Collection care

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I AM writing on the topic of the Scottich Catholic Archives closing after mould was discovered on parts of the collection (Scotsman online, 7 April).

Archbishop Mario Conti is fortunate that he has a good friend in Aberdeen University, an institution we now understand is going to dig the Archbishop out of an abyss of his own making.

Since the archivist and keeper and the assistant archivist demitted office in the autumn of 2012, conditions at Columba House have rapidly deteriorated. Since then, neither posts were re-filled and only sporadic, occasional and limited access was provided for scholars to the Scottish Catholic Archives. The quality of the service (in spite of the valiant efforts of a commuting archivist from Glasgow) declined.

Because the property was open and occupied only one or, at the most, two days a week since Christmas, and the heating and ventilation systems were not upgraded, it is not surprising that mould appeared. In point of fact, the professional staff at Columba House were very much aware of the mould issue. It was being treated and contained last year on a case-by-case basis by the last full-time archivist and keeper but, after he left, this remedial action was not continued.

As a long-time user of the Scottish Catholic Archives at Columba House, I must thank both the last two keepers, Dr Christine Johnson and Mr Andrew Nicoll (along with his assistant archivist, Ms Caroline Craddock), for their work in developing Columba House into an institution with a worldwide reputation. I am confident that Aberdeen University Special Collections will take good care of the Scottish Catholic Archives and that Archbishop Mario Conti has secured himself a place in Scottish Catholic history.

Michael TRB Turnbull

Orchard Court


East Lothian