Envisioning the Future of Catholic Religious Archives: What Are the Options?

By | September 5, 2019


Good morning. My name is Ellen Pierce. I just wanted to, before
I introduce the speakers this morning– and we only
have an hour for the speakers- I wanted to say a few words. On behalf of the
advisory committee and all of us
gathered here, I would like to personally thank Father
William P. Leahy, the president of Boston College, for his
interest and generosity in making this critical
conference possible. Since our first initial
meeting with Father Leahy he has been a passionate
advocate for the preservation of Catholic religious archives. And without his commitment
to this conference, we would not have been able
to assemble here today. So I wanted to thank Father
Leahy and thank all of you for your participation. Give yourselves a hand. [APPLAUSE] So I’m going to introduce
the three speakers and then, they’ll be up
here to give their talks. First is Emilie “Lee” Leumus. She is a certified archivist
and records manager. She is the director
of the archives of the Archdiocese
of New Orleans and curator of the Old
Ursuline Convent Museum. Dr. Leumus holds
leadership positions in national and international
archives organizations, including chairing the section
for archives of faith based traditions for the ICA,
which is the International Council on Archives. Her publications include many. I’m not going to read them all. So that’s Lee. And next, we have
Kat Oosterhuis. And she is the director
of the Mercy Heritage Center since February of 2016. Located in Belmont,
North Carolina, the center serves as a central
repository for the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas. And Kate– Kat, I’m sorry, Kat. Her name is Kat or
I’ll say Kathryn. She previously worked as an
archivist at The Mint Museum in Charlotte, North
Carolina, and I’m sure that has nothing
to do with mint leaves. And lastly, we have David
Horn who retired in 2017 right after I did. I did not retire
from Boston College, but David retired from the
Burns Library at Boston College. And for many years, he taught
the introductory archives workshops for the Society
of American Archivist. He graduated from
Saint Anselm College and holds an MA in history
from Boston College and an MLS from the University of Oregon. So welcome our speakers,
Kat you’re first. [APPLAUSE] There’s a really bright
light, and I’m also a walker as I talk and
I need to see my slides. This is my TED Talk. I don’t have a lava
layer or anything. And I noticed right off– for all of us that
write and try not to make mistakes– that I have
a mistake in my first slide. There should not be a capital
T. We are not the diocese. But we’re going
to talk about how we can partner with a diocese. And this is what I want to cover
very briefly, in 15 minutes or less. And that is how the
Archdiocese of New Orleans has partnered with many
of our communities. I’m going to talk about
the role of the archivist as the diocesan archivist
and how that person can be an expert to
you and be someone that you can liaise with to
get some information from. And then, I’m going to talk
about some of the options. The one option you
have in front of you, we can go over in
detail if we have time. If not, it is for you
to be able to pilfer from in all of its glory. It has gone through
our general counsel. It is a document that we use
when we do a trust and care agreement, and I’ll talk about
that a little bit more later. So in the Archdiocese
of New Orleans, we’ve started partnering,
more than 20 years ago, with our different religious
communities in the area. And one of the
things we did in 1994 was to provide microfilming
for their most pertinent collections, their
historical records that they felt were primary– foundation records, et cetera. It did not make them accessible
to anyone in the archdiocese. What it did was we were then
the disaster recovery copy. We took that on as part
of our own mission. Part of it was funded
by the archdiocese. The other part was funded by the
religious community, as well. So if they could afford it
and were willing to partner with us, then we
provided the service because we had the
expertise to be able to go out because we
routinely sent documents to be microfilmed so
that we had our backup. So it was really easy
for us to say, hey, would you like to do this, too? We’ll help you. So we’ve done it
with the Ursulines. We have over 20 rolls
of film with them. The Sisters of the Holy Family. The Dominicans, et cetera. In 1995, the Mount
Carmel Monastery flooded so we were
there to help them. We partnered with ARMA, which
is the Association of Records Managers and Administrators. And they helped,
as well, to fund part of what happened
to their records and to make sure those
records were preserved. And they went through some
disaster recovery pieces. We probably, you all are
well aware of Katrina that hit in 2005– thus, my comment
yesterday about disaster. One of the other things I
do for the International Council of Archives is I
now chair their expert group on emergency management
and disaster preparedness. So I am well-versed– baptism by water and lots of it. I became, not
because I wanted to– I guess, God put me
in that position– to become somebody that knew
how to handle disasters. I didn’t know I knew
how to handle that, but I’ve now broadened
my scope of being able to teach all over. And I’ll be in the
Caribbean in two weeks to teach there about what
needs to happen moving forward during hurricane season. So we learned a lot
during Hurricane Katrina. We’ve also helped the
Sisters of the Holy Family with the Henriette Delille
Historical Commission– again, after Hurricane Katrina because
