Boston College Libraries Welcome the Ricci Institute for Chinese-Western Cultural History

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When an entire institute and all of its 100,000 rare items relocates from San Francisco to Boston, you expect care, but not necessarily speed. But the Ricci Institute got both. It is expected to open in May 2022.

A bronze teapot with a green patina between two yellow glazed ceramic disks with bas-relief dragons in a wooden display case
Several artifacts from the Ricci collection in their new home on Boston College’s Brighton campus, early April 2022.

The Ricci Institute is much more than a research center focusing on East-West cultural exchange with an emphasis on the Jesuit missions of the 16th-20th centuries. Named after the 16th century Jesuit China missionary Matteo Ricci (1552-1610), the Institute library holds over 100,000 rare and unusual books, manuscripts, images and artifacts in Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Western languages.  So, when the decision was made to relocate from the University of San Francisco, the Ricci Institute contacted the BC Libraries right away, and the collaboration started immediately.  

Moving so much material from one coast to the other required much planning, and the BC Libraries have a lot of experience moving collections. Ricci Director Fr. M. Antoni J. Ucerler, S.J., Director of Research Dr. Xiaoxin Wu, Ed.D., and Archivist/Librarian Mark Stephen Mir consulted with BC Associate University Librarians Christian Dupont and Scott Britton who provided advice on various concerns including selecting a moving company, shelving procurement, and insuring the collections in transport.

A man in grey slacks and a black windbreaker stands with one hand resting on the desk surface of a wooden cabinet with ornate carvings of scenes of nature and animals.
Ricci Director Fr. Antoni J. Ucerler, S.J. stands in front of some of the many beautiful artifacts in the Ricci Collection.

The Creagh Library on the Brighton Campus was selected for the new location of the Ricci Institute. However, before the Institute could move in, it required extensive renovations. Optimizing environmental conditions and creating adequate research spaces were paramount in the planning. The Ricci staff worked with the BC Libraries and Capital Projects Management to create a beautiful yet functional space for the Institute.

The fast-paced project took just one year from initial planning to final inspections. It  included refinishing existing woodwork in a conference room and creating matching woodwork in additional research and presentation rooms. The original Creagh Library stacks area required manufacturing custom metal shelves and climate control systems. Finally, offices needed updating and two new accessible bathrooms and an exterior ramp were added.

A few dozen boxes are in the foreground, while in the background two Chinese paintings lean on the wall; through a door empty metal shelving is visible
In the Ricci Institute, boxes from the warehouse await unpacking and art awaits hanging in early April 2022.

After four weeks of packing, the first truck left California on January 27th. Five more trucks would be needed to complete the move. The collections were temporarily stored at the Iron Mountain warehouse until renovations were completed at BC. The move-in from the warehouse started March 28th and took about two weeks.

A man in jeans and a black sweatshirt stands on a stepladder while placing a book on nicely finished but empty wooden shelves.
Archivist Mark Stephen Mir ceremoniously places the first book on the shelves of the Ricci Institute in March 2022.

Currently,  the RI staff is busy organizing, sorting, re-shelving, picking up empty boxes, and putting the public spaces in order. BC Facilities will soon install wall mountings to hang some of their most representative pictures. In the closed stacks, much work on the shelf arrangement is needed, but that will happen over a long stretch.

The Ricci Institute is expected to open in May, and in June it will welcome its first cohort of 13 doctoral and postdoctoral fellows from Asia, Europe and North America for a three-month summer fellowship program at Boston College.

Nicely finished dark wooden shelves line a room with wooden tables, tall windows, and hanging light fixtures. Moving blankets cover the tables and stacks of boxes sit in the far corner
Books are in the process of being shelved in the renovated Creagh Library, now the Ricci Institute, on Boston College’s Brighton Campus in early April 2022.

Scott Britton

Associate University Librarian, Public Services, Office of the University Librarian