This week’s post is guest-authored by Mikkaela Bailey is a PhD student at CUA studying medieval history with special interests in women’s history, public history, and digital humanities. You can find her on Twitter: @mikkaela_bailey
Curation is a long, detailed conversation between individuals, offices, texts, and objects, as students from Catholic University’s History and Public Life class learned this semester.
It’s easy to evaluate an exhibit and poke holes in the choices made by its organizers. It’s far more difficult than I imagined to craft an exhibit.
With most of the logistics arranged long in advance by our professor for the class History and Public Life, Dr. Maria Mazzenga, our job as a class was focused on assembling and advertising the physical exhibit itself.
The first thing we had to do was break up the objects into thematic categories so we could decide what should be included in our display. Then, we had to plan how to best demonstrate the common themes between them and also establish continuity in the display. After that, we had to craft captions and marketing materials that communicated why our visitors should care about our work and choose to come see it.
One of the ideas about organizing the books rested on the idea that the Eucharist is a central and essential element of the catechism and one’s first Communion is an important life event. Since our audience is likely to be heavily Catholic, there is resonance with their own experiences in the exhibit here. This thematic approach connected well with the objects in the exhibit, and inspiration flowed from that idea as we assembled catechisms aimed at children and teens in the same display case. One thematic element of change over time was the implementation of more children’s catechetical education as the age for first Communion shifted from around 13 to around 7 years of age.
But, there were still two more cases to fill and many more objects to consider. In the first case, which we actually finished last, we installed the oldest books, including a Latin catechism from 1566. These 16th and 18th century books were connected by the vernacular languages in which they were printed. Printing educational materials in the vernacular was a very important emphasis of the Tridentine Catechisms, so grouping these non-English catechisms gave emphasis to the importance of the catechism worldwide, outside our own framework, and outside the Latin-based world of the church.
The central case features several interesting pieces, but it also provides context for the cases flanking it. This is where we chose to place the bulk of our textual engagement through questions we are asking the audience and a QR code linked to the digital exhibit.
At the end of this process, I am so thankful for teammates who were engaged from the beginning and expressed great passion for this project. I shudder to think of undertaking something like this alone! In fact, looking at the finished product, I feel as though no idea I had for the display was totally my own and I think almost every decision made was by committee. From the marketing materials to the captions and display case arrangements, this exhibit was completely collaborative and has benefitted from open communication and easy acceptance of constructive criticism. In public history, I think all of these qualities are essential for a successful, cohesive exhibit. This experience has been the highlight of my first semester as a PhD student at CUA!
This week’s post is guest-authored by Ronnie Georgieff, a graduate student in Library and Information Science at Catholic University.
Reverend John Talbot Smith LL.D. may have had a common name, but this Irish-American priest was anything but. He was a large, broad, solid figure. Over six feet tall, he was a “woodsman in a cassock,” some even calling him “the human icicle.” He is described as “utterly lacking in softness, never employed a caressing tone or phrase, and his impersonal Catholic viewpoint never relaxed or slackened or compromised.” Despite his intimidating figure, Smith was a practical joker, had a rather playful side to him, and a classic wit that could not be mistaken.
Smith was born in Saratoga, N.Y. on September 22, 1855 and was educated in the schools of the Christian Brothers in Albany, N.Y. and studied divinity at St. Michael’s College in Toronto, Canada. He was ordained to the priesthood on July 17, 1881. He was pastor of St. Patrick’s in Watertown, N.Y., pastor of Rouse’s Point, chaplain to the Christian Brothers at De La Salle Institute, chaplain of the Sisters of Mercy as well as pastor of Dobbs Ferry. Within the last year of his life, his health began to fail and on September 24, 1923, he passed away at the age of 68.
Outside of his priestly duties, Smith enjoyed the outdoors, which often inspired his writing. In his youth, the physicians had discovered in Smith a marked tendency of tuberculosis and prescribed a life in the pine woods and sleeping in a tent. So he became a missionary in the Adirondack region where he was well known by the woodsmen and lumberjacks. Soon after, he established The Boys Camp in Cliff Haven in 1898 as an adjunct to The Catholic Summer School of America. The Boys Camp was one of the first recreation camps for youth, which was greatly supported and highly revered by all who attended. Smith was also the president and trustee of the The Catholic Summer School of America for a number of years.
