Category Archives: Collections

Surprise from Japan: Encountering Toyohiko Kagawa

Several months ago, the Burke Library received an unexpected visitor, a researcher from Japan. She said she was from the Kagawa Memorial Center in Kobe, and she wanted to see some archival items in the collected papers of Toyohiko Kagawa. Although her visit was unscheduled, I helped her set up a reader account and request the materials via our online Special Collections forms, and luckily we were able to fit her in for an appointment that day. As it happens, Kagawa has stuck with me since that day — I have become fascinated by his life and work, and have worked with other researchers who make use of his papers in the library who study him too. I even read a biographical graphic novel about him, two pages of which are shown below (more on this further on…)

Scenes from a graphic novel about the life of Toyohiko Kagawa, depicting his life as a student, coming to New York from Japan as a young man circa the early-1900s.

(Click for full size image.) Fujio Gō and Ōsaki Teizō, translation by Timothy Boyle. “Beyond the Death Line: The Society of Love and Cooperation Envisioned by Toyohiko Kagawa.” Kagawa Memorial Center, Kobe, Japan (2015).

I had never heard of Toyohiko Kagawa before. (I am still fairly new to the Burke; actually, I was a student at Union Theological Seminary after earning my MLS, and I know the Burke’s circulating collection and research databases very well, but I still have a lot to learn about its Archives and Special Collections holdings.) It turns out that Kagawa’s papers are held in the Missionary Research Library, held at the Burke. He visited the United States many times, and his papers eventually came to be collected at the Kagawa National Center, headquartered nearby in Brooklyn — UTS professor Harry Emerson Fosdick was on the sponsoring committee. Toyohiko Kagawa was a pretty impressive person, and an inspiring subject for seminarians to study.

Newspaper clipping from the Akron Beacon Journal, 1954, announcing that Toyohiko Kagawa would preach there.

(Click for full size image.) Author unknown. “Toyohiko Kagawa, Noted Japanese, To Preach Here.” Akron Beacon Journal, Saturday, Sept. 11, 1954. (From the Missionary Research Library Section 7, Toyohiko Kagawa Papers, Series 1, Box 9.) From the collections of the Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary

 

Toyohiko (given name) Kagawa (family name), born in 1888, was a theologian, activist, labor reformer, and pastoral caregiver, who worked in service of improving the lives of farmers and workers in Japan and internationally throughout his life. (He struggled with health complications and died in 1960, having been nominated once for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1955.) What strikes me most about his life and work is the incredible range of activities his leadership touched in Japan — from building medical hospitals in the “slums” of Kobe to founding cooperative farms to organizing labor unions, he accomplished a great deal towards empowering farmers and laborers. He spent a brief time in prison after being arrested following a labor demonstration. As well as being a gifted writer and theologian, he was a shrewd economic thinker and researcher — for example, he studied horticulture while forming his cooperative farms, and from reading about farming practices in Greece he got the idea of planting chestnut trees in the grazing areas of pigs in mountain farms, so that the roots would prevent rock slides while the trees provided food for the animals. Not to mention his prolific scholarly and literary life. He is said to have missed a lot of class while he was a student because he spent so much of his time in the library. (You can see why I find his personality so endearing.) He became a prolific writer, and his constructive activities were funded in large part thanks to sales from his books and speaking engagements. Having studied at Kobe Theological School, he eventually made several trips to the United States, including to earn an MA and MDiv at Princeton. Later in his life he made several speaking and churchgoing tours of the U.S., including in 1954, which are well documented by correspondence, newspaper clippings, and other materials in the Toyohiko Kagawa Papers.

A section of a speech given by Toyohiko Kagawa in 1954, including the phrase: "I would help the laborers to help themselves, acting as good Samaritans through their own organizations..."

(Click for full size image.) Toyohiko Kagawa. Remarks at the World Council of Churches meeting, Aug 17, 1954. (From the Missionary Research Library Section 7, Toyohiko Kagawa Papers, Series 1, Box 6.) From the collections of the Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary

I learned a lot about Kagawa by studying the materials we have here in the Burke Library, and from reading this biographical graphic novel that our surprise visitor gave me after her visit. It is called Beyond the Death Line: The Society of Love and Cooperation Envisioned by Toyohiko Kagawa. The Kagawa Memorial Center produces and distributes these books, drawn by Fujio Gō and written by Ōsaki Teizō, and I cannot find another copy in any library catalogs in the United States. She gave it to me personally, but perhaps I will donate it to the Burke Library’s collections so others can continue to study Kagawa like I did.

On “Missionary Cosmopolitanism”

Among the Burke Library’s most frequently consulted collections is the Missionary Research Library (MRL), an extensive body of books, pamphlets, reports, periodicals, and archives that originated in 1914, following the Edinburgh World Missionary Conference of 1910. Created by, and initially intended as a research resource for, Protestant missionaries working in various mission “fields” around the world, it is today understood as one of the richest repositories in the U.S. for area or global studies. As the self-understanding and goals of primarily liberal Protestant denominations and organizations changed over the course of the twentieth century — from evangelization to more broadly humanitarian work in education and public health — a wide variety of materials nevertheless continued to flow into the perennially underfunding MRL. In 1976, the MRL became part of the Burke Library; in 2013 the processing of the bulk of these collections was completed by Burke Project Archivist Brigette Kamsler. (Columbia University Libraries has digitized nearly 4,000 the more than 21,000 pamphlets in the MRL; that project is expected to continue in the coming years.)

