Monthly Archives: September 2012

World Council of Churches Records Available!

We are excited to announce that the World Council of Churches Records, 1893-1975 is officially open for researchers! Thanks to Amy Meverden for her hard work on this during her CUL Primary Sources internship.

The World Council of Churches (WCC) Records comprise materials documenting the inception and institutional proceedings of the organization. Established to create dialogue between various Christian expressions of faith through publications, action committees, and assemblies. Collection contains materials such as correspondence, records, pamphlets, and photographs.

Records and documents relating to commissions, committees, conferences, and General Assemblies of the World Council of Churches including pre-Amsterdam, 1948 World Council of Churches in process. Includes various committees and commissions, including Life and Work, Faith and Order, Evangelism, World Council of Churches and International Missionary Council merger, Churches and International Affairs, Laity, Women in the Church, World Christian Youth, Church and Society, Churches Participation in Development, Inter-Church Aid, Refugee and World Service, and History of the Ecumenical Movement.

Look to the finding aid for more information.

One Collection Down…


Credit to WAB: City Council of Churches Records, Box 4, Folder 10,
The Burke Library Archives (Columbia University Libraries) at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

I started on August 28th, and ended on September 25th – in a little less than a month, I finished processing my first collection from start to finish. It’s incredible how differently it feels than jumping into a collection in medias res, and only helping process a portion of it. I finally got to witness and experience “the bigger picture” of processing archival collections, and all the things (some delightful, others…not so much!) that go with it.

So, did I like it overall? Absolutely! For my first collection, Brigette assigned me the City Council of Churches Records from the William Adams Brown Ecumenical Library Archives. The first step was giving the collection a quick survey, or once-over, before I started on my official work plan. After writing down almost every item in the collection in my notebook (apparently I didn’t think of using the computer to do this, for some reason – honestly, it baffles me!), I was ready to put together my work plan. I decided on how I wanted to organize the collection, described its physical state, and contemplated its research potential, among other things.  Once approved, I set off to work!

Now, I’m not going to say that this came easy to me. It didn’t. I have come to learn that archivists need to develop a certain way of thinking about things. Honestly, I never thought I would see the day when I would agonize over whether something is a pamphlet or a brochure, or if that pamphlet would go under a folder titled “Events” instead. Brigette called it “archival anxiety,” and if you had asked me a month ago what that was, I wouldn’t be able to give you an answer. Now? Well, now I know! Throughout the course of my first processing venture I asked many a question of Brigette, and though I thought that I was asking too many, she only said that she would rather I ask now than make mistakes that I would have to go back and fix later. I learned that every archivist organizes things differently and thinks about collections differently – you just have to stick with your gut and be consistent. I won’t lie, though – this was a very hard mindset to wrap my head around. I wonder, does it ever get easier?

Finally, the day came when I finished the physical processing. I went from four tattered, torn and messy boxes of material to six impeccably (if I do say so myself!) neat and ordered record cartons. The sense of accomplishment I felt (and still feel) was huge. I did that! Other people would actually be coming in to research the collection I had worked so hard on.  However, the work wasn’t over yet.

The next step was to work on my finding aid. I tweaked the template made available to me and did research to flesh out the Historical Note detailing the background of the collection. Once I finished the Scope and Content Note (i.e. what kind of materials are in the collection and what topics are covered), I was finished. At least, I thought I was finished.

But wait – there’s more! Fast forward to today. I made a couple of quick edits to the finding aid and affixed the box labels, and it was sent to the Burke archivist for one more look over. Once approved, Brigette gave me a lesson in Digital Asset Management, in how to upload my finding aid to the web, as well as in how to catalogue it. We walked through each process step by step, and they were just as non-intimidating as Brigette said. I have to say, it is one thing to finish processing a collection, but what good is it if it’s not available online? Seeing that active link on the Burke Archives website and in CLIO really brought this entire experience to life and shot my feelings of accomplishment through the roof.

