Thursday, July 31, 2014

Welcome, CSJ Chapter

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, Los Angeles Province, are holding their annual Chapter for the next few days and many of them are coming home to the Chalon Campus where they were once students.

We gave a ride up the hill to Sister Dorothy Ann Lesher, CSJ, of Tucson, who entered religious life in 1955 and graduated from the Mount. As we were parking, she recalled fondly the many hours she spent hitting the books in Coe Library.

Here's our Twitter feed for Throwback Thursday welcoming the CSJs to Chalon with a cute picture from the Archives:

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A day in the life of the digital archivist

Hot pink. Not our favorite color for a lit anthology.
PRESERVING A 75-YEAR-OLD pope cap is one thing, but ensuring access to a three-year-old PDF is quite another.

We'll take old silk and kid leather any day.

In the process of writing our next "From the Archives" piece for the Mount Magazine, we needed to grab PDFs of our literary anthologies from our digitized collections on the Internet Archive.

Here is an inside page from the 1937 poetry collection First the Blade. Obviously, this is not what it is supposed to look like. The colorful display is a good indication that the integrity of the PDF has been compromised. (Don't worry -- we would never get rid of the original. It's safe on a shelf.)

Keeping an eye on our digitized treasures is part of the job of the archivist. Fixing this issue will require some testing and the complicated prospect of locating a good copy of the PDF and re-uploading it to the Internet Archive.

Three years, or 75? Physical objects are much easier to preserve than digital. Three years in the digital world is a very long time, and we're never surprised by the number of CD-ROMs that come our way that can't be opened. On the other hand, we have 800-year-old parchment in Special Collections that looks good as new.

Postscript: This week our colleagues around the globe are contributing day-in-the-life photos and tweets to a shared website called "5 Days of Preservation." The variety of tasks and materials is amazing. Look for these and our own hot-pink contribution at

Friday, July 11, 2014

This just in

Our new artifact.
CLEARING OUT SOME CLOSETS in the Doheny Mansion basement, we came across a sort of papal reliquary, complete with a skullcap once worn by Pope Pius XI.

While he occupied the Chair of St. Peter (1922-1939), Pius XI would have been well aware of an oilman and his wife in Los Angeles, Edward L. and Estelle Doheny. Throughout their lives, the Dohenys were important donors to the Catholic Church both in Los Angeles and in Rome.

Pius XI in white zuchetto.
There's no provenance with the cap, which is part of a framed, handwritten apostolic blessing for the Dohenys, but it's safe to assume it was presented to them in gratitude for their generosity.

The cap is known as a zuchetto, meaning "little pumpkin" in Italian, the top half of which it slightly resembles. The papal version is made of white moiré, or watered silk, and lined with velvety white kid leather. Unlike a Jewish yarmulke, zuchettos have no religious significance and probably originated to keep clerics' heads warm in drafty churches and palaces.

There's more to archives than paper. Our zuchetto will enjoy pride of place alongside our 1938 MSMC gown and mortarboard, the 1867 U.S. flag, a 1950 MSMC nurse's uniform, Estelle Doheny's delicately embroidered bed coverlets, a lace tablecloth from Le Puy, Rosie's blob of cement, Sister Louise Bernstein's 1951 ASB gavel, an MSMC beer mug...