The outdoors, particularly the Boys Camp in Cliff Haven, in addition to the Catholic faith, Irish-Americans, social concerns especially in labor relations, housing and the theater, were big influences for his writing. He published many works, most notably “A Woman of Culture,” “Solitary Island,” “Saranac,” His Honor the Mayor,” “The Art of Disappearing,” which was reprinted under the title, “The Man Who Vanished” as well as “The Boy Who Came Back,” The Black Cardinal” and “The Boy Who Looked Ahead.” He also published articles in a number of prominent journals and newspapers such as the Dublin Review, the Catholic World, the Ave Maria, the Columbiad, and the Catholic Review of New York. He also succeeded Patrick Valentine Hickey, the editor and founder of the Catholic Review of New York, for 3-4 years. In addition, he was the founder and chaplain of the Catholic Writers Guild of America in 1919. His written works also include two volumes of sermons, short stories, histories, lectures for on literature at Notre Dame University, Indiana and plays.
Smith had quite a passion for theater, and unfortunately, lived during a time where there was tensions between the theater and the Catholic Church. He wrote columns on the theater in the Catholic Review of New York which sparked the beginning of the change of attitude in America towards the stage from Puritan to Catholic. He was also very important in the organization of The Catholic Actors Guild of America which would be very important to the Catholic community. It was dedicated to taking care of the religious need of individuals involved with the theater, and was in accord with Catholic discipline and morality.
It was the fall of 2017, my first semester as a graduate student and my first working in the University Archives. During this time, I had the special interest to create a program to increase the archival holdings that pertained to student life, with attention towards under-represented persons at the university. I wanted these students to have a permanent imprint on the memory of this institution so they would not only be subjects of history but creators and determiners of it. I also wanted to provide a basis for researchers to better understand the evolution of student life at The Catholic University of America (CUA) since its inception.
I had been inspired by the archives’ collection of early year books and the early photographs of students. I was transported to a time where Michigan Avenue was made of dirt and traffic consisted of a horse-drawn carriage or two. The photographic collections evoked but a cursory notion of what it must have been like to live this translucent existence amongst the wealthy, stately looking young men of the early university and what it must have been like to walk the streets of a city whose grand edifices and monuments were largely built by black men like me, who had been held in brutal bondage, just a few years prior, in order to bring this great city and nation to bear.
Through these photos, I was able to explore the lives of the earliest generations of students and I was able to clearly understand how the social nature of student life had evolved from earliest reaches of Jim Crow Washington, D.C. to the free flowing dalliances of the 1970s—a la the CUA Bong Club…
It was the materiality of the photographic print medium and how it had been meticulously cataloged, logically organized, preserved, and given a framework for efficient research access that had allowed me to explore the intricacy of time and place and to impart informative meaning onto my contemporaneous experience here. What I saw was that people who looked like me had been here since the inception of the university and have helped to shape the university intellectually and socially across many generations.
The Archive is a space where memory, remembrance, materiality, and visibility intertwine. There is no memory without materiality (be it through the physical visceral materiality of the oral edifice known as our mouth, be it documentary, or be it as an object); likewise, there is no remembrance without visibility; and there is no visibility without the performance of materiality.
For me, this realization is anchored by a revelatory observation made by Dr. Condoleezza Rice in her memoir, No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington that I often reflect on when thinking of the importance of archival materials: “Today’s headlines and history’s judgment are rarely the same. If you are too attentive to the former, you will most certainly not do the hard work of securing the latter.”
In this regard, an archive can be seen as a threshing floor that is situated between today’s headlines and history’s judgement and it is on this floor that we must search for the meaning of the latest artistic expressions, acquired by the university archives.
We are pleased to offer the Catholic University community access to the photographic art of recent graduate Alex Huntley—an art student who identifies as Transman.
The acquisition of Alex’s art work imbibes the university archive with standard-bearing materials through which future researchers will be able to gain an understanding of this inchoate period of great social transition, in which we now find ourselves.
The Catholic University Art Department has always been an academic unit driven by a vision to protect the freedom of individual artistic expression. This vision was established fifty-one years ago and this vision is what allows for today’s art students to enjoy tremendous agency of expression here at Catholic University.
In 1968, the Art Department’s faculty were called upon to make their cases as to whether or not the Art Department would integrate with The School of Architecture.
For many of the 1968 faculty members the idea of integrating with The School of Architecture was intriguing but would inevitably mean the total disintegration of philosophy and praxis. In fact, Alexander Giampietro, an Associate Professor of Art at Catholic University in 1968, composed a letter (Giampietro, 1968) detailing why the Art Department needed to remain its own separate department. He stated that “Fine Arts and Architecture are in a state of crisis [and] Man is seeking questioningly for a way out of the chaos that is impending,” because society had failed to “…cope with man the creature as an end.”
