Back in October 2020, we published a notice of a large new accession that the Archives acquired from the basement of Carney Hospital in Boston, formerly owned and operated by the Daughters.
We are happy to announce that this collection has been processed and is now open to researchers!
This collection fills in numerous gaps in the Carney collection where evolving communities in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston sought care, particularly as the composition of the neighborhood transitioned from immigrants primarily of European descent to new waves of arrivals from Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean.
Of note in the collection are medical manuals from the turn of the century that provided doctors and nurses with instructions on treating different ailments, as well as a hand-written letter from former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy from 1967. In this letter, she thanks Sister Helen Kelly, the hospital administrator at the time, for her support in founding the Kennedy Presidential Library in the Dorchester neighborhood, an unpopular position at the time among some Dorchester residents due to effects due to the influx of tourists and increase in noise from expanded train yards.
Materials that are no longer in active or even inactive use by members of the community or at sponsored works of the community steadily make their way to the archives. Sometimes, however, materials get left behind. Sometimes they get left behind for a LONG time.
The Daughters of Charity sponsored and operated Carney Hospital from 1863 until 1997, when administration was transferred to the non-profit health care system run by the Archdiocese of Boston, Caritas Christi.
Before leaving Carney Hospital, Sister De Chantal La Row, the last Daughter of Charity Administrator of the Andrew Carney Hospital, supervised the process of organizing and labelling the collection of archive boxes and memorabilia for shipment. The Archdiocese, through Caritas Christi, was instructed to then ship the collection to The Provincial Archives of the Daughters of Charity for the Northeast Province, located at that time, in Albany, New York. In 2011, the entire archive of the Northeast Province was shipped to Emmitsburg, MD as part of the creation of the Province of St. Louise, including the Carney Hospital collection. It currently consists of 46 archival boxes, nearly 3 dozen oversized pieces, and nearly a dozen artifacts.
For reasons unknown, the entire collection never made its way to Albany, and several boxes of records got left behind. From 1997-2015, first Diane Loupo and then Ann Hart monitored the records as they traversed various storerooms around the Hospital, where they lived at the mercy of leaking pipes, hot Boston summers, cold Massachusetts winters, and poor ventilation. In 2018, Ann intervened before the garbage trucks could destroy the materials that never managed to make their way to Albany.
About 18 months ago, Sister Maryadele Robinson, a Daughter of Charity for 37 years, who currently serves as Director Emeritus of Laboure Center in Boston, learned from about a room full of archival materials from Dr. James Morgan, the Chief of Cardiology at the now Steward Carney Hospital. They informed Emilia Pisani, archivist for Laboure Center, about the materials. These are the individuals, along with Ann Hart, to whom we at the Daughters of Charity owe a debt of gratitude as archivists and those concerned with preserving the history of the community.
On Friday, October 9, after a year and a half delayed by meetings, staff changes, and the logistics of a global pandemic, the material finally made it to Emmitsburg, all 157 boxes and items of it.
Emilia worked hundreds of hours to prepare an inventory of the materials, through acidic folders and deteriorating boxes. Thanks to the inventory that Emilia created, we can catch some glimpses of what is in the collection. The oldest materials date to 1850, although the bulk comes from the period of 1950-1997. Not only does this collection provide insight into the business operations of the hospital, but it also documents the surrounding community of Dorchester as population and demographics changed in the community over 150 years. It will also provide vital importance to genealogists researching family members who worked at the hospital, as these materials contain employee lists and roles that the archives had previously thought long lost. In fact, the overwhelming majority of the materials are, as far as we can tell now, original, worth preserving, and not duplicates of materials already in the archives.
After two weeks in quarantine, we have seen no signs of mold or pests, and we have allowed any chance of COVID on the boxes to die off. We may not get to processing this material for some time, but once we do, we will determine whether we can add this material to the current Carney collection — with a note documenting that it came long after the creation of the initial Carney collection, and with a note of thanks to everyone who made it possible — or if it warrants a complete re-processing of the collection.
Regardless, it has been a long process to acquire this material and begin to preserve it for the future, but even an initial glance shows that it will be worth it.
The Daughters of Charity, particularly members of the archives staff, would like to thank Ann Hart, Diane Loupo, Dr. James Morgan, and Sister Maryadele Robinson for their devotion to the poor and to Carney over the years, and for their role in securing this collection. We would particularly like to thank Emilia Pisani, for everything she has done for the last 18 months (including input for this post). She has gone above and beyond anything we would have ever asked of her. When the COVID crisis has passed, she is welcome here in the archives, truly, at any time. Copies are on us.