The new Congregational Archives facility: Challenges and achievementsPrint
Two buildings at Nos 1 and 3 Rockwall Crescent were purchased by the Sisters in 1950 and leased as residential buildings. Their demolition in 1992 allowed the construction of a new convent to house 12 Sisters of Charity in 1993. Planning for a Heritage Centre and Archives utilising the existing building had already begun prior to the convent’s closure in 2016.
Relocating from the current Archives on the ground floor of the 1960s Tarmons building with no environmental control to a 21st century purpose-designed Archives with complex and specialised requirements was a lengthy and major undertaking commencing in July 2015 with our first draft involving research, planning and coordination with a range of experts for a varied collection of paper-based records, photographs, artworks, museum objects and textiles.
Design aspects provided challenges to ensure the Archives had sufficient and properly designed storage space for the long term, air conditioning and that staff had improved working conditions. We had to balance the needs of a number of stakeholders in relation to the heritage component (the exhibition space), including the curator, conservators, exhibition designers, the Heritage Committee, and the needs of the Archives and the records and objects in our custody.
The decision for most of the Archives collection to undergo specialised pest management treatment prior to relocation involved a complicated logistical and relocation timetable.
The major achievement is that the Congregation now has a quality facility well into the future for its significant archival and museum collection, a rarity for this type of collection, with an exhibition space for the public to access and for engagement with a broader community.
The Archives relocated to the new facility on time. Coordinating different contractors in the areas of removals, conservation, pest management, shelving suppliers and information technology was another achievement.
Desk-top computers in the two physically secure repositories enable staff to search and amend the database on the spot. We have a new light-filled Archives Office with windows (a first), with furniture appropriate to our workflow. The task was immense, so the Archives staff was augmented for a few weeks by two university students and additional days of work to existing staff.
We are excited that the Congregational Archives containing records and objects significant to not only the Sisters of Charity but to the national community can now become the hub of future historical research.
Images show: 1, the renovated Convent is now the Heritage Centre which houses the Congregational Archives; 2, Sydney’s Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP, blesses part of the Archives; 3, Sr Leone and Wittmack and Sr Cate O’Brien cast their eyes over the collection; 4, the compactus; 5, Srs Cate and Leone in the compactus; 6, Fr Lewi and Archbishop Fisher in the repository where the painting are stored; 7, empty shelves in a repository waiting to be filled
- by Janet Howse, Congregational Archives Manager