Category Archives: Student Entry

First Collection Completed

My first archival project here has been completely fascinating.  The Catholic Church in India from 1880-1893? I know absolutely nothing about that! I found myself absorbed with the first few volumes, trying to get a sense of that world.  The pages were browned, the edges were crumbling, some of the spines were a wreck and the smell evoked cherry-wood bookcases surrounding cups of tea and deep leather sofas.  I do not think I have held a book that is 135 years old.  That alone was enthralling.

Many of the pages include multiple clippings without author or publication.  As a librarian and grad student, this bothered me. What was the source? Was it reliable?  Yet the stories they contained were often very interesting and I found myself reading them.  Then there were the larger publications of the church.  These served to inform about the status of the missions and give an impression of the people and places that the missionaries were encountering.  Some of these included illustrations.  The captions on these were always worth reading since they gave insight into relationships and impressions.

This collection, when I got into it, seemed a bit like organized chaos.  I appreciate the Finding Aid that I learned how to create for it so that hopefully people interested in the material will be able to enjoy looking through it as much as I did.  On a final note, as a self-professed lover of languages I enjoyed sorting through not only English but also the French and Portuguese items included!

Light in the Darkness

“Every book is a little light in that darkness”- Scott Landon

My job at the library resembles the craft of archaeology. On any day, I may come home from work with several centuries of dirt on my hands.


This can be from crosschecking in world cat whether we have Der Kleine Katechismus Dr. Martin Luthers mit Erklarung Fragen und Antworten, or finding a 1921 map of Congo Belge in a box of uncatalogued materials.

Sometimes it’s a bit more like Octavtio_cart2P.I. business where I have to figure out if this anti- catholic tinged flyer suggesting doom for protestant America should JFK be elected president was written by the same group as that pamphlet suggesting the public school system is a “captive” of Popish control.

But sometimes my job is like a gardener, what with all the dirt.  I uncovered the bulletin for Booker T. Washington’s Memorial service, which took place 100 years ago. The effects of time on these documents end up on my hands.

Closer to my own research interests are reprints of executive order 9066 from FDR ordering the Relocation of Japanese Americans along the west coast during World War II. There was also a photo bulletin showing the lives of Japanese Americans in the Internment camps, and another entitled “70,000 American Refugees made in America.” Perhaps most important about the experience for me is the chance to be reminded of what has happened to bring us to where we are. Pieces of history are in these stacks and archives, and every day I find out something I hadn’t known before.

The thing I would most like to share is an interview I found with Dr. Vincent Harding in SGI Quarterly. Among the other quiet gems of Harding’s spirit and words, are his cautious approach to memorializing the phrase civil rights movement, which he thinks can be seen by our generation in terms of “success,” and therefore conclude that the struggle is “finished.” Harding would encourage us to speak instead of “the expansion of democracy,” reminding us of our responsibility to our ongoing task.


I perform a very small role in the vast process of memory and integration that is ongoing here at the Burke.  While it’s not often pretty, it helps us remember, and understand, and hopefully participate in taking responsibility, together.


So exactly why an MLS?

In 2003, around the New Year’s holiday, I spent a little over 30 hours (in the span of two days) teaching myself how to use Microsoft’s now defunct program FrontPage. By New Year’s Day, my eyes burned, my right wrist ached from (self-diagnosed) carpel tunnel syndrome, and most importantly, I completed my first website (a volunteer effort to redesign my employer’s web presence). I guess back then I should have figured I was on to something when the shooting pain in my wrist really did not bother me as much as the difficulties I had in embedding Flash files into HTML (I was determined to include a Flash banner, which provided the visitor with a dazzling text tween that displayed the name of the program I worked for).

The above anecdote is probably the best way I can sum up the curiosity and enthusiasm I exude when learning and working with new technologies, whether at home, at school, or in the workplace. I have earned the moniker “Techie” among family, friends, peers, and co-workers alike. From my supervisor to my eighteen year old stepdaughter, I am sought for technical advice and counsel on a daily basis. Frankly, the technical knowledge I have and continue to garner truly exists as a result of self-exploration and a sincere feeling of joy and fulfillment. I always tell people, “You can’t learn anything unless you try, and maybe fail at, something you know nothing about.”

At this point, you are probably asking yourself, “So exactly why an MLS? Can you get to the point already?” Well at the moment, I am at sort of a fork in the road. While I have come to realize how much I truly enjoy imparting and applying my technological knowledge, I am unable to engage in this sort of instruction on a regular basis.

