Monthly Archives: August 2012

A Lay Person’s Love-Hate Relationship with “More Product Less Process”

As a doctoral student, and specifically a student of ancient Near Eastern languages, I have learned to become increasingly detail oriented (read: anal retentive) as the years pass. The longer I study cuneiform, the smaller my handwriting gets and I have noticed certain OCD tendencies related to classification and organization sharpen in my “old age.” I assumed that when I began work in the archives with the CUL Graduate Student Internship, I would be doing detail-oriented processing (my fantasies of archival work being that of handling 16th-century Luther Bibles and other rare/fragile materials, such that opening a box would justify Harrison Ford-esque “That belongs in a museum!” exclamations). I thought I would be working closely with very specific materials and processing on an item level.

As Carrie Hintz, Head of Archives Processing/director of the CUL Graduate Student Internship program and my supervisor, project archivist Brigette Kamsler would explain, the “More Product Less Process” (MPLP) method began around five-years-ago to help libraries house and make available a greater number of collections in a shorter period of time, or with less resources. They explained that no matter what we do in archives, whether processing in tedium or by less detailed methods, we are still making the collections better than they were when we first encountered the materials. Great, right? Making things better, hauling through greater quantities in shorter periods of time, win-win! Everybody wins!

And then the anxiety began to creep in:
“What if researchers begin looking through this collection and see that things are not actually as organized as well as they *could* be?”
“What if, in working on a box level and grouping huge quantities of documents into large folders, I missed something about the original organization of the materials?”
“What if I am actually messing this all up!”

Doubts began to set in as I continued working through the 108 boxes of World Council of Churches materials, and I am sure that Brigette grew tired of my constant questions concerning whether I was actually doing this right or making a big fat mess! Part of this anxiety, from what I can determine, is that:

(1) *I* would never have allowed my papers, personal or otherwise, to be in such an organized state of disarray! (No offense, WCC and the people who were organizing your files in the first place…)
(2) I had a difficult time with the fact that certain papers or boxes did not have a clear “home” in the collection, as some of the materials related to one or more committee or section, or could be housed comfortably in various places
(3) “[Darn] it, Jim, I’m a doctoral student, not an archivist!”—without a degree or years of experience in the field of archival studies, how did I know that I was actually doing this right?

Well, I housed the WCC records—all 108 of those boxes—wrote the finding aid, printed pretty, uniform labels, and hauled those boxes back into their snug corner in the WAB section of the archives, and in two months flat! It really was a sight to behold, looking at the entire collection in its final (for now) resting place. While working on a separate collection after finishing this one, I found more WCC records. I was able to integrate these materials smoothly because of the basic organization that I imposed. Brigette informed me that a researcher had been inquiring into the collection in the spring and was told that he could access it in the next few years, as the time frame for when it would be finished was not then determined. Because of the CUL Graduate Student Internship program and due to the wonderful innovation of MPLP, he can access the collection now! I would say that is a true success story.

So yes, I was a huge ball of nerves for a few days here and there as I gave MPLP the old college try and confronted my disorganization phobias, but now the finding aid will soon be uploaded online, information on the collection can be generally located, and (I think) this collection is easier to access. At the end of the day, I will probably always have a love-hate relationship with MPLP (hate in the midst, love at the end), but the process is a valuable tool and a practical archival trend.

The Messy Truth about Foreign Missions

Foreign missions.  It's a pretty unpopular concept these days.  Missionaries are associated with all the damage wrought by the project of subjugation, exploitation, displacement, and genocide of native peoples and cultures across the world.  The criticisms are well-founded.

Retrospect is a tricky thing though.  History is often tainted by a touch of arrogance and a total lack of appreciation for how complex, messy, and nuanced real people and situations actually are.  We have a tendency to think that people were ignorant "back then."  We "know better now."  This is an idea that we like because it feeds our whole complex about "progress"… it makes us feel like we are better and smarter than those naïve people who preceded us (but wait, that’s an idea of Western imperialism…woops!). 

One of the best cures for the claims of revisionist history is a consultation with the archives.  While working with the Missionary Research Library Archives at Burke Library I processed MRL12: Personnel Policies of Foreign Mission Boards Records, a collection of 500 completed questionnaires that had been distributed in 1950 to former missionaries. 

