From its beginning in 1861, the Sisters of Providence have carefully retained their archival records. In the early constitutions the General Secretary was mandated “to keep all papers and documents in the neatest possible form”. The constitutions then went on to specify that the “documents and registers that belong to the archives of the Institute should be kept with greatest care in the safest place possible”. This meant that the archival records were stored at the Motherhouse and cared for by the General Secretary.
In 1964, with the building of a new administration wing at Providence Motherhouse, archival materials were placed in a small Archives room that was located near the General Secretary’s office.
The increasing number of paper records, combined with the increasing public interest in family history and the recommendation of Vatican Council II that religious congregations return to their roots, made it clear that a larger archives room was needed. In 1989 the Archives moved to a renovated area on the ground level of the administration wing of Providence Motherhouse. An Archivist was appointed and a commitment was made to operate the Archives according to the professional standards. In 1999 the Archives was further renovated and expanded.
The Archives is the official repository for all documents created by or about the Congregation of the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul and the Providence Associates as the Congregation pursues its religious, social, business and legal obligations. They reflect the activities of the Sisters and Providence Associates and the development and activities of the Congregation as a whole. The Archives maintains the corporate history of the Congregation. It assists the Sisters and Associates in tracing the roots of the Congregation, following its traditions and moving forward in fidelity to its charism, mission and spirituality.
The Archives collects all records that are of proven archival value and that are created by or about the Congregation of the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul and the Providence Associates. These records may be administrative, historical, financial, legal, personal, or spiritual in content. They come in a variety of formats including print, photographic, audiovisual and electronic records.
Archival records are made available by appointment to the Sisters of Providence, the Providence Associates and to others whose research is in keeping with the charism, mission and spirituality of the Congregation. Before access to records is granted, researchers will indicate, in writing, the purpose and extent of their work. Access to records is governed by the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy legislation, the condition of the document and other previously stipulated access restrictions.
I beseech you to preserve henceforth the letters which will be written to you and those in your house, from wherever they come, when they contain something especially notable which could be important or which could provide knowledge in the future. You have only to make different folders according to their subject of the year in which you receive them; and bundled so, to keep them in a place reserved for this where those who succeed you could have recourse to them when needed. (St. Vincent de Paul)
Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet unborn may praise the Lord. (Ps. 102:18)
The work of archives is a gesture of love toward the truth. (John Paul II)
A world without archives would be a world with no memory, no culture, no legal rights, no understanding of the roots of history and science – no collective identity. (XII International Congress on Archives)
Of all national assets, archives are the most precious; they are the gift of one generation to another and the extent of our care of them marks the extent of our civilization. (Sir Arthur Doughty, Dominion Archivist of Canada, 1904-1935)