Mary Allen

Hello, I’m Mary, Assistant Archivist at the Jesuits in Britain Archives. I have been working here since the beginning of 2015 and have previously worked and volunteered in a variety of Archive services. I have been a qualified Archivist since 2013. My main task is to catalogue the vast collections of material that we have on individual British Jesuits, the records of colleges, residences and houses, foreign missionary work of the Province, and photographs. The aim of cataloguing is to make our collections more accessible to the public and also to ensure that we have a better understanding of the material that we hold. As part of the cataloguing process I have been re-packaging material into archive-quality sleeves, folders and boxes to ensure their preservation. I also answer enquiries from members of the public and supervise visitors to the archives.

What I love about working with archives is that each institution is, by the very nature of archives, unique, and the opportunities this affords to become familiar with and knowledgeable about different institutions and types of records. I came to the Jesuits in Britain Archives with only a little previous knowledge of the Society of Jesus, and by working with their archives have already learnt so much. Since I come from a history background, one of my favourite aspects of my work is writing blog posts because I can use our archive and library material to research various topical historical events which are either specific to the Society, or look at how national and international events affected the lives of the British Jesuits.

Archival theory states that in the primary instance, archives act as transactional evidence, while their secondary role is to provide unique cultural and historical resources. Although archival theory and the profession as we know it today are only a century old, the Jesuits understood the need for archives and the role of the archivist four centuries ago:

He should keep all documents diligently. He will place letters which are not addressed confidentially to the General alone, and which he does not need to hand, in an archive. He will write on the back of those documents which will seem in his judgment to be worth preserving for the purposes of the General’s government the letter “S” (servandum); and the letter “Æ“(aedificatio) for what concerns the building up and the history of the Society. (Rules for the Secretary of the Society of Jesus, 1608)