Endangered Archives

EAP753: Rescuing archives from Belém do Pará, Brazil

Dr Paula Gândara, Miami University
2014 award - Pilot project
£9,300 for 3 months

Archival partner: Laboratório de História, Universidade Federal do Pará


Project Overview

This project aims to identify and create a provisional inventory of parish documents in the area of Belém do Pará, specifically the parishes of Mojú, Bragança and S. Caetano. It is also hoped to evaluate the documentation in the parishes of Cametá, Abaeté, Acará, Barcarena and Igarapé-Miri as well as the documentation presently at the Metropolitan Curia of Belém, Pará, Brazil. Some sample digitisation will be undertaken. These parishes hold baptismal, marriage and marriage-related documents, and other kinds of ecclesiastical sources, particularly from the end of the 18th to the 19th century. They are extremely important for the history of colonial Brazil, specifically the history of the old state of Grão-Pará, which constituted one of the most important regions of the Portuguese Empire during the 18th century.

The documents are in exceedingly poor conditions. Climate conditions – the weather is extremely humid and hot – together with the lack of acclimatisation, poor storage, general negligence and no interest of local officials have left these materials in perilous endangerment. Rodents, insects and fungi constitute a further threat to the physical survival of these archives. The archives have also been depleted by robberies.

The project will assess the exact number and condition of existing documents as well as create an inventory with the help of graduate students from the Universidade Federal do Pará. The restoration of these archives will allow scholars all over the world to focus not only on the practices of the Portuguese as the colonisers but also on studies related to the indigenous populations in the area, which constituted the bulk of the population together with the Portuguese (African enslaved population passed through the area but remained in very small numbers due to the high demand of workforce in other Brazilian areas.) The study of this segment of the population has been neglected yet their impact on the social and political organisation of the area was extremely important as can be determined by the huge amount of legislation dealing with the local indigenous population.

Project Outcome

The records copied by this project have been catalogued as:

  • EAP753/1 The Parish of the Divino Espirito Santo Collection [1865-1920]

Survey report (PDF 240KB)