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Religion Collections in Libraries and Archives:
A Guide to Resources in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia

Table of Contents - Preface/Acknowledgements - Abbreviations
Lists of Entries: District of Columbia - Maryland - Virginia

Carmelite Monastery Library and Archives

Address: 1318 Dulaney Valley Road
Baltimore, MD 21286
Telephone Number: (410) 823-7415
Fax Number: (410) 823-7418
Contact Persons: Sr. Constance FitzGerald, Archivist
Sr. Leah Hargis, Librarian
Email Address:

Access Policies

Hours of Service:
Monday, Tuesday,
Thursday, Friday

2:00--4:00 p.m.

Open to the public: No
Open to the public: By appointment only
Photocopying: Yes
Interlibrary loan: No

Although it should be noted that records from 1648-1961 are available on microfilm at the Maryland Hall of Records in Annapolis and could preferably be utilized there, the archives/rare books are open to scholars and students above high school age doing research. A description of the project and of materials desired, a letter of recommendation from academic institution, and photo identification, with current address, are required. Since this is not a public library, someone will not always be available during "hours of service" but will return calls. There is a minimal cost for photocopying.

The library is generally not open to the public; the archives are open to the public by appointment.

Reference Policy:
The archives/rare books library accepts telephone questions tht can be answered quickly during hours of service from students and scholars. Microfilm copies of archival records are available at the Maryland Hall of Records in Annapolis for extensive research and generally it is recommended that this source be used first, since the part-time archivist or librarian at the monastery will not do research for inquirers.

Borrowing Privileges:
Not a lending institution.

At the present time the Library and Archives belong to no networks or consortia, but may belong to networks in future.

Background Note:
The Monastery Library was founded in 1790 by Sisters Bernardina Matthews, Clare Joseph Dickinson, Aloysia Matthews, and Eleanora Matthews. They brought approximately 1300 volumes as well as foundational documents to the foundation in Port Tobacco from English-speaking Carmelite monasteries in Antwerp and Hoogstraet. The size and variety of these books were unusual for a group of women and spoke of their literacy and education. The oldest book, a New Testament, is dated 1582. The Library and Archives are significant because they trace the history of the oldest continuous community of religious women in the original thirteen states. This is a community whose first members were Americans from the oldest Anglo-Catholic families of Southern Maryland. The Library and Archives were moved with the community to Baltimore City, Aisquith Street in 1831, to Caroline and Biddle Streets in 1873, and to Dulaney Valley Road in Baltimore County in 1961.
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Description of Collections

Books and monographs:
Over 35,000 volumes, including 1,300 rare books, dating from 1582 to 1997. The collection deals principally with theology, philosophy, comparative religion, biography, church history, liturgy, and spirituality, with a certain emphasis in Carmelite spirituality and history. The orientation of the collection is predominantly but not exclusively Roman Catholic. There is a collection of science fiction recently donated by Goucher College, and a literature collection in the process of being donated over the next three years. Collection priorities at present include feminist theology and literature, African-American and Third World literature and theology, cosmology and science, and contemporary theology.

There is a card and partial computer catalogue for the Library. The Library is introducing a new computer program sometime in 1997. Rare books (1582- ) are contained only in a list with necessary information. Archive records are computerized from 1648-1961.

Periodicals and newspapers:
60 current subscriptions, focusing on theology, spirituality, religious life, church history, current events, and social/political/justice issues. Major collection strengths include Carmelite spirituality and history, religious life and spirituality, history of renewal of religious life following Vatican II.

There is no periodicals catalog.

Archives, manuscripts, correspondence, and oral histories:
Over 120 linear feet, dating from 1648 to the present. Includes archives of the first community of Roman Catholic nuns in the Thirteen Colonies (founded 1790) and other materials relating to the history of the Catholic Church in the United States, the Maryland colony and the first Catholic families of Southern Maryland, the first American Jesuits, the first Roman Catholic bishops and founders of religious communities, records of professions and deaths that provide valuable genealogical information, a diary written by a founding member (woman) on the ocean voyage to America in 1790, an original land grant (1648) for property (Chandler's Hope) in Charles County, correspondence, all the papers gathered for the Durham lawsuit (early 19th century). The spirituality which influenced the sisters in both the Low Countries (18th century) and Maryland can be found in the documents. Papal documents, constitutions (1619-date), customs, devotions, and spiritual poetry are also found.

The only efforts at acquisition, in addition to the records of life of present community and its members, have been in relation to monasteries in the U.S. and England that have been closed, one of which is the monastery from which the Baltimore monastery was founded (Hoogstraet 1678,) and another which is a foundation of the Baltimore monastery.

A computer database with extensive information on documents from 1648 to 1961 with a typed index is available. Records after 1961 are not cataloged. Queries should be directed to the Archivist, Sister Constance FitzGerald, O.C.D.

A very small collection, but there are some valuable maps from colonial and immediate post-colonial period.

Holdings are listed in a database.

Video and sound recordings:
Largely lectures, talks, retreats, workshops, meetings related to spirituality and Carmelite history and renewal, and oral histories of Carmelite nuns in U.S., dating from 1960 to the present.

These materials are not cataloged.

Paintings, photographs, slides, and prints:
Very few items before about 1939, including five paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries.

These materials are not cataloged.

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Subject Headings

Bible; Carmelites; Catholic breviaries; Catholic Church--United States--History; Catholic missals; Contemplation; Devotional exercises; Hymns and hymnals; Jesuits; Liturgy; Maryknoll Fathers; Meditation; Miracles; Missions and missionaries; Monasticism and religious orders--United States; Mysticism; Papacy; Prayer; Religious tracts; Saints; Sermons; Spirituality; Virgin Mary; Women and religion


Currier, C.W. Carmel In America. Darien, IL: Carmelite Press, 1989.

Curran, Robert Emmett, S.J. American Jesuit Spirituality; The Maryland Tadition, 1634-1900. New York/Mahwah: Paulist Press, 1988.

FitzGerald, Constance, O.C.D. The Carmelite Adventure, Clare Joseph Dickinson's Journal of a Trip to America. Baltimore, MD: Carmelite Sisters, 1990.

Stewart, G.C. Marvels of Charity: History of American Sisters and Nuns. Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, 1994. pp. 46-51.

Spalding, Thomas W. The Premier See, A History of the Archdiocese of Baltimore 1789-1989. Baltimore, MD/London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989.

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  September 13, 2011
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