Midwinter’s Tale from the Primary Source Internship

As we shake off the dregs of last week’s “bomb cyclone”, it seems an appropriate moment to recognize the most recent labors of the Burke’s student workers. By the end of his time processing archival collections in the library this December, Columbia Religion PhD candidate Andrew McLaren had processed a rangy, exceptionally complex number of collections at Burke. At the end of his time in the library this December, Andrew wrote the following reflection of his experiences processing and getting to know some of our library’s distinctive collections.

Warmest thanks to Andrew for his wonderful work these past months. Thanks also belong to Primary Source Internship and the Henry Luce Foundation, whose support facilitate the processing and access of collections like the Donald Shriver and Harrison Sacket Elliott Papers can be effectively processed for use by future researchers.

~~~

Collections

As a primary source intern at the Burke Library of Union Theological Seminary, I have processed four collections of archival documents. Addressing both conservational and organizational issues, I examined, described, and re-housed thousands of documents, photographs, and other materials.

 

Drawing on substantial work done by earlier archivists, I updated and completed the processing of three existing collections: the papers of William Walker Rockwell, Henry Boynton Smith, and Harrison Sacket Elliott. Each of these collections documents periods of growth for Union Theological Seminary. Henry Boynton Smith (1815-1877), educated in Europe, was among the Seminary’s most active librarians, pushing considerably for an expansion of its holdings with more rigorous scholarly collections. William Walker Rockwell (1874-1958), a scholar of church history, oversaw another significant expansion of the library, including the housing of the Missionary Research Library collection at UTS. He also aided with the library’s pioneering re-organization into an expansive research collection under the great librarian Julia Pettee in the early 20th century. Harrison Sacket Elliott (1882-1951), a former missionary in China and an active member of the YMCA, pushed the boundaries of theological education into new territory, extensively exploring the relationships among theology, education, and psychology and helping to re-make UTS’s place in religious education in America.

 

The bulk of my time, however, was devoted to processing the papers of the 13th President of Union Theological Seminary, Professor Donald Woods Shriver, Jr.  (b. 1927). President Shriver is well-remembered for navigating a stretch of financial difficulty for the Seminary. Moreover, his vocal advocacy for the importance of ethical thought and critical remembrance is well-known, culminating in his 2005 book, Honest Patriots: Loving a Country Enough to Remember its Misdeeds, which earned President Shriver the Grawemeyer Award in Religion in 2009.

Moreover, the extensive collection of notes from both his own education (including coursework with R.R. Niebuhr, Talcott Parsons, and Robert Bellah) and the courses he taught as a professor at Union provides a window onto a formative period of theological and religious studies education in America. Internationally engaged, ethically minded, and publicly active, President Shriver’s legacy represents rather aptly the educational values of Union.

Donald Shriver Portrait. UTS2. Faculty Photographs: Pres. Donald W. Shriver.
The Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University 

II. Notes on a Process

As a student of early Islamic history, I’ve learned that certain kinds of distance are part of the work: temporal ones (between now and the 10th century), spatial ones (between the Burke Library, and, say, Baghdad), and material ones (between manuscripts and printed editions). I applied to the primary source internship hoping to develop a clearer insight into the relationships between the interpretation of texts and their physical histories. Although the contexts are entirely different, thinking about how the written traces of someone’s life’s work are distilled and distributed neatly into folders and boxes is not unlike the way one must think through the construction of a text.

 

In my research on early Islamic historiography (i.e., the study of how people understand the past and talk or write about it), I’m often hunting for minute hints of how scholars assembled their texts. This can be extremely difficult for eras in which relatively little textual material survives. In a sense, it’s impossible to check the work of our historians, because their resources have often disappeared (in the hubbub of an ancient library, in a fire, in a worm’s stomach). As one of my professors often opines, he’d use a time machine not to alter the course of history, but to have a bit of conversation with al-Tabari, the great 10th-century historian, and a peek at his personal archive. In the meantime, we have to read very carefully for the “seams” of the text—moments of disagreement, patterns in language usage, or anachronistic references can all prove significant for imagining how the surviving text was assembled.

 

As an intern working on processing papers, I stood at the opposite end of that process. The papers of Smith or Rockwell are fragments of story, waiting to be sewn together. And since one of archiving’s imperatives is preserving a sense of the papers’ provenance, organizing documents and photographs in a neutral way that keeps context in focus but bows to a logic requires careful thought. A keen observer might already be able to see the rudiments of a story in the way a collection is organized (this is perhaps especially true, given our propensity for thinking about things in chronological sequences). Of course, the second side of the coin is the difficulty of even wrapping one’s head around all the accessioned materials (for instance, President Shriver’s papers arrived in 30-some bankers boxes). Where do you start if you don’t know the beginning of the story?