Information they collected includes:
-personal data (age, gender, field location, years of service, missionary task)
-how they came to the decision to enter missionary service
-what (if any) training they received before entering the field
-whether their provisions, salaries, and living arrangements were sufficient
-whether the support they got from their board was adequate
-what effect the experience had on their Christian faith and their belief in missionary work
-their reasons for leaving

Missionaries of the 19th and 20th centuries: Who were they?
So who were the foreign missionaries from the 19th and 20th century, and how did they understand the work they were doing?  Were they really the offensively ignorant, racist, arrogant, and condescending bunch that we often imagine them to be?  Or were they actually in many cases humble, compassionate, self-aware, and even critical of foreign missions boards and those in power? 

The answer is, of course, both.  I certainly came across some questionnaires that included absurdly myopic statements about "heathens." Some of them actually made me cringe.  But most of the missionaries sounded basically the same as people today: conflicted, confused, frustrated with the shortcomings of their relationships and the limitations of the situations they found themselves in, but still hopeful, generally well-intentioned, and striving in the best way they knew how to achieve positive outcomes. Shocking, I know.

Looking through these survey questionnaires, I was really interested to discover that the most common concerns expressed by missionaries were imperialism, top-down policies, outmoded paradigms, bigotry, and paternalism. While these concerns obviously serve as evidence to substantiate the criticisms of foreign missions, they also reveal how many individuals were fully aware of, and attempting to work around, the problems posed by imperialism.  The voices of these missionaries serve as some of the most arresting indictments of missionary work.  Ironically, it seems that the original postcolonial critics were colonizers themselves. 

In Their Own Words
“Christianity must be de-Westernized,” insisted one respondent. “We must serve people of other lands as Christ served those around him.  We must divest ourselves of Western materialism.”  Another wrote emphatically, “Many missionaries are the worst type of colonial.  We should learn to live Christianity before we shove it down somebody else’s throat.” 

 

One missionary in South Africa from 1919-1947 was convinced that “without Christian schools and churches the African would have been dominated by whites much more than they are.” 

 

“With better understanding and appreciation of other religions,” wrote one man, “I am still convinced that Christianity is the ultimate answer to all the hopes and aspirations of the best in every faith.  My concept of ‘heathen’ and ‘non-Christian’ has changed to that of ‘friend’ and ‘seeker after truth’.”
 

Foreign Missionary Record #1600. Credit to MRL12: Personnel Policies of Foreign Mission Boards Records, box 5, folder 6, The Burke Library Archives (Columbia University Libraries) at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

More favorite quotes:

 “Imperialism has gone out of style and was always contrary to the Gospel.  Our task is to transmit the Gospel unfettered and cluttered with our culture.  The task of the church is not to crossfertilize cultures.  We carry too much baggage with us.  Jesus had nowhere to lay his head.  Professionalism has killed all creativity in missions.” –former missionary in Mexico 1951-1953.  Record #0757

“Foreign missionaries usually have negative attitude toward other religions, typically bigoted and intolerant.  As I learned to appreciate Indian cultures and Indian religions I saw that the whole philosophy of the missionary movement is alien to my understanding of Christ’s teachings.”  –former missionary in India 1923-1941.  Record #1225

“Too many missionaries are paternalistic.  Too many equate Christianity with Americanism.  Too few are really identified as Jesus was with the common people as one of them.  There is too little appreciation for the fact that missionaries can receive as well as give.  I went with the idea I was to help poor heathens.  China had a culture that was old before America was born.  I learned that after I lived there.  From the beginning, I resented along with my students foreign gunboats and other imperialistic demonstrations of foreign powers, including my own country.” –former missionary in China 1921-1938.  Record #1383

New Intern Expectations

Technically speaking, this is the last internship I will ever do as a student. The more I think about it, the more I am stunned that this part of my life is (finally!) coming to an end.  As part of my last semester concurrently earning my MLIS and Certificate in Archives and the Preservation of Cultural Heritage Materials at Queens College, I am taking what is known as the Internship Course. As required by this course, I had to find an internship on my own relating to my field of study (in my case, archives), and set out an Action Plan detailing what was expected of me and what I was expected to learn throughout the course of the semester. Over the course of the next few months I will be working on collections from the Missionary Research Library Archives and the William Adams Brown Ecumenical Library Archives and will be evaluated by how well I am sticking to the Plan and developing skills that will help further my future career.

