Monthly Archives: October 2012

Unity in the Midst of Diversity

I have finished processing my very first ever archival collection, the American Bilateral Conversations Records in the William Adams Brown Ecumenical Archives Group.  When I started I didn’t have much of an idea of what most of that meant.  I had no idea what a bilateral conversation entailed and I was only faintly familiar with what ecumenical meant.  I have to say this; previous to processing this collection I was on the fence about whether or not I would like to be an archivist.  I knew that there would be things that I would like, but would they seem less enjoyable when faced with the downside, the dirty and the buggy (I’m not a huge fan of bugs)?   The answer is “Yes!  I’m hooked!”  I can deal with the mess and the dirt (and bugs) because I get to do all the things that I love.  Namely, organize, label, research and then make it accessible for others to use. It is the last one that gives me the most amount of satisfaction.  Now others will be able use this collection and hopefully it will lead them to new understandings and new connections that didn’t exist before. 

On the downside I spent 3 weeks inventorying and organizing the collection.  I felt that this was a little too long for the size of collection I had, but I have to keep in mind that I’m only there for 10 hours a week and it is my first time.  I need to squelch the urge to do item level description; I feel this is my biggest hurdle to get over.  The cataloger in me just wants to describe every little thing.  I was also nervous about having to write a history about something I knew so little about and I’m a bit anxious about doing it right.  I love to do research and I am truly interested in this topic, so much so that I would find myself distracted by some of the papers that were written for consideration at these ecumenical conferences.  I am impressed with the sentiments and recognition of the necessity of unity within all members of the church everywhere.  I took pictures of a few of the statements I found while I was sorting through the material, so that I would have examples of some of the quotes I liked and to show what the papers look like.  When reading the quotes keep in mind most of these papers were written in the late 60s.  (NOTE: I have “retouched” the papers in the photographs to get rid of the text that doesn’t apply to what I’m talking about; I didn’t want the distraction of other portions of the text in the photograph.  All of these papers can be viewed in their entirety by following the citations underneath the pictures.)

Hanlon

Daniel J. O’Hanlon, S. J. “The Ministry and Order of the Church” Credit to
WAB: American Bilateral Conversations Records, Series 1, Box 4, Folder 16, The Burke Library Archives, Columbia University Libraries, at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

I like the simple realization that what these church leaders were attempting to do wasn’t easy, but that division is a problem worth trying to fix.  I love Glenn E. Baumann’s statement about the right to worship within inter Christian marriages.  Following Baumann's quote, Monsignor Henry G. J. Beck had similar desire for unity rather than division on this same topic.


Glenn E. Baumann, “The Churches and Their Attitudes Toward Inter Christian Marriages “
Credit to WAB: American Bilateral Conversations Records, Series 1, Box 5, Folder 2, The Burke Library Archives, Columbia University Libraries, at Union Theological Seminary, New York.


Monsignor Henry G. J. Beck, “Proposed Pastoral Guidelines for Inter-Christian Marriages”
Credit to WAB: American Bilateral Conversations Records, Series 1, Box 5, Folder 2, The Burke Library Archives, Columbia University Libraries, at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

I grabbed this one from a paper about the ordination of women because I liked the corrections that were penciled in.  I don’t know if you can read the words that are “carroted” in at the end but it says, “respond creatively to…” It is obvious that unity in all aspects was a difficult task.


Unknown, “The Ordination of Women”
Credit to WAB: American Bilateral Conversations Records, Series 1, Box 5, Folder 4, The Burke Library Archives, Columbia University Libraries, at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

This last quote by Robert McAfee Brown I just like.  I thought it was an interesting way to regard the study of the New Testament.

Robert McAfee Brown “Order and Ministry in the Reformed Tradition”
Credit to WAB: American Bilateral Conversations Records, Series 1, Box 4, Folder 16, The Burke Library Archives, Columbia University Libraries, at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

It is a fascinating topic and relevant even today, as ecumenical discussions are still on going. Some of the topics remain the same and some of the topics are new, but the idea behind unity in the church is still a driving force.  It was fascinating to discover that this tiny collection covers a very important era in the world wide ecumenical movement.  The collection mainly deals with Roman Catholic bilateral conversations; I learned it was in the early 60s; after Vatican II, the Roman Catholic Church came into full involvement in the ecumenical movement, (which began at the World Missionary Conference in 1910 at Edinburgh.)  In fact, there was a recent New York Times Op-Ed article, "Opening the Church to the World," which discusses the effects Vatican II had on the international ecumenical relationships of the Roman Catholic Church. 