Ultimately, the archive points toward the power of the organizing narrative. Six dozen document boxes sitting quietly on the shelves can’t tell their own story; 1700 photographic negatives themselves can’t recount the past without a little light shining through them. In this idea, there is perhaps a rather poetic connection to President Shriver’s work on the significance of communal memory, particularly of the shameful past. Because our stories obscure as easily as they reveal, it is the narrator’s task to tell a story that takes account not of who we wish we had been, but who we must be in the future.

I wish to extend my thanks to Matthew Baker, Betty Bolden, Myong Jin, Rebecca Potts, and Deanna Roberts for their generosity in all things. I want especially to thank Rebecca M. Nieto for all her guidance and good cheer in the course of my internship. –AGM

~

Andrew McLaren is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Religion at Columbia University. His dissertation research focuses on a historiographical text about conquests and politics in the first three centuries of Islam, as well as its reception in various geographical and linguistic contexts and understandings of history.

Interview with Betty Bolden

The following is taken from interviews with Betty Bolden by Meredith Levin, the Burke Library’s interim Head from 2016-17. Betty will be retiring in December 2017 and will be greatly missed by her many colleagues and friends!

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After nearly 50 years at the Burke Library, Betty Bolden, one of Union Theological Seminary’s most beloved community members, is ready to begin her much-deserved retirement at the end of 2017. I  had the privilege of working with Betty last year in my role as the Interim Head of the Burke and I’m so grateful that I was able to learn from her. Recently, I had the chance to sit down with her one more time and ask about her many experiences in various roles at the Burke. Below are excerpts from our conversation.

What’s the strangest library request you’ve ever received?

Years ago, probably in the 1970s, UTS offered (possibly for the first time) a class on sexuality and there were 2 copies of a book, “The Playbook,” that were placed on reserve for students in the course. This book detailed male and female bodies, positions, and featured a lot of graphic content. Whenever students needed to borrow the book for class, they would often hide it under piles of their other books so nobody could see what they were checking out. This was in the early years when there were battles against pornography and everybody was talking about decency. It was a big deal for this course to cover some of these issues and questions. And both copies of “The Playbook” were stolen before the end of the semester so I guess people were really, really interested in learning more…

It’s been nearly 5 decades since you first walked through the doors of the Burke. How has the library changed?

There are more people than ever in the main reading room. In the last 3 years in particular I’ve noticed that the library is really full again. I think people still like books. I certainly still buy books myself.

We’re coming up on a big anniversary in this neighborhood. Spring 1968 saw sit-ins at Columbia (and at Union), protests over civil rights issues, the Vietnam War, and students vocally opposing academic administration in unprecedented numbers. What do you remember about those events?

I remember that when the Union sit-in began I couldn’t get into work because the building was totally locked down. I had a friend, a 1st year student at the seminary, who let me in and I just wandered the building all day long taking everything in. Later in the afternoon some reporters arrived and began interviewing professors out on Claremont Avenue. Some members of the old guard, like Daniel Day Williams, were very upset by these events because it meant that seminaries were really changing. UTS students were also in close contact with Columbia students. What was happening on the Columbia campus resonated with Union students and vice versa. It was really an exciting time- students everywhere were invested in activism and social justice issues, particularly around the Vietnam War.

How many different Burke Library directors have you worked with (and outlasted)?

8 directors! One who stands out was Father Molloy- he was very nice and taught me a lot. I remember him wearing the fanciest, tailor-made clothes and driving a Mercedes. He was quite a character. He later went on to work at the Smithsonian and I think at SMU.

So, it’s been a while, but how did you get your first job at the Burke?

I had never heard of Union. I was living in Brooklyn at the time looking for jobs and I had gotten an offer for an agency in the South Bronx. My brother told me not to take that job because he said it was too dangerous so I kept looking. I had a friend who worked at General Theological Seminary and when we met for lunch one day her boss who offered to introduce me to the HR person up at Union. I came to Union for my interview and there were two open jobs: 1 in an office and 1 in the library. I decided I would prefer the library job so I took it and I first worked as a circulation assistant. In those days, Burke had a large staff and I remember the big card catalog drawers that could open on both ends so staff members and patrons could access the cards if they needed to. The Missionary Library had its own separate staff of 4-5 people and the Religious Education Library was up on the 5th floor. The Sacred Music Library was also located in the two rooms behind the main reading room on the 3rd floor.

What will you miss most about working at the Burke?

Daily contact with the students and interacting with special collections readers from all over the world.

Do you have a favorite archival collection or rare book

Carter Heyward Papers

Beverly Harrison Papers

The Re-Imagining Community Papers

The Harry Emerson Fosdick Papers and the Near East Relief Committee Records are some of the most heavily used collections, along with those of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and other major theologians.

Some collections I’ve recently become interested in are the East Harlem Protestant Parish Records and the Student Interracial Ministry Records from the 1960s.

