One of the many questions still surrounding the dismemberment of the Scottish Catholic Archives by Archbishop Conti is why the closure of its Edinburgh home, Columba House, was announced with immediate effect, in a press release slipped out on a Saturday afternoon in late April.
This broke an earlier promise that adequate notice of closure would be given to readers. The pretext was an extensive outbreak of mould, but rumours of the mould had been circulating since February so the undue haste made no obvious sense at the time.
Requests to see the specialist report on the mould have been refused. Now, however, in the light of the Fort Augustus abuse scandal, one wonders if there was another reason.
The abbey’s records and those of the diocese of Aberdeen were stored in Columba House. Are they still there?
On 1 August, the pre-1878 archives, now transferred to Aberdeen University Library, became open to public access, which seems remarkably quick given the reported seriousness of the mould outbreak.
Dare we hope that Columba House will reopen soon, so that the post-1878 records can be examined?
Professor of Architectural History and Theory
University of Edinburgh