Monthly Archives: August 2012

Aided by the Henry Luce Foundation

The Henry Luce Foundation is generously supporting the Burke Library Archives processing grant. As quoted on the press release:

"We are delighted that the Luce Foundation can play a part in The Burke Library's preservation of these important collections, so that they can be readily accessible to a wider readership," said Michael Gilligan, president of the Henry Luce Foundation. "Although these collections are distinct from our own archives, they are clearly linked to two parts of our history—Henry R. Luce's intention to honor his parents, Presbyterian missionary educators in China; and the foundation's early support for Christian ecumenism."

The Henry Luce Foundation is dedicated to encouraging the development of religious leaders through theological education, and fostering scholarship that links the academy to religious communities and other audiences.

The Missionary Research Library Archives include a number of materials that involve Luce. Among European and North American libraries and archives, only MRL at Burke holds the 10pg. ecumenical document that was authored and utilized by Henry Winters Luce in 1910 for "cooperative survey of theological and bible training schools in China." MRL offers the only copy of "Minutes, Constitution, and Reports" of the Christian Educational Association of Shantung and Honan Provinces from 1917, which was the final year of H.W. Luce's professorship at Shantung Christian University. Luce was also the traveling secretary of the Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions from 1894-1895 and 1896-1897, which occurred after his two years at Union Theological Seminary.

These three examples from the life of Henry Winters Luce illustrate the unique cultural depth, geographic breadth, and historical importance of the missionary and ecumenical archives at the Burke Library. This project will allow for the provision of intellectual and physical access to two of the largest and most significant archival collections of ecumenical and missionary papers currently in existence.

What is MRL and WAB?

You may be asking yourself, why should I care about the Missionary Research Library and the William Adams Brown Ecumenical Library?


The Missionary Research Library (MRL) was created by John R. Mott in 1914 after the Edinburgh World Missionary Conference of 1910. It was created in response to the need for a central resource to provide information for the development and preparation of missionaries, as well as a documentary source for the history of mission work.  Mott stated that his intention was to create “the most complete and serviceable missionary library and archives in the world,” one that would be interdenominational, ecumenical, international, and rich in source material. He was the chairman of the Library Committee of the Foreign Missions Conference of North America, which sponsored the project, and he secured the financial support of J. D. Rockefeller, Jr.  Two administrators were chosen to develop the library. Charles H. Fahs became curator and Miss Hollis W. Hering became librarian.

Active missionaries consulted the library’s materials while on furlough and missionary boards, organizations, and individuals regularly donated materials.  By 1929, the library contained more than 70,000 books and pamphlets, including many scarce materials. Originally located at the Madison Avenue headquarters of the Foreign Missionary Conference of North America, MRL moved to Union Theological Seminary’s Brown Tower in 1929.

Financial difficulties, which plagued MRL for years, continued until 1967 when it was fully integrated with the Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary. The Burke Library became part of the Columbia University Library System in 2004.

The William Adams Brown Ecumenical Library was established in 1944 by vote of the directors of Union Theological Seminary as a memorial to Dr. Brown, who had been Roosevelt Professor of Systematic Theology at UTS. The ecumenical movement was a new interest in his later years, and the nucleus of the memorial collection came from Brown's working office library. The Ecumenical Library officially opened on March 13, 1945. As it did then, WAB serves as a source for the documentation and study of modern ecumenism.

The Collections:

MRL contains over 160 unique collections from missionaries and missionary organizations from six continents in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with special strength in early 20th century China, Japan, and Korea. This collection contains a broad range of field reports, demographic surveys, and other analytical data. As a result, the MRL Archives document the cultural and social realities of indigenous populations in substantive detail, and will amply serve scholars of religion, historians, anthropologists, economists, and medical researchers, among others.

WAB contains over 30 collections, including records of local (NYC), national, and international ecumenical organizations and communities, as well as records from ecumenical conferences (Protestant and Catholic dialogue) that have shaped global Christianity.


Hello and welcome to "The Hidden Archival Collections of the Burke Library!"

This is a blog which will help educate and raise awareness for two important archival collection groups at the Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary (Columbia University Libraries): the Missionary Research Library Archives (MRL) and the William Adams Brown Ecumenical Library Archives (WAB).

MRL and WAB are being fully arranged, described and made available with the help of the Henry Luce Foundation. The Luce Foundation awarded the Burke Library with $295,000 for this three-year project (more can be read through the press release).

The project began in August 2011 with the hiring of me, Brigette C. Kamsler, as the project archivist. I'm looking forward to sharing more information on the collections with all of you!