Shortly before the COVID-19 crisis brought so much of the world to a halt, some good news came to the Daughters of Charity Archive. We can now make available – at least when everyone gets back to the office and we are completely available to researchers again – three pieces of audio-visual material in digital format which we have never been able to before. Thanks to our work with ColorLab in Rockville, Maryland, we can provide access to some of our U-matic tapes, one of the earliest versions of videotape which did not require the complicated equipment of open-reel film. Effectively, U-matics were a giant VHS with a tightly wound reel of film inside.
In addition to no longer having equipment to play these tapes, these tapes had fallen victim to sticky-shed syndrome, or “shredding.” The glues meant to hold the magnetic tape to the plastic base attract moisture, which makes the tape sticky and causes it to deteriorate as it crosses the mechanical portions of the cassette.
The solution to this condition is “baking,” which is exactly what it sounds like. By baking the tape to a high temperature, it can be made dry enough for long enough that it can be converted into a digital format.
The tapes cover three different subjects:
The first is an episode of United States Catholic from November 1928, featuring a ten minute segment on the United State Public Health Service Hospital in Carville, Louisiana, staffed by the Daughters of Charity, better known as the National Hansen’s Disease Center – the treatment center for the disease colloquially known as leprosy.
The second is a program on Mother Seton, which ran in the half-hour on Buffalo local television before her canonization aired live.
The third is a celebratory Mass at St. Joseph’s Hospital, Chicago celebrating the recent canonization of Mother Seton, featuring Father Edward Riley, CM; Father Thomas Burn; and Father Phillip Dion, CM.
The Archives would like to thank ColorLab in Rockville, MD for their assistance in restoring a set of damaged reel-to-reel film and sound strip. The archives does not keep reel-to-reel film projectors on hand. In addition to saving these valuable films from decay, giving them a shiny new set of canisters, and eliminating the terrible vinegar smell that it emanates from decaying film, ColorLab made these films usable in digital format for the first time. Users can hear Father Shehan’s mass during the re-interment of Mother Seton’s remains in the chapel at St. Joseph’s Provincial House, later the Basilica of the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. We also have the complete ceremonies of the Centennial Anniversary of St. Vincent Hospital in St. Louis in 1958, featuring some of the most accomplished Daughters in the history of the city, religious leaders from across denominations, and Cardinal great Stan “The Man” Musial, as well as a 90-second promotional video from this same year.
In recent weeks we’ve shared with you our efforts, working with conservator Mary Wootton, to preserve one of the most historically valuable items in our collection: The Regulations for the Society of Sisters of Charity in the United States of America, commonly known as the American Rule of 1812.
See our June 19 blog post for more information on the Rule and the process of restoring it.
When the newly-restored Rule was returned in mid-June, we put it on display so that Sisters, Associates, and visitors could see it up close. As of today, July 14, it has been returned to our Repository. Planning has already begun for events surrounding the 40th anniversary of Elizabeth Seton’s canonization in 2015, and there will be additional opportunities to view the Rule next year.
In an effort to share the Rule as widely as possible, we have put together the digital exhbit seen here, consisting of photographs of selected pages from the Rule. All images are used with permission of the Daughters of Charity Provincial Archives. The images seen here show seven of the book’s approximately 60 leaves.
American Rule (1): Opening page
American Rule (2)
American Rule (3)
American Rule (4)
American Rule (5)
Detail from image #5 showing crossed out text and annotations