 

Several academic presses, including Brill and Eerdmans, have been regularly publishing works on the history of missions, evaluating the significance of Protestant as well as Roman Catholic missionary endeavors. A recent work of particular interest for the Burke’s MRL collection is David Hollinger’s Protestants Abroad: How Missionaries Tried to Change the World But Changed American (Princeton, 2017). Hollinger recently discussed his work at Columbia’s Heyman Center for the Humanities. One of the stories Hollinger highlights concerns the extent to which liberal Protestant missionaries were often the first of any segment of US society to support the work of movements such as civil rights and decolonization. Many children of missionaries (sometimes known as “mish kids” or “third culture kids”) would become scholars, diplomats, and founders of international NGOs (including precursors to programs like the Peace Corps). During World War 2 and after, they were leading advocates and supporters of Japanese citizens who had been confined.

Hollinger uses the phrase “missionary cosmopolitans” to describe the outlook and cultural influence of these individuals and the movements and organizations they fostered. Because many had grown up and been educated outside the US and often possessed deep cultural and linguistic knowledge, they tended to be sympathetic to a broader range of perspectives and experience as well as critical of both the domestic and foreign policies of the US government. They espoused a nascent version of what would later be called multiculturalism or pluralism. Though they were not always successful in achieving their cultural and political goals (he notes their often vehement but failed opposition the Vietnam War, for one), Protestants Abroad analyses how the experiences and values of these “missionary cosmopolitans” (well-attested in the holdings of the MRL) had an important influence on education, politics, and activism.

A Chance Encounter with Hans Holbein the Younger — published by Rebecca Potts, Archives Assistant (c/o Carolyn Bratnober)

These images are from a printed collection of woodcarvings designed by the famous Hans Holbein the Younger and carved by Hans Lutzelburger. By chance, I encountered a copy of Dance of Death in the Special Collections of the Burke Library — where I am currently working on Archives-processing projects as a student at Union Theological Seminary — and this unique volume opened my eyes to the world of Holbein’s woodcarvings.

"The Husbandman," woodcut engraving by Hans Holbein the Younger

“The Husbandman,” from Dibdin, Thomas Frognall, 1776-1847, Francis Douce, and Hans Holbein. Holbein’s Dance of Death Exhibited In Elegant Engravings On Wood: With a Dissertation On the Several Representations of That Subject. London: H.G. Bohn, 1858.

"The Child," and engraving by Hans Holbein the Younger

“The Child,” from Dibdin, Thomas Frognall, 1776-1847, Francis Douce, and Hans Holbein. Holbein’s Dance of Death Exhibited In Elegant Engravings On Wood: With a Dissertation On the Several Representations of That Subject. London: H.G. Bohn, 1858.

"The Abbess," an engraving by Hans Holbein the Younger

“The Abbess,” from Dibdin, Thomas Frognall, 1776-1847, Francis Douce, and Hans Holbein. Holbein’s Dance of Death Exhibited In Elegant Engravings On Wood: With a Dissertation On the Several Representations of That Subject. London: H.G. Bohn, 1858.

Holbien was a 16th century German artist and printmaker who, over the course of his life, did work for Erasmus, Thomas More, Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII, and Thomas Cromwell. After working for More—who resigned over Henry’s desire to divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon—Holbein began to work directly for Anne Boleyn, More’s political and theological rival. Holbein was able to weather Anne’s famous downfall and in 1536, the year of her execution, he was officially employed as the King’s Painter. He went on to paint Henry, his third wife Jane Seymour, their child Edward, and many different courtiers. Holbein was also working for Cromwell during this time, creating images for Cromwell’s reformist, anti-clerical agenda. Following Jane’s death, Holbein returned to Germany under commission to paint Anne of Cleaves, the woman Cromwell was promoting as Henry’s next wife. As history has it, Holbein’s picture was highly flattering and Henry, distraught that his wife’s true face did not match Holbein’s picture, divorced Anne and beheaded Cromwell. Is it surprising then that a man who had witnessed and survived some of the most famous intrigues and downfalls in western history, would take as his subject, the fleeting nature of life and the constant, smiling certainty of death?

