Monthly Archives: April 2015

Mid-Entry Blog Post…some thoughts on the Dr. Henry Smith Leiper Papers

Greetings! It is hard to believe how quickly the last few weeks of my internship at the Burke Library Archive have flown by. I suppose it is because the experience has been educational, interesting, and fun. So far, I have met several warm staff members, and have appreciated the nuggets of wisdom thrown my way. Under the guidance of Brigette Kamsler, I have learned how to process two collections, and am finishing up my third. I have also had the opportunity to attend the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC) in Boston where I met wonderful peers and gained valuable tools and advice for working in the Archival profession.

In my first few days at the Burke Library, I was somewhat anxious and excited at finally putting theory learned in class into real-life practice on actual materials! In the past 8 weeks, however, those anxieties quickly dissipated, as I have processed three collections of the UTS Record Group Series 1. This series contains the records of faculty and students of Union Theological Seminary. It has been thrilling to handle these incredible documents that once belonged to faculty and students who had a profound impact in the theological world. The three collections I have processed so far from the UTS records group were made possible by a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation.

The collection I am currently working on is the Henry Smith Leiper Papers. Dr. Leiper attended UTS from 1914-1917. Leiper was also very active in the Student Volunteer Movement. Leiper planned for a career as a missionary which led him to China and other parts of Asia. Upon returning to the United States, he served as secretary for numerous organizations, among these the Federal Council of Churches (FCC) and helped create the World Council of Churches (WCC). Leiper was considered to be an international religious leader, and therefore spoke at many religious functions, one of which was the Convention of United Church Women in 1956 as announced in the Ocean Grove Times.

The bulk of the records were created during Dr. Leiper’s time as Secretary of the FCC,  and capture his (and his religious peers) response to the anti-Semitism and other atrocities that were occurring in Germany starting as early as 1932. These letters and articles are quite moving– they tell the story as it was unfolding in Europe, and Leiper’s and his peers efforts to enlighten religious and political leaders in the United States about the devastation. Telegrams and radio addresses on the subject of the Church crisis in Germany (and other countries within Europe), can also be found within his papers. One such telegram, dated November 21, 1938, was sent to the Honorable George Gordon Battle to enlist his support as representative of the Provisional Council Against Anti-Semitism:


Leiper was a prolific writer and published many articles in various newspapers. Many of these articles are contained in this collection in the form of clippings on subjects relating to what was happening in Germany and Europe during the 1930s: Nazi Propaganda, speeches. These papers are an incredible collection of materials about the fate of the Church in Germany during the Second World War, and the efforts of the FCC to bring the issues to the public and help in relief for victims of the atrocities being committed in Europe. This collection was originally processed almost 20 years ago, and I was able to go through the collection again and re-house the materials into acidic-free folders and boxes. I also enlarged the collection from 9 boxes to 13 boxes, as much of the material was overfilled in the original boxes. In addition, there were several fragile items that needed to be marked fragile on the Finding Aid (FA), the document that enables researchers to determine what the collection contains and whether it is valuable to their research. I maintained the order in which I found it, and just gave the folders more specific titles in some cases to make finding materials easier for users.

I will leave you with an image of a document from the collection that conveys in 8 questions (it is unclear who wrote it) what Leiper and other Church leaders in America and abroad were grappling with respect to the German Church under the Nazi regime:

Leiper_QuestionsAs I take in this incredible collection of documents, it really amazes me the breadth of his– and others– accomplishments to help those persecuted in Germany and elsewhere. Holding these documents in my hands reminds me again why I decided to get into archives in the first place.

I look forward to the last few weeks of my internship at the Burke Library. Thank you for reading!

Canadian Intern


I’m Dave Mucz from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada. I am extremely honoured and excited to begin my practicum placement at the Burke Library Archives at the Union Theological Seminary. Throughout this experience I hope to gain a better understanding of the archival process within an American context, how such activities improve accessibility, and the ways in which such archival resources can expand and challenge accepted historical discourses. Columbia University was one of the top choices for my practicum due to its distinguished academic reputation, internationally renowned researchers and diverse library/archival collections. The hands on design of this practicum will allow me to develop my archival skills while contributing to the overall archival project Brigette is overseeing. While my program at the University of Alberta does not have a comprehensive archival specialization, I have taken the classes available and gained additional experience during the completion of my Masters dissertation in history in 2014. Its been a crazy journey to get here but I am excited about the opportunity and look forward to not only learning but contributing to the archival holdings of Burke Library

This practicum will fulfill the requirements of LIS 590, a course offered through the University of Alberta, Library and Information Studies faculty, that allows students the opportunity to travel abroad or within Canada to gain practical experience in various library institutions (public, academic, government), archives, and museums. As a result of a lack of archival course within my program, I welcomed the opportunity to travel to New York and gain hands on experience under a professional archivist. Throughout my undergrad and masters degrees I have been interested in history, historical documents and their ability to offer new insights into historical people, places and events. Within this context I am especially interested in the political manipulation, destruction and looting of archival collections in Africa.