The inability of some social spaces to accommodate for the individual is what the art faculty felt was the fuel for man’s rebellion through art, which “…is but a tribute to the human spirit trying to find a way out,” and that this is all “…a sign that man is hungry in his heart.” (Giampietro, 1968)
The impending chaos that the 1968 faculty feared was Collectivism. Giampietro’s (1968) premise rested squarely on the anti-collectivist ideas of Eric Kahler’s 1968 monograph The Disintegration of Form in the Arts, where he quotes from the following passage:
The overwhelming preponderance of collectivity with its scientific, technological and economic machinery, the daily flow of new discoveries and inventions that perpetually change aspects and habits of thought and practice, the increasing incapacity of individual consciousness to cope with the abstract anarchy of its environment, and its surrender to a collective consciousness that operates anonymously and diffusely in our social and intellectual institutions—all this has shifted the center of gravity of our world from existential to functional, instrumental, and mechanical ways of life. (p. 3)
Giampietro goes on to make collectivism analogous to such “conditions” as the “mini-midi-maxi skirt, long beards, psychedelic happenings, and John Cage’s ‘Music’—a rather astute observation because even norm challenging trends are ironically collectivist, devoid of individuality, and thus rendered unremarkable and disposable by scale.
We are now half a century removed from the world of the 1968 art department and Giampietro’s fight for the individuality of the artist has ensured that their hungry heart can be satiated through the freedom of unfettered artistic expression, which has become a mechanism of visibility, permanency, recognition, self-narration, and self-definition for students like Alex, here at the Catholic University of America’s Art Department.
Our University Archivist, W. J. Shepherd, has instilled in me an infectious appreciation for all things Churchill. And in the spirit of that enlightenment, I leave you at a contemplative position from which to examine Alex’s art work—through the lens of Winston Churchill’s view of the arc of history: “For my part, I consider that it will be found much better by all Parties to leave the past to history, especially as I propose to write that history.” Alex has written (His)tory at The Catholic University of America, during a time where society has attempted to author his reality, and through these artistic expressions, generations to come will have a sociological key to understanding who were as people and who we were grappling to become.
Alex’s works will be available in print and may be checked-out to the Catholic University Community. His work will also be preserved in digital format through the university archives digital archive.
This post is guest-authored by Lea Wade, STEM Librarian, University Libraries, and member of the Textbook Affordability Task Force of the Washington Research Library Consortium.
Textbook costs are increasing. Since 1977, college textbook prices have risen over 1,000 percent.
Vox had a recent article on how much students spend on textbooks, and what publishers are offering to do to help. Over two-thirds of students skip buying or renting some required texts because they can’t afford them.
University and college students are estimated to spend $1,240 dollars on books and supplies at the average full-time private four-year college in 2018-2019 (College Board, 2019). That’s an increase from the average 2017-2018 cost of $1,220 at private colleges. Textbooks at public colleges are estimated to cost more: in 2017-2018 the average cost was $1,250 (Collegedata), and in 2018-2019 the estimated cost is $1,298 (College Board).
The cost varies from course to course – generally, prices for textbooks in the sciences and analytical studies such as accounting are much higher than in the humanities. At Catholic University, the most expensive textbooks cost $446 for an accounting textbook to $396 for an Italian language textbook with the accompanying online access code. When the course requirement includes paying for an online access code, students do not have the option of renting or buying a used textbook. In those cases, students may resort to sharing with a friend or doing without the required online access. Other students may drop out altogether if they cannot afford the required textbooks.
Libraries and colleges can work together to reduce the burden of textbook pricing on students. The Catholic University of America University Libraries is leveraging its membership in the Washington Research Libraries Consortium to examine options. One option is expanding textbook access through library reserves. Another is expanding the use of Open Educational Resources, or Open Textbooks. A recent report from the Public Interest Research Groups has laid out some options for resolving the problem by embracing Open Textbooks.
“Open Educational Resources (OERs) are teaching, learning, and research resources released under an open license that permits their free use and repurposing by others. OERs can be textbooks, full courses, lesson plans, videos, tests, or any other tool, material, or technique that supports access to knowledge.”–Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition.
OER involves replacing textbooks with openly licensed and easily accessible documents and media. With OER textbooks, students have access to the text online at no cost. Faculty can be assured that if students do not read the assigned text, it is not because they couldn’t afford the text.
Some universities are providing grant funding to faculty who agree to refocus their courses to include the use of OER. Even more funding is often provided to faculty who write an open textbook. Years of advocacy for open educational resources has begun to move the needle toward greater acceptance. Student Public Interest Research Groups have released an action plan for universities and faculty to help relieve the burden of textbook cost. An associated student-led campaign, the Open Textbook Alliance, provides simple handouts and guides on open textbooks.
Your subject liaison librarian can help you identify free open-source textbooks if you are wondering what is already available. There are several online open repositories of textbooks that are free and available to use for your research and coursework.
If you are wondering what is already available, there are several online open repositories of textbooks that are free and available to use for your research and coursework.
Some OER Repositories include the following sites:
You can learn more about what other campuses are doing to improve student success by reducing textbook cost burden from this article [Espocito, J. The Coming Wave of Affordable Textbooks [https://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2018/11/19/the-coming-wave-of-affordable-textbooks/], November 19, 2018].
