Diocesan Archives launches first online collections catalog

1923 prayer book from the James Gerth Meyer Prayer Book Collection. Photo courtesy of the Diocesan Archives.

By Heidi Taylor-Caudill, archivist, Diocese of Owensboro

The Diocese of Owensboro Archives has launched its first online collections catalog highlighting rare and historic documents and artifacts from the diocesan collections.

As with most archives, the Diocese of Owensboro Archives faces the challenge of making historical information from our collections more accessible while preserving materials that are unique, fragile, and irreplaceable. We hold thousands of items that document the history of the Diocese and the Catholic Church in western Kentucky. Many of these items have never been adequately described, and so significant amounts of archival material are unknown to, and unused by, researchers.

In 2016, we started gathering information about researcher needs. Based on statistics from the reference requests received each year, we realized that most requests were coming to us from researchers who could not visit the archives in person. Our small staff was spending an increasing amount of time on answering “distance” requests, which involves not only the time spent looking through the collections, but also scanning materials and formatting and sending digital copies to the researcher. As the time spent on reference requests increased, the time we could spend on organizing, describing, and preserving collections decreased. We needed to find a balance.

One solution was to share our collections online. In 2016, we purchased PastPerfect, collection management software designed to manage information about archival and museum collections. With this software, we could better manage our collections by creating records and reports as well as storing digitized images, audio, and video content with the records.

In 2017, we took another step forward by building the Online Collections Catalog. For the first time, visitors will be able to search and browse selected items from our collections from anywhere via any device. More than 30 highlighted objects and documents from the Archives collections can now be viewed within the catalog, including selections from the St. Bonifacius Cemetery records, correspondence on the rebuilding of St. Joseph Church in Owensboro, a photograph of the 1943 graduating class of St. Joseph High School, a collection of early 20th century prayer books, and records for all the family histories and genealogies in our reference collection.

What is available on the site now is only a small part of the many thousands of items in the archives, and new content will be added each month. To view the online collections catalog, visit http://owensboro.pastperfectonline.com.

This story originally ran in the January 2018 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic

Contact Archives

McRaith Catholic Pastoral Center 
600 Locust Street 
Owensboro, Kentucky 42301

Phone: (270) 683-1545 
Fax: (270) 683-6883

Heidi Taylor-Caudill, Director of Archives 
Brett Mills, Archives Assistant