most of their stuff was flooded and we were in the middle
of a cause for canonization for their founders. And then, we’ve also worked
with St. Joseph, the community of Mahdi in Baton
Rouge because they also had the same problem of having
to move all of their records and things had gotten wet. And they came to Baton
Rouge to be at that diocese. The other things
that we’ve done– we’ve helped the
Redemptorists when they moved their archives in 2003. The story that is most critical
for us that really shines a light is the Sisters of the
Immaculate Conception that were down in Bayou Lafourche We
got a phone call years ago that said, we’ve thrown all
the big stuff away. We have two little
boxes, come get it. Which was terrible. But the community
was being closed. They were down to three Sisters. They were told, go
find someplace to live. And we know this is becoming
more and more something that happens. So we need to make sure that
as the archivist in the diocese is that, that does not happen
to those community records. Whoops, didn’t realize
that was there. Good. We, for the Archdiocese
in New Orleans, these are the things
that we look at. We look at the importance
of the congregation and their contribution. This is what helps
us make decisions. Their contribution to
the history of the city. Their ministry, whether they
had hospitals, infant homes, dairy farms, et cetera. Education, schools– all
the different ministries that we see the
communities doing. The education of young people. The evangelization
in the community. And it’s role within
the archdiocese. The Ursulines have
had an intricate role. They’ve been there– the
city started in 1718, we’re having our
tricentennial and the Sisters got there in 1727. And all the other orders
followed after that, including the Jesuits. We welcome them. I say that as an
Ursuline graduate, but the Ursulines usually
say that, as well. So the other thing
we want to do is we want to be able
to document who the Sisters and Brothers were. How they were part
of the local people. And how those local
people joined the order. Their service in the field
of ministry and sometimes, we do that through our exhibits. And this is actually, a picture
from one of our exhibits. They’re remembered by many– that was talked
about yesterday when we talked about stakeholders. Those are the people that
really have an ownership in who the Sisters were. That helped educate them. That ministered them in
hospitals, et cetera. We want to be able to
capture the charism and we want to be able to
celebrate their contribution in the local church. This picture is from the
Sisters of the Holy Family. And it was when they were
landing in Belize to start their mission work there. The role of the archivist. In 1908, this is the
archivist for the Archdiocese of New Orleans. There’s a lovely
description that is in a book about the
archives, about the cathedral, and the cathedral archives. And part of it is among the
dusty, old, beautiful tomes rest on the old gentleman. That is the caregiver. And he’s a very
quiet, unassuming man. And when he dies, another
caretaker takes his place. And it goes on and on
about these dusty tomes– typical 1900 writings about
the romance of these records. Well, in 2005 when they
hired me, it had all changed. So the role of the
archivist is to be a colleague, a consultant,
an advocate, a mentor, a specialist, an advisor. Sometimes a broker. Sometimes, if something
is being sold, you want to be able to have
them there to advocate for you, to help you make
those decisions. And then, as a friend. I’ve been a friend to
many of the communities and I’ve sat in many
of their meetings is they’re trying to make
decisions of what is the best thing for their archives. So we are very active in
attending those meetings and saying, what
do you need us for? And how can we help? We are– as I said–
invited to local meetings. We like to visit the
congregation archives. Sometimes, could
you just come see how we just redid our shelving? Or hopefully, we’re getting
ready to redo our shelving, will you come see what
we’re thinking about? Providing advice for best
practices and standards. If they can’t
afford boxes, we’ll help them with some markable
boxes and materials. Educating through
workshops and seminars. We always make sure that
if we’re doing anything, we invite the community
leaders and the archivist. We advocate for that
professional training, either through some
of our programs or by having them attend Greater
New Orleans Archivist or any of the other programs
that are happening. We listen to their
needs and concerns. And we provide sound advice
taking into consideration all the factors
without emotional ties. I try to look at
it professionally. I know how tied we all
are to our material, but I do try to help
give some clear advice. I would love for it to all
come to the archdiocese. Sometimes, the
community leaders don’t want it coming to us
so my best role then is to help advocate to them
what then, are their options? And how can I help
facilitate that, even if we aren’t going
to be the chosen one? So the options for
the collection– I ask these questions. Does the congregation want to
leave a legacy of their work in the city archives? Or do they want to transfer
it to the motherhouse? How integral is the work– there’s a word in
there that’s missing. Is it a part of the
archdiocese’s history? How long have they been
in the archdiocese? Does it make sense to move the
collection to the motherhouse? In the instance of some things
that are at the Ursulines, because they’ve been in New
Orleans almost 300 years, things going to the
motherhouse in St. Louis may not make sense
