Digital Incunabula or, Br. Jeff loves Alliteration


What to do with a floppy disk full of important archival materials.

By Br. Jeff Durham, OFM

Many of the patrons at the Santa Barbara Mission-Archive Library assume that all of the things we do involve old documents, manuscripts and photos. However, there is a slow trickle of items which I refer to as digital incunabula. What I mean by this term are those artifacts from the dawn of the information age.

Two items that came across my desk in the past few weeks were floppy disks (with a minuscule 1.44 MB of memory) and an ancient (at least in the sense of Moore’s Law*) laptop. From the standpoint of an information scientist, this provided a great opportunity to work with computer technology that was still working on mechanical principles (listen to those hard drives and floppy drives spinning)! This was also a good way to prepare the archive-library for what is sure to go from a technological trickle to a digital deluge as more of the material that arrives at the facility will be “born digital”*. With the success of this project, we are well on our way to bridging the digital divide.

*Moore’s Law is the observation that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit has doubled approximately every two years.

*The term born-digital refers to materials that originate in a digital form.


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Q and A with Br. Jeff


Br. Jeff hard at work on the Oblasser Collection.


Br. Jeff hard at work on the finding guide for the Oblasser Collection.

Br. Jeff comes to the Archive-Library each week day morning, comedic coffee cup in hand, to continue his work with the Oblasser Collection. What follows is part of an an extra brief Q&A with Br. Jeff to find out how the project is coming along.


SBMAL: Can you tell us about the collection you are working on?

Br. Jeff: My main project here at the archives currently is the Oblasser collection. This collection which is made up largely through data compiled by the Franciscan friar, Bonaventure Oblasser, also known as the “Apostle to the Papagos (Tohono O’odham)”.

The collection which we have concerning Oblasser is quite large and somewhat unwieldy. My concentration in library and information science has been information organization, analysis, and retrieval. As such, it was felt that having me to develop an organizational schema and taxonomy would be a good place for me to start in the archive-library.

SBMAL: How has this project informed your understanding of the World of Library Science?

Br. Jeff: This experience is affording me a wonderful dual opportunity. The first part is that it allows me to flesh out the epic figures of Southwest Franciscan history, such as the friars Bonaventure Oblasser and Al Braun. While I have heard these names throughout my friar life, the best way to understand someone is through the words, so going through their correspondence has afforded me this way of personalizing their stories to me. The second opportunity is to be part of the team here at the Santa Barbara Mission Archive-Library to develop and improve the findability and searchability resource for Southwest Franciscan studies more accessible to future researchers.


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Welcome, Br. Jeff!


Br. Jeff Durham working through boxes of correspondence in the Oblasser Collection. 

My name is Jeff, I am originally from North Carolina, but have lived in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1998. I currently live in Santa Barbara, California.

I am a friar in the Order of Friars Minor, which was founded over 800 years ago by St. Francis of Assisi (which is the reason we are more popularly known as Franciscan Friars).

I have been a bibliophile since I was old enough to read. I have a BA in Philosophy, an MA in Theology, and an MA in Ministry. While in graduate school for theology, I was the assistant to the director of the Academy of American Franciscan History, a research institute affiliated with the Franciscan School of Theology. I was able to gain a greater appreciation of archives and the importance of archival research and libraries on the historical process.

Some of my past assignments have been with our communications department and being a chaplain at some of the sponsored ministries of the Province of St. Barbara in San Francisco, California. I am currently working on completing a MLIS (Master of Library and Information Science) with an emphasis in data analytics and data-driven decision making. As a friar of the Saint Barbara Province, one of my goals is to make use of the vast amount of data that we have collected during our long history in the West and to extrapolate new data models out of the information.


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Re-Introducing Edwin Deakin

In 2014, the Archive-Library began a conservation project to restore the series of mission paintings by Edwin Deakin. Two years later, the 19thcentury paintings have been completed!  On the night of September 24th at 6:30 pm in the Bonaventure Hall at Old Mission Santa Barbara, SBMAL will be hosting a lecture given by Frank Goss on Edwin Deakin. A reception and viewing of the newly restored paintings will follow.  We hope that you will be able join us for this unveiling!