Students should directly advocate for open textbook use in their classrooms.
Faculty should consider adopting open textbooks in their classrooms. They should check the U. Minnesota Open Textbook Library to see if there’s a book available for your class.
Campus administrators should consider creating an open textbook pilot program on their campus. They can see the University System of Maryland’s MOST Initiative as a sample.
State and federal legislatures should invest in the creation and development of more open textbooks. See Washington State’s Open Course Library as an example.
Publishers should develop new models that can produce high quality books without imposing excessive prices on students.
This week’s post is guest-authored by Joseph Smith, a graduate student in Library and Information Science at Catholic University.
This semester, I had the privilege of processing a collection to create a finding aid (or inventory) of materials belonging to a remarkably prolific scientist: Herman Theodor Holm. The variety and amount of items in the collection not only speak about Holm’s evident passion for his field (botany), but also demonstrate why they should be made available to the University Archives’ patrons, be they seasoned researchers or casual lovers of science and history.
Born on February 3, 1854, in Copenhagen, Denmark, Holm had an interest in biology from a young age. It was not until 1882 that the young Holm embarked on “his first great opportunity… when he was attached to the Danish North Pole Expedition as botanist and zoologist,sailing from Copenhagen in July of that year and spending the next two winters in the ice packs of the Arctic Ocean” near Nova Zembla. After this, Holm “spent the summers of 1884-1886 in West Greenland” engaged in additional botanical and zoological work. In 1888, Holm immigrated to the United States and became a citizen. The jobs he held in America included “assistant botanist in the United States National Museum” (now the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.) and a position at the U.S.Department of Agriculture. Along with this work, his early days in the United States included studying plant life in Colorado for a three-year period. As such, he was a noted expert on plant life of alpine and arctic regions.
Holm’s connection with CUA stems from his earning a doctoral degree in botany in 1902. Starting around 1921, he lived in rural Clinton, Maryland, but in early 1932, he took up a resident academic position at CUA with the title of “Research Professor of Biology.”
Holm passed away later that year on December 26. In the wake of his sudden death, he left behind an immense array of unorganized papers. His will appears to bequeath his library and his botanical collection to the University of Louvain in Belgium in response to the losses that the institution had suffered during the First World War.
The Herman Theodor Holm Papers contain numerous botanical notes on various categorizations of plants that were of particular interest to Holm, such as “sedges (Cyperaceae) and grasses(Gramineae),” both of which are represented in the collection. Topics pertaining to botany are prevalent throughout mediums ranging from individual sheets of paper, notebooks (that sometimes function as sketchbooks), and even manuscripts. Holm also penned a variety of articles, some of which were published in Merck’s Report, as highlighted in the collection.
The collection includes correspondences panning decades. Based on some of the items in the collection it seems that Holm kept in touch with other fellow scientists of his day, such as the naturalist John Macoun of the Geological Survey of Canada, and his son, the botanist James M. Macoun.
Illustrations can be found throughout the collection in the form of sketches and plates. Holm was a talented illustrator. His depictions of plant life (and occasionally marine and insect life) are extraordinarily meticulous, and having an eye for detail would certainly be necessary for a serious scientist.
Not long after his death, a statement recognized his work as follows: “For nearly 60 years, Dr. Holm was acknowledged as a leading authority on Arctic and Alpine flora and although his contributions to the field of botany in the form of discoveries, collections,drawings, and the like, are unparalleled [sic] he had spent the last decade of his life in so obscure a fashion that only a few scientists in this city[Washington, D.C.] were aware of his residence near here [the University].” For a man who is regarded as such an important figure in the realm of science, I find it remarkable that Holm is not better known. Even a quick Google search today produces very little about him, apart from a small Wikipedia entry and some scattered bibliographic references.
It would seem that now is the time for the relics of his life and work to be brought forward. Many of the items, such as the manuscripts and the botanical notes, have yet to be deciphered and transcribed, and this is something that makes this collection particularly exciting. It provides a wealth of opportunity for researchers to explore, study, and share the prolific information that Holm accumulated. The promotion of this collection may be the start of furthering the notability of this overlooked scientist.
 James Waldo Fawcett, “Recalls War Tragedy: Botanist Leaves Work to Belgium,” Washington Star, January 29, 1933.
 H. B.
Humphrey, Makers of North American Botany
(New York: Ronald Press, 1961), 114-15.
 “Celebrated Catholic Botanist’s Collection Is Willed to Louvain U.,”N.C.W.C. News Service, February 13,1933. Courtesy of the American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.
This week’s post is guest-authored by Ronnie Georgieff, a graduate student in Library and Information Science at Catholic University.
