2 Franciscan Sisters Learn Archive Principles and Practices

Paul Keggington

September 28, 2013

Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Caritas Strodthoff informs us of a recent workshop at the Campbell Center for Historic Preservation Studies.

Campbell Center for Historic Preservation Studies Working with archives is always an invitation to learn more, get answers to questions, and just meet with other people also new to archiving. Sister Caritas Strodthoff, Archivist for Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity / Holy Family Convent and Sister Helen Marie Paul, Archivist for Silver Lake College of the Holy Family were invited to enjoy two days at the Campbell Center for Historic Preservation Studies located on the former Shimer Campus,  Mount Carroll, IL.

The Campbell Center offers courses in collections care, historic preservation and conservation refresher courses, ranging from basic core courses to mid-level professional courses. In 2005 a certification program in archives was developed and now offers three levels of certification which is a real drawing card for many individuals involved in archive work. Over the past 28 years the center has become known as one of the top international destinations for collections care training. It is one of the very few programs to offer such a variety of programs.

Shimer College was built in 1854, and relocated to Waukegan, IL in 1979. In 1906 a fire destroyed the original campus buildings. In the early 20th century, an architectural firm designed 12 of the current Georgian Revival buildings. Three of these buildings are presently used for archive courses as most buildings do not have heat so classes are only held from May thru October. The dorm, in which we stayed, was built in 1954 and offered nice, simple rooms, a shared bathroom across the hall, and breakfast and lunch meals.

Participants in Archives workshopOur course was titled “ Archives: Principles and Practices” and was taught by James Roth, Deputy Director of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, MA. He was a delightful teacher, very knowledgeable and used many examples to help us understand all the concepts he was presenting. We covered: Compiling a Mission Statement and developing Archive Policies; Collecting Policies – how to keep what preserves the history of the congregation; Appraisal of items: value of the items to the community; Arranging and Describing items / documents; Processing materials – arranging, describing and housing items; and Preservation of materials; Finding Aids for researchers; Environmental Controls – heat and humidity control; Reading Room security.  We were very busy but the material was presented in a very understandable, graspable way. What did we learn? The answer to all questions about what to do with your archives: “It all Depends”. He enforced the idea that everyone’s archives are unique to their situation so that what works for one person’s archives might not work for someone else’s.

Our class was the largest they’ve had for such a workshop. Here’s a picture of our group. We came from many states – California, Iowa, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin and from a variety of archive placements: Center for Black Music Research; Western Kentucky University Library; church group – Unitarian Universalist society of Geneva, etc. Weather was beautiful and we had a chance to take the historic district walking tour. Civil War country and lots of history explained. We were very grateful for this opportunity and hopefully will be able to put all things learned into practice eventually.



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