The first storage center for historical records since the Diocese was founded in 1957 has been established. After a four-year effort, the creation of the Diocesan Archives facility is now complete. This includes the renovation of four rooms at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Lloyd Harbor (Huntington), New York. The first room set aside for the Archives in 1995 is a combination work area/storage area. Before the recent renovations, this served as the only storage for the Archives from 1996 – 1999. Its mobile shelving system was blessed by Bishop John R. McGann in May 1997. Another Diocesan Archives room is the main office, exhibit, and researcher area, and features new mobile shelving. Two other rooms, one fitted with mobile shelving and one with standard shelving, are solely for records storage.
The installation of shelving in September 1999 created twice as much available shelving for records storage as had previously existed. The storage capacity of the Archives is now 2731 cubic feet. Currently the collection consists of approximately 1380 cubic feet but continues to grow. A cubic foot box is equivalent to one and a half letter-size file cabinets.
The temperature and humidity levels are being monitored through the use of hygrometers. The readings are being recorded every day to check for fluctuations over weekends and over the seasons. Maintaining the ideal environment of 72 degrees F and 45% humidity within the Diocesan Archives has been attainable so far. A low to medium level of humidity is essential in preventing mold growth; an area too dry can cause brittleness in paper.
The Diocesan Archives needs to be a secure environment for the protection and preservation of the collection. Security of the collection is maintained through the daily presence of the Diocesan Archivist and the conscientious Seminary staff and residents. Information about the collection cannot be obtained from looking at the outside of the boxes. The doors are locked after office hours.
History of the Archives Office
The initial efforts to start a formal archives and records management program began in 1993. At that time, Dr. Gregory Hunter, a noted educator in archival science, determined that the Diocese had numerous historically significant records and that it should begin an archives and records management program. The first Diocesan Archivist was hired two years later to begin acquiring historical records and create a facility in which to store them. Another of the Archivist’s tasks is to provide guidance to any of the 134 parishes within the diocese on recordkeeping.
The Pastoral Center on Sunrise Highway in Rockville Centre, where most of the diocesan departments have offices, lacks sufficient space for an archives. Fortunately, a suitable location for the Archives was found at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington. Renovations were made to five rooms that now comprise the Diocesan Archives.
Since the Pastoral Center and Seminary are forty miles apart, the Archivist has offices at each site. Records management activities take place at the Pastoral Center. Acid-free archival boxes of records are removed from the Pastoral Center and other off-site departments and brought to the Seminary. Activities such as archival processing, document retrieval, and research take place in Huntington. With each box acquired, basic information of its contents is entered into a database; later on more thorough descriptions may be made of certain collections. Preservation measures such as removing paper clips and elastic bands and replacing manila folders with acid-free ones are taken.
Plans for the Diocesan Archives: Past and Future
One of the first tasks the Diocesan Archivist did was to create a “Three Year Plan” for the establishment of the first Diocesan Archives. This covered the period between October 1995 and October 1998 and beyond. Many of those goals have been met but there are quite a few which may be implemented in the future. These include:
- Conduct oral history interviews.
- Transfer existing microfilm onto archival quality microfilm.
- Increase awareness of disaster preparedness within diocesan departments and parishes to prevent the loss of vital and historical records due to fire, flood, theft, etc.
- Increase outreach activities.
- Have conservation treatments performed on specific documents for their continued preservation.
- Offer internship opportunities to local library science students.