The initial period of my placement will see me get acquainted with Burke Library, its staff and collections. Due to my lack of direct archival experience I will also be doing a number of readings to get me up to speed and to familiarize myself with any differences between Canadian and American archival practices. After this period I will begin my project as designed by Brigette. At the start of 2015, the Burke Library Archives were awarded a three year grant from the Henry Luce Foundation to arrange, describe and provide access to the Union Theological Seminary Archive. This is a continuation of the Burke’s association with the Henry Luce Foundation. Within this broad project I will work on the collection of Presbyterian minister and pastor James H. Ecob. This collection consists of thirty two letters from 1892-1894, the majority of which relate to Ecob’s decision to withdraw from the Presbyterian Church due to its Assembly’s verdict in the 1893 trial of Charles Augustus Briggs.


Update from an Intern

As I write my second entry as an intern of the Burke Library, I am struck by the great contrast between this day and my first day in January. In time for a number of faiths’ holidays, New York has at long last emerged from a long winter and spring has arrived. And, thanks to this internship, I can finally say that I have processed some archival collections!

Most recently, I completed work on the papers of Thomas Samuel Hastings (1827-1911), who served Union Theological Seminary as a professor and president for many years following a long career as a pastor, primarily at West Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. Working with these papers was brilliant exposure to the kinds of materials prevalent in late-19th-century and early-20th-century archives, such as handwritten and typed correspondence, diaries, scrapbooks, and photographs and allowed me to practice a wide range of basic preservation techniques while handling and re-housing the collection.

The intellectual content was also absorbing, as the collection contains significant correspondence with John C. Brown, a banker and long-time member of the seminary’s board of directors, that touches upon the Charles Briggs affair.

As president of Union Theological Seminary, Hastings was intimately involved in defining the seminary’s position within the larger theological debate then occurring regarding revision of the Westminster Confession and marshaling support for Briggs during his trial for heresy (described in greater detail by Ruth Tonkiss Cameron in a blog entry last month). Researchers interested in that particular moment in history will find rich material for review, such as the May 31, 1893 letter to Crosby in which Hastings’ strong feelings with respect to whether Briggs should withdraw from the church or merely from the heresy case are conveyed. Hastings avers that “to withdraw from the church would be to desert his [Briggs’] friends, to desert the minority and to give up the whole history of the Presbyterian Church to the despotism which traditionalism and bigotry are now maintaining” [1].

Letter 1

While this excerpt from Hastings’ private correspondence could enrich one’s understanding of an epochal moment in American Presbyterian history, the seminary’s ultimate support of Briggs and his faculty status is well known and related in published sources. One of the special aspects of accessing archival materials, however, is that it enables one to try to shift the vantage point from which one seeks to view past events: to be not just a consumer of an official, third-party history, statements prepared for posterity, or later reminiscences of a participant.

­Viewing this letter within the context of the Thomas Samuel Hastings Papers, one can compare and contrast it with other letters to Crosby regarding board matters and try to develop a sense of the weight that various actions and opinions were given by participants at the time. Working with this particular collection has also given me an appreciation for the value to researchers of the existence of institutional collections like Union Theological Seminary’s archives, as I am beginning to see how individual archives, such as those of Charles Briggs, Thomas Samuel Hastings, and Williams Adams Brown, to name just a few, that arise from the same affiliation can “speak” to each other and form a more complete picture of past events.

I have been enjoying interning at the Burke Library immensely and I am glad that some time remains before the end of the semester. I look forward to continuing to learn something new each week at the library and am hopeful that I can process several more collections over the next month.


[1] Letter to John C. Brown, UTS 1: Thomas Samuel Hastings Papers, series 1, box 1, and folder 4, The Burke Library Archives, Columbia University Libraries, at Union Theological Seminary, New York.