 

The images in this book depict the Dance of Death, or Dance Macabre, as drawn by Holbein. Dance of Death imagery was popularized long before Holbein, appearing in churches, monasteries, and illuminated manuscripts in the European Middle Ages. Ecclesiastically, Dance of Death imagery—people from all stations and ages confronted and called away by the personification of death as a skeleton—functioned as an allegory urging Christians to repent in the face of certain and, in those days, likely immanent death. Yet, as the essays in this 1858 book by Francis Douce demonstrate, the use of skeletons and stories of dancing death have much longer histories and more complex meanings. Douce tells how, according to Herodotus (a 5th century BCE historian), at Egyptian banquets, a dead body was brought out and presented to all the guests while the hosts proclaimed “Behold this image of what yourselves will be; eat and drink therefore, and be happy” (Douce, 2). Later Romans apparently adopted this tradition at their feasts (Ibid., 3). Thus the face of death can be used to call sinners to the church or diners to revelry. This ambiguity is somewhat captured in the once popular stories Douce recounts in which, though the characters and locations alter in every retelling, some group of people are loudly singing and dancing in direct defiance and mockery of priests, who are trying to conduct a religious service. The priest then asks God to force these dancers to continue their dance without stop for a year. God grants this request and the dancers gradually die, starved and exhausted, dancing themselves to death.

 

Holbein’s woodcarvings seem, to me, located within the space between allegory and ambiguity. Some of the images appear to clearly chastise immoral or corrupt behavior, such as the Judge, who is called by death as he prepares to take a bribe from a from a rich man, or the Advocate, which is similar. Yet others, such as the Husbandman, the Child, and the Abbess, illustrate that death comes for us all, regardless of virtue, age, or hard work. What then is the point of placing an image death before the unjust, as if in punishment, if later images demonstrate the unsettling and incontrovertible fact that death has little to do with justice? Sadly, these woodcarvings, exquisitely crafted and famous though they may be, do no more to answer that question than the mountains of philosophy and theology that came before and since. Therefore, in lieu of an answer to this question, I will leave you with my favorite image from the set: the Nun, kneeling in prayer, yet still able to cast flirtatious glances over her shoulder at the lute player in her room. Though this image was perhaps meant as a warning or a satire against the Catholic Church, I see it as the perfect marriage between the ancient Egyptian and European Middle Ages imageries of death. If life is fleeting and uncertain, why choose between prayer and merriment? Get it, girl.

Travel and Research in Israel/Palestine

Before becoming Circulation Supervisor here at the Burke Library, I attended Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York (UTS-NYC) as a Master of Divinity student with a focus in Interreligious Engagement.  My particular area of academic research lies in two distinct segments of scholarship; 1) Judeo-Christian relations in Late Antiquity, and 2) the modern conflict in Israel/Palestine.  Before arriving at UTS-NYC I attended Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary at graduated in May 2014 with a MA in Religious Thought.  In January 2014 I participated in a month-long travel seminar to the Holy Land, sparking an interest that has grown substantially.

When I visited Israel/Palestine in early 2014 I had no idea how much of an impact the trip would have on my continued vocational work.

Photos taken in the West Bank, by Deanna Roberts, 1/27/2014.

From exploring historic landmarks and ancient ruins throughout the region, to sharing coffee at a local Palestinian cafe next to the wall in Beit Sahour with new friends, the trip changed my life.  Beit Sahour is a refugee camp on the eastern side of Bethlehem.  When most people hear the term refugee camp, tents and non-permanent structures come to mind.  However, in Beit Sahour and the other refugee camps inside the West Bank, which have now been around for well over 60 years, dwellings are quite permanent.  The experience I had in the West Bank was eye-opening, insightful, heartbreaking, and joyous.  As a citizen of the United States I was able to move freely in and out of checkpoints and through gated areas with little to no questioning from the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) soldiers about my intentions.  It became more obvious to me each day just how limited travel is to Palestinians living in both Israel proper and inside the Occupied Territories.  What makes things even less black and white, and way more grey is that people living side-by-side one another, or in some cases directly above and below have drastically different sentiments about whose land they are living on.  On an “illegal” excursion to Hebron, my privileged position as a US passport carrying citizen became all the more clear.

Something interesting about the Holy Land, as in many other places around the world,  is that people continuously build on top of more ancient cultures and civilizations.  We build our dwellings right on top of the lived realities of those that have come before us.  In many instances, international Christian communities like to build churches right on top of historical sites, particularly in the Galilee region. Not only do Christian churches get build on top of ancient Jewish synagogues, but Jewish settler apartment complexes get built right on top of now closed Palestinian homes and storefronts.

Photo taken at Capharnaum, by Deanna Roberts, 1/16/2014

It became clear to me that the vision that Jewish settlers in the West Bank have for a homeland is in contrast to the vision that Palestinian Arabs, both Christian and Muslim, would have of their homeland.

The experiences in Israel/Palestine in 2014 were not all bleak and dreadful.  One of my favorite photos from the trip is of me standing inside a church on the Mount of Olives overlooking the borders of the old city of Jerusalem.  As I stood there I remember noticing that there was a mesmerizing unity of the cross located on the altar lined up perfectly with the Dome of the Rock, and the Wailing/Western wall that falls directly behind.  The moment captured the hope that I have: that people of three faiths can live together in harmony.

Photo taken inside the Chapel of Dominus Flevit, by Deanna Roberts, 1/21/14.

When I arrived back in the States after my trip I found myself unable to put away from my mind the images and stories I had seen and hear while visiting the people that inhabit the land inside historic Palestine.  I joined the Israel Palestine Mission network of the Presbyterian Church (USA), moved to Massachusetts to participate in a year of service, and then found myself in NYC following a call to ordained ministry in the PC (USA).  Of all the social justice issues swimming around the campus of Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, the one that is minimally acknowledged is the moral, economic, social, and religious crisis in Israel/Palestine.

