Monthly Archives: August 2013

Final Thoughts on My Last Day at Burke

As I sat on the subway during my commute this morning, it occurred to me that this is the last time I will be heading uptown and entering the doors of the Union Theological Seminary and finding my way to the Burke Library. Interning at the Burke Library Archives this summer has been an incredibly rewarding experience. Throughout the summer I processed five collections; arranging and rehousing the material, writing finding aids, uploading them to Burke’s website, editing Voyager catalogue records, and creating EAD versions. Along with these five collections, I have also worked with Brigette and my fellow interns to tackle the immense collection of administrative files created by the Missionary Research Library (MRL).

Throughout the summer I worked on three collections from MRL 12: Ecumenical/World and two from the WAB collection. The first collection I processed was the Ecumenical Conference on Foreign Missions Records, which documented the largest international missionary conference held in New York in 1900. This was the most extensive collection I independently processed this summer, with a total of six manuscript boxes as well as an oversize item. After the Ecumenical Conference collection, I worked on the Board of Foreign Missions of the Netherlands Reformed Church Records, Preparation of Missionaries Records, the John Ferguson Moore Papers, and the Hendrik Kraemer Papers. Hendrik Kraemer was a Dutch Reformed missionary leader and professor who gave a series of lectures on The Christian Faith and Non-Christian Religions at the University of Geneva in 1954. The collection consists solely of that lecture series. Similarly, the John Ferguson Moore Papers document the Protestant author and Y.M.C.A railroad secretary’s research on Roman Catholicism and the Church’s opinion towards secret societies through an incomplete typescript and reports.

I personally found the two other MRL collections to be slightly more challenging than the Moore and Kraemer Papers. The Preparation of Missionaries Records is an artificial collection that was created by the Missionary Research Library by gathering information and material from a variety of sources on the subject of missionary and personnel training. Since the material was collected by MRL as a subject file it was necessary to keep the material together, even though some of the material comes from organizations found in other Burke collections. Another challenging collection was the Board of Foreign Missions of the Netherlands Reformed Church. Not only was much of this material written in Dutch, forcing me to utilize online translators to determine the subject matter, it was originally two separate collections. Series 1 of this collection was originally called the Netherlands Missionary Society Papers, but in researching the organization and discovering that the society eventually merged with the Netherlands Board of Foreign Missions, I determined that the documents should be brought together into a single collection.

When I first started this internship I had already had some experience processing collections, but working with Brigette and the MRL and WAB collections provided me with the opportunity to really hone those skills. These collections document organizations and individuals that have left lasting impressions on missionary and religious scholarship, and I am excited that the work I have done to arrange and document the collections will contribute to a future researcher’s work.

Working with Brigette has been an invaluable experience; she truly wants her interns to have the best experience possible and always takes time to answer questions, teach new skills and discuss best practices and strategies for tackling challenging material. Not only did Brigette impart her knowledge of processing, she also took the time to discuss professional development with me and my fellow interns. Brigette encouraged us to utilize Web 2.0 technology to our advantage, and she showed us her online portfolio and gave us a tutorial on how to create one ourselves. Though I will miss coming to Burke twice a week and working with Brigette and my fellow interns, I am grateful for the experience and the knowledge I have gained from the opportunity.

“Good-bye” to My Summer at Burke

Many of my mornings during my internship at Burke have begun with a few stolen moments of serene beauty and solace in the quad of UTS, one of the most enjoyable perks of working at the Burke Library Archives this summer. When the New York City winter is upon us in a few months, I will recall the comforting warmth of the morning sun, the trees, the  flowers….the tolling of the bell signaling my 10 a.m. start time!

