MERCY ARCHIVE COLLECTIONS ON THE MOVE
Our Archives and Heritage teams are located in all communities of the Institute and provide research services to ISMAPNG, its ministries and to researchers interested in the history and mission of the Sisters of Mercy in Australia and Papua New Guinea. We also work to document and preserve the archives and object collections in our care.
Over the past six months the team based in the Institute Centre in Stanmore have started to move some collections from around the Institute to our archives in Sydney so we can continue to provide research services and store these collections in a secure space with appropriate environmental conditions. We have travelled to Gunnedah, Cairns, Canberra, Townsville and Grafton, packing the archives collections to ensure a safe move to Sydney. It has been a labour intensive process (which involved a lot of packing tape) but the effort has paid off with the safe delivery of the material. These collections now become part of the ISMAPNG collection and as such each are vital in telling the wider Mercy story.
During several of our visits we took part in rituals to commemorate the handing over of the archives collections to ISMAPNG Archives and to acknowledge the archivists and sisters whose dedicated work over many years has ensured that the Mercy story around the Institute had been documented and preserved. We presented certificates of appreciation to the archivists and a certificate to the Community Leaders, pledging that we would care for the archives and would preserve, protect and pass on the story of the Sisters of Mercy in Australia and Papua New Guinea into the future.
One of the most recent ‘handing overs’ took place in Grafton as recounted here by one of the Sisters.
“On 2nd June, twenty sisters gathered in Grafton Convent for a simple ritual to mark the moving of the Archival material to Stanmore. Jane McGee, the Manager of Archives and Heritage, was present, together with Anita Meale, her assistant.
We began with a special prayer to commemorate the handing over of the Archives, remembering and giving thanks for all those who had kept records of our history.
Mother de Sanctis kept a diary of the foundation sisters’ arrival at Clarence Heads in 1884 “the entrance of this beautiful river” and the pioneers provided precious memories in their letters home to Bermondsey. As time passed, many records were collected.
During the prayer, we gave thanks for those visionary Superiors and Sisters of Mercy who realised the importance of saving and writing the history. Sister Phillip Sullivan RIP was the first Archivist appointed, and her commitment was passionate. After Sister Phillip, Sister Judith Weiley RIP, worked to share our story with the wider community and encouraged many visitors to view the Archives and Museum.
At the end of the ritual an Archival box was handed to Jane and Anita, as the leader proclaimed that we are “moving forward into our unfolding Mercy story.”
Jane spoke to the Sisters about the future and preservation of the Archives, before we moved to the dining room for the celebratory meal.
We are very grateful for all the assistance and advice provided by Jane and Anita as well as to the many Sisters who helped sort and pack the boxes for transport to their new home.”
Once the collections have been processed in Sydney with the help of our volunteers, we plan to begin digitising important administrative and historical records as a way of making them more accessible for researchers. This will also be a key strategy in the future preservation of the collections. We are also establishing an online museum on our website, endeavouring to showcase our archives and heritage collections from around the Institute, in order to tell the story of the Sisters of Mercy in Australia and Papua New Guinea since 1846 when the first sisters arrived from Ireland.
Of course we are continuing to build our collections on all the communities and are very conscious of collecting material on the continuing mission. At present we are also focussing on collecting sisters’ stories and memories by running some small cultural heritage projects in the second half of 2015. We hope to call on sisters’ knowledge and assistance to further document our rich collections around the Institute.
Messages to: Jane McGee
Top: Sr Bridget Murray rsm, Anita Meale, Jane McGee at Cairns handover
Centre: Grafton Certificate
Bottom: Grafton boxes!