Now that I’m at the Burke in a more official capacity, it makes the most sense for me to share with you all the wonderful resources that the Burke, the wider Columbia University Libraries network, and the city of New York have to offer regarding issues around the current conflict in Israel and Palestine.  For the last few months I have been conducting research in our collections, searching for anything relating to Israel and Palestine, current land rights in historic Palestine, apartheid in the Holy land, and walls and borders throughout history.  I’ve been lucky enough to find a plethora of resources that I would like to share with the wider community:

From the circulating collections of the Burke Library:

Photo of “A Palestinian Theology of Liberation: The Bible, Justice, and the Palestine-Israel Conflict,” by Naim Stifan Ateek (New York, Orbis 2017).

 

Located on one of the New Book shelves, this work echos many of the other works by Ateek.  In Burke we also have Justice and Only Justice:  A Palestinian Theology of Liberation, and A Palestinian Christian Cry for Reconciliation both authored by Ateek.

Also held at Burke are several of the works written by Union Theological Seminary NYC Doctor of Philosophy graduate W. Eugene March including: Israel and the Politics of Land : A Theological Case Study, God’s Land on Loan: Israel, Palestine, and the World, God’s Tapestry: Reading the Bible in a World of Religious Diversity, as well as The Wide Wide Circle of Divine Love: A Biblical Case for Religious Diversity.

In addition to these we also hold several books by Mitri Raheb in the wider Columbia Libraries Network, including I Am A Palestinian Christian, Faith in the Faith of Empire, Bethlehem Besieged : Stories of Hope in Times of Trouble, and the recently published The Cross in Contexts : Suffering and Redemption in Palestine has been ordered and will be available at Burke once it arrives.

A few other resources within the Columbia University Libraries to draw your attention to:

Comprehending Christian Zionism: Perspectives in Comparison, Goran Gunner and Robert O.Smith, editors, 2014.

The Biblical Text in the Context of Occupation : Towards a New Hermeneutics of Liberation, Mitri Raheb, editor, 2012.

The Gospel and the Land of Promise : Christian Approaches to the Land of the Bible, Philip Church, editor, 2011.

I would also recommend:

What It Means to be Palestinian: Stories of Palestinian Peoplehood, Dina Mater, 2011.

Anything by Ilan Pappe.

Israel/Palestine-related events are happening throughout New York.  To highlight one which just closed at the end of February, please see information on traveling exhibit of Bethlehem Beyond the Wall up at Manhattan College in the Bronx.

 

Coloring in the Burke With #ColorOurCollections

Coloring has long been, for me, a way to relax and unwind during stressful periods of my life–which is why I was intrigued to hear about a fun and fascinating global outreach initiative called #ColorOurCollections when Myong Jin, our Collections Specialist, forwarded me an email from the Ex Libris listserv. The New York Academy of Medicine started the initiative in 2016 as a way for libraries, museums, and cultural institutions around the world to take part in a collective week of coloring and exploring each other’s collections.

Original #ColorOurCollections promotion template, from ColorOurCollections.org (2018)

The way it was designed is simple: institutions share images from their books, archives, and other items in the form of black-and-white coloring pages. This year over 180 institutions participated in uploading coloring books, including libraries like Andover-Harvard Theological Library and the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, as well as fascinating international museum sites like the National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum and academic institutions like Universidad de Buenos Aires. Anyone with an internet connection can go to ColorOurCollections.org and download free coloring books from these world-wide repositories, to be filled in with markers, colored pencils, or even paint. Coloring, long a beloved pastime for children, has recently become a trendy crafting hobby for adults, who find shading in the spaces of intricate images to be a relaxing and meditative activity that provides a nice respite during the day. Institutions can host coloring events as a way to engage with the public, and guests have an incentive to visit the museums and libraries to take part in the coloring activities. Participants can then upload photos of their coloring creations on social media platforms with the hashtag #ColorOurCollections. This way the public can “explore, color, and connect with libraries and their collections.”

Myong and I thought it would be fun to join this initiative and have our own day of coloring at the Burke Library. We have had coloring events here in the past (we really like coloring here at the Burke; living in New York can be stressful, and finding ways to unwind is important!) so we already had digital folder of coloring pages ready to go. Plus we uploaded some new ones too. Making a coloring page involves selecting an image from our collections — such as a photo in the archives, a folio of a rare book, and even (in this case) a hand-drawn cartoon that was submitted as part of a student’s thesis in the 1970’s — and scanning it into a digital file. Then, using PhotoShop to make the image black-and-white and adjust the Brightness and Contrast levels, we can turn the scanned image into a graphic with black outlines and white empty space to be filled in by our users.