Under the guidance of powerhouse Project Archivist Brigette C. Kamsler, I have assisted in the actual processing of archives of the Missionary Research Library Archives from the basics of weeding to contributing to the creation of two Finding Aids. The first Finding Aid I worked on was Dorothy Pecht 35mm Slides. A simple and small collection, this introduction to creating a Finding Aid was where I began to learn the complexities of the archiving profession. Once I completed the Finding Aid, I better understood the need to provide information not only about the creator of the collection but the organizations the creator was affiliated with in order to assist researchers. It was during the creation of the Finding Aid for the Pecht collection that I began to understand the role of the archivist in relation to the researcher. This awareness helped me with the second collection I processed, International Missionary Union Collection.  

Processing the IMU collection afforded me the opportunity to expand on the basic archival skills I learned processing the Pecht collection. Because the collection contained varied materials, i.e. newspaper clippings, correspondence, photographs and pamphlets among other items, the creation of the finding aid required more extensive research. Consequently, I enhanced my web research skills and learned a great deal about the life of the IMU and one of its generous patron’s, Dr. Henry Foster of Clifton Springs, N.Y.

Although the majority of my time at Burke was directly related to working on the archives, Brigette provided several opportunities to learn and mix things up a bit, for which I am immensely grateful. The first opportunity was an invitation to attend a staff meeting led by Alexis Hagadorn and Jennifer Jarvis of the CU Libraries Conservation Office. Their presentation on the proper handling of rare books utilizing snakes, foam book mounts, and snake weights was informative and interesting as I had no idea how to correctly handle these materials.

In late July, the interns were invited to visit ReCAP, The Research Collections and Preservation Consortium in Princeton, N.J. under the guidance of Zachary Lane, the ReCAP coordinator for Columbia. This field trip was fantastic and future interns, if you are reading this, “Just say yes!” if given the opportunity. It is an enriching experience that afforded me the opportunity to see another facet of the archiving world, one I could not fathom.

The last presentation I attended was a webinar sponsored by NISO, The National Information Standards Organization, entitled Copyright Decisions: Impact of Recent Cases on Libraries and Publishers. The webinar featured three attorneys discussing recent copyright cases, a subject that frequently came up during my classes last semester.  Although their presentation was informative, I struggled to stay awake but was rewarded by a subsequent presentation and Q & A by Columbia Copyright Advisory Office Director Dr. Kenneth Crews. Dr. Crews’ ability to simplify the convoluted language of the attorneys and answer questions directly and succinctly has helped me comprehend this complex issue substantially.

Brigette also included a session doing EAD, which initially seemed extremely overwhelming. With her guidance and patience, we worked on two finding aids, and again I was substantially enriched and my fears allayed.

My internship at Burke included the expected tasks of a summer archives intern. I moved boxes, stamped folders, weeded unprocessed collections and kept my eyes peeled for crawling creepy critters (none appeared, thank goodness!). But it was so much more.  I could never have imagined I would come away from this three month stint with so much experience, insight and awareness of how much I still must learn.

I will close with this observation. My archives professor told us the most important goal we must achieve as archivist is to provide access to collections; he believes this is the archivist’s primary obligation.  Prior to Brigette’s invitation to work at Burke this summer, I had accepted another internship in New York City. The director of the archives was not an archivist but had been trained briefly by an archivist whose services were financed by a small grant. During the lengthy interview, the director expressed the goal of the organization which was to archive the materials and provide restricted and limited access, and when possible, to show researchers photocopies, not originals. I was ignorantly willing to be an accomplice to this intent, not having been exposed to what I now also believe to be if not the archivist’s primary goal, certainly one of her primary responsibilities.  How fortunate I took a chance and said, “What have I got to loose?!” to the possibility of working at Burke. How fortunate to have worked with Brigette.  How fortunate indeed!

Last Day…Final Words…

As I walked through the large heavy double doors of the main entrance to Union Theological Seminary this morning I realized it would be my last time walking down the cool glazed brick paved hallway and wending my way to the Burke Library entrance. The summer of 2013 has flown by and I am sure part of the quick passage of time is due to my relatively brief but highly educational and enjoyable tenure as an Archival Intern at the Burke Archive. Working under the tutelage of Brigette Kamsler I have been exposed to and gained hands on experience in the wild and often times dusty world of a working archive.

