By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
KANSAS CITY — Working in the field of history was a childhood dream of Zachary Daughtrey, and as the new archivist for the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, he feels that that dream came true.
His story? He was born in Kansas City, in 1984, and though his family moved to Bolivar in southeast Missouri in 1996, Zach always wanted get back to Kansas City. It took 20 years. He attended high school in Bolivar, then enrolled at the University of Missouri-Columbia with the idea of becoming a lawyer. But his pre-law classes didn’t excite him. After a while, he realized what he really wanted to study was history, especially the 19th century. So Zach switched majors, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in History from Mizzou and then was accepted in to the Master’s program in History at Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau. While working on his MS in History, he worked on his Latin and received training in historic preservation.
An archivist must have a passion for history, he said. And Zach definitely does. After obtaining his Master’s degree in History, he enrolled in the Doctoral program at Oklahoma State University, specializing in 19th century U.S. and ancient Mediterranean history. “I can read Latin well enough to translate it pretty well,” he said with a smile. “Right after I got this job, I was asked to translate a document in Latin, which was interesting.”
For three years, Zach worked as a teacher’s assistant at OSU and in Special Projects in the university’s archives. He received archival training, including organization and digitization of historic and archival documents while working in Special Projects. He returned to Kansas City to work on his doctoral thesis.
He registered with several online job search engines. Several months ago, just out of curiosity, he clicked on his spam emails, and there was a description and application for the job of Kansas City-St. Joseph diocesan archivist.
“I thought it sounded interesting, so I applied. First I had a phone interview, and was told it would be a week or so before I heard back.” He chuckled. “A little longer than a week, actually, but then I was called in for a personal interview. When (then archivist) Father Mike Coleman called me and offered me the job I was excited.”
His first month on the job convinced Zach that “getting this job was God’s will.” He loves getting up and coming to work every morning. “I never know what to expect when I get to work. The archives here are amazing; what Father Coleman has done with the artifacts and documents — the foundation he has built over the past 30 years is not something I want to get rid of. My goal is to build on Father Coleman’s foundation, which is clearly a labor of love.”
There are wonderful works of art, especially from the 19th and early 20th centuries and some need restoration, he said. Shelves full of books and documents should be archived, if they haven’t been already, and Zach has plans to take care of those needs. He also plans to digitize the history of the diocese, as far back as there are records, and the modernizing of those records will be good for the diocese and for the parishes. Digitization will make old records easier to search online, he said, and will provide a backup so nothing will ever be lost.
“I love working here,” he said, “It is an unbelievable job. I couldn’t be more blessed. I am excited to come to work every day. I find I’m smiling all the time! I found a box containing Bishop Hogan’s chalice and some other things. ”
As archivist Zach will be serving both the Church and the diocese, giving back to the diocesan community at large. He hopes to assemble some permanent exhibits in the chancery, displaying some of the artwork, documents and books, and artifacts that are not claimed by the Diocesan Reclamations Office for reuse in existing or new parishes.
One of his first and foremost goals will be to put together a sacramental records handbook for the diocese, modeled on the handbook of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. This will create uniformity and policy on how records will be recorded and submitted to the diocese, for example, using acid free paper and pens that don’t bleed to record data required under Canon Law.
Zach is working on the handbook now. “Only five dioceses in the U.S. have this kind of handbook. It will bring record keeping into the 21st century, and make certain that all parishes throughout the diocese are on the same page. Parishes will be more united. And in assembling the handbook, he will work with Benedictine Sister Rita Killackey, Father Ken Riley and Father Coleman regarding Canon Law.
“This is a dream come true,” Zach said. And, he will complete his thesis and receive his PH.D in History this coming December.