Fonds RBSC-ARC-1771 - Mary Olga Park fonds

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Mary Olga Park fonds

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Fonds

Reference code

RBSC-ARC-1771

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Issuing jurisdiction and denomination (philatelic)

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Date(s)

  • 1986 - 2017 (Accumulation)
    Accumulator
    McCaslin, Susan
  • [ca. 1898] - 1985 (Creation)
    Creator
    Park, Mary Olga

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Physical description

4.0 m of textual records and other material

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Archival description area

Name of creator

(1891 - 1985)

Biographical history

Mary Olga Park (née Bracewell) was a contemporary spiritualist mystic and self-published writer who lived most of her life in Vancouver, British Columbia. She was known for her non-denominational, theological beliefs and for the prophetic visions she experienced. She did not consider herself the head of a church or esoteric cult—or as a medium or psychic—but rather as a spiritual teacher.

Park was born to Ellen and Bruce Bracewell on February 24, 1891 in Gargrave, Yorkshire, England. As a child, Park showed an interest in nature, music and religion. Park was raised as a Wesleyan Methodist. After the local Wesleyan church disbanded, she secretly attended an Anglican Church against her parents’ wishes, as she was drawn by the music, liturgy, and sacramental worship. Park attended various schools in the suburbs of Birmingham until the age of fourteen, when she won a scholarship to Aston Pupil Teachers’ Centre. She studied there for three years, but also wished to pursue a career in music.

Park and her family immigrated to British Columbia in 1910, when Park was 19 years old. It was a difficult transition for Park, who had abandoned her musical and educational opportunities and social connections in England. The family settled in Revelstoke, British Columbia and soon after moved to a farm in South Vancouver, British Columbia. By 1914, Park began to receive dream visions showing her the experiences of soldiers in the First World War. From then on, she received psycho-spiritual experiences of Jesus Christ and other saints, philosophers, and thinkers.

On March 24, 1917, Park married James Fleming Park, and they had two children: Robert Bruce Park and James Samuel Park, who died a few days after his birth. Throughout the 1920s, Park was active at St. Mary’s Anglican Church in South Vancouver. She taught Sunday school and was a leading member of the church choir. During this time, Park became close with Rev. Charles Sydney McGaffin, the rector of the church. She considered him to be a man of progressive spiritual understanding. Through the 1940s, Park continued having visions and mystical experiences. Notably, Park received the words and music for a mystical communion service she practiced for the rest of her life at her own home worship altar, and kept a regular morning and evening practice of contemplative prayer. Park also became the Canadian representative of the Churches’ Fellowship for Psychical and Spiritual Studies in 1956–1963, corresponded with the Psychical Research Society in London, and was a member of the Spiritual Frontiers Fellowship.

Due to the broadening of her theology, she eventually felt compelled to move outside the parameters of the institutional Church. As she grew older, Park became dissatisfied with the nature of church dogma, or in her words, “Churchianity,” and broke ties with the Anglican Church. After her husband's death in 1959, she went to live with her son until 1964, when she moved to a small cottage in Port Moody. She devoted the rest of her life to living as a solitary contemplative. After word of her spiritual “awakening” and beliefs began to spread by her self-published books and by word of mouth, she received “seekers” and “learners” who wished to receive instruction on her spiritual practice. She began to regard those with whom she built her spiritual relationships as an informal society which had roots in interior realms and she referred to it as the Society of the Mystical Communion of Christ (SMCC).

Park continued to live alone at her cottage until 1978 when, after breaking an ankle, it was necessary to move back to Vancouver where she continued to receive visits from seekers and learners. Due to her advancing age and frailty, Park was transitioned to a care center for the elderly in Vancouver in 1983. Mary Olga Park died on December 13, 1985 at the age of ninety four.

Custodial history

The records remained in Mary Olga Park’s custody until her death in 1985. Park intended for the records and their copyright to be transferred to the custody of her spiritual mentee Susan McCaslin and her partner, Mark Haddock. The arrangement and contents of the fonds were influenced by McCaslin, who was the custodian of the records during the years after Park’s death. Not only did McCaslin reorder some of Park’s files, she also added to the existing files in Park’s original order. Therefore, contemporary word processing records can be found in the fonds, which were not removed in order to maintain the integrity of the archival bond of the records.

