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RELIGIOUS-ARCHIVES-GROUP  May 2012

RELIGIOUS-ARCHIVES-GROUP May 2012

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Subject:

Scottish Catholic Heritage Collections Trust

From:

Clive Field <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Clive Field <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 4 May 2012 11:58:46 +0100

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I reported on 14 March about the concerns being raised in Scotland about proposals being mooted by the Scottish Catholic Heritage Collections Trust to dispose of some of its collection assets and to relocate the Scottish Catholic Archives.

I subsequently wrote, in my capacity as President of the Religious Archives Group, to the Director of the Scottish Catholic Media Office (which has been responding on behalf of the Scottish Catholic hierarchy), requesting further information about these proposals.

That was on 4 April. Unfortunately, my letter did not receive even an acknowledgement from the Scottish Catholic Media Office, still less a substantive reply. I emailed a reminder on 28 April, which has also not yet attracted a response.

Unfortunately, the Scottish Catholic Media Office does not appear to have issued a formal press statement on its website, and, at the time of writing, even links to the Scottish Catholic Archives website do not seem to be working.

Meanwhile, the voices of concern have been strengthening. The April/May issue of OPEN HOUSE includes an article by Michael Turnbull on the closure of Columba House in Edinburgh and the dispersal of the Scottish Catholic Archives. It also contains two letters on the same subject from Professor Tom Gallagher of the University of Bradford and Professor Tom Devine of the University of Edinburgh. This correspondence forms the basis of the coverage in the current issue (6 May) of THE UNIVERSE, headlined ‘Scottish Catholic Archives dispersal “will wreck our understanding of the past”’.

Further criticism of the Scottish Catholic hierarchy has come in a statement by Professor Charles McKean of the University of Dundee, which was circulated to the Fellowship of the Royal Historical Society on 27 April. This is reproduced below.

Any member of the Religious Archives Group having relevant information on the matter is asked to share it with this list.

Dr Clive Field, OBE

******

*Expression of Concern – the Scottish Catholic Archives*

The Catholic Bishops plan to relocate the historical collections of the Scottish Catholic Archives at Columba House in Edinburgh to Aberdeen and Glasgow. They are also contemplating selling off items of heritage to help defray the cost of a new building in Glasgow. This proposal has been determined with a quite extraordinary lack of consultation with the growing number of scholars using this resource or with the community (as well as the nation at large), and it goes against the Church’s stated
ambition to foster and encourage the understanding of the place of the Catholic Church in Scottish history.

The plan involves dividing an internationally important historical collection between Glasgow and Aberdeen and thus removing it from the close and useful proximity to the other national collections upon which many PhDs and other researchers rely. 1878 is to be the date used to determine the split - pre 1878 to Aberdeen and post-1878 to Glasgow. To use the year 1878, when the Hierarchy was restored, might seem neat, but the collections are less arranged chronologically as thematically or according to source - e.g. Blairs Letters, Oban Letters etc. Since much research is likely to straddle such a divide, such a division is likely to be problematic.

To many researchers, this relocation will imply more distant travel, quite probably entailing overnight stays – and thus reducing the general accessibility/affordability of using the material.

If this move takes place, it is likely to stall the recent growth in Scottish Catholic historical research, and its integration in broader Scottish historical research. Our concern is that it will relegate it to where it used to be: a sideshow.

The Scottish Catholic Historical Association has issued a letter to the press requesting the bishops to wait until new Episcopal appointments have been confirmed before proceeding. However, if their concern is shared within the wider academic community, a much broader spectrum of individuals and organisations need to inform the Bishops of their concern, and that speedily.

*Write to:*

Cardinal Keith O'Brien, 42 Greenhill, Gardens, Edinburgh, EH10 4BJ.
Abp Mario Conti: Curial Office, 196 Clyde Street, Glasgow, G1 GJY
The nuncio. Abp Antonio Mennini, 54 Parkside, Wimbledon, London, SW19 5NE.
The Scottish Catholic Observer
The Tablet

Professor Charles McKean FRSE
Department of History
University of Dundee

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