The absolute final touch (I’m telling the truth this time, I promise!) was announcing that the City Council of Churches Records collection was now available for research.  With the help of social media superstars Facebook and Twitter, followers of the Burke Library will know that the collection is finally processed and ready for use.

So would I do it all again? You bet. Despite the bouts of “archival anxiety” (which I’m sure will be making multiple comebacks), I learned an immense amount in the process. Seeing a collection through from beginning to end gave me a better idea of how archivists work and how they train their brains to think. Not only that, but it gave me a sense of accomplishment and confidence, affirming that, yes, I am capable of doing this. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for me next!

…and I have a good feeling you’ll all be hearing about it, too.  Stay tuned.

My finding aid can be found here: City Council of Churches Records, 1909-1970, and you can also check out my CLIO entry.

The Gripsholm Exchange and Repatriation Voyages



The Shanghai Evening Post American Edition, Dec. 3, 1943, page 1.
Credit to MRL 12: Foreign Missions Conference of North America Records, Series 2B, Box 33, Folder 9,
The Burke Library Archives (Columbia University Libraries) at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

The Committee on East Asia comprises a large part of the Area Committees section in MRL12: Foreign Missions Conference of North America Records. One specific event of note details the Gripsholm Exchange and Repatriation Voyages during World War II (WWII). The MS Gripsholm, a ship that serviced the Swedish-American cruise line and was originally built in 1925, was used from 1942 to 1946 for repatriation efforts by the United States Department of State. A second ship called Drottningholm also helped with these efforts.

Gripsholm served under the International Red Cross with a Swedish captain and crew. Making thirty-three trips to exchange women, children, diplomats, prisoners of war, and other nationals between Japan/Germany and the United States/Canada, the ship carried over 27,000 repatriates.


The Shanghai Evening Post American Edition, Dec. 3, 1943, page 1.
Credit to MRL 12: Foreign Missions Conference of North America Records, Series 2B, Box 33, Folder 9,

The Burke Library Archives (Columbia University Libraries) at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

Along with articles and general information on the Gripsholm voyages are detailed lists of Americans returning on the MS Gripsholm. People are recorded in alphabetical order, as well as their status, such as “clerk,” “consul,” “American Red Cross,” or “husband,” and their residence if known. Other documents include lists of boards having missionaries on the Gripsholm, and single letters searching for information on individuals.


Credit to MRL 12: Foreign Missions Conference of North America Records, Series 2B, Box 32, Folder 1,
The Burke Library Archives (Columbia University Libraries) at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

An interview between FMCNA Secretary, Joe Mickle, and Sidney Walton of the WHN Special Features Division, held November 29th, was the third in a series of programs in connection with the return of the exchange ship. When asked about the ‘terrible hardships’ suffered by the missionaries, Mickle said:


Credit to MRL 12: Foreign Missions Conference of North America Records, Series 2B, Box 33, Folder 9,
The Burke Library Archives (Columbia University Libraries) at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

Letters were received by those in America from missionaries on the ship. One, written to the secretary of FMCNA Joe Mickle from Olive I. Hodges and Paul S. Mayer, makes the voyage sound pleasant:


Credit to MRL 12: Foreign Missions Conference of North America Records, Series 2B, Box 32, Folder 2,
The Burke Library Archives (Columbia University Libraries) at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

Though this was an exchange, those coming back on the Gripsholm still had to pay their own way for passage and incidental expenses. The FBI also checked the passengers upon their entrance to port:


Credit to MRL 12: Foreign Missions Conference of North America Records, Series 2B, Box 32, Folder 2,
The Burke Library Archives (Columbia University Libraries) at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

After the repatriation and exchange voyages of the Gripsholm and Drottninghalm were complete, there were mixed emotions regarding future mission work in China. The following article was written by George E. Sokolsky, who lived in China for a time period. The article was originally published in the New York Sun of November 13, 1943 and was republished with permission by the FMCNA:


Credit to MRL 12: Foreign Missions Conference of North America Records, Series 2B, Box 32, Folder 1,
The Burke Library Archives (Columbia University Libraries) at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

Foreign Missions Conference of North America (FMCNA) Records – Now Available


Little Boxes in the Archives – Completed FMCNA

The records for the Foreign Missions Conference of North America (FMCNA), covering the years 1894-1968, are now available! This large MRL12 collection totaling 68 boxes (30.50 linear feet) comprise materials documenting inception and institutional proceedings of the organization. Established to create dialogue between missions-based action committees confronting contemporary crises of war, famine, and poverty. Collection contains materials such as correspondence, records, pamphlets, and photographs.