because it would be more difficult to be able
to do some of that research. And then, what would
the availability to future researchers be? So we look at all
of these questions. The options– there’s
an outright donation. There’s a permanent
loan, and we’ll talk about permanent
loans in the way that we look at
permanent loans because I don’t like permanent loans. The long-term care
agreement with transfer of ownership, which is what
you have a sample copy of. The sale of the collection– I’ve seen this happen for
objects because sometimes, as an order is closing– even
if it’s the beds, the desk, the tables– to they’ll have a fire
sale to be able to generate money for the community. And then if they decide to
break it up, some go here. Some go there. Some go back to the motherhouse. What does that look like? And how is an
archivist– because it’s against all of our practices to
break up a collection– if it does make sense to
break it up, how do we document that so
that in each place that gets a piece of the
collection, someone would know what’s where? This is the Ursulines,
when they moved in 1912 to their current place. They had to board
an electric car– is what it was
called at the time. There was shades on
the window because they were still cloistered and they
were transferred across town. Some of them had never
left the community they were in before and so
it was 50 years that they had been outside of the community. And now– because they had
entered in the 1850s and ’60s– they were getting
on an electric car. It’s pretty interesting. So again, the
donations can happen that it could go
to an archdiocese, a Catholic university,
a community or state university, hospital
archives, city or state library, or private
repository– those are just some of the options. The permanent loan–
is there a caveat or a clause for transfer
of the ownership after a certain period of time? That’s really key
and really important. What are the research
restrictions? Is it closed or are
certain parts of it closed for a certain
amount of time? Who is the contract
person for the copyright? Does the material still rest the
copyright with the community? Or is the copyright being
transferred to the repository receiving the material? What controls are you
putting on the contract? And is there a better solution? The long-term care and trust
agreement that we’re going to talk about came about because
often when a priest dies, his chalice– the family isn’t quite ready
to give it to the archdiocese, but it can’t sit on
the mantel in the house and be used during
Thanksgiving dinner with the fruit coming out of it. So they say, what
do we do with this? But we somebody in the
family might become a priest, but we don’t know. So we then, offer them a
trust and care agreement that the chalice comes to
us for a period of anywhere from five years to 25 years. If someone in the
family becomes a priest, if they want to take the
chalice for family occasions, that can happen. At the end of the time
period, the ownership then reverts to the
archdiocese to be able to use the
chalice as it sees fit. The reason why we do this is
so that 75 years from now when there is another
archivist in place, she doesn’t have to
figure out the genealogy of the great-great-nephew
first time removed, three times over that says,
I was related to that priest, cannot can I have that
gold-entrusted jewel chalice? So there’s a
protection part of it. We’re caring for it, then
it’s going to revert to us. So there’s the responsibility
of the archives to care for the collection. The ability for
researchers to access the material– that which is
deemed open and accessible. The ownership is transferred
after a specific period of time. The agreement can be amended and
reviewed on a specific basis, whether it’s every five
years, 10 years, et cetera. If the congregation leaves
the city and no action is taken for a period of years,
then the ownership transfers. We put that into the agreement. So if the community is totally
gone and there’s nobody, what happens if there’s
nobody there to make– you’re at a 15-year agreement
and you’re at year 12 and the last nun
dies, and now what? So we have that caveat in
there that if there’s no one to make the decision to
continue that contract, then the ownership reverts. And then, there’s other
options, of course, that can be explored. If you decide to
sell the collection, these are some pros and cons. Sometimes, the
reason is to raise funds for the
congregation, but there is no say on how the
collection will be managed. Once you sell it to
a private entity– even if it’s a private
historic collection– you lose your
rights to say I want it to be maintained like this. The collection can be broken
into pieces and resold, and we’ve all seen
those eBay nightmares. We’ve had to go and purchase
things back for the archdiocese because they ended up on eBay. There are some positives. As far as the sale of
the rare book collection, I’ve seen the library be
sold to a historic collection because it was going
to be able to be used. And it raised funds
for the community. There’s the sale of the
museum quality items. We purchased from one of
the religious communities, a set of silver candlesticks
because it was part of a dowry. They were trying
to raise money, we agreed to purchase it if it was
going towards what they needed. So we were able
to purchase those. And then, of course, the
art and the furniture. If you break up the collection,
different repositories are given or sold different
parts of the collection– that can be really tricky and
I do not advise that. But some things may go
to the motherhouse– the house chronicles, the
annals, the personnel files. For us, the