In the meantime, watch this video that Scott Haskins and the team from Fine Arts Conservation Laboratories put together to learn more about the conservation process!

Thank you again to all of our sponsors! Without their support, this project would not be possible! For more information about the history of the Deakin paintings and how they came to the Archive-Library, you can go to these previous blog posts:

{Deakin Conservation}

Seating in the Hall is limited so to guarantee a seat RSVP to or (805) 682-4713 ext. 152

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Our Trip to …A Becoming Place

By Rachel Hatcher

Assistant Archivist, Province of Saint Barbara

Monica and Rachel outside the new Provincial Archive in Albuquerque, NM.

Monica and Rachel outside the new Provincial Archive in Albuquerque, NM.

“Wherever I find our Lord’s most holy names and written words in unbecoming places, I want to gather them up and I beg that they be gathered up and placed in a becoming place.” -St. Francis of Assisi, Testament

On the evening of Saturday, March 19, 2016, Monica Orozco (Director of the Santa Bárbara Mission Archive-Library) and I were treated to hearing these words of St. Francis spoken in four different languages from the north, south, east, and west corners of the conference space at “. . . A Becoming Place,” the brand new Provincial Archive and Retreat in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Four friars of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Province stood around those gathered at the dedication of the new archive and recited in Latin, Spanish, Navajo, and English the verse that inspired the name of the new center.

When we arrived on Friday, Monica and I were able to tour around the new archive with Provincial Archivist Cathy Pierce, OFS; Minister Provincial Fr. Jack Clark Robinson, OFM; and members of the Board of the Academy of American Franciscan History. With state of the art compact shelving, a colorful reading room, and framed photographs that pay tribute to past archivists of the Guadalupe Province, the new archive is a beautiful home for the treasures in their collection.

Keynote speaker David Hurst Thomas, PhD, Curator of the Division of Anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History.

Keynote speaker David Hurst Thomas, PhD, Curator of the Division of Anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History.

The Inaugural Symposium began Friday night with David Hurst Thomas, PhD, Curator of the Division of Anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History, who gave a talk on his work on Franciscan Missions sites of the Southeast and Southwest and the connection with the Franciscan Order in the United States. Archaeology, he posited, provides researchers with another type of “archive.” Saturday’s symposium featured a variety of presentations from archivists and scholars. Monica and I each presented talks on the collections housed within the Provincial Archive of the Province of Saint Barbara and the Santa Barbara Mission Archive-Library. During the course of the day there was time for reflection, questions, and responses that gave the Symposium a comfortable, relaxed, yet scholarly feel. We were able to chat about issues such as the nature of working with artifacts related to native peoples and the difficulties in digitization. It was encouraging for me to hear stories from friars and lay staff about the ways they solved problems or collaborated together in their work.

After an energetic Palm Sunday celebration of the Eucharist and a feast with everyone in attendance, the weekend came to a close. The hospitality of the friars, festive dedication ceremony, and the new Provincial Archive have left Monica and me dreaming of taking a trip back to Albuquerque in the near future.

(Editor’s Note: Rachel Hatcher has served as Assistant Provincial Archivist for the Province of Saint Barbara since May 2014)

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Meet Our New Geiger Intern!


Geiger Intern Adela Contreras

Editor’s note:  Each year since 2012 we offer a paid summer internship to honor Fr. Maynard Geiger, OFM. The purpose of this internship is to support an opportunity for an undergraduate or graduate student to gain experience working in an archive. The internship is open to students considering further studies or career in public history, art history, library and information technology, archive management, or museum studies. We are very happy to announce that this year’s Geiger intern is Adela Contreras, an incoming graduate student in the History Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara.  Please continue reading to learn more about Adela and the work she is undertaking during her internship.  And if you are interested in more information about this internship please visit .

Hello, I am Adela Contreras, a California native from Los Angeles.

