Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

New diocesan archivist is Cathedral parishioner, Whitworth professor

by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff

(From the Nov. 12, 2009 edition of the Inland Register)

Dr. Tony Clark is the new archivist for the Spokane Diocese. (IR photo courtesy of Dr. Clark)

Anthony E. Clark, a member of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes and Professor of East Asian History at Spokane’s Whitworth University, was named recently by Bishop Skylstad to serve as volunteer diocesan archivist with Father Thomas Caswell, a retired priest of the Diocese of Spokane.

Dr. Clark grew up in Eugene and North Bend, Ore., and attended public schools there. He earned a B.A. (magna cum laude) from the University of Oregon in 1999 and went on to complete a Ph.D. in 2005. Both degrees are in East Asian Languages and Literature. Dr. Clark has also studied at academic institutions in Taiwan, Paris, and Beijing, China. He is the author of Ban Gu’s History of Early China, Beating Demons and Burning Their Books: Views of China, Japan, and the West, and Martyrs of the Middle Kingdom: A History of China’s Catholic Saints.

Dr. Clark has received numerous academic honors, is a contributing editor for This Rock, a Catholic apologetics magazine, and has written for Our Sunday Visitor and Catholic World Report. He has appeared on EWTN Live and is scheduled to host the upcoming EWTN series China’s Catholic Martyr Saints.

Along the way in his academic career as a historian, Dr. Clark also became an accomplished archivist. He has official access to the pope’s private archive in the Vatican, and he has similar access to various historical archives in France.

“There are some really wonderful treasures in the diocesan archive,” Dr. Clark said. “For example, there is an Ignatian medallion that was randomly found in a field. It was worn by the early Jesuits when they were first here in the late 19th century. I think my first plan is to organize because we don’t even know exactly what we have. For example, last time I was here I found Bishop Bernard Topel’s cassock, and the vestments used in the cathedral for Holy Thursday back in the ’30s, and old things written by Bishop Junger, from the 19th century. These are things that are sort of in-between newspaper articles.”

First comes organizing, then preservation. Many of the older documents are deteriorating. “I’m putting things in archival quality documents…. Once I process them we have a few more centuries,” he said.

The first step will be creating high-resolution digital copies – 1,000+ dpi – of all of the photographs over the next six-eight months. The actual photos themselves will then be preserved in special slipcovers. Access to photos thereafter will be digital, so that the pictures will not have to be handled. A few of the photos have been posted to the archives section of the diocesan web site:

Old films, in 8 and 16 millimeter, will be copied to DVD.

Other objects being cataloged, said Dr. Clark, include Bishop Bernard Topel’s old crozier. A 1906 pew chart from the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes poses special problems of its own.

“It’s huge,” he said. “It’s like 20-some inches by 16-some inches, and you can’t digitize that on a basic scanner.” A Spokane firm has “a framed camera setup, and they digitize these things at an extremely high resolution,” he said. The larger items are being printed, including “the only known photo of the dedication of the cathedral,” which has been copied digitally and will be printed and archived as a hard copy.

Now and then, Dr. Clark comes across a surprising discovery. “Every day I spend, I discover new things that are incredible,” he said, “like the early diocesan coat of arms is the rising sun with a swastika around it! Well! That’s curious. What people don’t know historically is that before the Nazis adopted that symbol in the 1920s, the swastika was a Native American sign of good fortune. All over America there were road signs with swastikas on them. High school bands used it, and it was our diocesan sign! Well as soon as World War II hit, of course, the diocesan coat of arms had to change. So they eliminated that.”

Dr. Clark has committed to putting in four hours per week in the diocesan archive, located in the basement of the Catholic Pastoral Center at 1023 W. Riverside Ave., in Spokane. “But,” he admits, “I’m working extra hard, so I’m putting in about six to eight hours a week. Technically, I’m here from 2-5 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.”

The reason Dr. Clark asked to work in the diocesan archive is that he’s working on a book on the history of the Diocese of Spokane for its 100th anniversary in 2013. “As a historian who has spent a lot of time in archives,” he said, “it struck me that the archive is this goldmine of wonderful history. I thought about it and decided that as a gift to the church I would try and spend the next several years organizing and preserving the archive, (making it) an accessible resource.”

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