From the Archives: Keeping Our History Alive
by Camille Wooden, OSB
One of our archives’ richest collections is Art and Textiles. St. Placid members have always blessed the monastery with the fruits of their creative gifts. Painting, knitting, ceramics, watercolors, felting, beading, spinning, crocheting,calligraphy–the list goes on! It is the goal of archives to preserve as much of this art as possible. When the Priory opens to the public again, we will have an ongoing display of items from the archives. The first will be artwork of the Sisters.
One of my favorite group of artifacts in our archives is the books. We have a collection of the founding Sisters’ old missals, prayer books and copies of the Rule of Benedict. Each book looks thoroughly and lovingly used, some with inscriptions from loved ones or teachers. They have notations in the margins, holy cards used as bookmarks, newspaper clippings and scraps of paper with prayers and quotations. Some of them are written in German. Our oldest book is a copy of the Rule of Benedict from 1912, printed in Atchison, Kansas. When caring for these books I feel connected to the Sisters who owned and prayed with them—the same life of prayer and worship that continues today.
Archives contain articles large and small. One of the largest items in the St. Placid Priory’s archives is a desk that was used by Sister Placidia Haehn, St. Placid’s first prioress. It is a small desk: only 35 inches long, 20 inches deep and 30 inches tall. Despite its size, a lot of important business, decisions and prayers were made at that desk. And our archives hold the memories.
An archive is a treasure trove of pictures— prints and slides in scrapbooks and diaries. It is easy for an archivist to spend an entire day looking at and creating files for even a few pictures. Here is one of the treasures from St. Placid’s Archive files. It’s from 1952—at the first Priory on Delphi Road at Mud Bay. One of our founding members, Sister Milburgis, is shown with the Priory’s first dog, Tippy, and the community’s first car, a black Chevy. The building in the background was the converted chicken coop that became the novitiate.
The St. Placid archives are really a combination archive (papers and pictures), library (lots of old prayer books and missals) and museum (objects large and small). Here is a shelf with some items from the past two Priory buildings, waiting to be catalogued.