“How a Coloring Book Page is Made,” Sample from photograph of Brown Tower, at the Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary (c. 2016)

We held our coloring event “Color In the Burke” (pun intended… get it? “Color In”?) on February 8th during the lunch hour, and our staff promoted it on Instagram, Facebook, the Union Theological Seminary Student Digest, and on paper flyers and digital signs throughout the building. We had lots of enthusiastic feedback from the community members who heard about the event, although we had lower attendance than expected on the actual day. Those who attended enjoyed coloring in images from some of the Burke’s rare folios. Our printed coloring books are still available at the Circulation Desk, and anyone who wants to see the Burke’s or any other coloring book can go online to ColorOurCollections.org and download any of the hundreds of books available online. They’re fun to look at — I like engravings and woodcuts myself, and I especially like the anatomical drawings from the medical libraries. We’ll gladly participate in #ColorOurCollections again next year.

Sample page from the Burke Library #ColorOurCollections 2018 Coloring Book

Behind the Stacks: Born’s Natural History of Monks

Browsing our special collections stacks surfaced this amusing plate depicting what at first glance looks like random shorts, sandals, and… rope?

Tab. III [engraving of belts, breeches, shoes] — Born’s Natural History of Monks, London 1783.

The book is Ignaz Edler von Born’s Specimen of the natural history of the various orders of monks, printed in London in 1783. It turns out to be a satirical, anticlerical pamphlet that describes monks according to a Linnaean classification system.

Detail from Born’s satire, Natural History of Monks, London 1783. Text reads: “The Monk. Definition. An animal inimical to man; hooded; howling by night; thirsty.”

The Burke Library’s copy is an English translation from Born’s original Latin, and includes a “Preface by an English Protestant,” as well as some biting commentary by an unimpressed reader.

Detail from the “Preface” to Born’s Natural History of Monks, London 1783. Marginalia reads: “far too long and contains little or nothing but what every protestant knows as well as the writer.”

There are two more plates of engraved illustrations depicting various aspects of monks’ dress and appearance.

Tab. II [engraving of scapularies, sleeves] — Born’s Natural History of Monks, London 1783.

Tab. I [engraving of tonsures, veils, hoods] — Born’s Natural History of Monks, London 1783.

What was interesting for me was to compare the engravings in multiple versions of this work. From a basic search on Internet Archive, I was able to view digitizations of four different editions:

  1. 1783 English translation, printed in London. From the collections of New York Public Library; same edition as the copy in the Burke Library’s collections.
  2. 1784 Latin edition, printed in Augsburg. From the collections of New York Public Library.
  3. 1884 French translation, printed in Paris. From the collections of the Library of Congress.
  4. 1852 English translation, printed in Edinburgh. From the collections of the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies at University of Toronto.

Select engravings from Born’s Natural History of Monks compared side-by-side.

Though this is only a superficial comparison, a more extensive search and closer examination of the engravings could add to our understanding of how reproductive prints spread in the 18th and 19th centuries.

As always, we welcome and invite you to view this or other rare books held by the Burke Library; to learn more about visiting our library or to make an appointment please visit our website at Burke Rare Books & Manuscripts.

Midwinter’s Tale from the Primary Source Internship

As we shake off the dregs of last week’s “bomb cyclone”, it seems an appropriate moment to recognize the most recent labors of the Burke’s student workers. By the end of his time processing archival collections in the library this December, Columbia Religion PhD candidate Andrew McLaren had processed a rangy, exceptionally complex number of collections at Burke. At the end of his time in the library this December, Andrew wrote the following reflection of his experiences processing and getting to know some of our library’s distinctive collections.

