Beginning with Father Peter De Smet's first missionary journey in 1841, members of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) have played an integral role in the regional history of the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. The Jesuit Oregon Province Archives (JOPA) collects, maintains and provides access to the records they have since generated in the course of their administrative, educational and pastoral activities. Besides its core purpose of preserving Northwest and Alaskan Jesuits' own collective memory, JOPA is also intended as a cultural resource for those to whom they have ministered.
Two recent developments have raised questions about the identity and future availability of this highly valued library resource. This note is meant to provide context and allay concern over the present situation.
In mid 2017 a new USA West Province (or Jesuits West) was formed by the consolidation of the Jesuits' Oregon and California Provinces. Some legal or billing documentation will necessarily reflect this change, since the "Jesuit Oregon Province" no longer exists as a corporate entity. For practical reasons, however, the Archives' public identity will remain unchanged. Not only is "JOPA" a well established name across campus and beyond, but a term like "USA West Province Archives" would be misleading, since the consolidation process did not also include a merger of the two respective province archives. This was not done largely because Jesuit leadership nationwide has adopted a model that phases out all US province-based archives in favor of a central repository based in Saint Louis. As that becomes operational, JOPA will eventually become a static collection of archival materials.
There is no cause for alarm about an imminent, indiscriminate transfer of JOPA away from Gonzaga and the region. Though some implications can only become clear with time, the overall transition process is being governed by a commitment to pragmatism, fairness and creativity. The Foley Library will continue to function at the center of providing access to JOPA resources in at least three foreseeable ways: (1) development and circulation of key subsets of original materials that remain part of Foley holdings, (2) full text electronic access to other important subsets that join the Saint Louis repository holdings, and (3) short term inter-institutional loan arrangements.