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Filipino bishops digitize, donate 4 centuries of records for preservation

Microfilm on a reel

Kirsten Warner | Shutterstock

J-P Mauro - published on 04/05/23

The records will be housed by the University of Santo Tomas, home of the largest and oldest archive in the Philippines, where they will aid research projects.

In a bid to preserve their nation’s Catholic history, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has donated 400 years worth of Church records to the University of Santo Tomas (UST). The files, which have been digitized and converted to microfilm, will be housed in the Archivo dela Universidad de Santo Tomas, the oldest existing archive in the country. 

According to an announcement from UST, the files date from the early 1600s until the first decades of the 20th century.

The records were drawn from meticulously written historical ledgers, which were digitized thanks to an initiative from the Latter-Day Saints. The CBCP president, the Most Rev. Pablo Virgilio S. David, thanked the Latter-Day Saints for their help preserving their documents, as well as UST for taking on the task from here: 

“The old can always be transferred to the new one.” Ultimately, the transfer of the documents to UST, David said, will “make the data more readily available for research work,” Bishop David commented.

According to the CBCP report, the UST was selected as the custodian of the Church’s documents for several reasons, not least of all that it is the oldest archive in the country. The UST’s archive prioritizes selection, preservation, and accessibility of historical materials for research purposes. As per the agreement, UST will keep the files in a climate controlled space to ensure the digitized files will be preserved for centuries to come.  

Now that the files are safely housed at the UST, they will be available to peruse for academic research projects. The university noted that they will prioritize requests from researchers, including graduate students, professors, genealogists, journalists, and other academics while complying with the provisions of the Data Privacy Act.

The university’s rector Fr. Richard Ang, who was present to receive the files from Bishop David, commented on the donation: 

“This is a big thing entrusted to us by the CBCP. We are always ready to help with CBCP needs.”

Catholic historyPhilippinesTechnology
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