What advice would you give the person who takes on this job after you?

This is very physical work- heavy boxes are no joke! But this job enables you to work with so many different people and you’ll learn a lot from folks around the world. Once you start to know the collections better you’ll be able to refer people to other materials and that makes your interactions with readers even more special.

Any big plans for retirement?

I’ll be back at Union in February for the Trailblazers event honoring Professor Delores Williams and the 25th anniversary of the publication of her groundbreaking book, “Sisters in the Wilderness.”

In March 2018, I’m going to South Africa for 3 weeks. It’ll be my 3rd time in S. Africa but my first trip just as a tourist! The first time I went was in 1996 on a Plowshares trip and I went again in 2001 for a UN conference in Durban on homophobia/xenophobia.

Then I’m planning on taking a writing class, learning how to sketch and paint, and I’d like to volunteer in my community in the Bronx with formerly incarcerated people.

If you could go back to 1968 and give newly hired Betty some advice about working at the Burke, what would it be?

I wouldn’t warn her against anything. I was innocent when I started working here and I’m glad I came in with an open mind. I’d say to expect the unexpected and you’ll have fun.

Thank you, Betty, for your wisdom, kindness and mentorship to countless students and researchers who have visited the Burke. We wish you all the best and will miss you!

-Meredith Levin

 

Burke’s Religious Education Collection

Not much is known about how or why this large collection of college catalogs came to Union Theological Seminary except we did find postcards stuck into a few of them that tells us these were intentionally being sent and collected.  One such postcard included in this small exhibit dated from July 29, 1913, states:

 

We publish our Catalogue only once in two years. We are using 1912 with a supplemental slip, a copy of which I am sending you.

Fraternally,

Alfred Theol[ogical] Sem[inary]

  1. E. [last name illegible]

Ranging in years from approximately 1826 to 1983, this assembled collection is collectively referred to as the Burke Religious Education Collection and consists of school catalogs, registers, announcements, and bulletins mostly from seminaries and each have been cataloged and are findable through the library’s online catalog – CLIO (http://clio.columbia.edu).  

From plain beginnings to robust examples of graphic design, these catalogs offer a lot of information.  From names of students enrolled, to the names of professors teaching, to the courses being taught — numerous lines of inquiry can be drawn from these information-packed booklets.

 

 

This small exhibit will be on display on the 1st floor of the Burke Library through till the end of the fall 2017 semester.

All of these catalogs are cataloged and findable through the library’s online catalog (CLIO), to see all of the records just do a series search for “Religious Education Collection.”

Mr. Smith Goes to Berlin: German Learning in the Papers of Henry Boynton Smith

Below is a blog post written by the Burke’s current Primary Source Intern, Andrew McLaren. Andrew McLaren is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Religion at Columbia.Andrew McLaren is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Religion at Columbia University. His dissertation research focuses on a historiographical text about conquests and politics in the first three centuries of Islam, as well as its reception in various geographical and linguistic contexts and understandings of history. More broadly, he is interested in the function of the writing of texts in social history, particularly in historiography, theology, and law.

The staff at the Burke is thrilled that Andrew will continue to work with us into the next academic year, and we’re thrilled to make this special collection available for research. You can also read Andrew’s post on the Columbia University Libraries Internship Program blog.

 

Henry Boynton Smith (1815-1877) was professor and librarian at Union Theological Seminary from 1850 to 1874, joining the faculty at UTS after serving as a Congregationalist minister (1842-1847) and teaching philosophy at Amherst College (1847-1850). Smith is perhaps best remembered for the active role he played in the reunion of the Old and New Schools of the Presbyterian Church, beginning with his election as moderator of the General Assembly of the New School denomination in 1863. He also wielded significant influence in the growth of the study of church history in America.

Photo 1. Steel plate of H.B. Smith by Ritchie.

Before joining the faculty, however, Smith spent a long time in pursuit of education, including three years passed in Paris, Halle, and Berlin studying with several prominent theologians, philosophers, and Orientalists. Smith’s time there appears to have been incredibly productive. In a letter (dated April 30, 1839) to his parents, Smith describes a class schedule to make even the hardiest student blush:

My lectures are 8-9, Logic, with Gabler, five times a week ; 9-10, Jewish History, Hengstenberg, five times; 10-11, Job, Hengstenberg, five times ; 11-12, Neander, Acts, six times ; 12-1, History of Christian Doctrines, Neander, three times a week ; 4-5, Criticism of Hegelian Philosophy with Trendelenburg, four times; a lecture on John, twice a week; Homiletics, once; History of German Philosophy, twice a week; Twesten, Introduction to Christian Morals, once a week, and one or two others; one in Goethe and Schiller, twice a week. So you see my time is likely to be full

 

Photo 2. “So you see my time is likely to be full…” H.B. Smith’s class list. Spring 1839.

