Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Cleaning Cardinal Hinsley

One of the tasks involved in preserving our archive collections is ensuring that they are kept as clean as possible. We do this by regular cleaning of our storeroom and shelves and protecting material from the external environment as far as possible by boxing, wrapping in acid free tissue or using melinex sleeves. When necessary, we also clean individual items -a task which is often done by our volunteers.

They don't always get something as exciting as Cardinal Hinsley's death mask but dusting with a soft brush has significantly improved his appearance. We also discovered that the process of creating this must have removed large amounts of the late Cardinal's hair. Our mask has eyelashes, eyebrows and a tiny beard!

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Revised Opening Hours: September 2011

From 5th September 2011, opening hours at Westminster Diocesan Archives will change. The archive will now open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and will be closed to the public on Mondays.

There will be two research sessions per day, from 10am until 12:30pm and from 2pm until 5pm. Between 12:30 and 2, the archive will be closed for lunch and all researchers will need to leave the premises.

Booking in advance will still be necessary but there will now be a choice of morning, afternoon, or both sessions. We hope that this will increase the availability of appointments in busy periods and the number of hours per week that we are open to the public, as well as ensuring that the archive remains fully staffed during opening hours.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Summer Closure 2011

Westminster Diocesan Archives will be closed to researchers during August. The last slot available for booking will be the afternoon of Wednesday 27 July and we will reopen on Monday 5th September.

The archivists don't get to spend a month at the beach as we will still be working on tasks which are difficult to do when people are here such as cleaning, preservation work, maintenance and stocktaking. Our enquiry service will still be operating but replies may take a little longer than usual.

Monday, 11 April 2011

The Cardinal

When we finished cataloguing the Manning papers, we though it would be a good idea to celebrate in The Cardinal, a pub behind Westminster Cathedral named after Cardinal Manning. But we couldn't, because The Cardinal is closed for refurbishment and when it re-opens, it may not even be The Cardinal any more but the Windsor Castle. Archbishop Vincent is backing the campaign to save this historic name and has said that changing it "risked losing a reminder of the Catholic Church's long-standing commitment to the social good".

Throughout his career, Manning was concerned with social charity and improving the conditions of working people. An overview and assessment of his efforts in this area can be found in McClelland's work Cardinal Manning, His Public Life and Influence, especially in Chapter 5 'The Condition of the People'.

However some of the recently catalogued material at Westminster also provides insights into this area of his ministry. A letter from Manning to Herbert Vaughan (Ma. 2/25/40) describes an attempt on his part to prevent though arbitration a repeat of the 1889 dock strike in February 1890 and the hostility of the Times newspaper to his efforts. He writes:

"Last Wednesday, we were again on the brink of a second strike. Mr Buxton and I called together Burns, Warren a Mc Carthy and others [union leaders]. They met in this house on Wednesday night. After two hours we got them to withdraw the Manifesto which would have caused the Strike...The Times knows all this but on Monday attacked and sneered at the men and ignored us. On that day the strike would have begun, but for that Wednesday night".

During the 1889 strike, the press had sided with the workers, with the exception of the Times. Manning had often written letters to the Times urging the Government to provide relief work during the financial crisis. As McClelland notes, he had written in even stronger terms in other publications including that a man's right to life and food prevailed over all laws of property and these were views that "were anathema to The Times and they branded the Archbishop  as a dangerous man in the eyes of many Roman Catholics".

Manning ends his letter with an instruction to Vaughan to carry on in this work:

"Go boldly and mix with the English people. They will trust you but not my brother Benson".

His 'brother Benson' may be Edward White Benson, Archbishop of Canterbury who had supported Manning's actions.

A petition to save The Cardinal can be found here. The Diocesan Archivist requests that anyone signing it also mentions another tradition which ought to be continued -the wide range of real ales.