Then when I started here at Burke two days ago, Brigette mentioned something interesting to me. She said that out of all the students she had as interns so far, I was the one who was the furthest in her studies. When I looked back on it, I realized she is right. Not only have I completed all the coursework required for my Certificate, but I had also come from a background involving a wide variety of archival internships. Processing everything from museum exhibition posters to a portion of Timothy Leary’s files at The New York Public Library, I have had my fair share of interesting exposure to what the “world of archives” has to offer. I wondered, would my expectations of the internship be different because of all the coursework and experiences I have had?

The more I thought about it, the more I thought that, yes, they would be different – but on the other hand, I also feel that on some level I am just as fresh and new as someone who has just begun their archival studies and has no idea what area of the profession to pursue. For me, it’s always been processing. I love discovering something new each day as I sift through a box or do research on an individual or organization – it’s almost like putting a puzzle together or solving a mystery! But so far, none of the internships that I have held have given me the opportunity to finish out a collection from start to finish. I have never known how it feels to put together a finding aid, to crack open a box for the first time and wonder “what in the world am I going to do with this?” I have always started on collections in media res, so I am really looking forward to seeing the collections I work on through to the end. It’s the skills that I intend to build processing these collections – among them critical thinking, writing, and a stronger grounding in archival theory and practice – that I hope will translate to a future processing job after graduation.

So far, I am holding firm in my dedication to being a processing archivist. As I have already mentioned, I love the mystery and puzzle of it all, the feeling that you never quite know what you are going to see that day. Having been working in reference for the past couple of years, I know that is not the place for me – at least not for the majority of the time, though I know it is just as important for archivists to have these skills as well. But who knows? Only time will tell over the next few months at Burke. I guess I (and you) will have to see if anything changes by then!

Luce + Archives

While processing the materials in MRL and WAB, we try to keep a special eye out for any collection which includes materials related to Henry Winters Luce. Henry W. Luce and his wife Elizabeth Root Luce were Presbyterian missionaries and educators in China during the early party of the twentieth century. Henry R. Luce, who started magazines such as Life and Time, created the Luce Foundation to honor his parents' legacy.

One such collection which we have that shows Henry Winters Luce activities is in MRL12: Eastern Fellowship of Professors of Missions Records, 1932-1965. HW Luce was secretary of this organization.


Credit to MRL 12: Eastern Fellowship of Professors of Missions Records, box 1, folder 8, The Burke Library Archives (Columbia University Libraries) at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

The Teachers of Missions Group was established to promote the fellowship, spiritual life and professional usefulness of its members through papers, discussion, prayer and social intercourse. Membership consisted of people in New England and the Mid-Atlantic area. The earliest records in this collection, recorded by secretary Henry Winters Luce, date from 1932; however the group began to meet informally in 1917. Early discussions included those on Laymen’s Foreign Missions Inquiry; interacting with International Missionary Council; and the discussion of training missionaries.


Minutes of the Meeting of the Teachers of Missions at Princeton Seminary, October 29, 1932.
Credit to MRL 12: Eastern Fellowship of Professors of Missions Records, box 1, folder 8, The Burke Library Archives (Columbia University Libraries) at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

The constitution was officially adopted April 1940 and stated their name as “The Fellowship of Professors of Missions.” Regular meetings were held twice per year with annual dues set at fifty cents. By 1954, the updated constitution changed the name to “The Association of Professors of Missions.” Membership was opened to professors of missions in the member institutions of the American Association of Theological Schools and by invitation. The meetings were also changed to once every two years.

In 1964, the name again changed to “The Eastern Fellowship of Professors of Missions” to show its region, as the group was a faction of the national Association of Professors of Missions. The national group became closely allied with the American Association of Missiology beginning in 1972. Both the Association of Professors of Missions and the American Association of Missiology are still in existence today.

We were excited to see Henry W. Luce and Henry R. Luce mentioned in the Foreign Missions Conference of North America collection, which is currently being processed. We will have more to share with Luce + Archives in the near future.