That and much more can be found through the Finding Aid. Enjoy!

“These Are Bloody Times in Which We Live…”: The Journal of Mary Lewis Shedd


June 17, 1918

One of the first collections I processed at Burke was MRL2: Mary Lewis [Mrs. W. A.] Shedd Papers, 1918. This journal made an impact on me not just because of the first-hand account it provides, but also because this copy appears to be completely unique.

The collection is comprised of a 42-page typed copy of Mary Lewis Shedd’s journal, which gives in great detail the events from February to October, 1918 in Urmia, Persia (written as Uremia or Urumia by Shedd) and the withdrawal of Assyrian Christians. Along with experiencing this directly, she was privy to other information because of her husband and includes this in her journal. The journal has been published as The Urumia Exodus: More Leaves from the War Journal of a Missionary in Persia. The collection available at the Burke contains more detail and entries than the published version.

Born in Glen Lock, Pennsylvania on January 15, 1873, Mary E. Lewis became the third wife of William Ambrose Shedd [1865-1918], Presbyterian missionary to Persia and later United States consul in Urmia, in July 1917. According to the forward by Laura McComb Muller in The Urumia Exodus,

Out of Persia, the little-known neutral country that lies between Russia and Turkey… Since the war began, its northern province, and especially the city of Urumia, has been either at the mercy of the Turks or in the hands of the Russians… the Christians endured a five months’ siege in the mission compound…

The published Urumia Exodus jumps from an entry dated March 11 to August 28, 1918. A note is included which says,

When the curtain rises again, five months later, upon the people of Urumia, not only is the scene changed, but a different party is in power. Following the treaties between Germany and the Bolsheviki, the Turks had again advanced and were taking their revenge. (The Urumia Exodus, Page 14)

The longer, unpublished Shedd journal in MRL2 includes entries from this time. Mary has heard news of what is now known as “March Days” or “March Events,” which refers to the infighting and massacre of up to 12,000 Azerbaijanis and other Muslims that took place between March 30 and April 2, 1918 in the city of Baku, then part of the Russian Empire:

This led to the discussion of the potential for Christians to be sent away from the area for safety:

Developments can be traced by reading further through Shedd’s journal:


Mary’s last entry is July 28, after which she is silent until September 24, 1918 when she is located in Hamadan, Persia. She begins to recall the last few weeks:

The Shedds were forced to evacuate Urmia on July 31, 1918, along with thousands of other Assyrian Christians, as the Ottoman Army threatened nearby. She writes in great detail about the confusion, including:

They retreated for six days, at which point her husband became ill with cholera and died shortly thereafter:


"Fifty thousand hunted, terror stricken refugees had passed on, the desolate, rocky mountains loomed above us, darkness was all about us and heaven too far away for prayer to reach."

Mrs. Shedd’s group escaped further from the warzone with the aid of the British towards Iraq, and buried her husband along the way, about seven miles east of Sain Kala.

Mary reached Hamadan August 24. On October 2, she wrote that probably seven or eight thousand died, were killed, or were taken prisoner on the journey she had recently completed.

Despite everything, in her last journal entry Mary Lewis Shedd writes:

Mary would later write a biography of her husband, The Measure of a Man: The Life of William Ambrose Shedd, Missionary to Persia, published in 1922. While not much more is known about her life, she continued her work as a missionary. She appears in New York Passenger lists in 1919; 1930; and 1933. Microfilm copies of Mary Lewis Shedd’s passport, and New York Passenger Lists are available at the National Archives and Records Administration.

All images from: MRL 2: Mary Lewis [Mrs. W. A.] Shedd Papers, The Burke Library Archives (Columbia University Libraries) at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

Further Sources

Mary Lewis Shedd’s first journal was published as a fifty-one page monograph, The War Journal of a Missionary in Persia [1915], available at the Burke Library, Union Theological Seminary (see MRL Pamphlet 1890 and 2069).

The second journal is The Urumia Exodus: More Leaves from the War Journal of a Missionary in Persia [1918]. This can be found at the William Smith Morton Library, Union Presbyterian Seminary, and in the Special Collections of Northwestern University (http://nucat.library.northwestern.edu/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?BBID=1940338). The New York Public Library has it available on microfilm (http://catalog.nypl.org/record=b14791152~S1).

Mary Lewis Shedd’s biography of her husband, The Measure of a Man: The Life of William Ambrose Shedd, Missionary to Persia was published by the George H. Doran Company: New York in 1922. Many libraries have the book, and it can also be found online in its entirety (http://www.archive.org/stream/measureofmanlife00shedrich/measureofmanlife00shedrich_djvu.txt).

Union in Dialogue

We will be cross-posting some of our entries to Union Theological Seminary's Union in Dialogue blog. Union in Dialogue is an ongoing discussion of what students at UTS find important: social analysis, interreligious dialogue, embodiment, poverty, and a number of other pressing topics. Our entries will be posted under the category "Unearthing Eloquence."

Hope you take a look!

Internship for the Uninitiated Archivist

Being one of the new fall interns here at the Burke Library, one of my first assignments is to write a blurb for the blog about my expectations for my upcoming semester.  I am in my final year as a graduate student at Pratt Institute’s School of Information and Library Science, from which I will earn certificates in Archives, as well as Museum Libraries.  (Additionally, I am also matriculated into Pratt Institute’s History of Art Master’s degree, but I won’t finish that for another few years.)  Each student who is interested in gaining an Archives or Museum Libraries Certificate must finish a Practicum course.  The course requires 100 hours of on-site work experience supervised by an information professional in a setting that reflects my interests, 4 seminar sessions, and a project based on site experience research and observation.  I decided to focus my Practicum course internship towards Archives which will be done under the supervision of Brigette Kamsler, Archivist for the Missionary Research Library Collection and the William Adams Brown Ecumenical Archives.

Why Archives as a focus for my Practicum?  An art librarian internship would seem a more obvious choice from looking at the above biographical information.  You can see that I am definitely interested in art and museum librarianship, archives just doesn’t seem to fit naturally into that mix.  As a kid my favorite classes had to do with history, art history or literature.  I grew up loving to read anything that took primary source documents as their inspiration and it was even better if examples of those documents were somehow included in the book.  I got my BA in American Studies because it was a major that understood that literature, pop culture, personal experience, art; essentially anything that affects us in our daily lives, is what makes history interesting and the study of all those things combined is what gives us a better overall picture of times past.  However in regards to personal experience, aside from a brief stint working on a research project at the National Archives in Washington D. C., I have not really set foot in an archive.  Even my Management of Archives and Special Collections class at Pratt was held in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Columbia University, where I was only able to pour through a total of 5 archival boxes during the entire class.  I have never created a finding aid and I have never sorted a collection from beginning to end.   What really sold me on doing my Practicum internship here at the Burke was Brigette and in some small part the collection itself.

I have met with Brigette a few times before starting work here; I even interviewed her for a paper for that Archives class I mentioned.  She is enthusiastic about her job, not to mention willing to take some time out of her busy schedule to not only thoroughly answer interview questions, but to help me improve my resume and cover letter.  On those visits I enjoyed hearing about her experiences working with the William Adams Brown Archives and seeing some of the more interesting objects in the archive, like the cricket cage and the Indian palm leaf books.  I am really looking forward to exploring more of these ecumenical collections and while religion and theology has never been a main focus of mine, it has been something that I have been interested in knowing more about, especially when I can look at primary source documents.  At one of our meetings Brigette outlined how she was going to organize the internship; essentially it is an internship for the uninitiated archivist, which is perfect for me.  It is also the first internship that has structure and is organized in such a way to teach me exactly what I want to learn.  I have had the opportunity to intern for various institutions, some operate on the philosophy that interns are just there for free work and others were not very structured when it came to what they expected you to do each day.  While this made each day a mystery, it would have been nice to be able to come in assured that I would be busy and learning each day (thankfully in that instance I worked under two very resourceful people who always found me worthwhile and interesting projects).  While I learned much from these previous internships and I enjoyed being there; I am excited by the fact that this internship will be structured and focused on teaching me. 

