Staff Picks: The Written Word

Hello, I am Anne Lamanes and I am an Archival Assistant at the Bishop Farrell Library and Archives.


Bishop Farrell Library & Archives Assistant, Anne Lamanes

My archives adventure began 9 years ago with a Photo Digitization project of approximately 1000 photographs. As I went through them I felt transported back in time, through the history of our diocese and to my own childhood, realizing that I remember some of these events.  I am a lover of anything old; photos, buildings, especially people, for they are the timekeepers of the past.

Before this, I worked in the Catering/Customer Service industry. Though working with people is not always easy, I love it. I love welcoming people into our building, hearing their stories, and making them comfortable while they are with us.  And it seems that once a caterer always a caterer, what can I say, I love food and I love sharing it, so occasionally coordinating a few meals for meetings and special events that take place at the Chancery Office or here in our Library and Archives meeting room, makes me happy.

A little about me, I met the love of my life in grade school … yes, grade school. High school sweethearts, we married in our early 20’s and were blessed with 2 wonderful children who continue to be the light of our lives.  I love my dog, the winter, nature, antiques, good food, and spending quiet evenings with my husband and a good glass of wine.

My favorite items in the Bishop Farrell Library and Archives collection are the handwritten items. I marvel at the beautiful script in the ledgers and correspondence that belonged to some of our earliest Bishops. Looking at these letters takes my mind back to grade school, sitting in the classroom and looking up at a border of the letters of the alphabet in cursive around the room. I remember being given a sheet of paper with the letters in a join-the-dots format so I could practice tracing them. If this does not ring a bell for you, I am not surprised; it seems that cursive handwriting may soon become a thing of the past. As noted in this article I recently read:

“The way Louise Cassar found out that her children wouldn’t be learning cursive writing at school is pretty ironic — she got a handwritten note. “In my daughter’s agenda book, I wrote a note to her teacher, asking when students would start learning cursive. She responded with a quick sentence explaining that it had been removed from the curriculum,” the mom of three in London, Ont., says. “I thought, ‘If you can’t write it, how could you possibly read it? What about wedding invitations? Old letters you find in the attic from your grandfather? This is going to result in an entire generation of cursive illiterates.’” (Lisa Van De Geyn, “Schools across Canada are removing cursive from the curriculum. Is it outdated or still a valuable life skill?”, Today’s Parent, November 26, 2013)

Working in archives I was deeply concerned about the above article. I cannot imagine not being able to read some of the letters that are so relevant to our Diocese. It is a handwritten letter that marks the establishment of the Diocese of Hamilton, the installation of our first Bishop, and so many other important documents that preserve our history.


An example of some of the beautiful handwritten correspondence in the Bishop Farrell Library & Archives collection, Erection of the Stations of the Cross, St. Augustine Parish, 1886, (P27.001.007)

Part of my archival work is doing research requests that require me to go through some of the old handwritten correspondence. Quite challenging at times especially if the items I am looking at are difficult to make out. I do however enjoy a challenge, so out comes the magnifying glass and I start looking at the script for similarities in the letters. A little patience and most of the time I will see patterns to the strokes of the letters emerge and with that I am able to make sense of the document.


Cursive that is both stunning and easy to read,  Letter to Bishop Farrell, July 2, 1864, (B1.001.028)


A challenging read, Correspondence to Bishop Dowling, August 19, 1901, (B4C.001.002)

Then again, there are some letters that I am still trying to figure out, like the cursive above.


…. a form of art, individuality, and expression.  It can be copied but just like the writer; never truly duplicated.


You can learn more about the Bishop Farrell Library & Archives and the services we provide in the post A little bit about “our shelves…”  or by checking us out on the Diocese of Hamilton website.