Photo source: Diocese of Westminster, http://www.rcdow.org.uk/diocese/default.asp?library_ref=4&content_ref=3310

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Shaping the Religious Archives Landscape

Image by Chris Reynolds, source here

The National Archives, in in conjunction with the Religious Archives Group is holding a consultative meeting at The National Archives in Kew on the afternoon of Monday, 4 April (from 1215 to 1700) to discuss the findings and recommendations of the Religious Archives Survey 2010. There will be contributions from key partner organisations including the Religious Archives Group, Archives and Records Association, British Library, British Records Association and Ecclesiastical History Society.

The survey report is available at http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/religiousarchives/

I will be chairing a workshop on how religious archives can use new media including website archiving, video and oral history and social media. Maybe somebody told them I had a blog! Fr Stewart Foster, Brentwood diocesan archivist, will be speaking on the importance of religious archives to their creators.

Monday, 28 February 2011

Fame at last!

Recently, we have been preparing for an important visit to the archive. As the collections belong to the Archbishop of Westminster, we decided to invite him to visit for a look at his own treasures.

In this picture, Archbishop Vincent is looking at H38, Memoriale presbyterorum parochialium, a handbook for parish priests assembled by an early 15th century Carthusian of theological texts and extracts. Here, we are trying to make out a recipe for ink. This volume contains the oldest item in the archive as 14th century fragments were used as part of the binding.

More images from the visit can been seen at the diocese's flickr photostream

Monday, 31 January 2011

Volunteering at Westminster

Joe Davidson, former head boy of St Edmund's College, Ware, has been volunteering in the archive as part of his gap year. We aren't locking him away in our dark basement office for a whole year as he is off to work in a museum in South Africa in three weeks.

Joe has been carrying out simple preservation work on sacramental registers and checking that they are all shelved in the right order! He has also done some transcriptions and appraisal. In the picture above, he is listing a collection of photographs from the 1982 Papal Visit.

As we are a small archive which only opens three days a week, places for volunteers are limited. However, we are always happy to receive CVs, especially if you are thinking of a career as an archivist, so we can get in touch if a vacancy arises.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Great and Manifold Blessings

The world of religious archives is, at the moment, getting excited about Cambridge University Library's exhibition marking 400 years since the publication of the authorised version of the Bible. More information, including captions from the exhibits, is available here .

The exhibition also contains two early printed editions of Catholic translations by Gregory Martin, The Holie Bible and The New Testament of Jesus Christ, one published at Douai in 1609 and the other at Rheims in 1582. Together, in a revised version by Bishop Richard Challoner, these remained as the standard Catholic translation, the Douai Rheims Bible, until the 20th Century.

You may also enjoy the 'Wicked Bible' and the 'Unrighteous Bible' so called because of the accidental ommission of some key words. If only we could still fine people half a million and throw them into prison for bad proof reading...

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

2010 in Figures

Archivists can do just about anything. Certainly, working here requires a wide range of skills from bleeding radiators, changing lightbulbs and oiling swords to deciphering the handwriting of successive Cardinals and being able to work out where the really exciting letter which is neither addressed, dated or signed might possibly come from.

However, the one thing they don't teach archivists is maths. Nevertheless, here are our visitor statistics for 2010 which may or may not be accurate:

Over the year, we had 152 visits by 79 users, 10 of whom visited more than once. Of these, 68 were new visits (that is, a completely new user, or a user visiting for a new research subject) and 84 repeat visits. This is slightly down on last year's figures but we were closed in January for stocktaking and August-September for the training of new staff.

Our collection most in demand is the Parish Registers, which has been used by 29 visitors, mainly for family history which continues to be a popular reason for visits. Nearly half of our researchers do not have an academic or business affiliation. The A Series, including letters of the Vicars Apostolic of the London District, is our most popular collection for academic researchers. One collection which remains popular every year, although not strictly archival, is our complete set of Catholic Directories. These are getting harder and harder to find in major libraries but remain on open access shelves in our reading room.

I could provide the full figures with tables and pie charts but I think those can wait for the next advisory council meeting!