I cannot wait to get to work following the basic schedule that Brigette outlined in one of our initial meetings.  I will begin by going through some articles related to archival processing that she feels are necessary for any archivist to have a grasp of, as well as the Burke and Columbia processing guides. Then she plans to start me off on a small collection for which I will ignore the “less process, more product” rule (*gasp*) and do a full and thorough processing job.  After I finish with that and I am comfortable with the whole process I may move on to processing a larger collection.  Then we will see what I have time for, it all depends on how quickly I can learn how to do all this.  The two collections that I may be working with are within the William Adams Brown Ecumenical Library Archives, namely the American Bilateral Conversations, 1965-1975 collection and the State Council of Churches collection.

All of that and I have not quite answered the question of why archives for my Practicum project.  My philosophy on internships is that while they are beneficial for the institution in that they get free labor, that benefit should NOT be the guiding philosophy on why an institution is involved in having an internship program.  Internships are always linked to an educational program, therefore internships (especially if the student has to take the internship for school credit, since that means they are paying money to be there) should be focused on teaching the student skills that would be beneficial for them, especially skills that are not necessarily taught or understood  from just classroom experience.  Additionally, students should also focus on applying to internships, not just as names to fill up a resume, but as places where they feel they can learn skills that they are not learning in class.

I decided to do an archival internship for my Practicum because I felt this was the best place for me to learn skills that I have not been able to learn in my classes and in fact it is where I feel I am most lacking in my studies.  While archives may not seem to naturally fit into art librarianship, it does when you realize that art libraries can contain many more things than just books.  Artist files, objects, letters, and journals are just a small list of items that can overlap with what would generally be regarded as items primarily contained in an archive.  Not to mention the fact that many art libraries are housed in institutions that have on-site archives, as well.  The Burke is the first internship I have been involved with which is focused around teaching interns (in this case a well-rounded approach to assessment and description).  It is a good model to follow.  I want to not only be able to learn how to assess, organize, and describe archival collections and write clear, understandable finding aides, but how to be a better manager, especially in regards to interns or new members of the staff.  I would like to focus my project not only on what I need to learn as an archivist, but also on what I think is valuable for any institution: how to effectively teach the uninitiated. 

“We will never forget this ride of terror”: Translating the Reports of German Missionaries to Cameroon Taken as Prisoners of War


Credit to: MRL1: German Missionaries in Cameroon Reports, The Burke Library Archives (Columbia University Libraries) at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

One of the great benefits of interning at the Burke Library Archives last spring was the opportunity to fuse several of my skills in the various projects I undertook. One of these projects was translating the reports of German-speaking missionaries to Cameroon who were taken prisoner in the fall of 1914 when the English and French armies captured Cameroon’s capital, Douala, and the surrounding areas. These fascinating reports tell of injustices done to the missionaries while simultaneously revealing layers of racism, prejudice, nationalism, and self-righteousness festering just under the surface of their statements. Written just weeks after the missionaries’ return to their homes in Germany and Switzerland in early 1915, the sentiments are raw, the emotions strong, and the wounds still fresh.

The thirteen reports are written as first-person chronological narratives of each missionary’s personal experience as a prisoner of war. All of the missionaries were members of the Basel Mission and most were stationed in Douala. Reading the reports one after the other is like watching a film of the same event made from thirteen different perspectives. From the individual voices, some harsher and some more reserved, an overall impression of the everyday injustices and terrors of war emerges.

