Two mid-twentieth-century collections, now digitized and available freely online, recall Atlanta neighborhoods lost to urban renewal, and Georgia’s growing Catholic community

Two new collections of digitized films and slides documenting the growth of Georgia’s Catholic community between 1938-1979 are now available freely online from the Digital Library of Georgia.

With these materials from Marist School educators Reverend Michael Kerwick, SM,  (1912-1990) and Reverend Vincent Brennan, SM, (1912-1993), we are able to piece together the history of the Marist School’s campus, community, and activities at its former location (as Marist College) in downtown Atlanta and its Brookhaven home (as Marist School) on Ashford-Dunwoody Road in DeKalb County. 

The time periods of Father Kerwick’s and Father Brennan’s collections coincide with the exponential growth of the city’s Catholic community. During the mid-20th century, Atlanta claimed 30,000 Catholic residents. By the end of the century, that number grew to nearly 300,000. 

These materials also show portions of downtown Atlanta that were lost through development in the 1950s and early 1960s. A major reason for Marist School’s relocation to suburban Brookhaven was the encroaching development of the interstate system and the use of eminent domain to acquire portions of the original campus. Scenes from the original campus and downtown street scenes have captured buildings and streetscapes that were lost to urban renewal.

Dr. Michael Bieze and Dr. Louisa Moffitt, archivists at the Marist School say: “The [digitized] images were taken by Father Vincent Brennan during those years before Marist School was moved to its suburban location in the mid-1960s and includes image from both the old campus on Ivy Street, as well as images of the new campus on Ashford-Dunwoody Road.” 

Some additional themes covered in these collections include school commencements, athletics programs, formal events such as promenades, and visits to Marist parishes throughout Georgia. Dr. Bieze and Dr. Moffitt both add: “In addition, there are images of Brunswick, Saint Simons Island, Darien, and Jekyll Island during those years.”

View the Reverend Michael Kerwick, SM, Film Collection online 
View the Reverend Vincent Brennan, SM, Papers Collection online 

About the Archives of the Society of Mary, Province of the United States  

The mission of the archives is to collect, preserve, and make available manuscripts, records, photographs, audiovisual materials, artifacts, books, and other items that document the ministries, houses, and personnel of the Society of Mary in the United States. Although Marists first arrived in Louisiana in 1863, items in the collection date from the early 1800s through 2020. The provincial archives for the U.S. Province have been housed in the rectory at Marist School in Atlanta, Georgia since 2000, when the former Washington and San Francisco provinces consolidated into the Atlanta province. The archival collection of the former Boston province was moved from Framingham to Atlanta in 2014.

Selected images from the collection: 

Images courtesy of Society of Mary (Marists) U.S. Province Archives

A 1941 photograph of a gathering of white Catholic clergy including several Marists on the front steps of the Our Lady of Lourdes Colored Mission (later known as the Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church), Atlanta's first African American Catholic church.

Title: Catholic Colored Mission of Our Lady of Lourdes Dedication  

URL: https://dlg.usg.edu/record/mpua_vinb_vb234-00001 

Description: A 1941 photograph of a gathering of white Catholic clergy including several Marists on the front steps of the Our Lady of Lourdes Colored Mission (later known as the Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church), Atlanta’s first African American Catholic church. From inventory notes: December 14, 1941, attended by several Marists. Gerald O’Hara, Bishop of (then-) Savannah-Atlanta. Located on Forrest Avenue. 

Photograph of the Marist College Ivy Street Campus building and courtyard, taken in 1961.

Title: Marist College Ivy Street Campus slide 4         

URL: https://dlg.usg.edu/record/mpua_vinb_vb058-00001  

Description: Photograph of the Marist College Ivy Street Campus building and courtyard, taken in 1961.

Still shot of a member of the Catholic clergy at the Marist School in Atlanta, Georgia performing rites on an elderly woman

Title: Brennan Unidentified 2

URL: http://dlg.galileo.usg.edu/do:mpua_mker_brennanunidentified2

Description:  Short film clip of a member of the Catholic clergy at the Marist School in Atlanta, Georgia performing rites on a woman and a number of students posing on a set of steps.

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Augusta University Theater Performances based on “Vanishing Georgia” Photographs

Augusta University students performing in Theatre AUG’s production “Moving Photographs: A Vanishing Georgia.” This performance is based on a photograph of dental students with corpse at Atlanta Dental College, Atlanta, Georgia, ca. 1908 (ric016)

“Moving Photographs: A Vanishing Georgia” is the result of a research and creative scholarship project I have been working on for quite some time now.  I was introduced to the Vanishing Georgia collection about ten years ago while teaching as a Lecturer in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Georgia.  I dabbled in the archive for research purposes and taught a special topics course, titled Visual Culture, Rhetoric and Performance, in which students learned methods for analyzing and performing images from the Vanishing Georgia collection.

Augusta University students performing in Theatre AUG’s production “Moving Photographs: A Vanishing Georgia.” This performance is based on a photograph of two African American women hoeing cotton, Greene County, Georgia, between 1925 and 1950 (grn015).

In spring 2018, I was awarded a research grant by the Augusta University Pamplin College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, where I currently am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication.  The grant enabled me to move the project toward a fully staged theater production, a dream I have had for a while now.  With the project, I was (and still am) interested in exploring the stories and memories evoked through the performance of the photographs, and how these glimpses of Georgia’s past impact culture and life in Georgia today.  Over the summer, I researched the archive and began writing the script.  I also created research and writing prompts for the student-performers so that we could collaborate in the script writing process.  The result of our labors is a performance that uses visual, communication, theater, and performance studies theories and methodologies to critically analyze, represent, and recreate the Vanishing Georgia collection–and specifically, a selection of photographs collected from the Augusta area.  Access to the photographs by means of the Digital Library of Georgia and the Georgia Archives has been pivotal to our process in both writing and staging our script.  We are looking forward to sharing our archival and photographic discoveries with our community.

– Melanie O’Meara, Assistant Professor, Department of Communication
Augusta University.

Theatre AUG’s production titled “Moving Photographs: A Vanishing Georgia” ran in Augusta University’s Maxwell Performing Arts Theatre March 21- March 24, 2019.  

The Vanishing Georgia Photographic Collection of almost 18,000 images is the result of a Georgia Archives project begun in the mid-1970s to locate and copy historically significant photographs held by individuals throughout Georgia. A National Endowment for the Humanities grant supported an expansion of the project from 1977-1979, and images continued to be added to the collection until 1996. Digitization of the photographs was a joint project of the Georgia Archives and the Digital Library of Georgia.

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