European philosophy in the lifetime of Henry Boynton Smith is usually thought of as sliding into stagnation, its energy sapped by the rise of the natural sciences. But as Frederick Beiser argued in a recent book, that narrative is largely incorrect; rather, the time between 1840 and 1900 actually saw a flourishing among philosophers desperately grappling with a confounded sense of purpose: what role should philosophy play in modern intellectual projects, like the natural sciences?

In this flourishing landscape, Beiser argues, many different stories can and should be told. One story has been recently related by Annette Aubert in her work on the influence of German theologians on their American counterparts, where she argues that H.B. Smith and other students who studied in Europe played a key role in the interpreting those ideas and translating them to America.

 

 

 

As the documents in H.B. Smith’s papers show, the thoroughfares and the byways of his career crisscrossed through the verdant intellectual landscape sketched by Beiser and Aubert. For instance, one of Beiser’s main characters, Adolf Trendelenburg (1802-1872), is one of the teachers mentioned in Smith’s course list, and Smith left behind a notebook full of detailed notes on Trendelenburg’s lecture course entitled Kritik des Hegelischen Systems (“Criticism of the Hegelian System”).

Photo 3. “Criticism of the Hegelian System, according to his [i.e., Hegel’s] Encyclopaedie. A. Trendelenburg.”

Among the papers are also several notebooks from classes with Friedrich August Gottreu Tholuck (1799-1877), a theology professor at the University of Halle and prolific author and preacher. With him, Smith studied Christian ethics, dogmatic theology, the Pauline letters (about which Tholuck wrote a famous commentary), and theological literature more generally. Smith maintained a lifelong relationship with many of his teachers, including Tholuck—12 letters from him are found among Smith’s correspondence.

Photo 4. Spine and page from notebook for Tholuck’s Christliche Sittenlehre (“Christian Morals”). The opening lines read, “Introduction. §1. Concept of the Moral.”

Of further interest are the notes of Smith’s own students at Union in the 1850s and 1860s, which were used in the posthumous publication of three volumes of Smith’s lectures in systematic theology. Even a quick perusal of the pages reveals that Hegel and other German thinkers are not absent from Smith’s work, but their appearance here alongside a broader swathe of philosophers (including English and French thinkers, from David Hume to Auguste Comte) reveals both Smith’s own erudition and the space of interaction into which he carried his German education. All of these intellectual currents are addressed within the broad gaze of Smith’s theology.

 

 

Photo 5. Page from Systematic Theology notebook, giving Hegel’s definition of spirit.

The history of philosophy in the late 19th century took many roads, some less-travelled than others. The papers and publications of Henry Boynton Smith show how one of those roads, travelled by a precocious young man from Maine, passed directly through Union, marked by a collection of signposts and waypoints in the Burke archives.

 

***

 

 

Further reading

A.G. Aubert: “Henry Boynton Smith and Church History in Nineteenth-Century America,” Church History 85, no. 2 (2016), 302-327.

A.G. Aubert, The German Roots of Nineteenth-Century American Theology. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

  1. Beiser,After Hegel: German Philosophy, 1840-1900. Princeton, NJ and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2014.
  2. Smith,Henry Boynton Smith: his Life and Work. New York: Armstrong and Son, 1881.

Behind the Stacks: You had me at “charts”

Since my last “Behind the Stacks” entry on R. C. Shimeall’s A Complete Ecclesiastical Chart, I have been noticing more charts, awkward formats, and too-large items within our special collections. As a redux of that post, here featured is another circular chart of history and yet another exhaustive production from Shimeall. Enjoy the images!

Cover — James M. Ludlow. Ludlow’s concentric chart of history. New York : Funk & Wagnalls, [c1885]. (Union Rare HH95 L94)

Spread of leaves charting B.C. history and “Modern Quarter Centuries” — Ludlow’s concentric chart of history.

Spread of leaves charting A.D. history; chart is approximately 23 cm in diameter — Ludlow’s concentric chart of history.

Title vignette of chart “exhibiting in one view the… Posterity of every Person mentioned in Scripture” — R. C. Shimeall. A complete historical chronological geographical & genealogical chart of the sacred Scriptures from Adam to Christ. Philadelphia : Published by H.S. Tanner, 1832. (Union Rare CU S55)

 “Explanation of characters” and “Directions for the proper method of reading this map” — A complete… chart of the sacred Scriptures from Adam to Christ.

Full view; chart is approximately 50 x 61 inches — A complete… chart of the sacred Scriptures from Adam to Christ.

To learn more about viewing special collections material at the Burke Library, please visit our website at Burke Rare Books & Manuscripts.

