Denise Corrigan is the Sisters of Charity Archives Manager
I am just wanting to let you know about our blog, Pioneer Sites, which we put up last week, and also to pay tribute to the Archives Outside team, who, in some ways, were the inspiration to get blogging!
Our Archives, known as The Congregational Archives of the Sisters of Charity of Australia, is the central repository for the archival records, rare books, and museum objects accumulated by the Congregation and its members, as well as related persons and organizations. We are essentially a ‘private’ archives, but applications for access for research purposes can be made to the Archives Manager.
As part of the Archives we do have an exhibition room, which is built on the site of the first ward of St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney. The cedar panelling and shutters and windows in the room are from the historic ‘Tarmons’ villa that the hospital inhabited, when it was owned by Sir Charles Nicholson. Nicholson, co-founder of Sydney University, bought Tarmons in Woolloomoolloo Heights from Sir Maurice O’Connell, the commander of the colonial military forces in NSW, who had it built in 1838 on a subdivision of the original 1828 Crown Land Grant to John Busby. Visits to the Archives are by appointment only.
Inspiration to explore our heritage
Our Congregational historian had been asked to further explore the heritage given to them by their early Sisters. She contacted the Congregational Archives and we decided to focus on visualizing the story of the early pioneer Sisters of Charity in the NSW Colony. Generally the story of the early Sisters of Charity, the first Catholic missionary Sisters in Australia (1838), is not widely known, and any publications we had done in the past included very limited pictorial material.
The vicar-apostolic of New Holland at the time, Bishop Polding, repeatedly requested Mary Aikenhead, the foundress of the Irish Sisters of Charity, for a small band of Irish Sisters of Charity to come to Australia to work with the Catholic women convicts at the Parramatta Female Factory. Mary Aikenhead was eventually persuaded by the stories of these poor and spiritually bereft women, and called for volunteers to travel to Australia. Known as ‘the walking nuns’ , they were the first in Ireland to step out of their cloistered environment and visit the poor and needy in their homes. These new type of religious Sisters would have been ‘just the ticket’ for the fledgling Australian diocese.
Why choose a blog?
But how to do it? I had attended an Australian Society of Archivists meeting several years earlier when I heard the Archives Outside Blog team presenting on their newly developed blog. Creating a blog seemed the right vehicle for us. It did take several years to come to fruition as it was work done alongside the daily demands of the Archives.
We like the blog because of its potential for interaction with a broader community and its ease of access via the computer. We wanted a way for our Sisters and others interested to easily reconnect with their past. We hope to achieve through a visual journey, just how difficult it must have been for Sisters coming to a new land. The blog takes a walk with the Sisters from their arrival in 1838 in Sydney to the building of St Vincent’s Hospital in Woolloomoolloo in 1857. Many of the images are sourced from the Mitchell and National Library collections.