Warmest thanks to Andrew for his wonderful work these past months. Thanks also belong to Primary Source Internship and the Henry Luce Foundation, whose support facilitate the processing and access of collections like the Donald Shriver and Harrison Sacket Elliott Papers can be effectively processed for use by future researchers.

~~~

Collections

As a primary source intern at the Burke Library of Union Theological Seminary, I have processed four collections of archival documents. Addressing both conservational and organizational issues, I examined, described, and re-housed thousands of documents, photographs, and other materials.

 

Drawing on substantial work done by earlier archivists, I updated and completed the processing of three existing collections: the papers of William Walker Rockwell, Henry Boynton Smith, and Harrison Sacket Elliott. Each of these collections documents periods of growth for Union Theological Seminary. Henry Boynton Smith (1815-1877), educated in Europe, was among the Seminary’s most active librarians, pushing considerably for an expansion of its holdings with more rigorous scholarly collections. William Walker Rockwell (1874-1958), a scholar of church history, oversaw another significant expansion of the library, including the housing of the Missionary Research Library collection at UTS. He also aided with the library’s pioneering re-organization into an expansive research collection under the great librarian Julia Pettee in the early 20th century. Harrison Sacket Elliott (1882-1951), a former missionary in China and an active member of the YMCA, pushed the boundaries of theological education into new territory, extensively exploring the relationships among theology, education, and psychology and helping to re-make UTS’s place in religious education in America.

 

The bulk of my time, however, was devoted to processing the papers of the 13th President of Union Theological Seminary, Professor Donald Woods Shriver, Jr.  (b. 1927). President Shriver is well-remembered for navigating a stretch of financial difficulty for the Seminary. Moreover, his vocal advocacy for the importance of ethical thought and critical remembrance is well-known, culminating in his 2005 book, Honest Patriots: Loving a Country Enough to Remember its Misdeeds, which earned President Shriver the Grawemeyer Award in Religion in 2009.

Moreover, the extensive collection of notes from both his own education (including coursework with R.R. Niebuhr, Talcott Parsons, and Robert Bellah) and the courses he taught as a professor at Union provides a window onto a formative period of theological and religious studies education in America. Internationally engaged, ethically minded, and publicly active, President Shriver’s legacy represents rather aptly the educational values of Union.

Donald Shriver Portrait. UTS2. Faculty Photographs: Pres. Donald W. Shriver.
The Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University 

II. Notes on a Process

As a student of early Islamic history, I’ve learned that certain kinds of distance are part of the work: temporal ones (between now and the 10th century), spatial ones (between the Burke Library, and, say, Baghdad), and material ones (between manuscripts and printed editions). I applied to the primary source internship hoping to develop a clearer insight into the relationships between the interpretation of texts and their physical histories. Although the contexts are entirely different, thinking about how the written traces of someone’s life’s work are distilled and distributed neatly into folders and boxes is not unlike the way one must think through the construction of a text.

 

In my research on early Islamic historiography (i.e., the study of how people understand the past and talk or write about it), I’m often hunting for minute hints of how scholars assembled their texts. This can be extremely difficult for eras in which relatively little textual material survives. In a sense, it’s impossible to check the work of our historians, because their resources have often disappeared (in the hubbub of an ancient library, in a fire, in a worm’s stomach). As one of my professors often opines, he’d use a time machine not to alter the course of history, but to have a bit of conversation with al-Tabari, the great 10th-century historian, and a peek at his personal archive. In the meantime, we have to read very carefully for the “seams” of the text—moments of disagreement, patterns in language usage, or anachronistic references can all prove significant for imagining how the surviving text was assembled.

 

As an intern working on processing papers, I stood at the opposite end of that process. The papers of Smith or Rockwell are fragments of story, waiting to be sewn together. And since one of archiving’s imperatives is preserving a sense of the papers’ provenance, organizing documents and photographs in a neutral way that keeps context in focus but bows to a logic requires careful thought. A keen observer might already be able to see the rudiments of a story in the way a collection is organized (this is perhaps especially true, given our propensity for thinking about things in chronological sequences). Of course, the second side of the coin is the difficulty of even wrapping one’s head around all the accessioned materials (for instance, President Shriver’s papers arrived in 30-some bankers boxes). Where do you start if you don’t know the beginning of the story?

Ultimately, the archive points toward the power of the organizing narrative. Six dozen document boxes sitting quietly on the shelves can’t tell their own story; 1700 photographic negatives themselves can’t recount the past without a little light shining through them. In this idea, there is perhaps a rather poetic connection to President Shriver’s work on the significance of communal memory, particularly of the shameful past. Because our stories obscure as easily as they reveal, it is the narrator’s task to tell a story that takes account not of who we wish we had been, but who we must be in the future.

I wish to extend my thanks to Matthew Baker, Betty Bolden, Myong Jin, Rebecca Potts, and Deanna Roberts for their generosity in all things. I want especially to thank Rebecca M. Nieto for all her guidance and good cheer in the course of my internship. –AGM

~

Andrew McLaren is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Religion at Columbia University. His dissertation research focuses on a historiographical text about conquests and politics in the first three centuries of Islam, as well as its reception in various geographical and linguistic contexts and understandings of history.

Interview with Betty Bolden

The following is taken from interviews with Betty Bolden by Meredith Levin, the Burke Library’s interim Head from 2016-17. Betty will be retiring in December 2017 and will be greatly missed by her many colleagues and friends!

—————————————