I am entering the doctoral program in United States history at UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) in the fall of 2015. I am very excited to be serving as the 2015 Geiger Summer Intern at SBMAL.

I first became engaged with archival work in 2012 while a student at Pasadena City College (PCC). There, I worked on an independent project surveying the collection at the San Gabriel History Museum.

I accepted admission as an undergraduate transfer student at UCSB in 2013. A current graduate student in the history department at UCSB informed me of the Geiger Summer Internship that year. I applied for the 2013 internship and although I was not selected I received positive and constructive feedback from the director, Monica Orozco, which was very helpful to my successful application this summer.

This summer I am working on the Franciscan Father Bonaventure Oblasser collection representing over 50 years of Franciscan missionary work in Arizona. Specifically, I am helping the archive construct a useful reference of the collection’s immense photograph and postcard collection. The overwhelming majority of the photographs are undated, the subjects unidentified, and the photographs are not in sequential order. In order to give context to the photographs I reference documents in the Oblasser papers including correspondence, mission records, and school records. I am also conducting ongoing research on indigenous people of the southwest and I am working on a historiographical study of Father Oblasser.

The photographs and postcards roughly cover the last decade of the nineteenth century through the mid twentieth century. The subjects of the photographs primarily include indigenous people; everyday desert life, plants and wildlife, mission life, travel photos, and pets. As a history student, I am drawn not only to the subjects of the photographs but to the clues they give me about the interests of the photographer as they indicate what was considered significant to document.

I have many “favorite” themes but one that comes to mind after I’ve left the archive for the day is a collection of poems printed on postcards. The poems are written from the points of view of indigenous people and frontiersmen. Their expressions of the west communicate sorrow; woe, fear, romance, adventure, beauty, excitement, and conflict. So many universal human emotions and experiences are communicated in this collection of poems, inspired by a contested geographical space.

Father Oblasser is recognized in scholarship for his missionary work with the Tohono O’odham. However, his photographic collection extends well beyond the Sonoran desert and mission life. The images are mesmerizing, engaging windows to the past and significant to the study of the Southwest.

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The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis: Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco

Barb VossThe Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP) is pleased to present The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis: Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco, a lecture by Dr. Barbara L. Voss (Stanford University), Tuesday, June 9, 2015 at 7:00 p.m. in the Presidio Chapel (123 East Canon Perdido Street, Santa Barbara). The event is co-sponsored by UCSB Departments of History and Anthropology, USCB Public History Program, and Santa Barbara Mission Archive-Library.


Dr. Barbara L. Voss’ innovative work of historical archaeology illuminates the genesis of the Californios, a community of military settlers who forged a new identity on the northwest edge of Spanish North America. Since 1993, Dr. Voss has conducted archaeological excavations at the Presidio of San Francisco, founded by Spain during its colonization of California’s central coast. Her research at the Presidio forms the basis for this rich study of cultural identity formation, or ethnogenesis, among the diverse peoples who came from widespread colonized populations to serve at the Presidio. Through a close investigation of the landscape, architecture, ceramics, clothing, and other aspects of material culture, she traces shifting contours of race and sexuality in colonial California.


Dr. Barbara L. Voss is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Stanford University. She is a historical archaeologist who studies the dynamics and outcomes of transnational cultural encounters in the Americas, especially those related to colonialism and immigration. Voss’ work also forges new dialogues between queer studies and archaeology. Her research is guided by a deep commitment to public archaeology and community collaboration. Her books Archaeologies of Sexuality (co-edited with Robert A. Schmidt) and The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis were each awarded the Ruth Benedict Prize by the American Anthropological Association.


The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis:  Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco

Lecture by Barbara L. Voss, Ph.D.

Date: Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Time: 7:00 p.m.

Location: Presidio Chapel, 123 East Canon Perdido Street, Santa Barbara
Cost: Free for SBTHP members, SBMAL members, and UCSB students with valid student ID

Non-members $5

For more information:  Visit or call (805) 965-0093


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