Monsignor James Marshall Campbell devoted his life to The Catholic University of America (CUA) as a student, professor in the Greek and Latin Department, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, his contributions shaped the lives of many. His collection is comprised of 8 boxes that consist of research notes, sermons, homilies, lecture notes, articles, course outlines, photographs, newspaper clippings, correspondence and prayer books.
Campbell was born on September 30, 1895 in Warsaw N.Y., and was educated at Hamilton College (1913-1917) to receive his B.A. in Greek, Princeton University (1917-1918), and then The Catholic University of America (1920-1923) where he received his M.A and Ph.D. in Greek. He prepared for the priesthood at the Sulpician Seminary, now the Theological College, and was ordained on January 14, 1926. He was a brilliant academic, who had a particular love for the classics. He became a professional assistant in the classics (1920-1921), then an instructor (1921-1927), an associate professor of Greek civilization (1927-1932) and finally a professor of Greek (1932). He was fluent in English, Attic Greek, Latin, German, and French, and his professional studies included advanced Attic Greek composition, ancient Greek tragedy, Greek philosophy, ancient history, history of classical philosophy and Greek fathers. In addition, he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, the American Philological Association, and the Medieval Academy of America. His research and teaching material reflected his scholarly passion, writing several books, articles, and contributions. Most notably, he wrote his master thesis on ‘The Question of the Origins of Tragedy’ (1920), wrote his doctoral thesis on ‘The Influence of the Second Sophistic on the Style of the Sermons of St. Basil’ (1922), ‘The Greek Fathers’ (1929), ‘The Confessions of St. Augustine: Books I-X’ (1931), A Concordance of Prudentius’ (1928-9), and ‘Los Padres Giegos’ (1948).
Campbell served as the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (1934) until he retired (1966). He was also the Director of the Pacific Coast Branch of the Summer Session (1932-1970), helped develop a plan of concentration for the curriculum which is partially modeled off the Princeton preceptorial system, and even cut out football at Catholic University as an intercollegiate sport. This was not the only grievance that he caused, and a number of academic controversies created a rift between the College of Arts and Sciences faculty and Campbell. There was even a walkout in February of 1966 and it was soon followed by a petition for the replacement of the Dean in March 1966. As a priest and later a monsignor, he was a chaplain at Holy Cross Academy and Dumbarton College while simultaneously working at CUA. He was also named a Domestic Prelate of His Holiness Pope John XXIII (1959). He died the evening of March 25, 1977 at St. Joseph’s Home of the Little Sisters of the Poor.
It was not until I processed this collection as part of a library science practicum that I learned about Msgr. Campbell and his contributions to CUA. His passion in academia as well as his administrative leadership showcase a remarkable individual who through both his small and large contributions is an inspiration to follow your passion and lead with excellence. See the Msgr. James Marshall Campbell finding aid.
This week’s post is guest-authored by Michaela Granger, a graduate student in History at Catholic University.
Age: 17. Height: 4 feet, 11 inches. Nose: small. Forehead: large. The above description belongs to a certain Alexander Louis Joncherez, a young man who came of age the same year as the Première République of France. This particular document was issued the “the fourth year of liberty, and the first year of equality,” otherwise known as 1792. In September of the next year, mere days after the ‘Reign of Terror’ had begun, officials in the District of Montivilliers recorded that Joncherez was now 18 and had grown to 5’ 1’’. They also gave him permission to travel. Joncherez took advantage of this freedom and eventually arrived in the newly established United States. In 1798 a clerk of Prince George’s County, Maryland, recorded that Joncherez had officially been naturalized as a citizen of his adopted nation. How do we happen to know these details about a relatively obscure French-American who lived over two-hundred years ago? The eleven documents which provide this information are part of the American Catholic Research Center’s Iturbide-Kearney Family collection.
In many ways, the story told by these documents raise more questions than they provide answers. In order to highlight both this fascinating collection and the process of historical inquiry, the rest of this post will be dedicated to considering some of the most interesting questions surrounding Joncherez’s papers. Perhaps the best question to begin with is “why did Joncherez keep these papers?” During the French Revolution, the possession of a valid passport could often mean the difference between life and death. French citizens who left during the Revolutionary period were called émigrés, a term that connoted a certain degree of disloyalty to the Republic. Fearful that these émigrés were plotting to overthrow the new government from their places of exile, the Revolutionary government began passing new legislation in 1792. Any émigré who attempted to return to France after this date had to prove they were given permission to leave and had remained loyal to the Republic during their absence. If they were unable to do so, they were liable to be executed as traitors. In light of this, the fact that Joncherez kept these documents suggests he had some intention of returning. If he had wished to completely sever his ties with his natal country, there would have been no need to keep these eleven documents (which include not only several passports, but documents confirming he paid the war tax, had taken an oath of allegiance to the Republic, and provided compulsory military service).
