October 16, 2012

Mercy International begins Digitizing Archival Resources

Mercy International Association holds precious resources in our archival collection, including original artwork by Clare Augustine Moore, original letters written by and to Catherine McAuley, hand lettered Rule and Constitutions by Cecilia Marmion, and other manuscripts and letters by early Mercy women surrounding Catherine.

In an effort to preserve and protect these resources, and to make these treasures more accessible throughout the Mercy world, MIA has begun the process of digitizing archival resources.

The digital images being created and catalogued by Mercy International will serve three purposes:
1. It preserves an image of each of these treasures in the unlikely and tragic event that a catastrophe occurs and resources are destroyed;
2. It creates an online resource for historians and researchers, makes the archive more readily accessible and assists the long term preservation of the original documents;
3. It provides a wider range of options for how to share these treasures with the Mercy world and beyond.

In recent years, MIA has worked to share some of the archival treasures beyond the public exhibition of selected resources in the Heritage Room of Mercy International Centre. One of the resources that is currently available online is Clare Augustine Moore’s Book of Flowers (formally entitled Short Prayers and Ejaculations to which if recited with due contrition, Partial Indulgences are annexed). This electronic book available here is one of Clare Augustine’s most celebrated works. It dates to sometime after 1856 and has twenty illuminated prayers. The flowers portrayed in this book are completely naturalistic, recognizable as distinct species, and not stylized in any way. A different variety of flowers is used for each illumination.

In addition to the electronic book available online, MIA has allowed access to these archival resources to individuals who wanted to create print reproductions of the images for resale. Two recent books are available for purchase, one that reproduces Clare Agnew’s Works of Mercy, and another that features images of Mary in Clare Augustine Moore’s artwork.

Marianne Cosgrave (archivist for MIA and the Congregation/Ireland); David Knight (photographer) and Mary Kay Dobrovolny rsm (assistant director - heritage & spirituality, MIA) look at a page from Clare Augustine Moore’s illuminated version of The Practical Sayings of Catherine McAuley. In the foreground is Clare Augustine Moore’s Book of Flowers

In the first book entitled Catherine McAuley and the Works of Mercy, Peter Connell (Mercy Heritage Centre, Brisbane Australia) has edited and reproduced the images found in Clare Agnew’s 1840 publication Illustrations of the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. The reproduction includes the drawings of Clare Agnew with some of the original text from the 1840 publication, together with appropriate scripture quotations, some of Catherine McAuley’s well-known words, and some passages from current Mercy writers.

Clare Agnew, a founding member of the Bermondsey community, visited several Mercy convents in Ireland in 1840 and sketched the works of Mercy she saw in those locations. These sketches are the only eye-witness pictures we have of how the early Sisters carried out their ministries of teaching, care of the sick and dying, and visitation of the poor in their homes and prison. For information on how to order this resource, click here.

The second recently published book is Opening Our Treasures edited by Áine Barrins rsm (Congregation/Ireland). Featured in this small booklet are thirteen images of Mary found in Clare Augustine Moore’s artwork, accompanied by reflections and reflective questions written by Áine Barrins. The reflections invite the reader to dwell on the illuminations and to ponder their timeless meaning in the context of our times. This resource can be ordered online through the Mercy International Centre gift store here.

By expanding the digital images of archival resources, MIA will be able to make these resources more accessible, such as through expanding the electronic book collection posted online or the publication of books reproducing the images.

This past week, the professional photographer David Knight spent three days photographing page-by-page views of each of Clare Augustine Moore’s manuscripts and practice books, Cecilia Marmion’s hand lettered Rule and Constitutions, and the first pages of Catherine McAuley’s prayer books in which her handwritten prayers are found. He returns in mid-November to continue this process, during which time all of the original letters written by Catherine included in MIA’s collection will be photographed.

David brings a wealth of experience in heritage-related photography, and is also the managing director of Willow Design & Publishing which creates a wide range of stationary products featuring Ireland’s unique and diverse culture and heritage. David has worked with Trinity College, Dublin, and has established a collection of images from the rare books housed in the Long Room in the Old Library. These images have since been used to promote Trinity and to raise funds for the Library through their publication as greeting cards, postcards and calendars.

David also works with the Irish Great Houses Association and has documented many heritage sites and great houses, such as Muckross House (Killarney), the National Trust sites in the North of Ireland, Belvedere House (Mullingar) and Glenveagh National Park (Donegal). These photo library collections form an important part of Ireland’s culture and heritage which needs to be preserved and promoted both nationally and internationally.

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