Exotic Travel, Biblical Geography and Tragedy in 1904: The Lewis Bayles Paton Papers

Among the many collections of personal papers held at The Burke, there is a small cache of materials belonging to Biblical geographer Lewis Bayles Paton and his first wife, Suvia Davison Paton. The Patons traveled throughout the Middle East in the early 20th century and Lewis led the American School for Oriental Study and Research in Palestine (based in Jerusalem) from 1903-1904. I was particularly interested in the documents written by Suvia Davison Paton, as they are mostly personal correspondence and diaries from her travels in Europe and the Middle East. Such travel accounts are invaluable in helping historians reconstruct Americans’ experiences abroad over 100 years ago but they are also poignant since they record how places change over time and how they remain the same despite the passage of many decades. Below are some anecdotes from the letters and diaries of Lewis and Suvia that really resonated with me. They offer a window into the lives of intrepid theologians and travelers in the early 20th century.

Lewis Bayles Paton in the early 1930s

Suvia’s description of a June 1890 visit to the Blue Grotto at Italy’s island of Capri is remarkably similar to the experience of a 21st century traveler on the island. Suvia and her husband visited Capri from Naples, traveling by ferry the 26 miles from the mainland to the island. “We were taken to the blue grotto first & left the steamer in row boats to enter the grotto as it is only 3 ft. high at the entrance. Everyone was obliged to get down in the bottom of the boat as we passed through the grotto but the grotto is 40 or 50 ft. high in the centre. A dozen boats were in it at the same time as all the passengers entered the cave & only 3 are allowed in one boat beside the boatman.”

Some years later, in the early 20th century, while they visited Venice, Italy, Lewis and Suvia attended Sunday morning mass at the Scotch Presbyterian church and she describes a quaint, intimate service: “About 40 people were present. The Scotch minister and his wife are earnest people & very pleasant. Afterwards there was a communion service to which we were all invited. 25 remained. The minister passed the one silver goblet of wine & a small plate of bread. It was a simple but impressive service which we all enjoyed. It reminded us of the gathering of the disciples in an upper chamber.”

When Lewis and Suvia journeyed to the Middle East in June 1903 so Lewis could continue his studies and lead the American School for Oriental Study and Research in Palestine, they landed first in Beirut. Geopolitics have changed significantly since the Patons’ arrival, as both Lewis and Suvia describe Beirut as being a city in Syria. Lebanon didn’t even exist as an independent nation! The Patons spent time in Damascus, Beirut, Smyrna, Palestine, and Egypt, visiting ancient sites like Jericho, the Sea of Galilee, and the Cedars of Lebanon.

A letter from Lewis to his mother-in-law from Cairo in January 1904. Their hotel boasted electricity and an elevator!

A flower collected and pressed by Suvia in Haifa in February 1904.

According to Lewis’ Report of the Director, 1903-04, written for the Managing Committee of the American School of Archaeology in Palestine (which included representatives from both Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University), his own studies were “devoted chiefly to the topography of ancient Jerusalem. I investigated all the archaeological remains that were accessible, and obtained a large collection of excellent photographs. …At the request of the Trustees of Hartford Theological Seminary [where Paton taught] I took advantage of my residence in Jerusalem and my trips to other parts of the country to make a quite complete collection of objects illustrating the life of the Bedawins and of the Fellahin. This collection is now on exhibition in the Museum of Hartford Theological Seminary, where it is open to the inspection of the public.” One wonders where these artifacts are today!

Lewis and Suvia led a very full life during their time in Jerusalem, participating in archaeological excavations and socializing with other scholars and diplomats residing in the region in this period. Tragedy struck in March 1904 when Suvia fell off the horse she was riding near Amman, Jordan and died shortly after, never regaining consciousness. Lewis touchingly records the incident in his report to the Managing Committee:

“Late in the spring, just before the end of the School year, we planned a tour in company of Dr. Masterman of Jerusalem, to make a more thorough study of ‘Araq el-Amir, then to visit Amman, Jerash, Pella, the Decapolis, and to return by way of Beisan and Nablus. We had gone as far as Amman, and were just starting on the road to Jerash. It was a cool, cloudy morning, and we were riding slowly over a level, grassy spot, when suddenly, without any warning, and without uttering a cry, Mrs. Paton fell from her horse. Her head struck on a sharp stone, and she never regained consciousness. We were able to move her to the Amman station on the new pilgrimage railway from Damascus to Mecca, and to take her in a train to Damascus. She died on the train within two hours of Damascus, and I was obliged to bury her body in Damascus. She was the constant companion of my travels, and whatever success may have attended the work of the School during the past winter is due to her enthusiasm and brave willingness to put up with the inconveniences of life in Palestine.”

It must have been so shocking and so awful for everyone involved, particularly Lewis, to have lost his beloved young wife suddenly and unexpectedly. Their young daughter had already gone back to the United States several months earlier but one feels, even more than a century later, so much sympathy for the family at such a devastating loss. The Paton collection at The Burke includes several carefully snipped and pasted obituaries and newspaper articles documenting Suvia’s death.

