Reorganizing History: Library Renovation Will Update Archabbey Archives

Monday, October 17, 2022

As part of the “Forward Together” fundraising campaign that was completed this summer, the Saint Meinrad Archabbey Archives will receive more space and a much-needed overhaul to its repository in the Archabbey Library.

Since May of this year, Archivist Fr. Meinrad Brune and I – along with our crack squad of volunteers – have relocated our daily operations to the Archives Annex on the lower level of St. Gregory Hall. We will soon move out of the space in Gregory Hall and combine the records from both repositories into the renovated and expanded spaces on the lower level of the Archabbey Library (see figure 1).

Fr. Meinrad and I have been working closely with Saint Meinrad’s Director of Physical Facilities, Director of the Library, and the architects to develop the spaces to accommodate all of the records we possess currently, while also planning for the ongoing expansion of the Archabbey’s numerous historic, and priceless, records.

The room that houses most of our records (the area in blue) will still have shelving and will contain oversized documents, records that researchers are more likely to request, and our voluminous collection of photographs.

In addition, there will be an enclosed office to ensure privacy when fulfilling patron requests, and more worktables to accommodate multiple patrons when they visit. Fr. Meinrad and I are always ready to offer a cup of coffee to our guests, but not in the vicinity of our documents.

The expanded space (the area in orange) will be the main storage area for the majority of our records. The shelving along the walls will be able to store single rows of archival boxes, and the shelving in the middle of the room will accommodate double rows of these boxes. An additional research space with desktop computers will be adjacent to the main storage room for our researchers. If needed, that space can be modified in the future to store more records.

As part of my internship for my master’s in American history at the University of Louisville, I spent time this summer developing a new organizational scheme for our repository. The new version follows most of our current system of organization, but updated according to best archival practices (see figure 2).

The Archabbey Archives will contain six new color-coded collections: Monastery (yellow), School (red), Oblate (purple), Press (green), Photographs (orange), and Congregation (blue). These new collections are essentially the same as our previous collections, except the Photograph Collection has grown enormously in the past four years to warrant its own collection. The same is true for the Press Collection, the records we have appraised and accessioned from the Abbey Press, one of our apostolates, which we closed in 2017.

Several records from our various schools – notably, the graduate-level seminary – have been added to the archives in the past two years, enough that the school records will no longer be considered “Departmental Records” of the Monastery Collection, but will be in their own collection.

The collection that is expanding the fastest is the Photograph Collection, with the Monastery Collection growing the second fastest. The Oblate Collection is growing, though not at the same pace as the other collections. The same is true for the Congregation Collection. These series and subseries are subject to change as the Archabbey Archives continues to grow and expand.

It is a privilege for Fr. Meinrad and me to serve as Saint Meinrad Archabbey’s archivists. For us, this is a ministry to our confreres, coworkers, students, benefactors, oblates, alumni, and researchers who want to know more about the history of our community and its role in forming leaders – priests, deacons, and laymen and laywomen – for service to the Church in the United States and the world.

These renovations and updates will ensure the ongoing effort to hand on what has been given to us, allowing us to keep the institutional memory of Saint Meinrad alive for the next generation.