged previously about digital materials, especially those used in the American Catholic History Classroom teaching sites. My intent here is to review the separate and distinct digital collections that originated from a 2001 grant from the Federal Institute of Museum and Library Services’ National Leadership Program to The Washington Research Library Consortium (WRLC), of which CUA is a member. Each member was asked to provide materials for digitization via WRLC’s collaborative facilities known as the Digital Collection Production Center (DCPC), and CUA provided a total of ten collections during the DCPC’s era of operation, 2002-2010.
I confess that I am not one of those archivists mesmerized by every new shiny bauble that comes along, so I had curmudgeonly doubts about the utility of putting resources into digitizing at that time. Fortunately, taking a chance turned out to be the right thing to do as the collections selected (or ‘curated’) have been enduringly popular and frequently accessed by researchers. However, things have changed since 2010 and the process to create what many would call these ‘boutique’ collections is now being augmented, if not superseded, by mass digitization of a broader range of materials and formats (which my colleague Paul Kelly will talk more about future). Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: Hark! The Digital Angel Comes!”→
As mentioned in a previous blog entry, the Museum Collection at CUA is the oldest part of the American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives. The first donations date to before CUA opened in 1889. Items were displayed in Caldwell Hall until 1905, and thereafter, until 1976, parts of the collection were either displayed in McMahon Hall, Mullen Library, or in storage. Since then the collection has been stored in Curley Hall, and more recently parts in Aquinas Hall or with items being used in campus exhibitions, often the May Gallery in Mullen, or loaned to secure campus offices to be displayed and enjoyed as office decoration.
CUA continues to accept a small number of artifacts as part of its manuscript collections along with paintings, sculptures, and other objects from individual donors. In 1976, responsibility for the museum was taken up by the American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives (then known as the Department of Archives and Manuscripts), though it was not until 1994 that a project to establish a comprehensive and descriptive catalog of the entire museum collection was undertaken. The museum collection today includes art works and artifacts representing different periods and genres, totaling about 5,000 pieces. For more on the history of the Museum, see http://archives.lib.cua.edu/musecol.cfm. Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: Collecting the Sacred and Secular – The Museum at CUA”→
I’d argue, too, that Jefferson was an outreach kind of guy. He wanted “what remains” of lives lived, as in the archival records of public servants in particular, out in the public sphere, where future generations could examine and learn from them. So went the way of archives in America. Generally speaking, American archives are open and accessible to the public, and have become more so over time.
Thanks to archival records, in fact, we know that Jefferson had ties to the Catholic University of America here in Washington, D.C. It was Jefferson who advised Samuel Harrison Smith, a Philadelphia native, to relocate to what is now the campus of Catholic University, in order to establish Washington’s first newspaper, the National Intelligencer. Smith and his wife, Margaret Bayard Smith, followed Mr. Jefferson’s advice and built a home that would remain part of the Catholic University campus until it was demolished in 1970.
Though there was a museum at The Catholic University of America (CUA) going back to the university’s founding in the late 19th century, the Archives at CUA originated much later as shortly before World War II Msgr. Francis Haas began collecting the papers of important Catholic labor leaders such as Terence Powderly, head of the Knights of Labor (1879-1893), and John Mitchell, president of the United Mine Workers of America (1898-1908). These papers were stored in Mullen Library, but there was no staff to organize nor rooms where researchers might examine them. After the war, history faculty, particularly Rev. John Tracy Ellis, worried that university history and of Catholic Americans generally was being lost through neglect of vital records and papers.
As a result of Ellis’ advocacy, a committee that included Msgr. Edward Jordan (the vice rector), Mr. Eugene Willging (acting director of the library), and Rev. Henry Browne, was formed to establish an archives envisioned as the “memory” of the university, a depository for collection of the nation’s Catholic leaders and important organizations, and a resource for the history of Catholics in the American labor movement. The Archives officially opened on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (December 8, 1949) in an impressive ceremony that included Wayne Grover, archivist of the United States; Archbishop O’Boyle, chancellor of the university; Ernst Posner, archivist of American University and a seminal theorist of archives; Philip Brooks, president of the Society of American Archivists; and Dr. Guy Ford Stanton, executive director of the American Historical Association (see photograph above). They spoke of the importance of archives in the preservation of culture, and, specifically, of the Catholic Church’s long tradition as a keeper of historical records. Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: More Than You Imagine – The Archives at CUA”→
Before the 1960s, almost no dioceses had more than part-time archivists, only a few Catholic colleges and universities devoted much attention or resources to the collection and preservation of Catholic documents, and most religious orders had hardly even considered the need to create archives. Professional training among archivists in Catholic institutions was virtually unheard of and standards of professional practice nonexistent.
Since then, increased public interest in history (reflected in the formation of new history museums, the popularity of historic preservation, and the increase in the numbers and professionalism of public history personnel) has been mirrored by the development of archives within the Church.
In 1974, in preparation for the nation’s Bicentennial celebration and after effective lobbying by several historians, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops issued “A Document for Ecclesiastical Archives.” The bishops noted the general neglect of Catholics in the writing of American history and conceded that that neglect had been caused, at least in part, by historians’ lack of “access to the pertinent documents of bishops, dioceses, religious orders.” The document urged all bishops who did not have an archivist to appoint one quickly. More recently, in 1997, the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church contended that “Archives are places of memory which must be preserved, transmitted, renewed, appreciated, because they represent the most direct connection with the heritage of the Church community.” The Commission went on to encourage professional training of archival staffs. Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: Introduction to American Catholic Archives”→
The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives and the Catholic University Department of Education announce a new professional development course for Catholic High School teachers to be held on the campus of Catholic University and at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. The course, American Religious Responses to the Holocaust, will run from July 8-12, 2013. For details, see American Religious Responses to the Holocaust Course.
Three hundred early eighteenth-century French and Latin titles from the Albani collection, many of them the only exemplars in the United States, are now cataloged and available to researchers in Rare Books and Special Collections (214 Mullen). A sampling of their content may be found at the RBSC blog: http://ascendonica.blogspot.com/
Deborah Beckel, Ph.D., has been awarded a Mohler grant for her project examining women and the Knights of Labor in the South. She is the author of Radical Reform: Interracial Politics in Post-Emancipation North Carolina (University of Virginia Press, The American South Series, 2011). Originally from Georgia, Beckel received her undergraduate degree magna cum laude from Mount Holyoke College, her masters’ degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and her Ph.D. from Emory University. She has worked as a librarian and archivist, and as a documentary editor. A resident of Virginia, she previously taught women’s and gender studies at Sweet Briar College and currently teaches history at Lynchburg College.
For his work examining the Protestant image in the Catholic mind William Cossen will receive a Mohler grant in 2013. Mr. Cossen is a doctoral candidate in the Department of History and a member of the George and Ann Richards Civil War Era Center at The Pennsylvania State University, studying under the direction of Philip Jenkins and Amy Greenberg. His dissertation is currently titled “The Protestant Image in the Catholic Mind,” and it will examine the construction of Protestant identity by American Catholics in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. Mr. Cossen is the recipient of a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Political Science from Emory University in 2008 and a Master of Arts degree with honors in History from Penn State in 2012.
The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives accepts applications for Mohler Travel Grants every year. For more information on the Mohler Grants, see: http://archives.lib.cua.edu/Mohler.cfm