The archives vault, a ‘national treasure’

From the Archives
By Mary Woodward
JACKSON – This week I thought I would share some photos of the diocesan archives vault. This space was built into the ground floor of the diocesan chancery building during its construction in 1947.

Bishop R.O. Gerow moved the bishop’s office to Jackson from Natchez and brought most of the files with him. Our archives have documents dating back to the 1780s and has some books that date back farther than that.

To be honest we have one of the most complete archives of Mississippi history in the state albeit a history through the unique lens of the development of the Catholic Church in the region. The collection is a national treasure.

As a meticulous historian who knew the importance of maintaining proper records and information, Bishop Gerow, assisted by various chancellors along the way, built this comprehensive collection we have in the vault over a period of 42 years.

He kept a detailed diary as did his predecessors of the daily events in the life of the church as he lived them. His diary is several thousand pages typed up neatly and bound in volumes. His last entry details his retirement in 1966.
He also oversaw the indexing of his predecessors’ papers and correspondence along with all the official acts of the office of bishop and the diocesan church.

These photos show the enormous amount of work he did and the work that continues today. The vault is stacked to the ceiling and records since 1966 are slowly being indexed for future research. There is a great need for space and the vision is to one day have a building for the diocesan archives that can serve as a research center and small museum for educational purposes. Right now, we manage the best we can with the allotted space for our treasure. And we hope one day to be able to better share that treasure in a more appropriate environment.

Until then, I hope you will continue to appreciate the history we share in the space provided in this column.

(Mary Woodward is Chancellor and Archivist for the Diocese of Jackson.)