Archdiocesan Archives, they may get the historic
manuscripts and the photographs because the motherhouse is not
interested in having those. A museum may end up with
the fine art, the china, the antique furniture. And then in private
hands, sometimes there are sales with the auctions,
et cetera– as we’ve seen the property be broken up. You do need to weigh all
the options carefully. You need to partner, if you can. If you have a
professional diocesan archivist in your area,
partnering with them to get some advice. Ask lots of questions. No questions are
not good questions. And then, make the best possible
decisions for your collections. This is one of my
favorite pictures. This is the Sisters
of the Holy Family. They were the first
to start elderly care. And this is from
about 1890, where they were caring for
the indigent and some of the elderly. And that’s me. I’m going to look at
the time real quick. I’m going to take two minutes. The paper that you
have in front of us– in front of you is the sample
trust and care agreement. This is an agreement
that we’ve used. I went through it,
cleaned out our language– the markers of who we were
dealing with, et cetera– passed it back through
our general counsel. She said yes, it’s clean. For us to be able
to share with you. I will quickly– you can
break down the parts. The beginning of it really
does talk about– for us, it states our mission
as an archdiocese. We want what the
community’s mission is. We want to be able to know
when the community started. What the agreement
will be so we want there charism as part of it. As well. And then, what they are going
to place within us and why. There’s an ownership
and a loan period. And there’s lots
of legalese in here so I certainly, we’ll be
here throughout the rest of the morning. If you get a chance to
briefly look through it or if you want later
to email me and ask why is that phrase in there,
it does get a little technical. And then, there are the
duties of the diocese. What are we responsible for? How are we going to
care for the collection? How is the public going
to access the collection? What are the standards of care? What are we willing to put
up as part of our commitment to that collection? What are the copying and sales
of the community archives material? Not sales as in here, buy it. But if someone is
doing a book and is going to make a large
profit off of pictures, if we sell for the
reproduction of a picture– who gets that money? The community in particular,
we were working with said, you all keep it. You’re managing all
that collection. You can get the $5 on the
reprint of the photograph. Then there’s loans of the
community archives material. So say, someone wanted
to do a museum exhibit, an outside person– what would that loan look like? So now it’s a loan
to a loan to a loan. And so there’s some
communication in there, there’s some language
in them in there of how that would then,
not necessarily be from us, but be from the community. But we would all be
talking about how that would work together. And then, the lenders names. And then, usually following
this document is– and you’ll see
condition, et cetera, how we’re going to do this– there’s a full summary
and break down, sometimes by each document,
what is coming to us. So it’s not just a
finding aid, it’s a complete list of
everything that we’re getting so that we can manage that. So use it as will. Pilfer– I’m a great believer
in see one, do one, teach one, as well as no reason
to re-invent the wheel so feel free to use
those as you see fit. [APPLAUSE] [SIDE CONVERSATION] Good morning, happy Friday. So good morning. My name is Kat Oosterhuis,
and thanks to Ellen, for even being willing
to say my last name. I had a boss at US Bank who
I worked for almost 10 years and she, the entire time,
wouldn’t even bother to try. She would introduce me and she
would say, this is Kathryn. Kathryn, say your last name. So in lieu of time, I’m
going to try and condense our conversation
a little bit today so bear with me as I
go through transition. So as I was introduced, I
am the institute archivist for the Sisters of
Mercy of the Americas and I am the director of their
centralized archives, Mercy Heritage Center. We are this year,
celebrating 175 years being in the United States,
which is very exciting, but don’t get me started
on that particular project. So the Sisters of
Mercy of the Americas covers continental United
States, covers Central and South America, also covers
Jamaica, Guam, Philippines. So in trying to ensure
that we are meeting the needs of all of
our stakeholders, that can get a
little complicated. So our official mission
is to preserve and relate the story of the Institute
of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas. We endeavor to illustrate the
vibrant and relative impact of the Sisters of
Mercy on society. And to inspire visitors to
make a personal commitment to similar values. So that last piece,
it makes it sound like we should also be
considered a ministry, but we’re not. Sow Mercy Heritage
Center is located in Belmont, North Carolina. It is a two-story building. And we have a staff of
three located there, as well as a slew
of volunteers– both within the
community and locally. Interns– we’ve expanded
our internship program, trying to get as many hands
in the door as possible to help us with our
expanding responsibilities. So in terms of collections,
we have over 5,300 of linear feet of just
archival material. We have over 60 different
collections and those contain everything from
government entities, individual communities,
former local communities, individual Sister collections–
which is something that we haven’t gotten