Lewis Bayles Paton went on to marry two more times before his death in 1932 and he enjoyed a successful career teaching and writing on diverse theological subjects. Anyone interested in Biblical geography, Western perceptions of the Middle East in the early 20th century, or personal travel accounts from a pair of adventurous Americans, should look to the Paton papers for illumination.

A Window into a Life’s Work: The Eddy Papers

N.B.: The following post was written by Bo Reynolds, a recent M.Div. graduate from Union and current archives assistant processing the papers of Norman and Margaret Eddy with the generous financial support of the Eddy family. Read more to learn about Bo’s spring working with this collection at the Burke! And congratulations to Bo and the rest of Union’s Class of 2017!

Since November 2016 I’ve been working as an intern in the Burke Library, specifically hired to process the Norman and Peg Eddy papers. The collection is a large one, with their photos, journals, correspondence, and personal archives filling 86 banker’s boxes which, when lined up side to side, extend over 118 linear feet. Norman and Margaret (Peg) were both Union alumni, members of the class of 1951, and dedicated their lives to ministering in East Harlem, initially through involvement with the East Harlem Protestant Parish and continuing with the different ministries and churches which were the heirs of EHPP’s spiritual legacy. Norman and Peg’s family, particularly their daughter Martha Eddy, continue to be actively involved with the collection as they work on compiling a biographical narrative of their parent’s faith and service.

Peg and Norman, May 30, 1951, shortly after their graduation from Union. UTS1: Norman and Margaret Eddy Papers, The Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York

 

I have a greater grasp on Norman’s life than I do Peg’s by virtue of his many varied autobiographical efforts and his meticulous preservation of his journals, essays, work-related materials, and correspondence dating back into his year spent as an exchange student at The Stowe School in 1937-1938 (where he became acquainted with Christopher Robin, son of AA Milne, author of Winnie the Pooh). Norman later studied at Yale, while Peg studied at Smith. Norman completed his course of study at Yale early, leading the class effort to acquire their degrees ahead of schedule in order to be able to serve in the war effort; he volunteered for the American Field Service as an ambulance driver.

 

Peg’s Union Diploma, May 22, 1951. UTS1: Norman and Margaret Eddy Papers, The Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York.

 

Both Norm and Peg were drawn to pursue theological study by the experience of a

spiritual vision: His was in the Syrian desert, hers at a light house in Nantucket. They both sensed that the Holy Spirit was at work broadly within the world, drawing people of faith and goodwill into cooperative efforts to address social ills; they both entered Union Theological Seminary in 1948, married in 1950, and graduated and were ordained in Congregationalist churches in 1951. They had become individually aware of the ministry efforts in East Harlem by the East Harlem Protestant Parish during their time at UTS and became co-pastors of the 100th street storefront church for the first five years of their ministries.

Norman and Peg lived and worked in East Harlem for the entirety of their ministries, with a deep commitment not only to their parishioners, but to the neighborhood itself and its citizens. I am not studying archival science; I came to Union Theological Seminary in order to prepare myself for parish ministry in the Episcopal Church. As I spend time organizing, preserving, and reading the materials left behind by Norman and Peg Eddy, I am continually inspired by the work and faith of the Eddy family. Their energy seems boundless as they tackled school reform, local elections, the formation of a credit union, the construction of two new church buildings, a committee to assist those addicted to Narcotics, global travel, interfaith work, and numerous sermons and essays. Their love for their neighborhood and their neighbors is immediately evident the amount of support, tangible and intangible, that they gave through reference letters for first-generation college students, advocacy and pastoral support for the incarcerated, anonymous donations to families in need, housing and shelter for those who had none; the list goes on.

Some of Norman’s letters from WWII (January, April, June 1943). UTS1: Norman and Margaret Eddy Papers, the Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York.

I am mindful, however, not to stray into writing hagiography. Their life’s work came with great personal cost at times and there are many instances of setback, heartbreak, and frustration present in their letters and journals. For me, though, the Eddys represent a life of true solidarity with those that they served. They lived in the community alongside their parishioners and made the cares and struggles of East Harlem their own. I read and handle their materials with deep gratitude for their race well-run and for the opportunity to encounter their ministries and stories in such a deeply personal manner. As I graduate and move on from Union towards a life of ordained ministry, I will remember the example and faith of Norman and Peg Eddy as I seek to walk in solidarity with people of faith and goodwill in service to ‘the least of these’.