Initially fearful I would forget my Columbia UNI every time I needed to log onto the University system, petrified I would somehow mangle fragile, priceless and irreplaceable documents, I found myself looking forward to the two days each week I spent on the fifth floor of the Burke Library. I am pleased to report I did not break anything nor have I had to have my UNI tattooed onto my forearm. In addition, I have learned so much, not only regarding archives and archiving but in personal and professional development. I am saddened by the fact this is my last day at Burke but am grateful for the experience and the knowledge I will take with me out the main entrance of Union Theological Seminary when I leave.

Not only was I allowed to rehouse, access and inventory portions of an incredibly large and disorganized collection the Missionary Research Library Archival Collection, but I was given the responsibility of organizing, re-housing and drafting finding aids for three smaller collections within MRL itself, as well as one from the William Adams Brown Ecumenical Library Archives (WAB). Once the finding aids were finished we published them online onto the Burke Archives website, created and updated records in Voyager for the Columbia University Library System’s CLIO OPAC and then announced this fact through a swath of social media platforms! Lest the reader think all an archivist does is wade through boxes of papers and ephemera nobody has seen for long stretches of time – I was also given a chance to learn EAD (Encoded Archival Description) which employs the same ilk of XML tagging the SEC employs in its online filing system EDGAR.

The first collection I worked with was the Kagawa Toyohiko Papers, the subject of my previous post – Happy Camper at Burke. I followed the 15 box Kagawa collection with three smaller collections the Loren E. Noren Papers, the Charles Tudor Leber Travel Correspondence and the Lutheran World Federation Records. Each of these collections provided a unique and distinct glimpse into the past through either personal letters, conference minutes or statistical reports.

Charles Tudor Leber traveled the globe following World War II and the Leber Travel Correspondence collection features missives he sent home to the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions. Leber witnessed the social and economic turmoil of four continents and his observations are recorded in his highly detailed letters. Loren E. Noren was a missionary from the American Baptist Church and was stationed first in mainland China and subsequently in Hong Kong during the 1930’s through 1950’s. During his time in China he was incarcerated by the Communists! His collection at Burke consists solely of a statistical and detailed report he made of the churches within Hong Kong, the congregation numbers, financial information and the like. The sheer amount of work Noren poured into his study is incredible. The final collection I worked on was the Lutheran World Federation Papers which include the minutes and documents from the Lutheran World Federation Assembly held in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1957. These documents were housed in a number of different locations and the Burke Archive collection includes three sets: one in English, one in German and one in Norwegian. The fact my work in rehousing, organizing and creating finding aids for these collections will provide access and hopefully use of these collections really makes me proud.

Brigette is an incredible manager and the time she takes to educate and include her bevy of interns in the multitudinous tasks her position as the Luce Grant Project Archivist at the Burke Archive entails was not lost on me. I was introduced through practice and readings to best practices in the field of archiving. More Product, Less Process became a mantra for my summer of 2013. In addition to helping with the work at hand, Brigette made sure to take the time to discuss future career options, job search techniques and the like. She showed myself and fellow interns her online portfolio, encouraged us to make ones for ourselves and discussed best practices in employing social media for future career success. I really cannot say how grateful I am for all the knowledge she imparted to me this summer.

I really cannot believe that this post will be my last on the Burke Archives Blog, that today will be my last day up in the tower and that I will not see the friendly and supportive faces of those I have worked with and around much of the summer. But like most good things in life, this internship too must come to a close. I know I will carry not only the work place skills I have learned and been exposed to but also the intangible benefits from having worked under so skilled a manager and mentor as Brigette.