into historically– and then, also, some
select ministries. So it really runs
the gamut there. We also have over
3,000 artifacts. And then, we also have to make
sure I represent Emily’s role– Emily, where are you? We have over 150 film reels. We have over 100,000
photographs, audio reels. Over 5,000 audio cassettes, VHS. And then, we have over
6,000 library books. And it continues
to grow every day. We joke about drive-by’s. Every single day, we get
either something in the mail is a donation. We’ll have a car
roll up and a Sister come out from
Kentucky saying, I’ve got a truckload full of stuff. Or we’ll have the maintenance
people show up with boxes that were delivered in the mail. So it’s a very
exciting time for us. But just to give you a
little bit of understanding of the governance
structure and how archives has been impacted by that. So in 1991, they
formed the Institute, which is the overall
umbrella arching over all of the different communities. And about that time, they
started to think about truly, long-term– as many other congregations
and religious communities are. The membership is dwindling. The organizational structure
around the community needs to grow. So what does that look like? And resulting from that, what
do we want our legacy to be? And archives, of course,
is a huge part of that. So from that, came– in the mid-2000s–
a consolidation of 25 different
local communities. So these 25 communities formed
six regional communities. And the only way
we distinguished that in our organization–
as we talk– is big C and little c, which can
completely complicate things. But again, talking
about language and how important language is,
that’s what we’ve gone with. So we’ve got six different
regional communities. So we had typically,
it was a Sister archivist in each of these
different 25 local communities. And with the formation
of these six regions, then they started to
take a look at, well, what are we going to do in
terms of archives going forward? Do we have a Sister that
can take on that role? Or do we need to look
outside the organization and get some professional staff
with true archival experience in here? And so with these
six regions, we’ve got a combination
of those things. We had two Sister
archivists, as well as for professional archivists. So with all of this
change in the governance, it really comes down to,
how do we tell that story? How do we tell the comprehensive
story of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas? Well, at Mercy Heritage
Center– as I said– we’ve got a staff of three. As of July 1st, we just added
another remote staff person and he’s located
in Omaha, Nebraska. So it truly does take a
community to do what we do. So it starts with
the leadership teams. We have strong supports
from leadership, at least at the institute level. The community level,
it’s hit or miss. So we’ve got the leadership
team, which is primary. Then, we’ve got the former
community archivists who are still out there
in the communities. Some doing work, some
not, some retired. We’ve got the
community archivist that were hired for each
of the different regions. Of course, then we’ve
got community members. We’ve got consultants that
we occasionally bring in. And then, again, our
volunteers and our interns. And then also, the
international Mercy community. So with the congregations
located elsewhere in the world, we do have an informal
relationship with them and that is something that we’ve
been tasked with building upon. So with all of these
changes, it was determined that we needed
to figure out, again, what to do next with the archives. So the 25 former regional
community archivists formed a group and over a course
of about seven, eight years, put together a recommendation
for leadership. And that was that, it was time
to go ahead and centralize the archives. Have one place for it to
create greater efficiencies. But in doing so,
how does that impact how the Sisters lived with their
heritage at the local level? So there were still a lot of
concerns about how this was all going to work. And how we were going to be
able to meet the needs from, wait a minute, where
are we located? Why is it going
to be in Belmont? There’s still even
a lot of that today that we have to deal with. So we went from– just to look at the numbers–
we went from 25 archivists to six regional
community archivists and at the time, one staff
person at Mercy Heritage Center. And now today, we’re at four
institute staff people and 3.5 community archivist staff. And as I’ve mentioned,
our role has gone from taking care
of the paper materials and it has grown
exponentially in terms of what the community
is expecting us to do. So it’s been a
whirlwind of activity. So with the discussion of
merging all of the archives, the overall goals were
for the collections to be properly cared for. Not every local community
had the resources or the opportunity to really
be able to care for them and have them in an
environmentally-controlled facility. Or have someone that
was professionally trained to be able
to care for them, if even that was available. Cost effectiveness. As we know, archives is
an expensive business. And we don’t do a lot in
terms of generating revenue. So how do we be able to do
more, while saving more money? Staffing. As we know– in the majority
of religious communities, the average age– at least, for Sisters of Mercy– is 77 years old. So as they start
to age out, there are less available staff to be
able to do that sort of thing. And so how do we
transition from Sisters caring for collections
to laypeople caring for the collections? And what does that
do to the culture? And that’s definitely been