In almost every report, missionaries are stripped of their belongings, their homes ransacked and their gardens robbed and trampled. Conditions for sleeping and washing in the various make-shift prisons are disgusting, and the food almost inedible.

All reports are written by men, most of whom also had wives whose experiences are only reported second-hand. Missionary Bührer writes: “Mrs. Gutekunst and my wife were held for hours by native soldiers who broke into and invaded our Akwa house after I left with random and repeated orders and counter orders until the six brute soldiers pilfered the property of Mrs. Gutekunst and finally left.” Exactly what Mrs. Gutekunst and Mrs. Bührer experienced in those hours remains, to a great extent, a mystery.

The reports are also filled with examples of English prejudice against the Germans they took prisoner: Missionary Hecklinger writes “The treatment on this ship on the side of the English, especially the stewards, was thoroughly ignoble. The latter said swear words like bloody swine, bloody dog, German bastard and others.” Swiss citizen Bührer reports that in response to his complaint that he was not allowed to enter his own offices at his Swiss-based mission, an English commanding officer quipped: “What, the Basel Mission neutral? Go on! You Swiss-Germans are three-fourths Germans of the Reich.”

Yet just as the missionaries complain of the discrimination they suffered, their own prejudices emerge, sometimes even against the Cameroon people they had sought to convert. Bührer writes: “Marching like prisoners next to black soldiers with bayonets propped up, we were subjected to the disdainful glances and shouts of delight in our misfortune from the Douala people loitering about.” Missionary Gutbrod is more explicit in his racism: “It is hair-raising how the English treated us in front of the natives, or how they allowed us to be treated by them. The German name has been trampled into the dust by them, and the German mission wasn’t spared. We shouldn’t be surprised then when some of the natives don’t remain true and treat Germans the way that they shouldn’t be treating them! The English are to blame, not the blacks. […] Not only Germans but the respect of the white race has suffered greatly. We’ll have to see what comes of it.”

While these jarring sentiments might lead some to lose sympathy for the missionaries, most of the experiences recounted in the reports do not allow for such clear‑cut finger-pointing. Some instead develop out of a sort of chaos of war with no particular person or group left to blame. One of the most frightening of these episodes occurs in the report from Karl Wittwer, a Swiss missionary stationed in Ndunge (also spelled Ndoungue and Ndoungé) north of Douala. Wittwer recounts how the English troops attempted to transport prisoners on a broken train car:

The next morning, we were brought back to Ndunge, from which we began the journey to the coast together with my wife, child, and the other members and guests of the station. Other prisoners joined us at the nearby railroad station in Mambellion. The women, children, and luggage were loaded onto an open freight car. Since there were no functioning locomotives on hand and the car had no breaks, long ropes were tied to the back of the car, and they had blacks hold these so that the car would not take off too fast going down steep slopes. An imprisoned rail worker who knew the stretch very well and did not completely trust this set up offered to lead the transport. He was refused. It soon became clear that there were not enough men holding the ropes. The car started to run wildly. It could have easily come off the tracks at a sharp curve. Furthermore, both the women sitting on the speeding car and we men rushing after them knew that the bridge some 30 kilometers ahead had been blown up, and if the car were not stopped, it would fly out into the Dibombe River. In their desperation, the women began to jump off one after the other. Although the first to dare to jump—an injured black soldier who had been sitting on the car—fell under the wheels and was killed instantly, the women and children miraculously made it off the car with relatively few injuries. My wife, who together with our 2 ½ year-old was the last to jump down, had it the worst of anyone. She fell on her back and apparently landed on a rock, which left her in pain and almost unable to lie down for weeks. And the back of our child’s head hit her so hard on the mouth that several of her top teeth became loose and some fell out. We will never forget this ride of terror.

Indeed, all of the missionaries’ journeys from working freely in Cameroon through the indignities of imprisonment and finally to their homes in Germany or Switzerland were rides of terror. Despite their often overt bias, these reports offer a view into the difficulties suffered by peaceful civilians during a time of war. Yet even among missionaries—those whom we might guess to be most modest in their needs, pious in their thoughts, and thankful to survive encroaching war—we find indignation, conceit, and hints of seething hatred. As documents of an historical moment and evidence of the cultural attitudes at the beginning of the First World War, this collection is a gem for historians, theologians, and pacifists, and of certain interest to many others.

