May 15, 2015
Well, the time has come to face the reality that this wonderful experience at the Burke Library Archives is coming to an end. It has been a delightful semester of learning the basics of processing collections and just understanding the Burke Archives as a whole—the various record groups and how they interrelate with one another. Additionally, interacting with staff, other interns, and learning about the history of the Burke Library and Union Theological Seminary (UTS) has been such a positive experience. As I look back at my final weeks here, I am impressed that I have completed the following four collections: the Walter Rauschenbusch Papers, Paul Edwin Spiecker Papers, Henry Smith Leiper Papers, and Josiah Strong Papers. This final collection proved somewhat challenging, as the Strong Papers have been organized and reorganized by many people throughout the years. In addition to the Finding Aid for the Strong Papers, I worked on a detailed inventory that is available for users to better understand what the collection contains.
Rev. Strong was an influential figure in the Theological world during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He was a leader in the Social Gospel Movement, and served as Secretary of the Evangelical Alliance for a brief time. He created the League for Social Service, and published many influential books, among these Our Country and The New Era. A NY Times article about the League was published in 1899 and can be viewed here: http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=9800EEDF153CE433A25757C1A9679C94689ED7CF. Strong’s two daughters, Elsie and Margery, wanted to publish a biography about their Father after his death, and the papers that I processed contain manuscripts of the biography that various people were involved with over many decades. The collection also contains two boxes of correspondence that I delved into. It was incredible to read the letters that were written from the 1930s until the late 1960s between Elsie, Margery, and others who knew Strong or were assisting with the biography. In reading some of these letters, a narrative unfolds which paints a picture of two daughters who really loved their father. They wanted him portrayed as the great man he was. I have no doubt that this collection will prove valuable to researchers studying Rev. Strong.
In looking back at my time working at the Burke, I am proud of my accomplishments. In addition to the processed collections, I have had the opportunity to contribute FA’s to Academic Commons (AC), the Columbia University digital repository. AC is a tool that enables the archivists to track which and how often collections are accessed online, so learning about how metrics plays a part in seeking funding has been informative. I have also learned about Archives Space, which is an open-source information management application for describing, managing, and providing access to archives, manuscripts, and digital objects. I appreciated Brigette taking the time to show the interns her professional portfolio and demonstrate how one can go about creating a website. I feel confident that I have gained practical skills for my future, and have learned about some of the challenges in maintaining a library and archive.
I really enjoyed participating in the intern activities that were organized by Columbia University, such as getting a tour of many of CU’s libraries. It was interesting to see how other libraries are structured and operate. Speaking of interns, it was a pleasure working alongside Kate and Dave these past few months, and I will always look back fondly at our times sharing stories about the collections we were working on. I want to thank Brigette for being a wonderful mentor and always being so positive and enthusiastic about the work. Thank you to Beth Bidlack, Director, for her support and graciousness. Thank you to Matt, Betty, Ruth, Liz and the rest of the staff and student workers for their guidance and care. I will really miss the Burke!