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Franciscan collection to get a new home in South Valley

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Franciscan Friars long have had a presence in the Southwest.

Now their papers, photos, collections of Navajo rugs and pottery, as well as other historical artifacts, will have a permanent home in Albuquerque.

A new 5,000-square-foot archive, in Bernalillo County’s South Valley, is intended to showcase the work and accomplishments of Franciscans in New Mexico and Arizona, said the Rev. Jack Clark Robinson, minister provincial of the Franciscan Friars of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province.

Franciscans in the modern era arrived here in 1898 and have acquired an institutional memory of the Hispanic and Native American people across a vast area of the two states, Robinson said.

“The memories aren’t just our memories,” he said. “Our memories contain a lot of the memories of people in the Southwest with whom we have worked.”

Robinson led a tour Monday of the archive and a nearby 6,100-square-foot retreat center at the Franciscans’ compound on Lakeview Road SW. The $2 million project features a reading room, walk-in refrigerators for perishable materials and ample space for materials collected by more than 100 Franciscans who have lived and worked in the Southwest.

The archive is named “A Becoming Place” from the writing of St. Francis of Assisi, who urged followers to gather worthy writings and place them in “a becoming place.” The archive will be open to academic researchers and scholars exploring the history of New Mexico and Arizona.

Once the archive’s heating and air conditioning system is activated in May, about 800 boxes of archival materials will be moved to Albuquerque from storage at St. Michael’s Church in Window Rock, Ariz. The collection includes about 70 Navajo rugs acquired by the Franciscans over the decades, along with pottery, baskets, moccasins, cradle boards and other items.

The collection also will include works by the Rev. Bernard Haile, who devised a Navajo alphabet and published 17 books in Navajo, including one on grammar and a dictionary, on a specially designed linotype machine. The collection eventually will include the writings and recordings of the Rev. Richard Rohr, a Franciscan friar who directs the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque.

An official dedication and blessing of the buildings will be held Friday for invited guests, followed by a symposium Saturday for scholars from across the U.S.

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