The German missionaries in Cameroon reports are available to registered readers for consultation by appointment only. Please contact archives staff by phone, fax or email at archives@uts.columbia.edu.

The Value of Ecumenical and Missionary Records


Credit to: WAB: Foreign Missions Conference of North America Records, The Burke Library Archives (Columbia University Libraries) at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

I had the pleasure of working on the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Foreign Missions Conference of North America (FMCNA) collections this summer and the following highlights the materials that I found to be most interesting and the ways in which these materials enhance my research. The WCC is an organization dedicated to ecumenical dialogue within the Christian tradition (and beyond), and the FMCNA organization is a missionary relief effort that, through various committees, sought to assist the underserved or populations in crisis.

While working on the WCC records, I found an extensive collection of scholarly papers and had the pleasure of looking at correspondence addressed to “My dear Reinie” (Reinhold Niebuhr) regarding papers presented at the WCC general assemblies. Among these papers were discussions of general theological interest, but also papers on ethics and education. I was pleased to see, firsthand, the level of scholarly discourse and intentionality engaged in by the WCC as it met to discuss ecumenism and a vision for the global, unified Christian church. One discovery that made me so proud was the forward-thinking nature of the materials circulated by the WCC on the inclusion of women and a push to discuss race issues long before such discussions were vogue. I know that these papers are published in volumes and circulating in general collections, but holding the hand-typed conference papers, seeing notes in margins, and reading correspondence regarding edits brings to life the work and efforts of the ecumenists.

My absolute favorite part of the WCC collection is the photographs series; I could look at these photos all day long. It was fun to see snapshots from the decennial assemblies, marking the passage of time through ever-enhancing technology and the preferred fashions of the day. From petticoats to bell bottoms, the photographs series documents the growth of the WCC movement, and takes a special look at Union Theological Seminary’s role. I was actually quite surprised at how involved Union’s professors were in WCC efforts, and pleased to see scholars emerging from their ivory towers to engage in ecumenical discussions via the black and white photos depicting hand shakes, scholars robes, and a general Union seminary presence at these assemblies.

The FMCNA collection is a missionary relief organization and the materials here reflect the efforts of the FMCNA to provide assistance to communities suffering from war, famine, natural disaster, and poverty. Going through the FMCNA materials is like reading a world history book that details events of the past century. From accounts documenting accounts of the Gripsholm cruise ship as it braved war zones to trade Japanese citizens for US prisoners of war, to journals documenting Guerrilla Relief efforts in Japanese-occupied China in 1939, the materials depict the many logistics involved in these relief efforts. What these materials convey is less a story of white colonial domination and more an account of assistance in the midst of crisis, as the FMCNA stepped in to care for the most vulnerable individuals.

One of the most disturbing images I saw while working on this collection was a newsletter in the Committee on East Asia materials that had a picture of toddler orphan children from China living among the corpses of the toddlers who did not survive. Starving babies were crawling over their now deceased playmates, crying, emaciated, and alone. For all the commercials of hungry children compelling television viewers to donate to relief organizations, I have never seen an image like this. The FMCNA stepped into many war-torn situations, similar to the one in China, and provided aid via the Orphan Relief network.

That’s the amazing thing that most people do not realize about the missionary records that we keep here at the Burke Archives and about missionary archives in general: some of history’s greatest atrocities are documented and recorded in the accounts of missionaries. Missionaries are on the front lines (and not just in a spiritual sense), in the literal, day-to-day sense of living through various crises, and exchanging correspondence that documents historical accounts and needs from the margins back to the “dominant culture.”

At the end of the day, this is one of the greatest research benefits of the missionary collections housed at Burke and one of the most useful insights I gleaned in working with the WCC and FMCNA records: the value of perspective, location, and presence in the midst of crisis.