"Envisioning the Future of Catholic Religious Archives" Conference Sessions available on YouTube

Stained glass window in the Bapst Library at Boston College.

On August 30, 2018, it was announced that video of the plenary sessions from July's "Envisioning the Future of Catholic Religious Archives" conference, held at Boston College, have been made available to view through a channel on Youtube.

“Envisioning the Future of Catholic Religious Archives” was a working conference hosted by Boston College on July 11-13, 2018. It was designed to bring leaders of religious communities, archivists and historians together to seek and identify solutions to the issues that communities, including those coming to completion, are facing in preserving and providing access to their archival legacies.

Four sessions of the conference are available through the "Envisioning the Future of Catholic Religious Archives" YouTube Channel. See the conference program page for additional details about the sessions.

Additional post-conference updates and resources will be posted in the coming weeks. Please visit the conference Contacts page to be added to the mailing list for announcements (not necessary for conference participants).

A Report on the "Envisioning the Future of Catholic Religious Archives" Conference

On the campus of Boston College.
"Envisioning the Future of Catholic Religious Archives" was held at Boston College July 11-13, 2018. The conference was unique because it brought together archivists, congregation leaders, and historians to discuss the major issues facing Catholic religious archives. Attendees numbered 165, including 110 archivists, 25 leaders, and 30 historians. Of the 165 participants, four were from Europe and six from Canada. The conference was organized and presented under the auspices of Boston College by a national advisory committee comprised of religious leaders, archivists, and historians. CARA member Malachy McCarthy was a co-chair of the advisory committee.

Reading room in the Bapst Library, Boston College.
As stated on the conference website, the goal of the conference was "to assess and articulate common needs shared by religious archives as they plan for the future, and to develop strategies and resources for meeting those needs so that the stories and contributions of Catholic religious communities may be appreciated, understood and valued by scholars and society at large."

A stained glass window in the Bapst Library, Boston College.
The conference included an opening mass, panel discussions, lectures, facilitated small group discussions, lightning round presentations, a reception, and a banquet.

Conference participants were given a tour of Special Collections at
the John J. Burns Library, Boston College.
The sessions were held in Boston College's Robsham Theater, and included topics like "Why Are We Here?", "What Do We Know?", "What Is the Ideal?", and "How Do I Envision the Future?".

Panelists Margaret McGuinness, Jennifer Halloran, Ginger Downey, OLVM,
and moderator Carol Coburn in a session entitled,"Why Are We Here?"
In the kick-off session, "Why Are We Here?", the perspectives of religious leader, archivist, and historian were represented by Sr. Ginger Downey, a member of the leadership team with Our Lady of Victory Missionary Sisters, Jennifer Halloran, archivist for the Maryknoll Mission Archives, and Margaret McGuinness, a history professor at LaSalle University. The speakers addressed the concerns, motivations, expectations, and goals that they held for the conference, and set the stage for a discussion on the difference in perspectives the three constituencies hold when it comes to archives.

A break-out session where conference participants discussed the key issues
raised in panels and lectures.
During her presentation on "What We Know", Sr. Patricia Wittberg, SC, presented statistics from her work with the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), which showed that young people, and young women in particular, are less religious than previous generations. Young people need to be shown the different leadership roles that religious women and men have held in order to understand the true diversity of the Church. Sr. Wittberg called the absence of the stories of religious women and men dangerous and an existential crisis for the Catholic Church.

Jean Bartunek, RSCJ, Professor at the Carroll School of Management,
Boston College presented during a session entitled,
How Do We Transmit Charism to the Future?
During the small group discussions, participants responded to the conference talks and addressed issues of access versus confidentiality, digitization, personnel, outreach, continuity and sustainability, and how to manage collections for congregations that may be reaching completion. The idea of a regional or even national depository for religious archives was mentioned and will need to be considered in more depth.

Lightning round session on writing a congregational or community history
with Carol Coburn of Avila University and Margaret McGuinness of LaSalle University.
Gathering archivists, religious leaders, and historians for this conference was a great first step in determining the future for religious archives, as these groups must work together to create sustainable solutions. In order to harness the energy and enthusiasm of those July days at Boston College, conference organizers intend to issue a white paper that can serve as an inspiration to everyone who has a stake in preserving the history of religious congregations.

CARA Members Meet at North Shore Congregation Israel and Discuss Chicago Collections

The main sanctuary of North Shore Congregation Israel was designed by
Minoru Yamasaki. Photograph by Audra V. Adomenas.

On Thursday, May 31, 2018, CARA members and others met at North Shore Congregation Israel (NSCI) in Glencoe, Illinois, for a tour of the buildings and the Ruthie and Bill Katz Archives. Merle Branner, Archivist at NSCI, gave a fantastic behind-the-scenes tour of the main sanctuary designed by Minoru Yamasaki, who also designed the World Trade Center in New York City. She also showed the Tross Family Educational Center, the Goodman Center for religious education, and the Perlman Sanctuary.

Merle Branner, Archivist, shares the history of NSCI's main sanctuary with the tour participants.
Photograph by Audra V. Adomenas.
Merle Branner (right) and her assistant Ellen Katz Block open the ark in the sanctuary to show the Torahs.
Photograph by Doris Cardenas.

Merle Branner then led the group to the basement level where the Ruthie and Bill Katz Archives is housed. Like many religious archivists, Merle operates her archives with minimal resources but with a great deal of passion and expertise. The archives holds the historical records of NSCI since its founding as the "North Shore Branch of Sinai Congregation" in 1920 and includes materials from Rabbis and Cantors, Board of Trustees, Men's Club/Brotherhood and Sisterhood/Women, members' World War II memorabilia, and much more.

The Ruthie and Bill Katz Archives and processing room at North Shore Congregation Israel.
Photographs by Doris Cardenas.

After Merle's tour, the group convened for a brief CARA business meeting and to hear a presentation by Jeanne Long, Executive Director of Chicago Collections Consortium (CCC). The goal of CCC is to preserve and promote Chicago history and culture and to unite the resources of its member institutions to offer open access, learning experiences, and research opportunities to the general public, educators, and scholars. Membership in CCC offers the obvious benefit of being able to upload your content to the Explore portal, but it also grants entrĂ©e to a dedicated and experienced volunteer community.

Jeanne Long, Executive Director of Chicago Collections Consortium.
Photograph by Merle Branner.

Many thanks to everyone who contributed to this wonderful afternoon: the attendees, our hosts Merle Branner and North Shore Congregation Israel, and Jeanne Long of Chicago Collections Consortium.