The Burke Library Archives: An Unexpected Healer

Earlier this year I received the good news that I was chosen out of a large pool of applicants as one of the six graduate student interns for the CUL Graduate Student Internship Program 2012-2013. This program is designed to enrich the student’s graduate studies and professional training through hands-on archival work, while simultaneously providing an opportunity for the Libraries to benefit from the unique expertise and scholarly knowledge that doctoral/advanced degree students bring to related archival projects. Interns work a total of 375 hours throughout the academic year, focusing the bulk of their hours during the summer months. I was chosen to work at the Burke Library with Brigette C. Kamsler, Luce Project Archivist, to assist with processing the Missionary Research Library (MRL) and William Adams Brown (WAB) archival collections.

Currently, I am a doctoral student at Union Theological Seminary focusing on biblical studies. I grew up as a missionary kid in a fundamentalist Christian denomination and was born on the mission field (made in the U.S.A., born in Lisbon shortly after my parents began their time on the mission field!). I lived overseas for the first eight years of my life and have memories of the church that my parents planted in Portugal. I was born into a bilingual context and my first words were in Portuguese (“lua,” which means “moon”). The first self-portraits that I shaded in crayon on coloring pages during Sunday school hour were dark-skinned as the bulk of my friends and fellow church-goers were Angolan refugees, Brazilian immigrants, and Portuguese nationals. My child’s mind had no conception of my white skin, blue eyes, sandy hair, or the implications of my family’s presence as white, American, conservative Christian missionaries in the second-poorest country in Europe in the 1980’s. I grew up amid poverty with daily reminders of the devastation of alcoholism lining neighborhood stoops during the day and shrieks of domestic violence wafting faintly through apartment walls at night. I had very few toys and learned how to play the old-fashioned way with my brothers and the neighborhood children swarming the quiet street out front for a game of soccer, and the occasional romp through open fields to pick blackberries at the edge of town. I had no idea how little we had or needed.

Upon assimilating into an American lifestyle and attending public school, college, and graduate school in the U.S., I learned about the ill-effects of postcolonialism. I gained a new perspective on how white, Christian missionaries used the excuse of evangelism to exert power over other cultures in the name of the Gospel, subverting valid cultural experience to convert people to a “proper” (meaning, forced or white) enculturation. Desmond Tutu is famous for using the following anecdote (which exists virtually in various formats): “When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said ‘Let us pray.’ We closed our eyes. When we opened them, we had the Bible and they had the land” (Steven Gish, Desmond Tutu: A Biography, 2004, 101). As I learned about postcolonialism, race matters, religious manipulation, and interrogated my own white privilege, I felt confused and ashamed that such a formative, integral (and happy) part of my life’s narrative was so painfully wrought through domination, power-abuse, racism, cultural degradation, and religious narcissism. When I began my studies at Union Theological Seminary, a liberal theological institution, I was received with curiosity and suspicion from certain faculty/peers about my Master’s seminary education at a moderate evangelical institution, such that I knew information about my upbringing as a conservative baptist missionary/pastor’s kid would make me even less popular. I learned to be ashamed of my upbringing as a missionary kid, to loathe this part of me that so intricately connected and implicated me in white colonialism, and would omit/frame generally this information when discussing my personal narrative for the next three years.

Working on the World Council of Churches (WCC) and Foreign Missions Conference of North America (FMCNA) collections has been a surprising opportunity for me to confront some of my guilt/shame issues surrounding my upbringing as a missionary kid. As I put on the white cotton gloves and sleeved into Mylar picture after picture of religious leaders gathering from around the world in the early- to mid-20th century, I entered into their narratives and saw the finer strokes of nuance that archival material tends to unearth. I placed the missionaries and ecumenists in their cultural contexts and began to consider that perhaps some of their intentions were good, though thoroughly enacted within contexts that were, decidedly, imperialistic, racist, sexist, and problematic for contemporary standards. Reading about initiatives to create active dialogue among the worldwide Christian church, I gained an ability to place alongside the essentializing narrative of white missionary colonialism the transformational implications of global disaster relief, orphan care, agricultural, and public service initiatives, which originated with missionary and ecumenical movements. Sleeving picture after picture, laughing over head shots of archbishops with bushy caterpillar eyebrows and imposing pontifical stances, marveling at the various Orthodox/Catholic/denominational headdresses, squinting to see the women and persons of color standing with various committees as leaders and change agents in landscape photographs, and celebrating the countries and diversities represented through the WCC conference photographs, uncovered and simultaneously healed a part of my narrative that I had not realized until this point was so deeply bruised.

