The meeting “Christian and Patriarchal Institutions Archives” was held on 16th June in the St Francis Room of the Custodial Curia of Jerusalem, as part of the major project of the Open Jerusalem Archives – which also includes the Archives of the Custody of the Holy Land.
Started in 2014, Open Jerusalem is a project funded by the EU to identify, localize, classify and make accessible the archives on the history of Jerusalem in the 19th and 20th centuries (1840-1940). Its web portal gives access to 40,000 original documents in 12 different languages, with the aim of making them easy to access and allowing the historical reconstruction of the city.
The conference (you can find the recording here), hosted by the Custody, had the objective of presenting some of the results obtained and the projects that have been developed, in particular by the Christian institutions of Jerusalem which are part of the project and have taken action to preserve and increase the value of their historical archives.
“The historical archive of the Custody of the Holy Land is without doubt the best one and the best preserved one in the whole of the Holy Land: you are a model for the whole city of Jerusalem,” began the director of Open Jerusalem, Prof. Vincent Lemire of the University of Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée, who moderated the meeting.
“That of today was praise and an act of recognition for our work,” - admitted fr. Narcyz Klimas, lecturer in History of the Church at Studium Theologicum Jerosolymitanum and archivist of the Custody. - “As the director of Open Jerusalem Archives emphasized, our archive is one of the most important in the whole of the Middle East. Today we have been able to show how, thanks to cataloguing our material from 1840, we are able to know everything that there is to know about this long period. From as early as 1965, we wanted to make our heritage 'accessible'; but it was not until after the intense work of reorganization begun in 2009 that the new archive saw the light of day, and with it, all the material was made accessible in a suitable way.”
Fr. Narcyz Klimas illustrated to the participants some photos of the archive and the inventory, and in particular the very recent fourth volume of the publication “L’archivio storico della Custodia di Terra Santa” [The historical archive of the Custody of the Holy Land”]. He also wanted to share some of the gems of the inventory of the Custody, including a very precious gold Firman (i.e. a document issued by the chancelleries of the sultanates) of 1690. Father Stéphane Milovich, director of the Department of the Cultural Heritage, in his contribution, highlighted the work of cataloguing and digitalization of the “condotte”, i.e. the handwritten registers of gifts to the Custody of the Holy Land (the work was done by the Terra Sancta Museum team).
The conference also included addresses by the heads of the other Christian institutions – Stavros Andreou (for the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate), Jean-Michel de Tarragon (École biblique et archéologique française de Jérusalem), Maria Chiara Rioli (UNIMORE), Angelos Dalachanis and Stéphane Ancel (French National Centre for Scientific Research), Thérèse Gonnier (for the Latin Patriarchate) – who took stock of the situation of the work of archiving, indexing, analysis and optimizing the institutes under their responsibility.