Archivists from the Lasallian Region of North America (RELAN) joined fellow archivists from around the world at the inaugural gathering of the International Society of Lasallian Archivists (ISLA), which was held October 29-31, 2019, at the Generalate of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools in Rome.
More than 30 archivists from more than 20 Districts took part in the gathering. Participants from RELAN included Amy Surak (RELAN, District of Eastern North America and Midwest District), Brother Joseph Grabenstein, FSC, and Alex Palma (legacy Baltimore District, District of Eastern North America), Nancy Lavoie (District of Francophone Canada) and Jennifer Sturm (District of San Francisco New Orleans).
The gathering offered an opportunity for archivists to meet, exchange ideas, and learn about the work done in other Districts. Attendees presented on their efforts to fulfill the Lasallian mission in supporting scholarly, administrative and personal research. Many discussions focused on the Lasallian charism and its impact on culture and society, along with the various archival collections and their value as cultural heritage. The archivists also shared strategies and resources for enhancing their functional and administrative duties and for developing strategic plans and assessment requirements.
“Partnership amongst Lasallian archivists is an obvious fundamental step for an Institute that trumpets the importance of association,” said Surak. “This collaboration, which is enhancing yearly, is valuable for expanding Lasallian educational opportunities, diversifying our audience or user base, helping leverage resources, and for promoting the Institute.”
The idea to develop this international group took off at an October 2018 meeting of the De La Salle Regional Archivists Association (DLSRAA), which started in the early 1990s and consists of the archivists for RELAN and the Districts in RELAN. With a growing interest in development of Archives at the Institute, Brother Hilaire Raharilalao, FSC, Institute archivist, and Brother Diego Munoz, FSC, then-secretary of Lasallian Research and Resources, attended the 2018 RELAN meeting. The meeting included discussion on collaboration and interconnectivity among Lasallian Archives worldwide as an integral part of the vision for preserving and enriching the history of the Institute and fostering Lasallian research (Circular 470, p. 41-42). Following the DLSRAA meeting, the archivists of the three major archival repositories of the Institute located in Rome, Lyons, France, and Manhattan College in Riverdale, New York, met in Lyons in the spring of 2019. Surak represented RELAN at that meeting, where they exchanged information about their respective collections, discussed best practices, explored databases, and initiated digital asset management opportunities leading up to the larger October 2019 gathering in Rome.
“While I wish we had initiated this group ages ago, I am delighted that in the tercentenary year, we are now finally collaborating worldwide, throughout the Institute,” said Surak. “I trust that this association will promote core archival functions including description and arrangement, collection management and access to archival materials. This alliance can only enhance and support our efforts to preserve and share our unique Lasallian patrimony for the benefit of research and future generations. It is so important to sustain the open, networked global community we have established.”
DLSRAA will meet again in the fall of 2020. The next international gatherings are tentatively being planned for 2021 in New York City and 2023 in Mexico City.