The Future of the Archives

Veronica Stienburg, Archivist for the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul.


The archives of the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul contains records concerning the congregation’s history in Kingston, across Canada, and in Massachusetts, Guatemala and Peru. The archives are currently located in Providence Motherhouse, in Kingston. As the congregation moves towards completion and Providence Village takes over the management of the Motherhouse property, the archives is planning for its future.

Beginning in 2015 the archives began working with the Archdiocese of Kingston and the Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph (RHSJ) to plan a new joint archives that would house the archival records of all three organizations. Originally the goal was to locate this new archives in the Church of the Good Thief, a closed historic church in Kingston. In late 2019 it became apparent that this plan was not feasible due to the high cost of restoring the church to heritage standards and incorporating the archives. An alternative plan was proposed in 2020 and all three partners agreed to the idea of building an addition onto the Diocesan Centre in Kingston that would house the new joint archives.

We hope to break ground on the two-level addition in the spring of 2024. The archival storage will be housed on the lower level in a temperature-and-humidity-controlled environment with high-density mobile shelving. The offices, reading room and work room will be housed on the upper level. The archival storage is being built to archival standards to maximize storage capacity and to ensure the long-term preservation of the records and artifacts.

This spring, all three partners signed a formal agreement to create and manage the joint archives. Each partner is contributing to the construction and to an endowment fund that will cover all ongoing operating costs for the running of the archives. The operating expenses for the project will cover all three archives so, although the collections will be maintained as separate entities, the operations will be managed as one. The sharing of resources will ensure long-term sustainability, preservation, and accessibility of records of all three partners. Each partner will gain from the presence of the others. The congregations will have a permanent home for their documentary heritage and the future care of their archives is assured long after the congregations have come to completion. Centralizing the three Catholic archives into a single site will benefit researchers, as the collections, while independent, are complimentary.

The new archives facility will be managed by two professional archivists but we will manage all three collections. The RHSJ archivist, and the SP archivist, will be moving with our collections to the new facility. We will become employees of the Archdiocese, while maintaining close working relationships with our current employers. The archivist will still assist Sisters, Associates, staff, and external researchers with inquiries into the records and history of the Sisters of Providence.

Currently, the archivist maintains the Heritage Room, a small museum located in Providence Motherhouse dedicated to showcasing the history of the Sisters of Providence. The museum has not been substantially changed since its opening in 1999. As more tenants will be moving into the Motherhouse in the coming years, the museum needs to be updated with an external audience in mind. The museum is currently undergoing a redesign and is being furnished with permanent displays. The museum will remain in place throughout the coming changes at the Motherhouse and, in the future, it will serve as the primary way to tell the story of the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul in the Motherhouse itself.

Although the congregation is working towards completion, its history and stories will remain accessible in perpetuity through the new joint archives and the Motherhouse museum.