After nearly 50 years at the Burke Library, Betty Bolden, one of Union Theological Seminary’s most beloved community members, is ready to begin her much-deserved retirement at the end of 2017. I  had the privilege of working with Betty last year in my role as the Interim Head of the Burke and I’m so grateful that I was able to learn from her. Recently, I had the chance to sit down with her one more time and ask about her many experiences in various roles at the Burke. Below are excerpts from our conversation.

What’s the strangest library request you’ve ever received?

Years ago, probably in the 1970s, UTS offered (possibly for the first time) a class on sexuality and there were 2 copies of a book, “The Playbook,” that were placed on reserve for students in the course. This book detailed male and female bodies, positions, and featured a lot of graphic content. Whenever students needed to borrow the book for class, they would often hide it under piles of their other books so nobody could see what they were checking out. This was in the early years when there were battles against pornography and everybody was talking about decency. It was a big deal for this course to cover some of these issues and questions. And both copies of “The Playbook” were stolen before the end of the semester so I guess people were really, really interested in learning more…

It’s been nearly 5 decades since you first walked through the doors of the Burke. How has the library changed?

There are more people than ever in the main reading room. In the last 3 years in particular I’ve noticed that the library is really full again. I think people still like books. I certainly still buy books myself.

We’re coming up on a big anniversary in this neighborhood. Spring 1968 saw sit-ins at Columbia (and at Union), protests over civil rights issues, the Vietnam War, and students vocally opposing academic administration in unprecedented numbers. What do you remember about those events?

I remember that when the Union sit-in began I couldn’t get into work because the building was totally locked down. I had a friend, a 1st year student at the seminary, who let me in and I just wandered the building all day long taking everything in. Later in the afternoon some reporters arrived and began interviewing professors out on Claremont Avenue. Some members of the old guard, like Daniel Day Williams, were very upset by these events because it meant that seminaries were really changing. UTS students were also in close contact with Columbia students. What was happening on the Columbia campus resonated with Union students and vice versa. It was really an exciting time- students everywhere were invested in activism and social justice issues, particularly around the Vietnam War.

How many different Burke Library directors have you worked with (and outlasted)?

8 directors! One who stands out was Father Molloy- he was very nice and taught me a lot. I remember him wearing the fanciest, tailor-made clothes and driving a Mercedes. He was quite a character. He later went on to work at the Smithsonian and I think at SMU.

So, it’s been a while, but how did you get your first job at the Burke?

I had never heard of Union. I was living in Brooklyn at the time looking for jobs and I had gotten an offer for an agency in the South Bronx. My brother told me not to take that job because he said it was too dangerous so I kept looking. I had a friend who worked at General Theological Seminary and when we met for lunch one day her boss who offered to introduce me to the HR person up at Union. I came to Union for my interview and there were two open jobs: 1 in an office and 1 in the library. I decided I would prefer the library job so I took it and I first worked as a circulation assistant. In those days, Burke had a large staff and I remember the big card catalog drawers that could open on both ends so staff members and patrons could access the cards if they needed to. The Missionary Library had its own separate staff of 4-5 people and the Religious Education Library was up on the 5th floor. The Sacred Music Library was also located in the two rooms behind the main reading room on the 3rd floor.

What will you miss most about working at the Burke?

Daily contact with the students and interacting with special collections readers from all over the world.

Do you have a favorite archival collection or rare book

Carter Heyward Papers

Beverly Harrison Papers

The Re-Imagining Community Papers

The Harry Emerson Fosdick Papers and the Near East Relief Committee Records are some of the most heavily used collections, along with those of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and other major theologians.

Some collections I’ve recently become interested in are the East Harlem Protestant Parish Records and the Student Interracial Ministry Records from the 1960s.

What advice would you give the person who takes on this job after you?

This is very physical work- heavy boxes are no joke! But this job enables you to work with so many different people and you’ll learn a lot from folks around the world. Once you start to know the collections better you’ll be able to refer people to other materials and that makes your interactions with readers even more special.

Any big plans for retirement?

I’ll be back at Union in February for the Trailblazers event honoring Professor Delores Williams and the 25th anniversary of the publication of her groundbreaking book, “Sisters in the Wilderness.”

In March 2018, I’m going to South Africa for 3 weeks. It’ll be my 3rd time in S. Africa but my first trip just as a tourist! The first time I went was in 1996 on a Plowshares trip and I went again in 2001 for a UN conference in Durban on homophobia/xenophobia.

Then I’m planning on taking a writing class, learning how to sketch and paint, and I’d like to volunteer in my community in the Bronx with formerly incarcerated people.

If you could go back to 1968 and give newly hired Betty some advice about working at the Burke, what would it be?

I wouldn’t warn her against anything. I was innocent when I started working here and I’m glad I came in with an open mind. I’d say to expect the unexpected and you’ll have fun.

Thank you, Betty, for your wisdom, kindness and mentorship to countless students and researchers who have visited the Burke. We wish you all the best and will miss you!

-Meredith Levin

 

Burke’s Religious Education Collection

Not much is known about how or why this large collection of college catalogs came to Union Theological Seminary except we did find postcards stuck into a few of them that tells us these were intentionally being sent and collected.  One such postcard included in this small exhibit dated from July 29, 1913, states:

 

We publish our Catalogue only once in two years. We are using 1912 with a supplemental slip, a copy of which I am sending you.

Fraternally,

Alfred Theol[ogical] Sem[inary]

  1. E. [last name illegible]

Ranging in years from approximately 1826 to 1983, this assembled collection is collectively referred to as the Burke Religious Education Collection and consists of school catalogs, registers, announcements, and bulletins mostly from seminaries and each have been cataloged and are findable through the library’s online catalog – CLIO (http://clio.columbia.edu).  