Did Joncherez hope to return to France? Or did he keep the documents purely for sentimental value? If he ultimately hoped to return, why did he leave in the first place? Did he ideologically support the Revolution? Or did he simply pretend to as a survival strategy? What did his French citizenship mean to him? Another set of fascinating questions relate to Joncherez’s ultimate destination: the United States. Why did he choose to come to the United States? The overwhelming majority of French émigrés migrated to England, estimates suggest close to 12,500 per year. There were at least 7,400 members of the French clergy alone in England by 1792. Why didn’t Joncherez go to England? It does not seem likely that Joncherez had family in the United States, but it is not impossible that he could have had other networks which drew him here. If it was not relationships, could he have been drawn to the United States for ideological or religious reasons? A few other notable French émigrés settled in Maryland, for example Father John Dubois, founder of Mount St. Mary’s University. However, Joncherez wasn’t a member of the clergy. Could Joncherez, like Pierre Charles L’Enfant and Marquis de Lafayette, have been attracted to America’s Revolutionary spirit?
Finally, why did Joncherez choose to stay? When Napoleon Bonaparte granted amnesty to the majority of émigrés in 1802, a sizeable number of them returned to France. Why not Joncherez? We do know he married a certain Nancy Sanford of Virginia, although it is not clear when. Could he have stayed for love? If it was not a traditional romance that influenced his plans, is it possible that by this point Joncherez had fallen in love with his adopted home and the life he had created here? Additional research has revealed that Joncherez quickly made himself a productive and active member of early American society. He served on the jury of the U.S. Circuit Court of the District of Columbia twice in 1809. He exchanged property with Edgar Patterson in 1811 and Benjamin MacKale in 1817. He exchanged two letters with Thomas Jefferson regarding the donation of several maps in the summer of 1812. He registered as a private in ‘Irwin’s company,’ part of the District of Columbia’s Militia, during the Creek War (1813-1814). There is some evidence that he taught French at Georgetown University and was a member of the local chapter of Freemasons. He had children, and grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. In fact, one of these great-grandchildren, Louise Kearney, happened to marry an exiled Mexican prince and pass on the documentary testament of Joncherez’s life to the Catholic University Archives. My hope is that this post may inspire some to visit these holdings for themselves in search of even more answers.
This week’s post is guest-authored by Austin Powell, a graduate student in History at Catholic University.
On November 14, 1904, Demetrias Cunningham, a daughter of Irish immigrants and now Mother Assistant of a young order of American nuns called the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart, wrote to a Pittsburgh priest: “Our sisters now in Pittsburg [sic] have written to say that you are very much interested in the Italians in your city – and seem desirous to know more of our work, prior perhaps, to having a small band of our sisters to work amongst these poor people. We enclose a report of the work done generally by our Community and will also give an outline of it amongst the Italians.” Demetrias goes on to explain how the Mission Helpers sought to catechize recent Italian immigrants in three Mid-Atlantic American cities at the turn of the century: Demetrias’s native Baltimore, and the New Jersey cities of Trenton and Atlantic City.
Between 1880 and 1924 Eastern European immigrants arrived by the millions to the United States. This was only the latest in a series of mass migrations which led to an ever changing dynamic as people who spoke different languages, practiced different religions, and identified as different races and ethnicities lived together and interacted, sometimes peacefully but other times not. Indeed, anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic sentiments reached a fever pitch in the 1910s and 1920s, culminating in 1924’s Johnson-Reed Act which established quotas regarding the national origins of arriving immigrants, effectively outlawing immigration from Asia and steeply cutting the numbers of Italians and eastern Europeans allowed entry to America.
Scholars have recognized that the archives and papers of religious organizations can provide insights into branches of American history outside the strictly religious, such as labor or immigration. And because of the nature of their work the collection of these Baltimore nuns, which entered the Catholic University Archives in 2014, provides ample evidence for how communities of different nationalities, races, and religions engaged each other in America’s cities around 1900.
In 1890, Anna Frances Hartwell (an Anglican convert to Catholicism) adopted the name Mother Joseph and founded the order in Baltimore. Originally, the group was entirely dedicated to missionizing the predominantly Protestant African American population of Baltimore; however, after 1896, the scope of the Mission Helpers’ ministry expanded to people of all races. They soon had a particular focus on ministering to deaf Catholics as well as the many Italians settling in America. The nuns also opened houses in 1902 and 1905 in the recently conquered Spanish territories of Puerto Rico and Guam.