a huge learning opportunity for us. Technology. Again, the average Sister who
wasn’t professionally trained isn’t comfortable
with technology. And I make that
blanket statement, knowing that there
are individuals who are more technologically savvy. But how do you build
technology into this to, again, make sure that you’re
creating greater efficiencies, broadening your access, but
how do you do that if someone isn’t trained to do that? And then, again, the
sharing of the story. As the personal
impact of the Sisters dwindles because they are less
and less in the ministries that they have created, how do
we make sure the story of Mercy continues? So those would be the
benefits of consolidating. The concerns, again, are losing
access to that local material and getting that local story. And then, how do archives–
how does that impact identity in the time of all of
this upheaval and change within the community? So in terms of a site, I think
I made a little joke earlier about Belmont, North
Carolina and where is that. There was lots of talk, lots
of considerations about where we should be located. Should we be located
in Pittsburgh, which was where we started? Should we be located
out in California? What makes sense? And the criteria
really came down to just a couple of
different things. So we wanted a
freestanding building. It needed to be Mercy owned. And it needed to be
easily accessible so it needed to be
close to an airport where people could come in,
do research, and preferably, also on an existing community. So we are actually
located in the campus of one of the original community
administration centers. So we are very fortunate
in that with this campus, we’ve got the administration
center for South Central Community. And then, we have
individual ministries. And then, we have a
convent, of course, where the Sisters are located. So we’re kind of smack in
the middle of all of the work that’s being done and so that’s
truly, a blessing for us. So as you can
imagine, nothing ever goes quickly when you’re
dealing with a women’s religious community. And it took several years
to get to this point. So it took about seven
years to actually, figure out the criteria. Figure out who was going
to help make the decision. Get leadership’s buy-in. And so about 2008, they
finally came to the conclusion that it makes sense
to do it at Belmont. And of course– talking
again about resources– ultimately, what the
decision was based on was the fact that the newly
formed South Central Community was willing to foot
the bill for the cost or the renovations
of the building. So it was actually, a
former campus library so it was already sort
of in the arena for it to work for archives. So they took about two
years to renovate it. And then, they hired
their first person– my predecessor, Grant Gurlitt,
which many of you may know– in 2010. So in preparations, again,
each of the local community archivists had about two
years to put their collections in order. And with the
transition, collections started to come in around 2011. It took about, till 2014 for
all of the 25 collections to finally walk
through the door. We had a collection as
small as a car trunk full. And we had a collection as
large as needing a semi-truck to unload it all. And one of the blessings
of this process was that each of the
former community archivists were able to come to Belmont
with their collection, to be able to have
that passing off. There was a lot of struggle with
that piece of the letting go of the collections. The Sisters were
very, very supportive of the idea of a
centralized archives, but it’s very different
to say, in theory, this is what we want to
have happen and we know that needs to happen. And it’s a whole another thing
for the heart to let it all go. So it was a long process. We have an urban legend
in our organization that some of the Sisters showed
up wearing black armbands. And there’s this thought
that there were some that it was truly
a struggle for. And we’re still dealing with
the impact of all of that today. So one of the most difficult
conversations was– so now that we’ve
made this decision that it needs to go to Belmont,
what should come to Belmont? What stays at the
local level and what gets sent to the
centralized archives? And while their risk
criteria send out, everybody interpreted that
a little bit differently. So even today– 10 years later– there
are still bastions of those collections still
located at the local level. And so, I always tell this story
to my staff when I come back from traveling these local
sites that, all of the Sisters, they see me and
they know who I am. They know I’m institute
and they know that I’m from Mercy Heritage Center. And they scurry out of the way. They don’t want to catch my eye. I’ve actually had
Sisters come up to me and say, please,
don’t take our stuff. Please, don’t take our stuff. And so it’s been a lot
of education, again, and advocacy for Mercy
Heritage Center to let them know that, no, I’m not going to
rip things out of your hands. I don’t want to do that. Let’s keep them where they are. If it’s at the point where
the community is still living their history and
it’s important to you, then you keep it there. But let’s set up some
parameters and some guidelines for what that looks like. So that A, it doesn’t
walk out the door. And B, it’s cared for properly. And at some point when you
are ready to let it go, then yes, we welcome it at Mercy
Heritage Center with open arms. But that’s a conversation
that I almost have to have on the
individual basis because there is this fear of
I am the face of the institute. So again, that’s
something that we’re working with every single day. But as an aside, I have to