Organizing for Racial Justice, 1960s and Today: A conference recap

The public-facing work of #LoveInAction:Voices in Social Justice culminated on May 3rd with a one-day conference held in Union Theological Seminary’s Social Hall, “Organizing for Racial Justice, 1960s and Today.”  The conference, an inter-school (Columbia and Union), inter-departmental (the Burke Library, the student fellows, Union alumni/ae, the Office of Alumni/ae Relations, and the Office of Student Affairs), inter-generational collaboration (I believe the ages of those involved with the planning ranged from 20 to 90!), featured Union alum that were involved in the Student Interracial Ministry in dialogue with current Union students and faculty.  Consisting of four panels, the day’s events were so rich, so charged with energy, that now upon reflection two weeks later, my words seem lacking in comparison.  Luckily for us, all of the panels were taped and will be available soon!

Flyer for “Organizing For Racial Justice, 1960s and Today.”

The conference started off by a welcome and general introduction by yours truly.  I made sure to scoot off the scene quickly so Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes, Jr. (’62) and storäe michele (class of 2017) could open  the conference.  Each read powerful poems they had written at different points in their lives.  The poem Dr. Forbes shared was written shortly after the legal integration of lunch counters in the South, where he had suffered an unfair and unjust encounter.  storäe read a powerful poem she had written in response.  The second panel, “Setting the Context: Racism and Student Activist in the 1960s,” was led by Dr. David Cline, author of From Reconciliation to Revolution: The Student Interracial Ministry, Liberal Christianity, and the Civil Rights Movement, 1960 to 1970, who gave a brief history of the Student Interracial Ministry.  After which Rev. George D. McClain (’64), Rev. Charles M. Sherrod (’66), Petra Thombs (M.Div. candidate), Benjamin Van Dyne (class of 2017), and Virginia Wadsley (’67) gave their responses.  All focused on their own personal experiences, for Rev. Sherrod, Rev. McClain, and Wadlsey these centered around their involvement with SIM.  Thombs and Van Dyne offered a critical lens from their own personal experiences at and around Union.

Rev. Dr. Douglas during her presentation, “White Supremacy in the Age of Trump.”

The afternoon sessions were started off with a talk by Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas (’82) based on her book Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God, “White Supremacy in the Age of Trump.”  Union student and #LoveInAction fellow, Tabatha Holley (M.Div. candidate) and Director of Alumni/ae Relations, Dr. Marvin M. Ellison (’81) co-moderatored the session, with Dr. Ellison introducing Dr. Douglas.  After Dr. Douglas’ talk, Holley asked some questions to get the conversation started.  Last but certainly not least was the final panel of the day, “White Supremacy and Student Activism Today,” which featured a mix of current Union students and professors including, Associate Professor of Ecumenical Studies, Dr. Chung Hyun Kyung (’87); Jessica Halperin (M.Div. candidate); Yazmine Nichols (class of 2017); Kaio Thompson (class of 2017); Assistant Professor of Homiletics, Dr. Lisa L. Thompson; and Wesley Morris (class of 2017). The panel was introduced by one of the SIM founders, John Collins (’61), and the questions moderated by #LoveInAction fellow, Kristine Chong (MA candidate). Each panelist gave extremely poignant and personal stories about where they were coming from with regard to social activism, both inside and outside of the classroom.

Shirley M. Sherrod speaking at the Union Medal ceremony, James Chapel, Union Theological Seminary, May 3, 2017.

The conference was followed by a Union Medal ceremony that honored Rev. Charles M. Sherrod (’66) and Shirley M. Sherrod for their lifetime of work for racial justice in Southwest Georgia.  As with the entire day, the ceremony is hard to justly give summary to.  Opening with the remarkable documentary about the Sherrod’s tireless efforts, Arc of Justice: The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of a Beloved Community, the Sherrods were individually presented with the Union Medal.

 

 

 

 

 

Stay turned for more blog posts about the various components of #LoveInAction: Voices In Social Justice!

Meeting “Pit”: Processing the Henry Pitney Van Dusen Papers

N.B.: The Burke Archives had the good fortune of inviting Olivia Rutigliano to be our Intern in Primary Sources for the 2016-2017 year. During this time, she has processed the papers of Henry Pitney Van Dusen, one of Union’s most well-known presidents. Read below to learn about Olivia’s first experience processing a large archival collection, Union’s history, and Van Dusen’s legacy.

In my capacity as Columbia’s Primary Source Intern for the 2016-2017 academic year, I have been working at Burke Library, processing an exhaustive collection of documents once belonging to Henry Pitney Van Dusen (1897-1975), who served as president of Union Theological Seminary from 1945-1963. The wide-ranging collection includes material concerning his teaching and academic responsibilities, his many book and article projects, his ministry and outreach, and his work for various international and domestic ecumenical committees and conferences, as well as his personal correspondence, and other materials or publications relating to his life as a public intellectual.

Portrait of HPVD. UTS1: Henry Pitney Van Dusen Papers, the Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York.