Most of the material was transferred to the University of British Columbia Rare Books and Special Collections in 2017; however some material remains with McCaslin. The donation of the fonds to the University of British Columbia Rare Books and Special Collections is with the permission of James Park, the grandson of Mary Olga Park.

Scope and content

The fonds consists of records generated and assembled by Mary Olga Park related to her personal life and associations, materials related to her career as a self-published writer, artist, and spiritual teacher as well as records related to the psychic experiences that she encountered throughout her life. Records span from Park’s early years in England to 1985, and were predominantly created in Vancouver British Columbia. Records from 1986 – 2017 were either added by Susan McCaslin, or Park’s son, Robert Park. The fonds is arranged into three series: Artistic, Literary, and Musical projects, Personal and Administrative Records and Psychic Records.

The Artistic, Literary, and Musical Projects series features drafts of Park’s musical transcriptions and annotated sheet music collection, hymnal book collection, sketches, pastel, and charcoal artwork, and her literary works in various genres, notably drama and poetry. The fonds also includes materials of her published and self-published works, and educational materials related to both her Sunday school position, and her spiritualist teachings. Record types include publications, drafts (typed, handwritten, and hand-annotated), correction notes, poems, manuals, procedures and instructions for her “learners,” Sunday school teaching material, prayers, study series material, sketchbooks and artworks, musical transcriptions, sheet music, and recordings.

The Personal and Administrative Records series contains records related to the personal life and administrative affairs of Park. Park kept detailed subject files on many different religious and spiritual phenomena, spiritualist writers, and completed her own Bible studies. She also corresponded with family, friends, and her “learners.” Record types include Bible study notes and annotations, family history research, education certificates, childhood books, religious and spiritualist publications, newspaper clippings and ephemera, diaries, notes, and personal notebooks, professional and personal correspondence, subject files on spiritualist matters, astrological charts, audio cassettes, photographs, and a postcard collection.

The Psychic Records series aggregates records Park kept throughout her adult life recording various psychic phenomena which she experienced. The records are textual accounts of clairvoyance, clairaudience, “out-of-the-body” experiences, dream visions and soul sight, voices, manifestations, astral encounters, precognition, and healing. Park often referred back to these notes at later dates and annotated their meanings to her as they informed occurrences in her everyday life. These records informed much of her teachings and publications, but were kept separately in her original record-keeping environment.

Notes area

Physical condition

Some textual items in the fonds are brittle and are undergoing deterioration. Some records in the fonds feature rusting inorganic materials (e.g. staples and spiral notebook coils).

Immediate source of acquisition

The fonds was acquired by the University of British Columbia Rare Books and Special Collections, from the donors, Susan McCaslin and Mark Haddock, on May 30, 2017. An additional accrual was received in 2018.

Arrangement

The original physical order of Park’s filed have been retained; however, records have been partially rearranged by Susan McCaslin while they were in her custody. Boxes 1-5 were originally the contents of Park’s filing cabinet, and are arranged alphabetically. These boxes reflect the order in which the creator kept her records and the changes McCaslin made.

Language of material

  • English
  • Latin

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Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

Users must abide by relevant copyright legislation.

Finding aids

File List available.

Associated materials

For materials relating to Park, including her books "Between Time and Eternity" (1960) and "Man, the Temple of God" (1968), other spiritual and biographical writings, and records of the Service of Mystical Communion with Christ (S.M.C.C.). see the University of Manitoba Archives Fonds MSS 380 - Mary Olga Park https://umlarchives.lib.umanitoba.ca/olga-park-fonds

Related materials

Accruals

Further accruals may be expected

General note

Photograph identifiers: RBSC-ARC-1771-PH-001 to RBSC-ARC-1771-PH-191.

Physical description

2.5 m of textual records
181 photographs : b&w and col., multiple processes
66 audio cassettes
2 LPs : analogue, 33 1/3 rpm
1 cape : polyester, grey
1 pin : glass, col.

Conservation

The archivist has attempted to remove rusting inorganic materials from the fonds, but some may remain.

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Description created by Andréa Tarnawsky in November 2017. Updated April 2018.

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