tell you that we still have one collection– so again, we’re
talking 10 years later– we still have one
collection that has not been officially given to us. And it’s actually,
the local collection of where we’re located in
Belmont, North Carolina. So it’s physically located
in the Heritage Center, but the former community
archivist is still working on the collection. So again, it’s one
of those things where you have to pick and
choose your battles and remember that at
the end of the day, we are stewards
of the collections and be mindful of compassion. Change is hard for everybody
and it’s even harder when your whole world is changing. And so that’s one of the lessons
that I, especially coming to Mercy Heritage Center,
has tried to instill is this idea that
we’re not ogres. We’re not trying to rip
things from people’s hands. And it;s all a matter of working
together for the common good. Here we go. One of the biggest aha
moments that we had– and hopefully, anybody that’s
interested in consolidating their collections, I’m
more than willing to have a separate conversation about–
but one of the things that we weren’t anticipating is this
idea that, again, you’ve got people who are not
professionally trained or to some level,
professionally trained and so you’ve got 25
different archivists bringing 25 different collections. And there was this
misperception that we could just put those collections
on the shelf and boom, we’re ready to go. That nothing else would
need to be done with them. And we’re still working on
those collections, again, today, 10 years later. Getting some sort of
standardization done. Some sort of
structure around them. And so it is still
an awkward process, but again, we’re
working through it. But that was one of the
things that nobody necessarily anticipated working
through this process. So once the collections arrived
and we had that big aha moment, it’s like let’s start to work
through those collections, but what else do we need to do? Well, we need to create
policies and procedures around how those
collections are being used. Again, the assessment piece
of it was so very important. And then, how do we provide
access and reference? And I have to say that
the team historically has done an amazing
job of making sure that the Sisters feel like even
though their stuff is located in crazy North Carolina,
that they still feel is connected to
their collections as what they did when
they were located locally. And then, also in
terms of access. Again, broadening the story
of making sure that we’re as comprehensive as possible– how do we continue
to use technology to make it more available? And that’s something that we
continue to work on today. So recently with me coming
on board, one of the things that we did is a
strategic plan– a five-year strategic plan. So what does Mercy
Heritage Center look like in the
next five years? What do we need to do? And it’s been a very exciting
time because leadership is very supportive of
our role and want us to be even more embedded
across the institution. But how do we do that
with dwindling resources? So we’ve been trying to
anticipate ways of doing that. How do we uncover
collections that we’ve never promoted before? For instance, our
library collection. Nobody knows that we
have this collection, but it’s rather unique so how
do we make that accessible? How do we ensure that
the history that’s being created today is being saved? So we develop a records
management program. So we’re being tasked with
doing all of these things, broadening our collection scope. Really trying to be of support
not only to the community members, but also, the
organization, the staff, the administration that’s
being wrapped around it. As well as then,
individual ministries outside of that world. So as our sphere of influence
is being asked to be bigger, how do we manage to do that? And so that’s something
that we continue to work on. But the importance
for us is the balance between, again, professional
standards and compassion. How do we make sure
that we do what we need to get done
while still being sympathetic to the
needs of the community? So for us, it just goes
back to the basics. So continue to focus on the main
task of serving our members, serving the different
stakeholders. Telling the story. Preserving the
institutional memory. And again, providing
greater access and getting a story out there. So ultimately, the bottom line
is as the organization evolves, how do the archives
evolve to make sure that we’re mirroring that and
can tell that continuing story? And with that, I’m
going to be done. [APPLAUSE] Some of you raised
the question about how you would get to Logan? Thank you for doing that,
that can be very complicated. Starting at 12:30, there will
be shuttle buses in front of St. Ignatius Church. It will take you to Logan. You do not have to
be there at 12:30. The buses will probably run
until a little after 1:00, but that’s when
they will arrive. And they will motor
you directly to Logan. So if you made
other arrangements, which I did make with
some, you can cancel those. The buses will be
a much better deal. [APPLAUSE] That’s Michael Burns,
who– like me– is one of the members of
the advisory committee and one of the members of
the local planning committee that resulted in this. And an hour ago, we
didn’t have the buses and Michael got into it
and now we have the buses. Isn’t that amazing? [APPLAUSE] I’m from the Northeast
and we talk faster than people from other
areas of the country so maybe I can get my whole
speech in the time left for the session. But I’m not going
to try to do it. I agree with everything
that Lee and Kat said– that’s 90% of
