March 29, 2019 — Where can you admire both precious medieval manuscripts and a modern interactive map? At the Jesuit Archives in Canada at Bellarmin House. On March 27, during an open house, this centre, which is the guardian of the collective memory of Canadian Jesuits, allowed us to discover more than 700 years of Canadian history in a state-of-the-art environment.
Manuscripts, maps, photographs, works of art and other documents surround the vaults of the archives. They never stop filling up, since many Jesuits leave their personal belongings there when they pass away. During the open house, the entire archives team worked hard to help us discover some of these documents and the projects in progress.
In the consultation room, we were able to look at parchments in Latin and German, the oldest of which dates back to 1292. According to archivist Joannie Lajeunesse, the Jesuit Archives in Canada would be "possibly the place with the most medieval scrolls in Quebec!".
Part of the library of the late Fr. Lucien Campeau was also highlighted. But only a section of it, since after the inventory, most of the books of this tireless and famous historian had to be removed due to a lack of space.
We also attended the inauguration of an interactive map depicting the life of Fr. Nicolas Point, explorer of the Rockies in the 1800s. In addition to his travel notes, the Jesuit produced meticulous paintings, which were integrated into the virtual map. According to historian Fr. Monet, "Nicolas Point's travels concern mainly the United States, but since he died in Quebec City, it is here that his documents, which attract many researchers, are kept. "Finally, we had a glimpse of the problems that can be caused by the digitization of documents, and also of the patience it takes to do such work.
What would be the most valuable piece of these funds? For historian Fr. Jacques Monet SJ, "perhaps the most interesting of all we have here is the Marquette map", an original from the Mississippi missionary explorer of the 1670s, although the choice obviously depends on everyone's interests.
Intrigued? The Archives receives more than 300 requests for consultations from national and international researchers each year. They are also used for the administration of today's Jesuits, since governance or accounting records are also kept by this centre.
Having benefited from the wealth of documents and expertise of the archivists and Fr. Monet, I can only strongly recommend a visit to the Jesuit Archives in Canada for anyone interested in the history of the Society of Jesus as a central part of Canadian history.
Thank you to Theresa Rowat, Father Jacques Monet, SJ, Joannie Lajeunesse, Christiane Desjardins, Sylvain Bouchard, Jean-Christophe Cusson and Jeremy Walling for the visit!