By the end of this project, it is estimated that the archive will be in possession of approximately 4,000 volumes, including all of those from closed parishes, and those from active parishes dating to 1940 and prior.
One of the projects currently in progress in the Archdiocesan Archive is the collection of sacramental registers. To recap from an earlier article, the sacramental registers contain baptism, Eucharist/first Communion, confirmation, marriage, ordination, sick call, and death/burial records. Each instance is entered into a ledger, designated for this particular purpose, and signed by the officiating priest or bishop. These handwritten entries are recognized as the only official copy, so it is vital that we make an effort to preserve them indefinitely.
This project is being undertaken with an eye toward fulfilling that goal of preserving them indefinitely. Before this effort began, the archive was in possession of about 1,200 volumes, which were stored in the library. By the end of this project, it is estimated that the archive will be in possession of approximately 4,000 volumes, including all of those from closed parishes, and those from active parishes dating to 1940 and prior. Each volume, whether stored in the library or a new addition, is being individually cataloged in our inventory, and receives a physical assessment, recommendations for repairs, and an identification tag.
Perhaps the most significant change is the migration of the collection from the library to the archive storage area within the Pastoral Center. This storage area offers the ability to better control, and stabilize, both the temperature and humidity in the immediate area, making it more ideal for the long-term preservation of archival collections. In the coming months, archive staff will also be evaluating potential improvements for this space. These include better methods of fire suppression, and sealing windows and doors to better isolate and stabilize the environment, among other measures.
Another benefit of this project is the increased accessibility to these records by both researchers and the general public. As our access policy dictates, all sacramental records dating to 1940 and prior are available to researchers, so these will now be available in one location, and will allow the archive staff to more effectively provide research assistance and locate records.
It is our hope that this project will be completed during the summer of 2016. The list of "Suppressed Parishes and Locations of Records" will be omitted from the Boston Catholic Directory to reflect these changes, as all closed church records will soon be housed in the archive. In addition, the list of sacramental records on the archive website will be updated periodically to reflect our holdings.
The archdiocesan library and archive are located at the Pastoral Center in Braintree. For information on how to request records and research assistance, or to make an appointment to visit the library, please visit the archive website at www.bostoncatholic.org/archives.
THOMAS LESTER IS THE ARCHIVIST OF THE ARCHDIOCESE OF BOSTON.