One additional not-so-simple task that I enjoy undertaking led me to explore the profession of librarianship: research. Every semester, my wife calls upon me to assist her in finding resources – books, journal articles, anything she needs to assist in completing her doctoral studies. I do not share this with anyone, but I enjoy the hunt for hard-to-find sources (whether it be a paperback book or a digital manuscript). Going to old (and sometimes dusty) library shelves to find a book or scouring the internet to find a PDF document is like hunting for treasure (and a guilty pleasure of mine).

In addition to my research interests and technology-skill application in the work place or classroom, I am learning about the librarianship profession this term in one of my classes, Technology and Society. The concept of blended librarianship was introduced, implying “that blending the perspectives, expertise, and skills of instructional design, technology, and traditional librarianship will open new avenues of practice and professional development for academic librarians… Blended librarians are new professionals who are knowledgeable in the traditional roles, but they also develop competence in information technologies and curricular design” (p. 109)*.

Some people often get caught up with the term “Library” and fail to see the opportunities a degree in Library and Information Science can afford. Admittedly, I was one of those people. And for those who really know me and my background, my decision to pursue a Master of Library Science (MLS) degree from Queens College make perfect sense to them – light bulbs go on in their heads.

Librarianship will provide me the opportunity to apply my technological skill set, while also learning how to search, maintain, and provide information resources to those I serve. It will also allow me to impart practical and sound advice on research best practices.

*Cline, H. F. (2014). Information communication technology and social transformation: A social and historical perspective. New York: Routledge.

Sexual Politics in the Archives

As an incoming MA student at Union, having previous experience working libraries as well as a Master of Information & Library Science degree under my belt, I’m excited to join the student staff at the Burke Library for this next step in my academic studies in theological librarianship. My  area of research is ethics, specifically around issues related to the role of church institutions and the rights of gender and sexuality minorities, and I was surprised to discover in the archives a letter written by Anthony Comstock—one of the principal villains in the story of America’s war on “obscenity” and author of the highly conservative Comstock Laws, which criminalized the dissemination of information regarding contraceptives, abortion, and erotica—in one of my first-ever projects in the Burke Library.

This project was for the papers of James Morris Whiton (1833-1919), a Congregational minister who preached and taught in New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. Whiton wrote back and forth with Anthony Comstock, and this correspondence has remained buried in his papers for about a hundred years—it was unlisted in the handwritten contents list accompanying Whiton’s papers. Its significance emerged gradually as I refoldered and rehoused these documents.

series 5, box 1, folder 3

James Whiton

You may be wondering why we have the James Morris Whiton Papers. He is not an alumnus, and he never taught or worked at the Seminary. One possibility is that Whiton served as Chairman of the New York State Conference of Religion for several years around the turn of the century, alongside William Adams Brown, Presbyterian minister, systematic theologian, ecumenist and UTS professor. As colleagues, Whiton and Brown may have shared and influenced one another’s ideas. Perhaps someone felt that the Whiton Papers would be a good addition to collections that reflected the history of this intellectual circle.

Whiton held this prestigious position of Chairman when he was an older man; however, for most of his life, Whiton seems to have been thwarted in many of his attempts to achieve prosperity in his career. Although his diaries reflect a deep-seated sense of ambition, he resigned or was forced to resign from multiple positions as minister to various congregations and dean of various preparatory schools and seminaries. Whiton often complained of shortage of income; the reason for these unpleasant career shifts is not explicitly mentioned in his writings.

Anthony Comstock

Anthony Comstock

Whiton kept detailed personal diaries and maintained a comprehensive collection of his correspondence (including the Comstock letter) which spells out his unfortunate career trajectory. In 1872, when Whiton was the pastor of the North Church in Lynn, Massachusetts, he apparently wrote to Comstock to ask his assistance in his principal aim: eliminating the practice of passing-around of erotic books and other materials within the community of Lynn via the mail. (The Comstock Laws targeted the dissemination of information regarding contraceptives, abortion, and erotic materials by prohibiting these items being sent via U.S. Post.) Comstock replied to Whiton offering his assistance by any means necessary.

By this time Whiton had a reputation for his devotion to squeaky-clean moral standards in every community he led. However, some apparently found his tenacity overbearing; in Lynn, he recalls in his memoirs, he was viewed as being overly strict when he served as a member of the school board, advocating for stringent disciplinary measures to be taken against pupils. (He would later be ousted from his post as schoolmaster of Williston Seminary in 1878 in response to an outcry by parents that he was too strict in his scrutiny of pupils’ dormitories, imposing surprise inspections of the boys’ footlockers in search of contraband, leading to so many suspensions that the parents found his rule intolerable.) In Lynn, Whiton recalls, a local woman in his congregation once even spat on him in the street. It would be four years of tense relations with the community in Lynn before Whiton was forced to leave his post.

