Another universe with its own rules
As with any archives, the work of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux encompasses three major operations:
-sorting and classification of documents and archives
The work, initiated by Sr. Marie of the Trinity, was initially gathering components, objects, information, notably from Céline and the contemporaries of Thérèse. The work then continued with sorting and classification of new information received from the entire world during the 20th century.
Yet, the greatest impetus for this general archiving came from the actions of Bishop Brincart and Bishop de Germiny, both graduates of the prestigious Ecole nationale des Chartres de la Sorbonne , who solicited for us during the 1990s the collaboration of one of the four inspectors from the Archives de France. They generously assisted in making our work professional, which had been only the work of a team of Carmelites with good will.
This said, the leading impetus for us has always come from the researchers themselves and their requests, systematically leading us to one or another expensive, but profitable, system of sorting or classification.
The sorting and classification of documents and objects
Begun early in the 1960s, this enormous classification project consisted of sorting documents, placing them in archival boxes and creating file cards for each one on the typewriter. Twenty years later we began to transfer these files onto computer with ISIS software on DOS. The crowning achievement of this undertaking was able to happen thanks to a migration to FileMakerPro, a more flexible and powerful software, facilitating the sharing of millions of different data and the conversion into any format for the exchange. FMPro also permits the use of images, which allows us in the case of objects to include their picture in the descriptive file. This migration was done under the direction of the benevolent volunteer work of Mr. Jean-Pierre Mitsch, emeritus director of information technology at the University of Louvain.
The result was around 100,000 files, each corresponding to a book, a magazine article, unpublished texts, correspondence, loose documents. The magazine articles, unpublished texts and various documents are kept in plastic sleeves with an L shaped opening. Everything was then placed into Kraft envelopes then put in archival boxes. In a second level of classification, each document was numbered. For objects, the cataloging was done by digital photo classified by the type of objects such as paintings, ex-votos, objects from the time period of Thérèse.
Preservation of documents and objects
Conservation, from the largest to the smallest item, required about 80 metallic closed cabinets, 1 meter and 20 centimeter tall (approx. 4 ft.) and very deep, holding 8 shelves. In these cabinets, we are able to use stackable plastic containers in the case of loose documents.
Precious documents or fragile material are kept in mylar sleeves with an L opening. These sleeves, made of an inert material, halt the deterioration of the material. In a size larger than the document to preserve, they permit the document to be handled without damaging it. Thérèse and her female colleagues generally used for their texts and artworks the lowest qualities of paper which self-destructed. These precious or fragile documents were then placed in Phibox boxes with covers whose physical chemistry is adapted to the conservation of documents. Lastly, the charcoal drawings and other fragile drawings were placed in acid-free alkaline portfolio boxes, which are lignin free and without optical bleach. For all of these specialized products we are clients of Stouls.
Lastly, even though they are kept in fire-proof safes able to withstand temperatures for 2 hours up to 2000° C or 3632° F, digitizing the texts of Thérèse or those close to her was essential. This was undertaken with different software and scanners over time.
Dissemination of documents and objects
Lastly, the dissemination of all this information is done at two levels, amateur and professional. The amateur level requires a quick and specific answer to numerous requests from Thérèse’s admirers, preachers needing a precise detail or from specialized magazines. Some examples:
-Where and when did Tom die?
-Who is Edouard Quesnel ?
-Do you have a photo of the Russian icon representing Thérèse, sent by Bishop Neveu?
The software FileMaker permits much more easily than during the 1950s the retrieval of such and such information out of thousands of documents. Digitized texts also permit the rapid searching for a needle in a haystack. FileMaker expedites answers; after a search, it is possible to take the result and convert it into a format which can be sent via the internet.
On a professional level is assistance at the research level: academics editing scholarly publications about Thérèse and doctoral students working on dissertations. This is work that often involves on our part hours of research and very skillful evaluations of the life or doctrine of Saint Thérèse, about her contemporaries and about the development of the influence of her Carmel.
These two levels from now on come together through the use of this internet site, open to all who love Thérèse.