In short, it is a huge collection. In fact, before the collection had begun being processed, it took 72 banker’s boxes to hold the entire thing. Throughout the fall and spring semesters, my chief responsibilities principally included sorting through these boxes — organizing and classifying this large volume of materials within various definitive categories, removing them from packaging that might be chemically or physically hazardous to their preservation, locating dates and other identifying information for the contents, and producing a clear and intuitive Finding Aid, to help future researchers navigate the collection with ease.

Now, after nearly all the materials have been organized and sorted into (smaller, sleeker, and clearly delineated) manuscript boxes, we estimate that the collection physically spans around 100 linear feet (archival collections are measured the total width of every box in the collection). The collection contains letters, memos, sermons, lectures, photographs, magazines, pamphlets, programs, index and business cards, and entire book manuscripts, as well as countless drafts of both chapters and individual essays. It also contains several children’s illustrations completed in crayon on construction paper (likely made by Van Dusen’s children), messages from such longtime pals as John Foster Dulles (who filed a legal brief on his behalf, arguing that Van Dusen, who caused an outcry by admitting that he did not believe that Christ was literally born of a virgin, should not have his his minister’s ordination questioned by the Presbyterian General Assembly), and several copies of the 1954 Time, with Van Dusen as the magazine’s cover story.

A letter from Eleanor Roosevelet to HPVD. UTS1: Henry Pitney Van Dusen Papers, Series 8, Box 15, Folder 1. The Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York

A PhD student in Columbia’s English and Theatre departments, specializing in Victorian entertainment, I barely had any exposure to Van Dusen’s prolific and distinguished career prior to processing his papers. As I began to read and sort through his documents, I learned about the depth of his various worlds, and the impact of his tremendous influence. Indeed, Van Dusen was a prominent thinker and sought-after academic, whose expertise and engagement was vast — spanning very many contemporary issues. I processed many files of sermons and articles directly addressing contemporary theological and socio-political debates, as well as his own personal ruminations on ethical matters. He was the engineer behind many massive organizations of which I had heard, such as the World Council of Churches. He was also, I learned, an entrenched New Yorker — a descendant of one of New York City’s oldest families, who had been here since it inhabited a few hundred people and was called New Amsterdam. (Personally, I can claim three generations of family in the city — he could claim ten.) The Van Dusen family has, in its family tree, U.S. Presidents Martin Van Buren and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, as well as, I just found out, the Brooklyn-based clothing designer Dusen Dusen.

Letter from John Masefield on the birth of John George Van Dusen. UTS1: Henry Pitney Van Dusen Papers, Series 8, Box 2, Folder 1. The Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting two members of the Van Dusen family, Hugh, Van Dusen’s second son, and Hans, his grandson. They stopped by Burke to check out the collection, and I was delighted to show them a few items from it: birth announcements, letters of congratulations (including from UK poet laureate John Masefield) and a baby photo of Van Dusen’s oldest son, John George, as well as (a personal favorite of mine) a series of letters exchanged between Van Dusen and Eleanor Roosevelt, in 1954, through which Roosevelt enlisted Van Dusen’s help to work the Membership Drive Committee for the American Association for the United Nations. 

It was wonderful to meet Van Dusen’s family, who were excited to look at the documents and glad to chat about them; spending weeks upon weeks organizing and filing his material legacy, it was both lovely and uncanny to meet the people who had known him the best, during the life that he had documented so well. 

Missionary Research Library Pamphlets: 3,000+ Now Available Online!

Global in scope and including materials from as far back as the 18th century, the Missionary Research Library (MRL), housed at the Burke Library, chronicles world history and the efforts of Protestant missionaries both in the United States and abroad. The MRL contains over 20,000 pamphlets (among other items) and now, thanks to the hard work and dedication of Columbia’s Libraries Preservation and Digital Conversion staff, more than 3,000 have been fully digitized and are freely accessible online!

An outcome of the World Missionary Conference, Edinburgh, 1910, the MRL was founded in 1914 by John R. Mott (with funding from John D. Rockefeller, Jr.) in connection with the Foreign Missions Conference of North America. In 1929, the MRL was housed in the Brown Memorial Tower of Union Theological Seminary, its Board of Trustees composed of FMCNA (later DOM-NCCCUSA) and UTS members. In 1976, its unique collections, the documentary heritage of Ecumenical Protestantism, were transferred into the care of the Burke Library.

The MRL Archives contains collections of named missionaries’ papers and institutional records within 12 geographic divisions:

Series 1. Africa
Series 2. Near/Middle East
Series 3. South Asia
Series 4. Southeast Asia
Series 5. East Asia
Series 6. China
Series 7. Japan
Series 8. Korea
Series 9. Latin America
Series 10. North America
Series 11. Australia and Oceania
Series 12. Ecumenical/World Mission

The digitization work will continue this year as we look forward to sharing even more pamphlets from the MRL collection with the world. For anyone interested in MRL, please see the finding aids for the 12 archival series and Columbia’s catalog, CLIO, for individual pamphlets within the collection.