MERCY ARCHIVISTS GATHER
From 7-11 September 2015 eighteen participants gathered for the biennial conference of the Australasian Mercy Archivists at the Mercy Heritage Centre and the Mercedes Conference Centre in Perth, Western Australia. The conference theme was Our Future: Keeping Archives and Heritage Alive by Education and Promotion.
Mercy archivists, curators and guest speakers from all over Australia were warmly welcomed by the conference convenor Annie Medley and the Institute Leader, Sr. Berneice Loch, who spoke on the importance of the work of Mercy archivists and curators in preserving the Mercy story and how archives play an ongoing role in the life of religious congregations.
Throughout the week we had several guest speakers including Sr. Anne Hetherington (ISMAPNG, Brisbane) who spoke on Letters from the Antipodes: Correspondence from the pioneer Sisters in Western Australia. Sr. Anne took us back to the arrival of the first sisters from Ireland and the struggles they faced with the climate, the lack of provisions, and having to rely on the kindness of strangers through donations. Her second talk, ‘Wandering Arameans: Early Mercy contacts between Queensland and Western Australia’, examined the lives of some early sisters whose story was unusual for the era. Unlike most sisters, they lived their religious life in several congregations across the country.
Another guest speaker, Odhran O’Brien, discussed the relationship between Bishop Griver and the Sisters of Mercy in early Perth. Drawing on his own research, Odhran presented a fascinating picture of early Catholic history. Continuing the theme, Annie Medley (Cultural Collections Curator, ISMAPNG) spoke about the arrival of Mother Ursula Frayne in January 1846 and her journey by boat from Fremantle to Perth accompanied by the foundation sisters. Dr Roberta Ann Cowan discussed an immersion program that she had developed for use by staff at Santa Maria College, Attadale. As the school is situated close to the site where Mother Ursula Frayne and twenty-seven other missionaries landed, participants were invited to visit the various sites that were directly connected to the arrival of the Sisters of Mercy in Perth.
Later in the week Jenny Glare from McKillop Family Services in Melbourne discussed the role of the Heritage and Information Service in preserving and caring for historical records and providing a support and records access service to care givers and their families. She also spoke about how they have made a significant contribution to an understanding of the history of Catholic welfare in Australia. We also heard from Andrew Bowman–Bright who gave an insightful talk on the world of virtual volunteering and how archives can connect with a wider audience via a virtual museum on the web, an exciting new project that ISMAPNG Archives and Heritage is currently undertaking.
ISMAPNG Archivist, Sr. Joanne Molloy, also presented a talk looking at the historical importance of two heritage buildings which have been integral to the life and ministry of the Sisters of Mercy in Rockhampton for over a century, Middle Hall at the Range and Kenmore at the Rockhampton Mater Hospital. Sr. Joanne made the buildings come to life through the use of historical photographs and engaged the audience with stories of their unique past.
During the week participants spent a day at New Norcia visiting the monastery archives, took part in a wonderful walking tour of the heritage precinct around Victoria Square and spent time immersed in history at the Mercy Heritage Centre and at St Brigid’s Convent in Northbridge.
We finished the week with a parting ritual and gift giving, where each person received a symbolic offering from another archives. Although the archivists from Nga Whaea Atawhai O Aotearoa Sisters of Mercy New Zealand and the Sisters of Mercy Congregations of North Sydney and Parramatta were unable to attend, the conference proved to be a wonderful opportunity to catch up with attending archivists and curators again and share stories and learnings.
Messages to: ISMAPNG Archives and Heritage
Top: Archivists group
Middle: Odhran O’Brien
Bottom: Victoria Square