BY Ian Dunn | March 9 | comments icon 2 COMMENTS     print icon print


Historical Catholic archive items may be sold off

Scotland’s bishops are considering selling off some items from the historical collection at the Catholic Archives to enable it to remain open for scholars.

The Church needs to find the necessary £150,000 a year to keep the Columba House archives open after backing from a private trust was stopped due to the current financial climate’s effect on interest rates.

In the longer term, the Scottish bishops intend to split the material now managed by the Scottish Catholic Heritage Collections Trust (SCHCT), headed by Archbishop Mario Conti of Glasgow, between Aberdeen University Library and a new facility on Glasgow’s south side. However some Catholic historians have questioned the wisdom of these choices.

Peter Kearney (above), director of the Scottish Catholic Media Office, said the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland was working to keep the archives safe and accessible.

“A deficit in the funding of the Scottish Catholic Archives has had to be met from the funds of the Bishops’ Conference,” he said. “As a resource for researchers and scholars, access to them is completely free of charge. As a consequence, the Church underwrites these costs as a service to the wider community.”

Mr Kearney said that because the bishops were seeking new sources of funding.

“The possibility of selling some non-core items held in the collection has been examined by the SCHT trustees,” he said. “No decision has been taken on whether or not any item will be sold but any such action would only be taken with the intention of maintaining the collections and ensuring long-term access to them.”

Mr Kearney also said that in the longer term plan is for Aberdeen University to house the historic core of the archives while other material and the modern archive of the Bishops’ Conference would be relocated to a single site in Glasgow, when budgets allow.

Michael Turnbull, a Catholic historian, said that the community of scholars that used the archives at Columba House were ‘shocked’ to contemplate some parts of the collection being sold off and others relocated. His concerns were echoed by Professor Tom Devine, the retired as the chair of Scottish history at Edinburgh University.


Comments - 2 Responses

  1. Michael T R B Turnbull says:

    Personally, if the Catholic Church is unable to fund The Scottish Archives, I would be only too delighted to pay an entry fee. Selling Columba House is not the answer, nor is moving them to an as yet unbuilt episcopal headquarters in Pollokshields or to a newly-completed library in Aberdeen which has not yet been bedded-in architecturally. The ideal solution would be what Rome and the Vatican has done – the Archives of Propaganda are just across from the Vatican Secret Archives and the Archives of the Secretary of State. Rome and the Vatican are the locations where the major Religious Orders have their archives and the Scots College is also in Rome. In the same way, the Bishops and their advisers Dr John Durkan, Dr Lesley Macfarlane, Mr David McRoberts and Fr William Anderson – assisted by the future Mgr Charles Burns, later a long-serving member of staff at the Vatican Secret Archives, took the decision that Edinburgh was the place for the Scottish Catholic Archives.It was close to the National Library of Scotland, the National Archives of Scotland, what is now the National Museums of Scotland and the National Galleries of Scotland, as well as the place where the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland met annually and the Scottish Episcopal Church had their administrative headquarters.In August 1958 the Archives were transferred from Blairs College to what is today Columba House, at No 16 Drummond Place, Edinburgh (tel 0131 556 3661),
    If you feel strongly that The Scottish Catholic Archives should remain at Columba House in Edinburgh, why not email or write to The new Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Antonio Mennini at:
    His postal address is:
    54 Parkside
    London SW19 5NE
    Archbishop Mennini was born in Rome and will be in Scotland for the 24 – 28 March.

  2. Dear Sir,
    The centralisation of Catholic resources in Edinburgh is logical and has taken some time. It is very well run and accessible online.
    The send this north and south may have an advantage to some in the north so I do not dismiss it however the removal and downgrading of the complete archive will not be a good thing
    I wonder what will happen to the Peter Anson works held in Edinburgh and the suggestion of selling might be financially completed with resources disappearing across the world
    Historians spend long enough trying to find resources so that to decentralise them would be very bad in the long run………unless you send them all to Scalan !!!!!!

    Best wishes

    Mike Morrison

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