In her 1904 letter, Mother Demetrias, who served as Mother Joseph’s deputy, describes how the Mission Helpers established catechism classes for young Italian boys on weekday evenings in Baltimore. The nuns also managed evening classes in “secular studies” (i.e. reading and writing) for those same boys. In Trenton the nuns had a “Home Training School” for Italian children, teaching them to respect their elders and how to clean their linens; meanwhile, in Atlantic City the nuns conducted sewing classes for Italian girls. It was not only the tenets of the Catholic faith the nuns wanted to impart to these new arrivals, but also more practical skills which would help them operate in American society.
However, Mother Demetrias notes that the nuns first had to build bonds of trust with the Italian parents before they could convince them to send their children to the Mission Helpers’ schools. To do this they would visit the immigrants in their homes, staying for ten or fifteen minutes at a time “and in this way we get acquainted with the family, talk to them on indifferent subjects, until they learn to know us.” As almost all the Mission Helpers in these years were Irish immigrants or the children of Irish immigrants, many of the sisters had to learn Italian to better minister to that growing community; indeed, the collection holds more than one example of Italian lay-people living in American cities writing letters to the Mission Helpers in their own native tongue.
Mother Demetrias emphasizes that the purpose of their work was to convince Italians, young and old, who had not gone to Mass to receive the Sacraments “sometimes for three, four, five as many as ten years,” to reform their lives in accord with Catholic teachings and practice. Yet a 1921 report the Mission Helpers’ sent to the Vatican provides further explanation. In the later document it becomes clear that competition with Protestants was a top concern for the nuns. Indeed, they note that in Trenton they opened their Sunday School for Italian children in the same building some Protestants were holding theirs, thereby “rescuing nearly all these children.” In New York the sisters claimed there were “14 different Protestant sects busily proselytizing” the immigrants, and one man, an excommunicate, in Staten Island called “Di Santo … has succeeded in deceiving many.”
The letters and reports of the Mission Helpers reveal much about Catholic-Protestant competition for the souls of recent immigrants at the turn of the century, as well as the methods these women used to minister to a variety of different groups in the United States, including African Americans, Italians, Puerto Ricans, and deaf people. The records of the Mission Helpers are held at the Archives of Catholic U. For more information, please email
The following post was authored by Graduate Library Professional Juan-Pablo Gonzalez.
The University Archives recently acquired four photographic works by Lindsey Whalen, B.A. 2018, who presented her undergraduate thesis show Resurgence in the Salve Regina gallery during the fall of 2017.
Lindsey’s work is a topically layered translation of her turbulent emotional state while healing from a dislocated ankle, a broken tibia, and a broken fibula that she sustained from a fall. Her medical treatment included fourteen screws, a metal plate, fifty-six stitches, and over two months of recovery.
Injury often causes dramatic physical and emotional transfiguration and these changes can intersect in unexpected ways; for Lindsey, her injuries affected her creative drive and threw her into a season of restlessness: “All summer, I didn’t touch my camera, my paint brushes, anything art related.”
As the mental fog began to clear, Lindsey felt empowered to begin creating art again, but this time her work would bear the existential weight of her recent traumatic injuries—she alludes to this uncertainty by enshrouding her subjects in an atmospheric liquid that alternates between opacity and translucency; this mysterious liquid seems biomimetic and conjures a uterine environment, where new life is being created; but what lies beneath the liquid is inchoate, unreconciled, and not ready to be shared with the world.
Her work is an act of disruption because it precludes the audience’s inclination to arresting the feminine image and subjecting it to somatic critique as a function of addiction to harshly cross-examining images of women based on patriarchal heuristics that almost always impart a dimension of sensuality. By showcasing her own body as a palimpsest that is simultaneously in various states of erasure and composition she does not allow space for the audience to attempt to author meaning in her narration universe.
Lindsey’s work has now become part of the university archives and will be housed among materials from over 100 years ago; from an archival perspective, Lindsey’s work traverses the scale of time because it is intimate look into how a young woman at Catholic University defined herself through artistic acuity, it is a look into how this young woman related to the social reality of women and their visual representation in the late 2010s, and it is a look into how she visually harmonized injury; physical and emotional transmutation; beauty; and rebirth through practicing the craft of art as a biopsychosocial-spiritual mechanism.
In 3018 (1,000 years from now) her work will form part of a network of materials contained in archives all over the world that have crystallized this very point in time—a significant generational zeitgeist that has been signified by the vast amounts of people who are using social media to hold traditional media accountable for poor visual representations of their communities and signified by the vast amounts of people who have eliminated traditional media as a factor in how they construct their social representations and relay their unique stories to the world. We are in an age where we can subvert the power that traditional media and print culture has had to dissolve our personal agency by taking our own photographs; through scripting and shooting our own films, through creating our own print publications, through writing our own books, and through using social media to discuss and distribute our stories in an environment that is not controlled by traditional media outlets.
For general interest in the museum art collection, please send inquiries to email@example.com. Please note the Archives does not do appraisals of non CUA Museum materials.
