As part of the annual Explore Your Archive campaign, the Jesuits in Britain Archives held an open day on Tuesday 21st November 2017. Archive services across the United Kingdom and Ireland participate in this campaign to showcase their collections and to raise awareness of the work of archivists and recordkeepers. The Explore Your Archive campaign also serves to celebrate the richness and diversity of archive collections and to highlight individual examples of the wonderful, the unexpected and the bizarre. Members of staff at the Jesuit Provincial Offices in Mount Street and members of the wider Jesuit community were invited to visit the Archives to see a special display of items discovered over the last year through moving collections and cataloguing.
In the course of moving archival boxes, books and artefacts, we have discovered several gems in our holdings. One such discovery is a beautiful illuminated manuscript (ref: PC/1/28) decorated by Frances Douglas Dick and presented in 1878 for the use of the Jesuit Fathers here at Farm Street. Another rather more unusual manuscript, also discovered in the process of moving collections, provides an example of the practice of reusing manuscripts – in this instance a volume bound in a much earlier music manuscript (ref: 19/4/17). The purpose of the manuscript itself remains something of a mystery.
Alongside the moving of collections, we have continued our core work of collecting, preserving and making available the records of the Jesuits in Britain. Over the last 12 months, work has continued on tackling the backlog of uncatalogued material. A number of the items on display were selected from newly catalogued collections, many of which are now available to search via the Catholic Heritage website. In the papers of Fr Bernard Vaughan (1847-1922), we discovered a scrapbook of autographs (ref: SJ/34/9) featuring many of the prominent figures of the day including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Theodore Roosevelt and many cardinals and bishops.
Also discovered among the recently catalogued personal papers of members of the Society of Jesus was a recipe book (ref: SJ/29/6) compiled and used by Br Thomas Moore at Manresa House in the 1930s and 1940s. In the papers of Fr Leslie Walker (1877-1958), a WWI chaplain and later a lecturer at Campion Hall, we discovered a number of detective stories which Walker wrote under a pseudonym. The display also included material from the papers of Fr Alfred Thomas (1925-1985), which are currently in the process of being catalogued. The items selected for display reflect Thomas’ life-long enthusiasm for Gerard Manley Hopkins and the singular effort he put into organising the Hopkins memorial plaque at Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey. Thomas petitioned prominent figures of the day in support of his cause including Sir John Betjeman, the Duke of Norfolk and Sir Alec Guinness.
With the help of volunteers and work experience students, work has been carried out in the last year on repackaging and cataloguing the photographic collection. Two interesting photographs have come to light as a result of this work. One photographs shows Fr Philip Caraman SJ with the skull of Fr William Weston, who was Superior of the English Mission between 1584 and 1603 (SJ/PH/169). The skull itself was held as a relic here in the Archives until as recently as 2008 when itwas transferred to the English College at Valladolid where Weston is buried. The other photograph on display shows Fr Martin D’Arcy SJ and Albert Einstein at the Oxford Union in 1933 (32/5/2A).
On the day, there were 33 visitors to the Archive including members of the Jesuits & Friends editorial board. The normally quiet reading room was full of noise as visitors enjoyed the variety of items on display, took photographs and compared notes on their palaeography skills.