SSND North American Archives

Renovations began in June for the new home of the School Sisters of Notre Dame’s North American Archives at Mount Mary University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin! We are following the progress and documenting it each week. As we take new photos of the work, we will add them to the beginning of the slideshow on this page. Scroll further down to read our weekly updates, which also include details and history about the SSND archives collection.

September 21
Archival materials documenting the life and mission of the School Sisters of Notre Dame include records for more than 9,000 sisters from North America who have entered into eternal life. Each of these sisters will have a file in the new consolidated North American Archives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In preparation for the move to the archives this fall, all those records originally housed in hanging files had to be transferred to folders and then put into boxes. It is estimated that 30 record boxes of deceased sister files will be come from Baltimore alone!

September 14
Continuing her visits of the SSND archives throughout North America, Michele Levandoski met with the archivists in Mankato, Minnesota, earlier this month to learn more about their collection. She also met with a representative from the moving company that will be coordinating the transfer of the materials from all the campuses to the new consolidated archives at Mount Mary University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. More photos have been added in the slideshow on this page.

September 7
The process of sorting and preparing materials for transfer to the new School Sisters of Notre Dame North American Archives has revealed a little mystery: a sealed, copper box that was recovered from the cornerstone in the former Chicago Province Motherhouse. The box will not go into the new archives at Mount Mary University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; however, the sealed box may contain documents that could be stored there. The SSND archivists plan to open it sometime before the move to find out! The collection from Chicago also includes the blueprints for the former Motherhouse, which was constructed in 1965 in DeKalb, Illinois, and they will be going to the new archives.

August 31
The new archivist for the School Sisters of Notre Dame, Michele Levandoski, is in the process of visiting each of the SSND campuses in North America as the sisters prepare their collections for transfer to the new consolidated archives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Michele was in St. Louis, Missouri, last week, where she spoke with Sister Carol Marie Wildt, SSND, about the collection there, had a peek into an old photo album from the late 19th-early 20th centuries and learned a bit of history about the post office the sisters operate. The collection in St. Louis is quite large and could fill more than two rows in the new archives. Read more about the post office here.

August 24
As the last bits of construction debris and equipment are cleared away from the site for the new consolidated School Sisters of Notre Dame North American Archives, the collections are being prepared for transport from the various campuses. The first collection to begin the journey is from Chicago, Illinois. It currently is in storage at Notre Dame of Elm Grove in Wisconsin. Among the many interesting items in this collection are the documents and records going back to 1862 for St. Michael’s parish school, the sisters’ first mission in Chicago. The school and the sisters’ convent burned to the ground in 1871 during the Great Chicago Fire, which destroyed thousands of buildings in more than three square miles and killed roughly 300 people. All the sisters escaped safely. Their harrowing account of the fire is reported in the “Chronological Sketches” for 1871 that were published with the SSND Directory for the following year. You can read the sisters’ account of the fire here.

August 17
The SSND North American Archivists took time out of their meeting on Wednesday to tour the new North American Archives office, which is nearly finished at Mount Mary University in Milwaukee. The shelves have been installed and the painting completed. The archivists devoted much of their meeting time this week to addressing the complicated logistics of packing and moving the documents and materials currently stored in archives on SSND campuses throughout North America. The move to the consolidated archives will take place throughout the fall.

August 10
What once was a wide-open, empty space is filling rapidly as shelving is installed in the new SSND North American Archives at Mount Mary University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The shelves will hold hundreds of boxes of archival materials documenting the life and mission of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, not only in North America but also in other parts of the world. The earliest accounts can be found in the chronicle that was kept in Baltimore where sisters lived at St. James and began teaching in three different schools in 1847. Registers record reception and profession ceremonies, the first of which were held in Baltimore in 1849. Not all documents are paper-based, and photographs, media of all types and digital material produced in the 21st century contribute to a wide array of resource material by and about the School Sisters of Notre Dame that will be available for research in the new archives.

August 3
With the installation of floor tiles and trim, freshly painted walls and some lighting in place, the new SSND North American Archives space is beginning to look much brighter. The oldest item in the collection, which will move into the space this fall, is a book entitled Ceremonial des Religieuses de la Congregation de Nostre-Dame, which was printed in 1690. The book is in Latin and French and describes various aspects of the religious life of the members of the Congrégation Notre-Dame and includes the celebration of the sacraments and the praying of the Divine Office. The most used section of the book contains the rituals for reception into the novitiate and the profession of vows. One of the hymns and verses with square chant notation arranged on four-line staves is the “Suscipe,” which School Sisters of Notre Dame still sing today on special occasions.

July 27
The renovation of the SSND North American Archives at Mount Mary University in Milwaukee has moved into the painting phase this week! Although most of the documents that will be housed in the new archives are in English, many documents written in German reflect the origins of the congregation in both Europe and America. The roots of the congregation lie deep in the past, which accounts for archival material written in Latin and French. You could trace the growth and history of the congregation through the languages found in its documents, which include Polish, Hungarian, Italian, Czech, and Slovenian, followed by Spanish and Portuguese as spoken in South and Central America. A limited number of documents in languages such as Chamorro, Japanese, Nepalese and Ghanaian are evidence of the sisters’ response to the call to serve God’s people in ever more distant lands.

July 20
A recent visit to the site for our SSND North American Archives at Mount Mary University in Milwaukee shows the ongoing progress. Since last week, the metal piping for electrical wires has been installed on the ceiling, office doors have arrived and the holes left where old radiators were removed are being filled with cement bricks. More photos have been added in the slideshow on this page.

July 13
Take a one-minute video tour of the renovation work underway for the SSND North American Archives at Mount Mary University in Milwaukee! A lot of progress is being made, with walls now up for the offices. This week, it also was announced that Michele M. Levandoski has accepted the new archivist position, and she will begin next month! Additional photos have been added in the slideshow on this page.

July 6
As work continues on the new SSND North American Archives, the demolition phase is winding down and construction is beginning. Maintaining an archive goes back to the congregation’s foundation in Neunburg vorm Wald, Germany, on October 24, 1833. In a letter dated March 29, 1834, Blessed Theresa Gerhardinger requested that the city council in Neunburg issue a receipt for the money that she had received from King Louis I for renovating the building in Neunburg so that she could place it in “the convent archives.”

Later references to the convent archives in Blessed Theresa’s letters include a record of negotiations regarding the opening of a new mission, a register book in which receptions and professions were carefully recorded and documentation of the transfer of the Poor Clare Convent in Munich by King Louis I to the sisters for use as their motherhouse.

June 28
Progress continues on the renovation of the new space for the SSND North American Archives! Old floor tiles have been removed, and the next steps include demolishing a wall, which will create a more spacious storage area, and constructing the framing for offices. The greatest challenge for this project was finding an available, suitable space with sufficient square feet, a layout that could be adapted for an archives, accessibility and the ability to be secured. The space in Bergstrom Hall at Mount Mary University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, met these criteria! Watch for more updates in the coming weeks.

June 21
We’re excited to see the start of the renovation for the new home of the School Sisters of Notre Dame’s North American Archives at Mount Mary University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin! Demolition and construction began earlier this month and will continue through the summer. We anticipate moving the archives – 2,800 linear feet of materials from 11 collections – into the new space this fall. Stay tuned for more updates as work progresses!