Bom Sucesso Archives in Torre do Tombo
The 22 July, Feast of Saint Mary Magdalen Patroness of the Order of Preachers saw the delivery of two hundred and twenty-four boxes of Bom Sucesso archives to the National Archives at Torre do Tombo in Lisbon. It is difficult to believe that the work of years has finally come to an end. Archives dating from 1642 to 2016 are now housed safe and sound in a secure place.
The archives were signed over to Sylvestre Lacerda, General Manager of Torre do Tombo by Sister Elisabeth Healy, Congregation Prioress on the afternoon of 17 July. Hovering nearby were some archivists who were eager to show us papers referring to Bom Sucesso which were already there. It was very impressive to see documents in old handwriting referring to the Irish Sisters who were now living in the Convent of Our Lady of Good Success. It gave one a great idea of the history of the place and also legal proof of the generosity of Countess Iria de Brito who signed over all her property to Fr Dominic O’Daly for religious purposes. We were also shown scanning and conservation techniques and how many of the archivists are doing two jobs at the one time, such as scanning pages and putting them on the internet in the same operation. Conservation work was fascinating as we saw archivists reassembling sentences where the ink used had cut through the pages rendering the content almost unintelligible.
The news that Torre do Tombo would possibly accept the archives came last spring. This sparked off the necessity of checking the description against the documents. This work was begun during a visit in March. The entire holding had to be presented as one, not as three, Bom Sucesso, Region of Portugal and Confraternity of the Holy Rosary. This meant altering numbers on quite a few documents and boxes. With the help of Irene Claro from the Fundação, that job, though somewhat rushed, got done in time.
The Friday before the removal saw both Irene and myself fitting archive boxes into vegetable crates for easier transport to vans waiting down below. We got roughly halfway through as we had no more crates. On Monday morning early we found that Viking boxes had been delivered to the door of the archives strong room, These boxes had to be made up as they came in Flat pack. Alice Tomada of the Fundação, armed with huge rolls of masking tape did a very precise job is a very short time. Almost as soon as a box was made up, it was filled with archival boxes and numbered. Then it was ready to begin its journey. Those of us who know Bom Sucesso will be aware of the challenge presented by steps, stairs and corridors before reaching the back gateway where the vans were parked. Luckily we had some excellent help which was very welcome.
The morning was warm and sunny as João Sales Luís, President of the Fundaçõa, drove leading the way to the two vans behind towards Torre do Tombo carrying nearly four hundred years of history. A few phone calls, a few turns of the car around a very modern building and there we were met by Ana Lópes and a team prepared to receive our precious boxes. The unloading began and the two hundred and twenty-four boxes were whisked away on trolleys around a corner in the twinkling of an eye. The delivery was done very speedily, leaving us with numerous empty crates and Viking boxes. We were back at Bom Sucesso before 11.30 a.m. In fact one had the feeling of an anti-climax. We were later sent some photos of the boxes in their new home. It is still hard to believe that the work is over, that we no longer have any responsibility for the papers. In many ways that is a relief, but in another way, it is like bidding farewell to friends whom you had got to know exceedingly well over a long period of intense interaction.
Sr. Mary O’ Byrne OP
Congregation Archivist (e.mail: email@example.com)