“A Stunning Achievement”: The Improbable Collaboration of U-M’s Bentley Library and the Vatican Archives
Francis X. Blouin, Professor emeritus of History and of Information, University of Michigan
Thursday, November 9, 2023; 7:00 pm
Join us for a discussion with Dr. Francis Blouin about the nature and content of the Vatican Archives, the history of an unusual collaboration, some of the intrigue attached to it, and some surprising recent developments.
The Vatican Archives constitute one of the oldest and most significant archives in the world, holding collections covering a vast array of historical matters: the history of the Church, cultural and political institutions across the world, the modern state, and more. Launched centuries before the emergence of modern archival practices, the complex and — in the words of one scholar — “rather chaotic” collections presented a daunting challenge to scholars. Until, that is, a team of archivists and historians from a public university in the American Midwest partnered with the Vatican to mitigate the issue. In 1984, at the behest of the prefect of the Archives, a group from U-M, under the leadership of Dr. Blouin, director of the Bentley Historical Library, undertook a project to apply new information technologies and descriptive standards to the holdings. The result was the publication in 1998 of The Vatican Archives: An Inventory and Guide to Historical Documents of the Holy See — a work widely acclaimed and called by The American Archivist a “stunning achievement.”
Francis X. Blouin was the director of the Bentley Historical Library from 1981 to 2013. He has done extensive work in understanding archives in an international context. For the years 1999-2014, he led an ongoing exchange between the University of Michigan and the State Archives Administration of China. He has also done work relating to archival issues in France, Denmark, Russia, and Brazil. He has held faculty appointments in History and the School of Information, from which he retired in 2017. He is the author, with historian Bill Rosenberg, of Processing the Past: Contesting Authority in History and the Archives. He currently serves as archivist for St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue in New York City.
For those attending in person, the event will be followed by tours of the Observatory, with observing if weather permits.
If you’d like to attend this event in person at the Observatory, registration can be found here
If you’d like to attend this event virtually, registration can be found here