Browse Exhibits (28 total)

Terence Vincent Powderly Photographic Collection

T. V. Powderly Photograph Collection.

Turning Toward a New Century: The Catholic Church's Encounter with American Culture at the Turn of the Century

The question of faith encountering culture is a perennial and universal one played out over two millennia in every corner of the globe where the church has been planted. Perhaps at no time in the history of the church in the United States did it seem so urgent than at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth. America was changing, spreading out over a continent, transforming itself from a rural, second class power into an urban industrial colossus and a premier player in world politics. The Catholic people of the United States were changing too, matching the nation's progress across the continent step by step, and growing from 8% of the nation's people to 17%. Much of that growth was through immigration: the Germans and the Irish, followed by French Canadians, Italians, Poles, Slovaks, Slovenes and others from southern or eastern Europe. But a new American born Catholic generation, the sons and daughters of Catholic immigrants, was growing to maturity then too, struggling to reconcile their European ancestries with their American birthright. For them the question, "What does it mean to be Catholic and American?," was especially pressing. As the new generation emerged, a new pope, Leo XIII, ascended the throne of Peter, and himself sought to confront the new industrial world emerging all over the west without sacrificing the essentials of the faith.

As the church in America turned toward a new century, then, it confronted the question: what does it mean to be Catholic and American?

Terence Vincent Powderly and Ellis Island

This is a website that examines the life of T.V. Powderly through his personal correspondence on Ellis Island as well as photographs he had taken at Ellis Island from 1897-1901. There are also links to other related Powderly websites and publications written about him. Lastly, there is a small biography on Powderly.

A Historical Walking Tour of The Catholic University of America

This is the walking tour that was developed in conjunction with Catholic University of America's 125th anniversary as a school.  The tour describes the history behind some important campus buildings in addition to the development of the area enveloping the university.  The tour can be accessed through the interactive map which has quick descriptions of each historical place and through the exhibit sections which have the long-form description.

Remembering President John F. Kennedy

This exhibit is a 2013 tribute to JFK's legacy. It recalls both his life and untimely passing during 1963. In July of that year, the President visited North American College in Rome as part of a Vatican tour that culminated in his meeting the newly elected Pope Paul VI.

It portrays the alternatingly profound joy and intense sorrow experienced by the community of American clergy and seminarians abroad who witnessed a brief glimpse of "Camelot" before that era came to an abrupt end.

The November 1963 correspondence and July 1963 images are from the Archbishop Martin J. O'Connor Collection. O'Connor was rector of the North American College in Rome, from 1948-1964, and a top social coordinator to the pontiff. The collection contains literally thousands of documents and photographs of visiting clergy, dignitaries and heads-of-state. 

(The exhibit may be accessed by clicking the captions on the right. For closer examination, all images may be enlarged as PDFs by double-clicking) 


The Catholic University of America History Department

History has been taught almost since the founding of The Catholic University of America, with courses on church history offered since 1892. The history of the University’s department of history is a mirror into the past of an institution that has always been profiting from an inspiring tension between church and world, between priests and laymen. This story has not been told yet but it will provide us with profound insights into the identity of the University, insights essential for its future. 

The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives, together with CUA Department of History invite researchers, students, alumni and everybody interested in the history of the Catholic University of America, to explore and study primary sources related to the history of teaching and studying history at CUA in the context of the 20th century. 


See Introduction to begin exhibit.

Sworn to Be Free: Irish Nationalism 1860 - 1921

The Easter Rising or Easter Rebellion of April 1916 was an armed insurrection to end British rule in Ireland and establish an independent Irish Republic. The British put down the rebellion after a week of bloody street fighting, followed by arrests and the execution of rebellion leaders. The Rebellion inspired a movement that lead to revolution after World War I and the creation of the Irish Free State in 1922.

In honor of the 100th anniversary of this pivotal event in Ireland's history, this exhibit spotlights some of the many threads of Irish Nationalism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that are preserved in the American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives collections.

The exhibit starts in the 1860's with items from the Fenian Brotherhood Records and O'Donovan Rossa Personal Papers and ends in the 1920's with items from the Records of the National Catholic War Council and the Thomas J. Shahan Papers.

Start with the Fenian Brotherhood Records and O'Donovan Rossa Personal Papers to begin.

