NOTE: The following was written by Union Theological Seminary student Heather J. Ketchum (MDiv 2020). Her brief bio is below.
This week, the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature convene in San Diego for the annual AAR/SBL conference, and this year, I was pleased to collaborate with faculty and librarians at the Burke Library on an exciting new online resource related to the conference: the Black Theology Papers Project. This online repository, which launched this week in honor of the 50th anniversary celebration of Dr. James H. Cone’s Black Theology and Black Power, “aims to preserve and promote the intellectual heritage of black theology.”
The project provides electronic access to many of the papers and presentations given at the Black Theology Unit panels at the annual AAR/SBL conference. Thousands of scholars in religion-related areas gather in scores of small groups (or units) such as the Black Theology Unit at AAR/SBL, usually the week before Thanksgiving. These groups host panels on various themes such as “Racial Liminality and Cruciform Bodies in Cone and King” or roundtable discussions over recently published works like Josef Sorett’s Spirit in the Dark: A Religious History of Racial Aesthetics (Oxford University Press, 2016). These papers and presentations are wonderful glimpses into the ongoing work in the field.
Because of travel costs, scheduling, and other factors, many people who would otherwise love to engage in conversations around the cutting edge of religious scholarship cannot attend. Thus, Adam Clark, Andrea C. White, and Josef Sorett put together the Black Theology Papers Project, or BTPP, in the hope of expanding the availability of these papers beyond the yearly conference, making the scholarship more accessible and preserving the brilliant work going on in the discipline of black theology.
My role in this was helping take the papers emailed to the unit co-chairs and formatting them to a uniform journal template and then uploading them to the website. The process involved lots of split screens and a great deal of copy/paste.
This large-scale digital project was constructed in collaboration with the Columbia University Libraries, and with staff at the Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary. Columbia uses an online platform called OJS (Open Journal Systems) which is put out by the Public Knowledge Project. Columbia has a host of other online journals put out by various groups affiliated with the university. Once the article has been formatted, it is ready to be uploaded to OJS along with a signed Author Agreement and general information about the author. The BTPP journal is broken up by years and sections how a print journal would be except it is exclusively an online format. The final product (as of November 18th, 2019) looks like this:
It has been a wonderful project to work on and help launch! We hope that you will explore the site at https://journals.library.columbia.edu/index.php/btpp and learn a bit about the current happenings in Black Theology. –Heather J. Ketchum
Heather J. Ketchum is a third-year MDiv student at Union Theological Seminary (NYC) concentrating in Systematic Theology. During her studies at UTS, Heather has worked at the Burke library as a Circulation Assistant and, more recently, assisting in the Burke special collections and archives. Heather is a Research Assistant for Andrea C. White, Professor of Theology & Culture at UTS, and the Assistant Minister at Madison Avenue Baptist Church. When not reading and writing about theology, Heather enjoys exploring the New York craft coffee scene.