I expected to walk into my internship this summer to house collections, learn a new thing or two about processing materials, and get really dusty. I did not expect to walk out with a renewed sense of narrative and a peace with my upbringing as a missionary kid. Who knew that the Burke Library Archives, with its crumbly materials and yellowing pictures, would prove to be a place of reflection and acceptance, of healing and renewal.

Storage of the UNP


Entrance to Union Theological Seminary


Brown Tower

When I first saw the posting for the project archivist position at Burke, it was a bit daunting.

For one thing, it was a Columbia University Library – the academic library system is one of the top five in the nation. The project itself was also a little intimidating – 300 feet unprocessed? Really?

Luckily, I had a wonderful experience throughout the entire interview process. Not only did Columbia sound like a great place to work, but once I saw the actual unprocessed boxes I was able to visualize the project better. What we lovingly refer to as "The Heap," became very doable.

The unprocessed (UNP) collections included in this project are split between two floors in the Archives Storage. The storage was actually once the MRL reading room, fancy spiral staircase and all. Each time I enter the storage area, I think how neat it is that people from around the world used this very room to research the collections I am processing and preserving for future use.


Sign commemorating Fahs and Hering, still located in the Archives


Infamous spiral staircase

I am happy to say that with the help of my student assistants, we have made a big dent into the UNP I look forward to reducing and eventually eliminating it throughout the duration of the project!


Part of the UNP

Great News

The Lindquist Native American images are now online in a wonderful new website! This was a joint project between the Burke Library Archives, the Columbia University Libraries' Preservation and Digital Conversion Division, and the Libraries' Digital Program Division. You can read more about the project through the press release as well.

The Lindquist Papers are part of the Missionary Research Library series 10: North America. Those papers are included in this project grant and are high on the "processing priorities" list, so check back for the finding aid!

Why the Library is Actually the Most Exciting Place in the World

I’ll admit that prior to getting my job in archives at the Burke Library, the extent of my familiarity with archives was based on some combination of the following: Obi Wan Kenobi’s search for the mysterious planet Kamino in the Jedi Archives in Star Wars Episode II, Tom Hank’s struggle to get into the Vatican Archives in Angels and Demons, and my brother’s strange obsession with using archival materials to dig up our family genealogy records.   Yet despite my overall ignorance, somehow nothing in the world sounded more exciting than spending hours at a time holed up in a dusty library tower, sifting through boxes of materials that time (almost) forgot. 

I’ve also always secretly wanted to be a librarian.  What can I say?  I’m book-ish.  I’m also admittedly a vintage kind of girl; I like reclaiming the old for the new.  On top of that one of the major things that attracted me to coming to Union Theological Seminary for my master’s degree was that it boasted of having the “largest theological library in the Western hemisphere,” with holdings of over 700,000 items, including extensive collections of rare archives and special materials.  I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant.  But it sure sounded cool.

On my first day at work I was shown to my desk, introduced to the others in the tower, and given a tour of the archive storage facilities.  All of that was pretty much what I expected.  But then I was handed several academic articles on archival theory and told to spend the next couple of days reading and familiarizing myself with the material.  A crash course in library and information sciences: not what I was expecting.  I had always wondered what a degree in library studies could possibly entail.  Having always been a pretty organized person, all my life it had seemed to me that the proper place for anything was basically self-evident.  But of course, real truth is always a moving target, and what is self-evident to me at one moment may be in no way evident to someone else in some other moment.   “Facts” are never as secure as we want them to be.  Information is always being framed and re-framed by the motivations and assumptions that give it context, and context is made up of a thousand silent and invisible factors that create the paradigms that give facts meaning and make information matter.  

Organizing information is complicated.

During that same semester I was also taking a class that covered roughly a thousand years of church history.  Union’s world-renowned history department prides itself on teaching seminarians to read history not as students but as scholars, meaning that we are never given a history textbook to tell us “what happened.”  Instead, we kept reading from, and hearing about the importance of, primary documents and sources. 

