June 1, 2024 | Archives, Special Issue
Fr. Stephen Van Lal Than

Sr. Emma Cecilia, OSU, the previous archivist for the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph and founding archivist for the Diocese of Owensboro, is seen in the diocesan archives in 2008. COURTESY OF ARCHIVES

Archives: Why history matters


When speaking to the importance of history in the modern world, countless appeals can be made to the fact that history fills a deep yearning in the human spirit, or that it helps fulfill our natural desire for stability, place, and purpose. It does all these things and more.

The archives does this in very practical ways. We fulfill countless requests for photographs of nuns and priests that played a life changing role in a parishioner’s or student’s life. We have compiled a short history of a historic African American Catholic school in one of our small towns for a resident who wanted to know more about her unique experience and history as an African American in rural Kentucky.

We work closely with every part of our diocese. We provide blueprints for priests looking to make additions to churches. We assist researchers writing histories of their parishes as well as academic level publications. We provide deeds and wills to the diocesan finance department, photographs and information to the communications department, and help parishioners track down elusive sacramental information.

None of these commitments even speak to the broad dissemination of our history by the archives such as our monthly article in The Western Kentucky Catholic, or our monthly videos for the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph. Saint Meinrad will also be sending seminarians to our archives as they develop a deeper understanding of the significant role culture and history play in spiritually serving a diocese.

Perhaps just as important as the utilization of our history is the protection of these physical documents. The world is entering a dangerous period when digitized information can be flawlessly altered or falsified through artificial intelligence. Currently, our only protection is our physical documents. This is a conversation that is not being had and a danger that is, sadly, going unnoticed. Few, if any, have ever endeavored to alter history with good intentions. The archives has been safeguarding this physical information even before others realize the threat.   

Edward Wilson is the archivist for the Diocese of Owensboro and the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph.

Originally printed in the June 2024 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.

Current Issue

Publisher |  Bishop William F. Medley
Editor |  Elizabeth Wong Barnstead
Contributors |  Riley Greif, Rachel Hall
Layout |  Rachel Hall
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