Resurgence – 2017 Undergraduate Thesis Show by Lindsey Whalen
(Speakers on medium volume!)
The following post was authored by Graduate Library Professional Juan-Pablo Gonzalez.
“Black Theology arises from the experience of being black and oppressed in the United States. It is a theology which seeks, first, to speak to Black people where they are now. It explains what it means to them to be black and Christian. Only then does it look beyond the Black community and present itself, without apology, to the white Christian world.
—Diana Hayes, 1985 Dissertation titled Historical Experience and Method in Black Theology: The Interpretation of Dr. James A. Cone, submitted to the Faculty of the School of Theology at the Catholic University of America.
The quoted text is from the dissertation of a previous Catholic University of America theology student and is representative of the many powerfully-written hermeneuticaltexts that were authored by students and collected by Father Davis in his exploration of the Black American Catholic experience.
Cyprian Davis was one of the great theologians, exegetes, liturgiologists, homeletes and (what the Swahili call a mwanafalsafa) to emerge from the African American Catholic tradition and the Catholic tradition as a whole. His work was focused on racial reconciliation, racial unity, the unity of the church, the evolution of the African American Catholic identity, and the healing of a people who carry the genetic scars of enslavement.
The literatures of the Davis collection are emblematic of what any descendant of the Africans who were brutally snatched from their homelands and placed into a vile system of chattel enslavement in order to build The United States of America into the greatness that it is today, would intuitively know: that the historical and contemporaneous African American experience is one of dizzying permutation. It is a disparate amalgamation of social forces and perplexities that has been aptly characterized by the Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III as a blue note existence—one in which the existential mood is premised upon the contrasting nature of all things bittersweet. This notion of contrasting forces as coessential to one another, is a conceptualization that is prevalent throughout the history of West African philosophical schools of thought and is critical to the African understanding of the world. The West African cerebration of metaphysic coessentiality and complimentary opposing forces within the natural world was exhaustively investigated and expertly exposited by Marimba Ani in her 1994 monograph called Yurugu. Metaphysical coessentiality is the ethereal, spiritual marrow that is responsible for the superhero endurance that African Americans have shown throughout the history of the Atlantic World and it is the foundation on which Davis’ epistemology rests.
The Black spiritual and religious tradition is often simply referred to as The Black Church; however, this phrase is indicative of an uninformed, undistinguished, monolithic view that belies the multifactorial nature of the African American spiritual tradition and how it was transmuted by White Christian violence that was enacted as a means of perpetuating African American enslavement and dehumanization, and as a means of destroying African American’s own centuries old West African spiritual traditions by having the church decree them as evil witchcraft that would need to be denounced or one would suffer grave tortures to ensure that this occurred.
While Christianity was largely unknown to African Americans, it was a faith that had noble roots in East African societies that are older than those in Rome. Despite the malefactions through which the African American religious tradition emerged, it was transformed by Africans’ creative nature through creolization and syncretism between traditional West African spirituality and the new religious tradition forced on African Americans.
What is most interesting about Father Cyprian Davis is evident throughout his collection—his remarkable quest to reconcile the ways in which the word of God had been hijacked and weaponized against African Americans. But how did Davis forge a space for African Americans?
As an archivist, Davis was not afraid of facing the ugliness of the Church’s history head on and exploited this history to bolster the physical, psychological, intellectual, and spiritual resilience of the African American Catholic community. Davis understood that the darkness of the past was inextricable from the light of the future, so he sought to prepare African American Catholics for a church that was in many ways no different from the world around it because the church had been historically and contemporaneously a hostile space for African Americans that would require the acuity of self-knowledge to navigate and to repair the institution. It was an incredibly bold way to usher in the spirit of reparation, through directly living out the Church’s values of human dignity and the mandate to protect the sacred nature of life.
The Cyprian Davis collection consists of 32 boxes of materials from the estate of Benedictine Fr. Cyprian Davis of St. Meinrad Archabbey in St. Meinrad, Indiana. The collection reflects his research into and interest in the history of black Catholics in the United States, black spirituality, and the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus, which he helped found in 1968. The collection includes a wide range of materials, mostly printed, and reflects Davis’ multifaceted interests. Among the items are the records, agendas, and minutes from various conference proceedings, especially the National Black Clergy Caucus, the National Black Catholic Congress, and joint conferences. Also included are the records pertaining to a range of projects in which Davis was heavily involved, including the Black Hymnal Project and the Historical Commission in the Cause of Father Augustus Tolton (1854-1897). Davis’ notes and assembled research material relating to his most famous book, The History of Black Catholics in the United States (publ. 1990), and other research projects are also included, along with the texts of his various public addresses. The bulk of the materials span the period from the late 1960s to the mid-2000s.