It is also interesting to note that the Roman Catholic Church tended to favor and encourage a methodology of bilateral or two-party conversations, while most ecumenical discussions were multilateral.  In one of the books that I used to research the history of the ecumenical movement, the editor, John A. Radano recommended “more analysis of these dialogue reports, and accounts of what they have achieved are needed…” The scope of this collection reflects this pivotal point in the history of the modern ecumenical collection and I am happy to add a new collection to canon of ecumenical records to help in that analysis.

Sources:

O’Malley, John W. “Vatican II Opened the Church to the World.” The New York Times 10 Oct. 2012. Accessed: 15 Oct. 2012.

Radano, John A. Editor. Celebrating a Century of Ecumenism: Exploring the Achievements of International Dialogue: In Commemoration of the Centenary of the 1910 Edinburgh World Missionary Conference. Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co, 2012.

The Beginning of a Beautiful Career: Interning at the Burke Library Archives

Scouring boxes of papers for an indication of original order, picking out rusty staples, developing an appreciation for acid-free paper, trying not to walk into film crews, eating lunch in a pristine courtyard, and translating the disturbing reports of prisoners of war: these were just a few of the things I did as an intern at the Burke Library Archives earlier this year. This internship was my first foray into archival processing, and I admit I’m hooked. For someone wondering whether or not to intern at Burke, here are a few reasons why you should do it.

First and foremost, Brigette, the Project Archivist and my internship supervisor, is an absolutely fantastic mentor. She has a unique way of combining flawless professionalism with warm guidance and encouragement. I was immediately impressed with how organized and prepared she was at my interview; never before had I had an interviewer answer so many of the questions I’d prepared before I even got to ask them. Brigette’s amazing guidance continued on my first day when she gave me a stack of background readings that constituted a crash course in the most essential knowledge to begin processing archival collections, including readings on both the nuts and bolts of processing and what it means to be an archivist on a more philosophical level. I’m drawn to both the hands-on work of processing and the greater calling of archivists to be activists and advocates of their profession in addition to being stewards of their collections, so I ate this up.

The second reason you should intern at the Burke is that you get to work in a beautiful place. The professor for my Archives Management course this semester pointed out on the first day that archives are either housed in the basement or in the attic. In Burke’s case, we’re in the attic. I realized the first day during my tour that while the Union Theological Seminary is a gorgeous old building (hence the film crews using it for various TV shows), it is also gorgeous old building, and housing valuable historical primary materials under a potentially leaky roof is sometimes just part of the everyday pain and risk of being an archivist. I also admit, though, that the archives work environment is alluring to me. There was something about the inclusion of a spiral staircase and dusty work environment in the internship description that took me back to my undergraduate days of being a theater properties master, and it just somehow seemed fitting to get back into that kind of a workspace. During a tour of the Burke my first day, I was taken up that spiral staircase to see where the Missionary Research Library (MRL) and William Adams Brown Ecumenical Library (WAB) collections that I would be working with were housed, and again I was charmed.

Last but not least, the experience you get working with Brigette at the Burke Library Archives is invaluable. After gaining firm grounding in the space and basic knowledge of archives processing, I was entrusted with processing a few small collections. Brigette’s guidance was absolutely essential to begin with, and I was grateful to have the feeling that I was able to ask any question at any time.

I began to translate a collection of reports from German-speaking missionaries stationed in Cameroon who were taken as prisoners of war in 1914 when the English and French armies took control of the area – see the Finding Aid for more. These reports were fascinating (you can read about them in another blog post). I was very happy to have the chance to use my German language skills to contribute to the archives in a unique way. This again was thanks to Brigette, who was sensitive and creative enough as a supervisor to offer me projects that built on my existing skills.

