DePaul is home of the largest collection of Vincentian Studies material in the Americas, including over 8,000 volumes, 5,000 pieces of ephemera, and several hundred linear feet of archival material. As libraries and special collections continue to increase digital access to some of their most unique materials, DePaul University Special Collections and Archives—with assistance from the Office of Mission and Values—set out to expand our own Vincentian digital holdings in cooperation with other archives. There are several large collections in Europe that hold incredibly important materials for understanding the history and heritage of St. Vincent, the Congregation of the Mission, and the wider Vincentian Family.
This past May I was lucky enough to travel to Rome to visit two important Vincentian archival repositories, the Archives of the Roman Province and the Archives of the Vincentian Curia. This trip, made possible by a grant from DePaul’s Vincentian Studies Institute, was taken in hopes of adding rare and high-value material to DePaul’s Vincentian Studies Collection. By assessing those collections for rare, high-value materials, and then scanning them on-site at high resolution, DePaul plans to freely provide these digital facsimiles to researchers and other interested users on our own online platform
I spent several days at each repository, evaluating documents and collections for potential inclusion in the digitization project. Through my own research and the that of Vincentian scholars including DePaul’s own Rev. Edward Udovic, C.M. and Rev. John E. Rybolt, C.M., I was able to flag several exciting items, including holograph letters of Vincent de Paul; documents, correspondence and diaries concerning the foundation of the American Vincentian Mission (which celebrates its bicentennial in 2016); materials relating to the causes for the sainthood of Vincent de Paul, Louise de Marillac, Elizabeth Ann Seton, and others; and the original papal bull, signed by Clement XII, canonizing Vincent in 1737.
Research and teaching opportunities abound for materials such as these, which illuminate the Vincentians’ place within the histories of Europe, the United States, and Catholicism. Many of these items are not generally accessible to individuals outside of the Vincentian community, so the eventual digitization and inclusion within DePaul’s digital holdings will mark the first time they have been viewed by a wider, lay audience.
This visit marks only the first in what is envisioned to be a larger-scale project that will eventually include repositories in Turin, Madrid, Paris, and perhaps even Warsaw. My second visit to Rome will be this coming summer, during which the actual digitization of the documents will begin. My hope is that we will not only expand our collections, but highlight otherwise hidden primary-source resources and the larger field of Vincentian Studies, which is part of the DePaul University Library’s strategic plan.
For more information on this project, the Vincentian Studies Collection, or any of the materials mentioned in this piece, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.