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Church of Ireland Notes from ‘The Irish Times’

CALCA at St Paul’s

Last month the annual meeting of CALCA, the Cathedral Archives, Libraries and Collections Association of Great Britain and Ireland was held in St Paul’s cathedral, London. This annual gathering of archivists, librarians, collections managers, conservators and cathedral clergy is a valuable opportunity not just to discuss topical issues but to swap experiences and to informally seek and receive advice on a wide variety of issues.

The theme of the conference was ‘Cathedral Collections, Digital Dilemmas’ and it was both encouraging and a little alarming to discover that practices and challenges in many English cathedrals are not dissimilar to the situation in Ireland.

Many cathedrals have deposited the bulk of their older archives in county record offices. This is borne out of a realisation that they cannot provide storage, to a satisfactory archival standard, for large collections and so they tend to retain only the prize items which are likely to be used for exhibition purposes. This mirrors the practice of the Church of Ireland where many cathedral collections have been transferred to the RCB Library.

More topically, cathedrals are trying to cope with the challenges of modern records management – duplication of records, significant backlogs, concern about workloads, difficult working relationships. The challenges are, at least in part, a consequence of a reality that in many cases the archives and records dimension is not well enough resourced and is often not seen as a priority by the senior cathedral, administrators. Also, cathedrals are struggling to deal with digitally born records and many are at a very elementary stage developing and implementing appropriate policies.

More conventionally, cathedrals are digitizing their prize manuscripts as presentations on digitizing the St Paul’s Psalter and Rochester cathedral’s 12th Textus Roffensis demonstrated. The Textus Roffensis has recently been one of the new inscription’s to the UNESCO UK Memory of World Register.

Another topical issue is that of memorials. St Paul’s has been working on memorials to artists in the cathedral and  has begun a community engagement project. This will seek to explain contentious monuments which relate to the East India Company and to the West Indies and to provide interpretative texts. The project has benefitted from a research partnership with the University of York.

The only Irish cathedral represented at the conference was Christ Church cathedral, Dublin, which is a long standing member of the Association. Yet there are considerable benefits for other Irish cathedrals in membership, While most of the cathedral libraries have been transferred to the universities and most of the cathedral archives are in the RCB Library there remains in Irish cathedrals a vast array of physical material, much of which is largely undocumented – stonework, furniture, musical instruments, art works, fabrics. These are issues with which the members of CALCA can help. The membership secretary is Katerina Powell at katerinapowellconservation@gmail.com

Tomorrow (Sunday) in Christ Church cathedral, Dublin, the 11am Eucharist and Evensong at 3.30pm will be sung by the choir of St Peter’s cathedral, Exeter.

Summer Music at Sandford continues in Sandford parish church, Ranelagh, on Friday, at 1.10pm, when  Richard Shaffrey (tenor) & David O’Shea (piano) will perform selection of folk songs, operatic arias and songs from the shows.

St Patrick’s cathedral, Dublin, has announced extended opening hours over July and August. The cathedral will  reopen to visitors after Evensong at 6.15pm with last admission at 7.15pm. Booking online in advance is advised as spaces are limited and some evenings may not be available due to private events.

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