Primary documents are original historical documents, and they are incredibly empowering.  By consulting primary documents you are consulting history itself on your own terms and with your own questions.  You don’t have to settle for some other scholar’s version of the story (and for women, you don’t have to settle for what is so often his-story).   You can draw your own conclusions, make your own connections and interpretations, solve your own mysteries, draw up your own report.  This is what makes the Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary so important.  This is why people travel from all over the world every day to come here and look through our records, to lay their eyes on those primary sources and sleuth out their own facts, asking their own questions, writing their own stories. 

Through this work, I have had the opportunity to collect my own information and begin writing my own stories about a variety of subjects, most of which are vital to the writing and the work that I hope to do as an ecumenical Christian.  Maybe it is just the artist in me that possesses such a deep appreciation for tactility, but being able to see and handle primary documents for myself has led to some truly profound insights.  It is one thing to read a .pdf article or a published book containing transcriptions of text that someone wrote 200 years ago; it is quite another thing to hold in your own hands the fragile, slightly crumbling sheets of paper that the 200-year-old author actually scrawled his or her ink upon.  

One major shift in my perspective happened early on while working on my second collection.  I found two letters from 1901 written by Badi’u’llah and Muhammed Ali to the newly-established  Baha’i faith communities in the United States.  The language and style was so reminiscent of the letters that Paul wrote to the Christian churches of the first century.  This somehow gave clarity, potency, and incarnate form to the way I thought about those ancient texts.  The words are now translated into hundreds of languages, printed and bound in hundreds of editions of what we’ve now come to call the sacred “New Testament,” the Word of God.  But at one point, they were just letters.  Real letters.  Could it be possible that such a worthy fate would befall any of these documents I am currently now holding in my hands? 

It was then that the somewhat obscure, behind-the-scenes work of library archivists throughout time began to take on huge significance for me.  I realized that this is not just a quirky part-time work-study job of organizing boxes, books, and folders.  This job is about shaping history.  It is about empowering the people of the present and the future to write their own stories about what they believe happened in history, and why.  And as it turns out, nothing in the world is more exciting after all. 

The Why

Now that you know a little more about the MRL and WAB collections, as well as the Luce Foundation, I thought it would be useful to explain the reason behind needing this project in the first place.

Most, if not all, archives and libraries have what we call "backlog." Our collections are continually growing: we gather historic documents; professors, alumni, etc… donate their records; people leave material to us in their will; things like that. Unfortunately we don't always have the time (or the funding) to fully process and make available collections as soon as they come into our possession. We give them basic care, security, and the proper environmental conditions and control, but physically arranging and intellectually describing materials can be very time-consuming.

Enter the first reason for this project.

A second major reason for this project and the need to care for MRL and WAB specifically is due to the damage suffered during a major water incursion disaster in the Burke's modern archives stacks in June 2003. Water from a plumbing accident in the Brown Tower (this Brown is not the same as William Adams Brown!), two floors above, saturated materials from the WAB and MRL collections.

The wet papers in disintegrating boxes were quickly removed, relocated, shipped out as an emergency, recovered by vacuum freeze drying, and returned. These collections, which had already experienced a variety of temperature and humidity changes from being used throughout the world by missionaries and ecumenists, became even more fragile and disordered. There was approximately 300 linear feet returned in a state of disarray, with WAB and MRL collections intermixed and much of the original order lost.

The MRL Archives present the special challenge of fragile acidic materials. Various climates combined with being stored for almost a century in acidic boxes in over-heated conditions throughout the history of the actual Missionary Research Library added to their fragile nature. Many unique items are tightly folded and require time, patience and preservation techniques to unfold and care for the items in the long-term.

Throughout the duration of the Luce Project at the Burke Library, which just passed the one-year mark, we will arrange, describe, and provide wide access to a total of 573 linear feet of hidden archives. This project will process the collections so that they are organized and described, with basic preservation treatment through stabilization in acid-free containers, ordered arrangement, and removal of corrosive metals and other materials. This arrangement will enable more advanced preservation treatment and the potential for surrogate copies and selective digitization on those materials which have been stabilized.

For the first time, researchers will have access to many first-hand descriptions of cultural conditions documented by missionaries, physicians, and social workers in Asia, Africa, Australia, North America, Oceania, and South America throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. This project will also be the first to provide access to the records of some of the most important events and institutions in the history of the worldwide ecumenical movement, with especially rich documentation of the religious and cultural history of New York City.