Responding to research needs: the response of the Maryknoll Mission Archives

Maryknoll Mission Archives

Late in the spring of 2011 the Maryknoll Mission Archives, a collaborative venture of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, Maryknoll Sisters and Maryknoll Mission Association of the Faithful, launched its website and opened its virtual doors to the world. The site included information for researchers about using the Archives, an Archon component through which we began sharing finding aids for our open collections and a form for contacting the Archives. This step into the cyber realm backed by leadership’s support resulted in attracting a global body of researchers working on a wide variety of topics to the Archives.

Over the last six and a half years, professors and doctoral candidates from US-based and international educational institutions such as the Australian National University College of Asia and Pacific, Catholic University of Korea, Hong Kong Baptist University, Indiana University, Iona College, New York University, Seoul National University, University of California Berkley, University of California Riverside, University of British Columbia, University of Maryland College Park, University of Tokyo and Yale University have found the Maryknoll Archives through our online presence. These researchers came with questions about U.S.-Japanese relations in the 1940s, indigenous art, Catholicism in modern Korea, religion in Manchuria, medical mission work, social history of workers in Central America, cinema in Africa, contemporary history of the Catholic Church in Taiwan, healthcare in the Marshall Islands and childcare in Los Angeles Japanese immigrant populations just to name a few. They came to research questions we as archivists didn’t dream of while organizing and describing the records. Each individual archivist-researcher interaction is a valuable partnership.

For our part, we utilize our understanding of the record structures and content to help researchers identify meaningful collections, often offering new avenues as the research process develops and new questions emerge. Researchers, in turn, provide us with a better understanding of our records and offer the invaluable service of bringing these records to life and incorporating them into the wider history and understanding of the world. They help ensure that Maryknoll’s voice and contributions live on beyond the Archives’ stacks. The Archives’ website will continue to be a work in progress, refining our response to researchers and finding more avenues though which to make the broadest section of potential researchers aware of what resources we can offer their work. This conference is a rare and exciting opportunity to gather together all the voices that help shape our work as Catholic religious archivists in order to best share our stories.

Jennifer Halloran
Director, Maryknoll Mission Archives