GERALDTON will soon become the first diocese in Australia to use an accession register to record the details of items of historical significance, thanks largely to the work of Perth’s Fr Robert Cross.
With the help of computer programmer Monica Podesta, Fr Cross has developed a database of the diocese’s historical artefacts, similar to those used in Europe.
The pair have been working on the project for more than nine months, and the register is expected to be operational in the next few weeks.
The project was initiated as part of the diocese’s preparation for the 100th anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone of St Francis Xavier Cathedral in 2016.
As part of the milestone celebrations, the diocese is undertaking an array of restorative works on the Cathedral.
Fr Cross said it was decided that, before the Heritage Centre is built, an accession register be developed.
“By doing this, [the diocese] will be able to identify its significant ecclesiastical cultural heritage with a view to protecting it from issues such as theft or illicit and/or illegal disposal, and hopefully put its heritage to the use the Church envisions in its cultural heritage management documents, namely, as tools of evangelisation,” he said.
Fr Cross said it was important to record the details of historical items while those details are available.
“All this stuff sits in some person’s mind somewhere, then that person dies, and it disappears,” he said.
He also stressed the value of a register in helping both lay and religious in the diocese to know the historical importance of objects that may appear to be “junk”.
“What happens in the Church is that [a priest] buys a vestment… and then it gets lost, people don’t know its significance, and they think it is old and tatty so they throw it out,” Fr Cross said.
The accession register developed for the Geraldton diocese will include details such as the maker, colour, material, dates, description and associations of all the items displayed in the Heritage Centre.
Fr Cross said he hopes dioceses around the country will eventually create accession registers.
“Every diocese now in Italy is doing exactly what I’m suggesting we should be doing in Australia, that is, accessioning its heritage,” he said.