An Educational Experience at Burke

It has been two months since I started my internship at the Burke Library. My fears that I described in my previous blog post were quelled my first week under the supervision of Brigette. My nerves in the beginning of the internship were, as one could say, on edge, but I quickly learned that my experience with Brigette at the Burke Library would be an overwhelmingly positive one. I have not knocked over shelving units containing priceless materials, nor have I gotten lost on the expansive subway system of New York City. I have missed my morning train, much to my dismay, only to realize that there will always be another train pulling into station to take me to my destination. My time interning at the Burke Library has not only given me practical experience in the field of archiving, but has also helped my push past self-constructed comfort zones. A year ago, I would have never imagine that I would I would be traveling into the city, taking the subway and coming into a program that would allow me to learn about, touch and make accessible, previously unstudied pieces of history. I feel that this internship position has enlightened me to the importance of the archiving profession, as well as the importance of serving the public and making the historic collections accessible for consumption.

My experience at the Burke Library has allowed me to work in the field of history in ways I had never realized were possible. By processing collections of personal papers, I have had the ability to take a trip back in time to glimpse into the daily lives of individuals long since passed. Throughout my internship, I have processed two collections, the William Carey Letter and the Choi Papers. These two collections offered me the chance to study the lives of two individuals who devoted their lives to religious study and missionary work. The first collection that I processed was the papers of Byung Hun Choi (1858-1927), considered by many to be Korea’s first theologian. Choi’s collection was difficult to process due to the language differences. Choi wrote his personal manuscripts in a form of writing that the aristocracy used. This writing took Mandarin Chinese and modified the characters for the spoken Korean language. Other materials in the collection allowed me to learn that Choi was not originally interested in converting to Christianity, but was only assisting missionary George Heber Jones in learning Korean. His theological discussions with Jones and fellow missionary Henry G. Appenzeller led Choi to convert to Christianity. Choi became one of Korea’s first Methodist Ministers and important theological thinkers of his time. In his theological writings, Choi tried to introduce Confucian culture to Christianity and vice versa. The Burke Library has the only copies of Choi’s originally manuscripts, which were destroyed in the 1950’s. This collection will soon be available to researchers.

The second collection that I had the opportunity to process was a single letter written by William Carey (1761-1834), a Baptist minister considered to be the “father of modern missions.” Carey came from humble beginnings in Paulerspury, Northamptonshire, England. In young adulthood he worked as a cobbler, and his preaching was deemed so bad that his local churches would not ordain him as a minister. In time he prevailed and convinced fellow ministers of the importance of missionary work across the globe. Carey moved with his wife and children to India to begin a missionary settlement. After a year in India, Carey ran out of money due to the mismanagement of funds by his partner, and survived by the missionaries hunting their own food and trying to cultivate land in the Sundarbans, a tiger-and crocodile-infested area on the Bay of Bengal, southeast of Calcutta.  After spending seven years in India most of the plagued with hardship, as Carey lost both his first wife and his five year old son, Carey finally converted one individual. The letter in the collection, written in 1800 entitled “My Dear Bro” highlights Carey’s excitement at the prospect of converting his first person native to India. The letter also exemplifies the loneliness felt by Carey and his family, as Carey expresses deep gratitude for the letter he is responding to. Carey, and his fellow missionaries, went on to create hundreds of schools and convert 1,400 people. By examining the two hundred and thirteen year old hand written letter, I felt I was given permission to glance back in time, to the daily life of an individual who went through many hardships, but never gave up his desire to help the population of a foreign country. The finding aid for this collection is available here.

My internship at the Burke Library has been an amazing experience. I feel that I have received a fantastic education from Brigette about the profession of archiving. I have had the ability to learn about individuals from the past that I would have never heard about or had the opportunity to research in such detail. I have also had the ability to try to organize unprocessed materials, taking the disorganized materials out of old folders and returning them to acid free holdings. Although this may seem like a mundane task, the materials that I have come across are incredibly interesting and diverse in subject. Each new box opened has another surprise within its contents. I have found every aspect of this internship interesting and educational, and I am very happy to have played a small role in processing materials for the Missionary Research Library Collection.