my speech right there. The word caveat has been
used by various speakers. Jim O’Toole was talking
about caveats yesterday. Literally, if we have
the phrase, as you know, caveat emptor, let
the buyer beware. I like to think of
caveat as let’s be aware. And I’m going to
mention some things that you should be aware of. For example, in all these
transactions and these plans, be very aware of copyright. When you get to the point
where you and people in your community
are transferring– under whatever agreement– your archives to
another institution, they will ask you to
transfer the copyright. And you might very well say,
of course, I’ll sign away. Here’s the copyright. Your community does
not have the copyright to everything in your archives. Nobody does. Things created, yes. Things received, no. Those go to other creators
so really keep that in mind. Ownership– yeah, I’ll sign off. Here it is. Review your collections
very carefully. We often have physical
custody of materials that we do not legally own. Now sometimes, people have
given us things and signed a deed of gift, but they
didn’t own everything in the collection. It turns out they got it from
somebody who didn’t legally give it to them. Nightmare, yes, but it’s another
thing we have to think about. I think of this very
often in terms of surveys. We are always surveying
our collections in many different ways. Sometimes, in a very
planned, careful way and sometimes, last minute
when the boss is coming and wants to look
at such and such and we’ve got to run
around and find everything that he or she wants. We survey constantly in
terms of preservation. We survey in terms
of accessibility. We survey in terms of
sensitivity and privacy. We survey our finding aids. Do these really reflect the
new interests that people have, the very pressing interests that
people have in our collections? Also, survey in terms
of copyright and survey in terms of ownership. When you– let us
say, I’m particularly talking today about donation
to a college or university. We’re particularly thinking
of Catholic college or university– when you are giving
them materials, you are going to have a
negotiation, a conference long before the actual
transfer is made, if you decide to make that transfer. And the people in
the archives will want to know what the
status is of ownership and the status is of the
copyright of the materials, separate from the physical
ownership of them. So you want to be aware of that. I have a list of this and
it supplements, in some way, what Lee and Kat have said. And I have a stack of these
outlines on the table. If you go out, you can get one. If you think of
what they have said and the things I’ve added to it
and what you’ve heard Wednesday night and yesterday, we
have a very long list– don’t we– of things
that we must think about, take into consideration,
provide for. So whatever we decide to
do with our collections, we certainly want to do
all these other things. We’re aware, particularly
now, where– as we mentioned– we have fewer people working. We have fewer
resources, in many ways. And yet, we have to carefully
and thoroughly review these things. So the thing to do is to be
very systematic about it. Where are we going from here is
a question that a lot of people have asked over
the last few days in the small group
discussions and elsewhere, and we know where
we would like to go. We would like to go
with you on the journey to provide long-term for the
preservation of the heritage and the continuation
of the charism of all these communities and
other communities. And because of
your import, we’re going to be able to do that. Before you came here,
all of you answered questions, a survey application
form, and you I hope have heard– your interests, your questions,
your statement of challenges reflected in what the
speakers have spoken about during these sessions. Because we did a lot of work
and people other than I. People like [? Malachy ?]
and [? Kristen ?] and Ellen, and Lee, and all the other
members of the advisory committee worked very hard
to bring this together. I think they’ve done
a very good job. We might even have
a motto in mind while we go forth from here. And why not use the one
that’s been on the screen for the last few days, and
I’m sure some people have puzzled about it. I assume you all know Latin
so the banner for religion and the good arts is
clear enough to you, but you might not be
familiar with the Greek. And I’m not sure of
my pronunciation. It’s something like,
[SPEAKING GREEK],, sounds like aristocracy– that kind of thing. And it is unusually,
for a Catholic college, a quotation from
Homer’s “Iliad.” Most of our Catholic college
mottos and things on our seals are from the Bible or from
something a founder said– we’re aware of that. One of the Greek warriors
challenged a warrior on the opposite side. It was not a Trojan, but one
of the allies of the Trojan because this warrior– they don’t fight just anybody. They got to have a worthy
opponent out there to a fight. Who are you? And he said, I am so-and-so. I am from this city. I am from this family. And I have been
told ever to excel– ever to excel. That’s why the word excellence
has been looking at us and we’ve been looking
at it all this week. You think it’s accidental that
we had the word excellence during the whole conference? But it does fit in very nicely. So there’s a lot coming. The lightning round’s coming
up and things like that. Coffee break, first. And people are around
to answer questions. So I hope you’ve
enjoyed the session. We can tell we’ve all enjoyed
sharing all of these things with you. Thank you. [APPLAUSE]

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