Page last updated at 17:09 GMT, Friday, 2 May 2008 18:09 UK

Fears over Catholic archive fate

Close-up of the building housing the archives
The Edinburgh-based collection is of national importance

Prominent Scottish historians have voiced fears about the fate of a collection of Catholic archives of national importance.

They claim there has been a lack of consultation with academics about the Scottish Catholic Archives.

The papers are presently held in Edinburgh but some collections are to go to Aberdeen University.

The Catholic Church said the present building was no longer suitable to house the collection.

Peter Kearney, a spokesman for the church, denied the archive was being split.

He said: "The historic collection will remain as a collection, but its location will change.

"The material is the property of the Catholic Church... it is for the bishops to decide what to do with their own property."

The material, he added, could be better preserved at Aberdeen University.

There is no protocol for the splitting of an archive - it's just not what you do
Gilbert Markus
Glasgow University

But there has been concern among historians and academics.

Professor Tom Devine, of Edinburgh University, said the archives were "vital" to research with almost all primary documents to do with the Catholic Church in Scotland held there.

Speaking to the BBC Scotland news website the described the fragmentation as "negative," but added: "My beef is about lack of information, transparency and consultation with users, especially the community of academic historians and researchers in Scotland."

The archives themselves hold records of the Catholic Church in Scotland dating back centuries and illuminate diverse periods of Scotland's church and social history.


The Scottish Catholic Historical Association is unhappy at the move and has made its opposition known.

Gilbert Markus, from the Celtic department at the University of Glasgow, is on the association's council and plans to circulate a petition around academics and researchers.

He told the BBC Scotland news website: "There is no protocol for the splitting of an archive - it's just not what you do.

"This is a national collection; archivists and librarians in Edinburgh have created a research community. This is not being done with a view to the welfare and usefulness of the archive."

Other users of the archive include Catholic historian Michael Turnbull who described any splitting up as a "disaster."

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