As a doctorate student whose research is heavily dependent on the Scottish Catholic Archives (SCA), I can only express my dismay at its sudden closure for the foreseeable future (your report, 8 April).
The Church’s failure to give advance notice to researchers beggars belief. The archive keeps a log book of visitors; it knows who needs to use the collections. So why didn’t it give them any sort of warning?
I visited the archives only last Wednesday and was told nothing of its imminent closure.
How much mould can grow in a few days? And why all of a sudden such a drastic step if the Church has known about this for 30 years?
Where are contingencies for ensuring access? Clearly, whatever methods were used to contain the mould and safeguard the collections were satisfactory until very recently otherwise the “no researchers need apply” sign could have been hung out much earlier.
Looking back to last May, when Mario Conti announced with gusto that the collections would be moving north-east, it seems clear to me the SCA has been propelled into a year-long inexorable decline.
Not only have two outstanding members of staff since departed but the Church’s relationship with historians and service users has also been greatly damaged.
For some time now appointments have been rationed and access limited, so that for some it has been extremely difficult for some people – myself included –to work archive visits around various other commitments.
E-mails and requests have fallen on deaf ears and, generally, service standards have dropped. PhD students working towards deadlines on studentships and providing a service to the Church, whether knowingly or not, by bringing to light its history have been hung out to dry.
One deadline missed because of this closure is one too many, and wither courtesy and common sense and with them, perhaps, Scottish Catholic historical studies.