My most significant project at the Burke was processing the papers of John J. Banninga, a collection that was highlighted as particularly significant in the Henry Luce Foundation grant funding our work on the MRL and WAB collections. This collection includes a wealth of information on the efforts to unite Christian churches in South India, an initiative that took decades to realize and encompassed the greater part of Banninga’s career. The letters, reports, and clippings he kept reveal deep complexities and sometimes surprising disagreements that arose in the attempt to bring together churches that function largely autonomously elsewhere in the world. Both processing the actual papers and researching Banninga and the Church of South India gave me a peek into a discipline and an area of the world of which I have very limited knowledge. One of the reasons I decided to become an archivist/librarian is the opportunity to continually learn while simultaneously enabling future research.

I can say there was no part of my internship at the Burke Library Archives that I did not enjoy. The best times were when my finished finding aids were approved, and when I was able to publish them online and see them come up in the Columbia University Library catalog. I learned a great deal about processing archives, and made a very small contribution to research. Perhaps most importantly, though, this internship was the beginning of what I think (and hope) will be a long and beautiful career.

Lea was recently hired as a part-time processing archivist at the Center for Jewish History in New York City.

“Such scenes are very afflicting to a European beholder…”: The Papers of Samuel Leigh

In his first letter to the Committee of the Methodist Missionary Society in London, the Reverend Samuel Leigh, a Wesleyan Missionary, wrote:


While the above quote puts more emphasis on the differences of missionary work at home and abroad, it also applies to acclimating to an entirely new world and culture. Having been born and raised in England, Samuel Leigh’s life in Australia and New Zealand – where he served as a missionary – was most certainly different from what he was used to seeing and experiencing back home.

After spending a few years building up a missionary circuit in Australia, Leigh traveled to New Zealand where he was immediately thrust into a civil war brewing between the natives. Upon his arrival in New Zealand, Leigh not only heard of the deaths of thousands of native men, but also the way these “heathens” dealt with their enemies. In his first letter from New Zealand dated February 25, 1822, Leigh writes:

It is with a great deal of confidence that I can say that Leigh had probably never heard or witnessed such a thing, and such a description probably served as a shock to his English upbringing.

Dispersed among his letters from a few years later are extracts from Leigh’s journal, dating from December of 1822 to May of 1823. In them, Leigh reports upon the daily goings on in New Zealand in a very matter-of-fact manner:

Despite Leigh’s seemingly casual attitude to the not-so-common events he observed, his initial feeling from his very first letter still stands. In that letter, Leigh starts off by describing the grief of a newly-slain Chief’s wife:

But it is his observation at the end of the letter that belies his ostensibly indifferent attitude:

In the end, Leigh was just another English boy unaccustomed and unfamiliar with native ways. Unfortunately, his time in New Zealand was cut short due to ill health, and he returned with his wife to Australia after only a few short months.

The completed finding aid for this collection can be found online:  MRL11: Samuel Leigh Papers, 1818-1824.

Henry R. Luce Makes an Appearance


Credit to: MRL5: United Board for Christian Colleges in China Records, box 1, folder 2,
The Burke Library Archives (Columbia University Libraries) at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

If you recall from an earlier post detailing the relationship between the Burke Library and the Henry Luce Foundation, the press release which announced the funding included the following statement:

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.

Henry Winters Luce and his wife, Elizabeth Root Luce, were Presbyterian missionaries in China during the early part of the twentieth century. Their children – Henry, Emmavail, Elizabeth and Sheldon – were all born in China. According to the Luce Foundation Website, "Luce made his first major gift in 1935, an endowment at Yenching University in Peking to honor his father’s work, and he intended his foundation as a lasting tribute to his parents…"

I always keep a special eye out for the Luce name, and I have found material where Henry Winters Luce had an association, or was perhaps a member of an organization or board.

Today I was excited to come across THE man himself, Henry Robinson Luce, in a new collection.

MRL5: East Asia, United Board for Christian Colleges in China (UBCCC) Records, 1931-1959 was the collection. The UBCCC was established to support and coordinate the activities of Protestant colleges and universities in China. It would later focus efforts more broadly across Asia and change the name to the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia. The collection includes annual reports and supporting information such as correspondence and budgets relating to overall activities.

Among the annual reports are lists of members who attended the meeting, as well as full lists of those who were on specific committees. Henry R. Luce appears to have been an active member of UBCCC, attending not only the annual meetings but serving on multiple subcommittees.

A great find indeed for this dreary Tuesday.