If you have an interest in New York Church history and happen to be in the vicinity of St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie, you might want stop by for the open house hosted by Archives of the Archdiocese of New York this Saturday, Oct. 15, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
You’ll have a chance to tour the Archives, located in the Archbishop John Hughes Archives Center, which is named for the first Archbishop of New York and located on the seminary grounds.
The archdiocesan Archives is home to 28 larger collections, as well as smaller sub-collections, and you will be able to view some of the more interesting items from those collections.
You’ll also get a good look at “Images of Sanctity,” the annual exhibit of the Archives, which opened Sept. 28. It features historical holy cards, including many from the personal collection of Father Eugene Carrella, pastor of St. Rita’s parish, Staten Island, who has one of the largest collections of the kind in the country.
Last week, I spoke with Kate Feighery, the archdiocese’s new archivist. We chatted on Oct. 5, which turns out to have been “Ask an Archivist” Day. Naturally, I did have a bunch of questions for Ms. Feighery, who was appointed to her new position in May. She officially took over in July when Father Michael Morris, the former archdiocesan archivist, was named pastor of Regina Coeli parish in Hyde Park.
Ms. Feighery had worked with Father Morris for four years as archival manager. She first met Father Morris when she was writing her thesis about Sacred Heart parish in the Highbridge section of the Bronx for her master’s degree in Irish American history from NYU.
“When he was able to hire another person, he got in touch with me,” said Ms. Feighery, 32. She also has additional certification in archives from NYU.
We touched on a lot of topics, from her work to get the Archives’ photo collection digitized and online to the kinds of materials held in its various collections to the scope and importance of the work that the Archives does.
The Archives is “not just old items,” she said. “It’s a living history of the Church. We are constantly getting new material.”
It’s probably no surprise that each of the Archbishops of New York have their own collection, and that the office of Cardinal Dolan regularly sends up material, including gifts that he receives, for storage. “They are added to the Cardinal Timothy Dolan collection,” she said.
There is also a general parish history collection, with folders for the more than 400 parishes that existed at one time.
The Archives also accepts materials from parishes and archdiocesan offices, she said. “We help them figure out if something is worth keeping. Should the parish keep it, or the Archives? How should it be kept?”
The Archives also holds student transcripts from schools that have closed. The busy times for such requests, she said, are in August and December, just before a new semester is about to start.
Interestingly, several religious congregations with declining numbers of members have reached out to the Archives to secure the future of their own archives. While she is not able to assist all who ask, Ms. Feighery said congregations founded in New York “are an important part of the story as well.”
The Archives is not the place to do genealogical research or find sacramental records. “We can help you find where to go, but it’s not something you would be researching here,” she said.
Research is by appointment: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Even if you can’t stop by for the open house, Ms. Feighery wants you to know a lot of the materials housed in the collections of the archdiocesan Archives can be viewed online, including various photo collections. It’s also perfect for people who can’t travel easily or who live outside the New York area.