The Catholic Memory Project is a collaborative project hosted by the Research Institute for Irish and Scottish Studies at the University of Aberdeen. Its purpose is to facilitate the identification, preservation, and dissemination of the archives of the Roman Catholic Church across the English-speaking world. Such a project is necessary given the changing demographic profile of many Roman Catholic religious orders and lay associations, some of which will soon reach what is known as 'completion'. As a result their archival remains - and thus their corporate memory - are often at risk. Such a loss would obscure or even efface much of the history of the millions of people across the English-speaking world who have for centuries lived within the embrace of the Roman Catholic Church, often being educated in its schools, being nursed in its hospitals, and being buried in its cemeteries. Without archives, these experiences will be lost forever. The Catholic Memory Project is an attempt to organise a response to this crisis.
As the Roman Catholic Church is the only truly global institution the world has ever known, any attempt to preserve its archival memory must also be undertaken on a global basis. The Catholic Memory Project has thus sought to build collaborations across the English-speaking world, and with both universities and church-related organisations. It has already hosted two organising workshops in Aberdeen, drawing historians and archivists from Australia, Canada, England, Italy, Ireland, New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa, and the United States and from institutions such as the University of KwaZulu-Natal, the University of Canterbury, the University of Victoria, the Archdiocese of Melbourne, University College Dublin, the Archdiocese of Dublin, the Baltimore Province of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, the Scottish Catholic Archives, the Catholic Record Society, the University of Durham, and the University of Notre Dame. These meetings have helped the project participants identity the scale of the problem and begin the conversations necessary to begin to identity appropriate responses. The first fruits of this have come in the appointment by the Research Institute and the Cushwa Centre for the Study of American Catholicism at the University of Notre Dame of a joint postdoctoral fellow to develop a project entitled 'Irish Women Religious in the English-speaking world, 1850-1950'.
This project will in the first instance lead to the production of a digital map that will display the spatial distribution, origins, and patterns of dispersal of Irish women religious across the English-speaking world. It was also serve as a mechanism to identify the present archival holdings of communities of women religious with a view to undertaking further projects to preserve and disseminate those materials where necessary or possible. This and other projects will help the Catholic Memory Project facilitate the many similar recovery projects occurring at a local level across the English-speaking world and to contribute to the preservation of the archival memory of one of the most significant and encompassing of religious denominations.