EAP 1047

EAP 1047: Preserving Early Ecclesiastical Sources for the State of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Niterói)

Director: Dr. Jane Landers, Vanderbilt University

Co-Director: Dr. Kara Schultz, Vanderbilt University

Co-Director: Dr. Mariza de Carvalho Soares, Universidade Federal Fluminense

Co-Director: Francisco Javier Müller, Archdiocese of Niteroi

The British Library Endangered Archives Programme project “Preserving Early Ecclesiastical Sources for the State of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil” (EAP 1047) preserves the earliest ecclesiastical records held at the Arquivo da Cúria Metropolitana de Niterói (ACMN; Archive of the Archdiocese of Niterói). The documents originated in dispersed parishes and chapels from the state of Rio de Janeiro and date from the mid-seventeenth through the late nineteenth centuries. These endangered records document the history of slavery, African and indigenous populations, ethnicity, demography, and daily life in Rio de Janeiro.

In December 2017, Vanderbilt co-directors Jane Landers and Kara Schultz as well as collaborators David LaFevor of the University of Texas-Arlington and Marshall Eakin of Vanderbilt University traveled to Rio de Janeiro to conduct a two-day workshop to train Brazilian archivists and students in the digitization and metadata standards and requirements of the British Library. The team also met with the Archbishop of Niteroí, Dom José Francisco Resende Dias, and his staff to discuss the project and to express our appreciation for Church support for the project.

After the U.S. team returned from Brazil, the project’s Brazilian co-directors, Mariza Soares and Francisco Muller, supervised operations in the ACMN. Meanwhile Schultz, an SSDA post-doctoral fellow, and doctoral fellow Daniel Genkins organized a series of workshops to train Portuguese-speaking graduate students at Vanderbilt to create metadata for the images and begin to transcribe documents.

The materials digitized for EAP 1047 date from 1648 (the early colonial period) through 1888 (the year in which slavery was declared illegal in Brazil). The student teams successfully digitized 162 volumes, of which six date from the seventeenth century, thirty-seven from the eighteenth century, and 119 from the nineteenth century. Among these volumes we were surprised to find the registers of a long abandoned Jesuit mission from the interior of the state, Santo Antonio de Sá e Convento de São Boaventura. The impressive ruins of this mission have been the object of archaeological investigations, but until now, no one realized that any of its documents survived.

Student teams also re-digitized volumes captured on older equipment by an earlier team in 2005. In sum, the project digitized a total of 265 volumes of parish registers that yielded 60,256 digital images of endangered records. These include slave registries, registries of freed slaves, and last wills and testaments of free black and white slave owners. The Brazilian co-directors arranged for local photographers to capture professional images of the churches that once held these materials that have been made available here as well as on the website of the ACMN.