Exploring Irish Nationalism with ACUA: An Academic Resource

To study modern Irish history is to study rebellion. Ireland and her neighbor England have a long and fraught history, dating back to Roman times. Tradition says Patrick, the famous evangelist of the Irish, was a British Roman citizen from captured by raiding Irish pirates. The Scoti, one of the numerous “barbarian” immigrants that gave post-Roman England so much trouble, came from Ireland. The tables were turned later in the Middle Ages, and here is where the traditional republican narrative of Irish independence begins. In 1169 King Henry II of England, reeling from the recent murder of Thomas Becket, invaded Ireland under the banner of reforming the Irish church and began the slow process of English control over the Irish people -- though few historians today would consider this the direct cause of Fenianism, as the nineteenth-century John O’Leary did. The crisis of the Reformation, as England made her monarch Head of the Church while Ireland, increasingly under English control, cleaved to Rome. These religious tensions came to a bloody head during the English Civil War, when Cromwell enacted a brutal reconquest of the western isle. Fully one-fifth of Ireland’s population was killed between 1649 and 1652 as direct or indirect results of Cromwell’s campaigns. Cromwell’s policies also transformed the land ownership of the Irish countryside, granting large plantations to Protestants (largely English and Scottish), reducing the native population to dependent tenant status. Further laws banned Catholic religious services and Catholics from serving in any official function in Ireland. Though the popular imagination tends to link Catholic identity and Irish nationalism, as evidenced by the sad legacy that continues to this day in Northern Ireland, the truth is more complicated. The rebellion in 1798 was organized by The United Irishmen, a republican group that welcomed both Catholic and Protestant members. The Easter Rising of 1916, as well, was organized by a group more concerned with political sovereignty: the Irish Republican Brotherhood. 1916 was not the first year of bloodshed in Ireland since 1798, nor was the Easter Rising the longest rebellion or the most successful -- just the opposite.


In brief, the Easter Rising was an armed resistance to British rule in Ireland from 24 April (Easter Monday) through the following Sunday. Most of the drama of the Easter Rising took place in Dublin, but nationalists in such places as  Cork, Ashbourne, Galway, and Enniscorthy mustered (and, in some cases, clashed) against British forces. The Rising was, in the end, a failure, as the national forces were broken and arrested, the leaders were executed, and Ireland remained -- for a few more years -- part of the British Empire. Any chance the Rising may have had was squashed by bad luck, inadequate planning, and indecisive or unimaginative choices. The leaders of the revolt have been excoriated by some historians, who are openly baffled by events surrounding the uprising. Historians, including Fearghal McGarry, openly raise the question: did the Easter rebels even think or hope they had a chance, or did they rise up in a “symbolic act of blood sacrifice”?


Regardless of intentions or success, the Easter Rising fired imaginations, both in Ireland and abroad. In the United States, a sizable population of Irish heritage tended to sympathize with the Rising -- and the political desires that motivated it. And while Irishmen and women may have had mixed, or even negative, feelings towards the Rising itself, the valour of those who died for it and their principles inspired a new wave of Irish nationalism. Irish independence became a drum that never failed to beat. The Sinn Féin party, many of whose members had taken part in the Rising (so much so that the British Government and newspapers dubbed it “the Sinn Féin Rising”), grew in prominence, gaining  73 of Ireland’s 105 Parliamentarian seats on a platform of Irish independence and absenteeism from Parliament in the December 1918 election. Instead of traveling to Britain, the Sinn Féin representatives went to Dublin, calling the First Dáil into session on 21 January 1919, the same day the Soloheadbeg Ambush occurred. These actions proved to be the first maneuvers in the war that would end in a Free State in Ireland and, ultimately, independence for the modern Irish nation.

Here, at the American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives, we have two collections in particular that reflect Irish Americans’ interest of and sentiment for their home country: the James Aloysius Geary Papers and the Thomas Joseph Shahan Papers (“papers”, in an archival context, mean these are unofficial records collected by an individual, as opposed to the official records accrued by an institution). Both men, in their own way, were keen observers of the Irish nationalist movement, and participants in the revival of traditional Irish (“Gaelic”) culture. We have made some significant examples from both collections available here, in the hopes that it will prove beneficial to scholars, students, and anyone who seeks to better understand this pivotal time in Irish history.