An Unsuspected Visual Treasure
The Oratory’s archives contain a unique treasure: a collection of 10,000 photographs, taken mainly at the Oratory and dating from 1904 to 1980. Created by the religious of the Congregation of Holy Cross, as part of their duties at the shrine, this collection presents different aspects of the Oratory’s history: the evolution of the site, the life of Brother André, the employees, important visitors, small and large events, etc. These were subdivided into 307 thematic series a few decades ago.
A great deal of classification, research and dating work is still necessary to give these photos their true meaning as archives, to correct classification errors, to redefine more accurately the date or context in which they were taken, etc.
For example, the Oratory has a series of photographs of processions with the statue of Saint Joseph, without any other information about their context, their date, or the people photographed. The rare information that accompanies the photos is sometimes erroneous. A series of 42 photos identified as being taken in 1962, for example, seems to date on 1951, 1953, 1960 and 1962. In addition, there are some classification errors.
In order to solve these problems, last year the Oratory obtained a grant from Bibliothèques et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ) to finance a project to describe old photos. 26 series of photos, gathering a total of 844 photographs dating from 1904 to 1971 were selected in order to provide each one with basic information that would be useful, such as a date, the name of the photographer, the places photographed, a description of what is seen, etc.
In this post I present some of my discoveries and my research process.