From plain beginnings to robust examples of graphic design, these catalogs offer a lot of information.  From names of students enrolled, to the names of professors teaching, to the courses being taught — numerous lines of inquiry can be drawn from these information-packed booklets.

 

 

This small exhibit will be on display on the 1st floor of the Burke Library through till the end of the fall 2017 semester.

All of these catalogs are cataloged and findable through the library’s online catalog (CLIO), to see all of the records just do a series search for “Religious Education Collection.”

Mr. Smith Goes to Berlin: German Learning in the Papers of Henry Boynton Smith

Below is a blog post written by the Burke’s current Primary Source Intern, Andrew McLaren. Andrew McLaren is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Religion at Columbia.Andrew McLaren is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Religion at Columbia University. His dissertation research focuses on a historiographical text about conquests and politics in the first three centuries of Islam, as well as its reception in various geographical and linguistic contexts and understandings of history. More broadly, he is interested in the function of the writing of texts in social history, particularly in historiography, theology, and law.

The staff at the Burke is thrilled that Andrew will continue to work with us into the next academic year, and we’re thrilled to make this special collection available for research. You can also read Andrew’s post on the Columbia University Libraries Internship Program blog.

 

Henry Boynton Smith (1815-1877) was professor and librarian at Union Theological Seminary from 1850 to 1874, joining the faculty at UTS after serving as a Congregationalist minister (1842-1847) and teaching philosophy at Amherst College (1847-1850). Smith is perhaps best remembered for the active role he played in the reunion of the Old and New Schools of the Presbyterian Church, beginning with his election as moderator of the General Assembly of the New School denomination in 1863. He also wielded significant influence in the growth of the study of church history in America.

Photo 1. Steel plate of H.B. Smith by Ritchie.

Before joining the faculty, however, Smith spent a long time in pursuit of education, including three years passed in Paris, Halle, and Berlin studying with several prominent theologians, philosophers, and Orientalists. Smith’s time there appears to have been incredibly productive. In a letter (dated April 30, 1839) to his parents, Smith describes a class schedule to make even the hardiest student blush:

My lectures are 8-9, Logic, with Gabler, five times a week ; 9-10, Jewish History, Hengstenberg, five times; 10-11, Job, Hengstenberg, five times ; 11-12, Neander, Acts, six times ; 12-1, History of Christian Doctrines, Neander, three times a week ; 4-5, Criticism of Hegelian Philosophy with Trendelenburg, four times; a lecture on John, twice a week; Homiletics, once; History of German Philosophy, twice a week; Twesten, Introduction to Christian Morals, once a week, and one or two others; one in Goethe and Schiller, twice a week. So you see my time is likely to be full

 

Photo 2. “So you see my time is likely to be full…” H.B. Smith’s class list. Spring 1839.

European philosophy in the lifetime of Henry Boynton Smith is usually thought of as sliding into stagnation, its energy sapped by the rise of the natural sciences. But as Frederick Beiser argued in a recent book, that narrative is largely incorrect; rather, the time between 1840 and 1900 actually saw a flourishing among philosophers desperately grappling with a confounded sense of purpose: what role should philosophy play in modern intellectual projects, like the natural sciences?

In this flourishing landscape, Beiser argues, many different stories can and should be told. One story has been recently related by Annette Aubert in her work on the influence of German theologians on their American counterparts, where she argues that H.B. Smith and other students who studied in Europe played a key role in the interpreting those ideas and translating them to America.

 

 

 

As the documents in H.B. Smith’s papers show, the thoroughfares and the byways of his career crisscrossed through the verdant intellectual landscape sketched by Beiser and Aubert. For instance, one of Beiser’s main characters, Adolf Trendelenburg (1802-1872), is one of the teachers mentioned in Smith’s course list, and Smith left behind a notebook full of detailed notes on Trendelenburg’s lecture course entitled Kritik des Hegelischen Systems (“Criticism of the Hegelian System”).

Photo 3. “Criticism of the Hegelian System, according to his [i.e., Hegel’s] Encyclopaedie. A. Trendelenburg.”

Among the papers are also several notebooks from classes with Friedrich August Gottreu Tholuck (1799-1877), a theology professor at the University of Halle and prolific author and preacher. With him, Smith studied Christian ethics, dogmatic theology, the Pauline letters (about which Tholuck wrote a famous commentary), and theological literature more generally. Smith maintained a lifelong relationship with many of his teachers, including Tholuck—12 letters from him are found among Smith’s correspondence.

Photo 4. Spine and page from notebook for Tholuck’s Christliche Sittenlehre (“Christian Morals”). The opening lines read, “Introduction. §1. Concept of the Moral.”

Of further interest are the notes of Smith’s own students at Union in the 1850s and 1860s, which were used in the posthumous publication of three volumes of Smith’s lectures in systematic theology. Even a quick perusal of the pages reveals that Hegel and other German thinkers are not absent from Smith’s work, but their appearance here alongside a broader swathe of philosophers (including English and French thinkers, from David Hume to Auguste Comte) reveals both Smith’s own erudition and the space of interaction into which he carried his German education. All of these intellectual currents are addressed within the broad gaze of Smith’s theology.

 

 

Photo 5. Page from Systematic Theology notebook, giving Hegel’s definition of spirit.

The history of philosophy in the late 19th century took many roads, some less-travelled than others. The papers and publications of Henry Boynton Smith show how one of those roads, travelled by a precocious young man from Maine, passed directly through Union, marked by a collection of signposts and waypoints in the Burke archives.

 

***

 

 

Further reading

A.G. Aubert: “Henry Boynton Smith and Church History in Nineteenth-Century America,” Church History 85, no. 2 (2016), 302-327.

A.G. Aubert, The German Roots of Nineteenth-Century American Theology. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

  1. Beiser,After Hegel: German Philosophy, 1840-1900. Princeton, NJ and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2014.
  2. Smith,Henry Boynton Smith: his Life and Work. New York: Armstrong and Son, 1881.