Training in conjunction with the Conference of Religious at Friends House
The doors of Friends House opposite Euston Station opened to welcome about 25 people, mostly “novice” archivists, to a training day organised collaboratively by the CAS and the Conference of Religious. It was evident in the early moments of the first session when participants introduced themselves that what we hoped to learn from the day were tips from experienced archivists about how to sort, where to file and what to bin! Anselm Nye, Sr. Mary Coke RSCJ and Margaret Harcourt Williams gave us this and much more in three well structured and delightfully presented sessions
We were able to carry with us some valuable mnemonics now we are back ill our workplaces! At the moment of writing a few come to mind. Anselm reminded that “Every human organisation generates records. And today’s records are tomorrow’s history.” We had a vivid reminder of the Unholy Trinity that can damage carefully filed archives: damp, sunlight, excessive heat. And we were urged to make friends with the archival Holy Trinity of rigidly controlled temperature, proper levers of humidity and adequate ventilation. And to keep us on track in our work Anselm provided us with the ASAP method: Assess; Sort and list; Acquire more and Plan for the future.
Sr. Mary Coke gave her presentation from the perspective of a family member who recognises her work in archives as a ministry to preserve the memories of our Sisters and Brothers in our Religious family. More than once she reminded us that we are the “preservers of the memory of our Orders”, and no paper is too small to be valued and no date too unimportant to be forgotten. In her well structured presentation, Sr. Mary gave us practical hints on where to get further training and what personal skills we should acquire. More practically, she spoke of storage of materials, the kinds of storage containers to use, classification, and contacts to establish with local facilities for the storage of some materials.
Both speakers impressed on the participants that we are the keepers of the “traces of the Lord Jesus in the world”, and “we follow the footprints of the great women of our country and Congregations”.
Margaret Harcourt Williams in the final session related the beginnings and the present-day structure of the Catholic Archives Society. She painted a very clear word picture of the work of the CAS in organising an annual conference, publishing journals and maintaining contacts with other archive associations. Handouts which she had prepared for distribution contained valuable addresses of suppliers of equipment and storage materials and addresses of Associations and Offices which are helpful in researching archival information.
During these 3 sessions, as well as in the Panel Presentation in the afternoon, answers to questions were given competently and confidently from the experienced presenters. There is evidence that archivists in Religious Orders particularly need these Training Days to continue to create resource centres that can be at the service of their Congregations and other researchers.
Report by Sr. Patricia Gannon SND