Category Archives: Burke Staff

The Black Theology Papers Project | guest blogger Heather J. Ketchum

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.

split computer screen with on the left a pdf unformatted form of authors document (here, M. Rufus Burnett Jr.’s paper, entitled “Afro-Christian, Afro-Blue: Land Based Autonomy and the Making of Blues Identities at the Turn of the 20th Century”) and on the right a word document with the paper formatted in the journal template

This is how my workstation looked while working on the Black Theology Papers Project


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:

Screenshot of the Black Theology Papers Project website, noting the 50th Anniversary of James H. Cone' book, Black Theology & Black Power

The Black Theology Papers Project


It has been a wonderful project to work on and help launch! We hope that you will explore the site at 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.

Greetings from the Archives: Leah’s First Big Offsite Project

Happy (mid) October, and happy American Archives Month! I’m Leah Edelman, the Outreach Archivist at the Burke Library, and though I started working here at the end of June, I thought this month would be a good one to introduce myself on the blog.

With support from the wonderful library team, I manage all things archives here at the Burke. I provide reference and research support for archival collections; I work with UTS, Columbia, and Barnard faculty and students on course-based archival planning and teaching; I acquire, process, and create description for archival collections using ArchivesSpace, an information-management system designed specifically for archives; and I supervise the work of student assistants on archival projects.

One of my first priorities upon starting at the Burke was to move a number of archival collections to our offsite Research Collections and Preservation facility (ReCAP). Columbia University operates ReCAP jointly with the New York Public Library, Princeton University, and most recently with Harvard University. This fully climate-controlled facility in New Jersey houses over five million books and archival collections from Columbia University, and allows Columbia’s individual libraries and repositories to accommodate new acquisitions, provide larger study spaces, and better preserve historical collections. And don’t worry: materials housed off-site at ReCAP are still accessible at the Burke, they just take a day or two to get here once we place your request!

So how does the transfer process work? First, Head of the Burke Matthew Baker and I consulted on which collections might be good candidates to move offsite. We considered factors including recent research use, size of the collection, level of existing description for the collection, and current location.

We have a number of collections storage locations here at Burke, some more or less easily accessible, and some more or less crowded. Ideally, we’d like all collections to live safely in shelving units (not on top of them, and not on wire carts).

Archive storage boxes on a wire cart in the Burke Library

Archive storage boxes on a wire cart at the Burke Library

Those using the restrooms or stopping by L4 during the summer months may have noticed the next phase of the transfer in action: staging boxes for barcoding (each box gets a unique barcode, which gets scanned and linked to the collection record in CLIO), and then loading them onto the wooden ReCAP carts to await transfer. The carts hold five record cartons or 20 document boxes, and we filled 60 carts!

Large wooden shelving units on wheels, each containing about twenty archive storage boxes, at the Burke Library

Wooden carts full of archival storage boxes, on level L4 of the Burke Library, awaiting transfer to the ReCAP offsite storage facility

All together, we sent 1,019 boxes from 34 collections off-site this summer. That creates a lot of space! We’re aiming for one more similarly sized ReCAP transfer in December. In the meantime, I hope to continue meeting lots of wonderful students, staff, and faculty, presenting “intro to archives” sessions for classes, and getting to know the collections and treasures housed here at the Burke Library.

If you’ve got questions about archives (such as: so, what are archives? What does an archivist do?), about collections at the Burke, about using archival materials in your research or in your class, or about anything at all, please be in touch! Say hello any time, in person on L4, or online at

And in honor of American Archives Month, here are some archive-y things I’m thinking about this month: