The Opportunities and Challenges Facing Religious Archives Today: The View from Boston

Zachary Bodnar, Thomas Lester, and Jessica Suarez
Promotional graphic for the event, featuring pictures of the three speakers.

1-2 pm EDT


This event will held live on Zoom with an interactive Q&A



In celebration of Archives Month, join us for a virtual discussion with three archivists from Boston-area institutions with significant religious collections as they reflect upon the opportunities and challenges facing religious archives today.

Zachary Bodnar (Congregational Library & Archives), Thomas Lester (Archdiocese of Boston Archive & Library), and Jessica Suarez (Harvard Divinity School) represent Boston-area institutions with significant collections that document centuries of religious life, ecclesiastical activity, and community experiences. Their archives are routinely used by diverse audiences, including academic scholars, clergy, genealogists, church historians, and students–each with their own set of interests and needs. With small archival staffs, sizeable collections, and active audiences, they face myriad challenges, from creating processing priorities to the demands of reference work to the need to make materials accessible both in person and online.

Embedded within different types of institutions – a theological school, a regional diocese, and an independent research library – these archives also face unique constraints and challenges determined by their institutional contexts. As the religious landscape of Greater Boston – and the nation more broadly – continues to change in the wake of the COVID pandemic, some of these archivists have found increased demands placed on them from churches, associations, and individuals newly reinvested in the stewardship of their history, memory, and collections.

Join us for a fascinating conversation about how religious archives in one of the nation’s oldest cities seek to serve expanding audiences while stewarding growing collections.

The event is free to all, but registration is required via this link:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

For more information, please email


Zachary Bodnar graduated with a Masters of Library and Information Science from Simmons University, with a concentration in archives management, in 2018. Prior to his work at the CLA, Zachary worked at the Bellamy-Ferriday House and Garden archive, the Vassar College Special Collections, the Harvard Law School Library, and the Harvard Botany Libraries. Zachary joined the CLA as an Archives Assistant in 2017, helping to prepare materials for digitization through the New England’s Hidden Histories program. In 2018, he took on the title of Archivist. His professional interests include metadata collection and management, digital archiving, audio/visual preservation, and archives management.

Thomas Lester has been the Director of the Archive & Library for the Archdiocese of Boston since November 2014 and oversees the archive, research library, and records management for the central administration, parishes, and schools of the Archdiocese of Boston. Highlights of his tenure include publishing an online database of Catholic sacramental records in partnership with the New England Historic Genealogical Society, creating a preservation plan for digital records, and offering a searchable collections catalog.  He has also authored or contributed to over 150 articles and one book. Thomas is an active member of New England Archivists and currently serves as the Vice President/President-elect of the Association of Catholic Diocesan Archivists.

Jessica Suárez is the Curator of Manuscripts and Archives at Harvard Divinity School Library. Jessica graduated with a Master of Arts in History from Northeastern University in 2001 and a Master of Library and Information Science with a concentration in archives from Simmons University in 2005. Prior to starting at the Harvard Divinity School Library in 2006, she worked at the Harvard Law School Library, Houghton Library, and the Boston City Archives. Currently Jessica is part of a Harvard-wide mass digitization pilot for AV material focused on the Carlton Pearson archive.