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While the provenance of the manuscript is unclear, its current owner is the Redemptorists of the Baltimore Province, a Catholic clerical missionary religious institute. The Redemptorists first sailed from Europe to America in 1832 and worked with Native Americans and recent immigrants, opening parishes and schools. By the late 1800s, they were establishing seminaries to train their men in the United States. They began collecting books and manuscripts in Europe for these American seminary libraries. The Arma Christi Roll was one of the works added to their collection at Mount Saint Alphonsus, the Redemptorist seminary that opened in 1908 in Esopus, NY. When that seminary building was sold last December, the manuscript moved to the National Shrine of St. John Neumann, which honors the first Redemptorist to profess vows in America.
Before allowing researchers to study the manuscript, the Shrine wanted to ensure its safety. Although the media were in fair condition, there were some losses in the blue and red inks. Years of rolling had left creases throughout the manuscript, and it had discolored to brown, with darker discoloration along its edges and moderate surface soil overall. At CCAHA, Paper Conservator Minah Song consolidated insecurely attached media, surface cleaned the margins and areas of ingrained dirt, and repaired tears. She reinforced weak areas and locally flattened misshapen sections of the parchment. Before the manuscript was housed in a sealed package, CCAHA’s digital imaging studio produced a facsimile of its front and back. The facsimile will provide easy, safe access to the text’s informational content, while the sealed package will protect the original from pollutants and environmental extremes while in storage or on display.