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.