Was Whiton ousted because members of his community found his conservative attitude over-the-top? Did he feel alienated as the strict schoolmaster, and as minister in the town where he sought the assistance of Anthony Comstock—an unpopular figure even in his own time—in cleaning up the post office and ridding his citizens’ mail of lewd materials through search-and-seizure, to the point of being forced to resign from his position as minister? These documents paint a picture of a strict moral leader, hardworking and dedicated, whose efforts nevertheless led to alienating himself from his religious communities to the point of rejection. Further understanding of Whiton’s archives and research into his life and work may likely yield new insights into this complicated character.

But what a find for a new student staff member, incoming Seminary student, and early-career librarian in her first month at the Burke! The Comstock Laws have always held a particular fascination for me. Comstock clashed with Margaret Sanger and civil liberties groups because of his radical position on sending “lewd” materials through the post, including information about contraception and family planning. It would be interesting to read more of Whiton’s and Comstock’s correspondence to get further insight into Whiton’s theological position on these issues, and the theological position of the Lynn community who rejected the pastor partly for his too-strict enforcement of his conservative ethics. (Perhaps a Union student could conduct an investigation of the role of the pastor in terms of theological engagement and civic action vis-à-vis the U.S. Postal Service in the 19th century?) I’m more excited than ever to continue my studies here at Union and dig deeper into the Burke Library’s special collections in my academic endeavors.

Day One – Here We Go!

I am thrilled to be working as an archives student assistant at the Burke Library.  I find it auspicious to be starting a new job, at my new school, in my new city, on my 31st birthday.  What will this year hold for me? I am excited to find out!

This begins my 9th year of working in libraries.  I started as a student assistant in circulation while getting my undergraduate degree in Studio Art at Meredith College in Raleigh, North Carolina.  To be honest, I thought it would be a great place to be able to work on my homework as I trudged through my three minors in Art History, Italian, and German.  Yet at that circulation desk I found a sort of second home where work was never a chore and I enjoyed helping people.  I liked working there enough that I came back as a part-time supervisor after I graduated, which lead to a full time staff position at NC State University. There I worked in first the Design and then the Natural Resources branch libraries. So here we are, 9 years and 3 libraries later. I have enjoyed getting to know all the different tasks that each position has entailed and look forward to honing my skills for archiving.

But I have to admit that my love for libraries started with my grandmother.  Every afternoon together we would do something “special,” be that go for a swim, share an éclair from our favorite café, or walk in the park.  My favorite days were when we would go to the library and she would let me pick out as many books as my little arms could carry. Then we would go to her house and I would spread them all out on the cool, tiled floor. I could look at the pictures for hours and would ask her to read to me when she could.

It is such memories that make me excited to be working in the archives section of the library.  The materials here hold stories.  Not only of what is on the page but of the journey it took to get here.

Art Deco Design in a Cardboard Box

Despite being a lifelong patron and admirer of libraries, my own academic and professional background was not in the library field. Originally focused on working in the Arts, I earned an bachelors in art history and continued working as an artist myself, recently turning my attention to creating digital art. Additionally, I spent many years working on event planning and catering management. While food and libraries don’t usually mix well, I’ve learned years of managing menus and events lends itself well to managing information. As I completed the first semester of my Library & Information Science degree at Pratt, it came time to get some library experience outside of the classroom setting. Based on a friendly recommendation, and my own interest in religious studies, I applied to intern here at the Burke Library and was thankfully accepted.

While spending the summer at the Burke Library, I’ve been working with Collection Services librarian Matthew Baker on all aspects involved in managing an academic library’s collections, including dealing with an unexpected leak in the main Reading Room during a summer rain shower. The collection is essentially the heart of an academic library consisting of not just books, but also periodicals and serials (both physical and electronic). My first project was revamping and expanding the Faculty Publication shelves in the first floor circulation area. Ideally this section holds a copy of every book published by any current Union Theological Seminary faculty member held at Burke and includes a few highlights from emeritus professors. This will hopefully serve as a great resource for UTS students who can quickly browse through their professors’ publications.

We have also been filtering through boxes of newly acquired materials to determine whether they are suitable for the collection here at Burke. This involves not only checking Columbia’s holdings through CLIO, but also searching Worldcat to see what other libraries, if any, hold the particular edition we are questioning. One particular series of pamphlets keep popping up through the many boxes of books– The “‘Talks’ New Series” (some of which can be found in CLIO here).


These are all instructional pamphlets offering guidance for missionary work with young people, particularly focused on working in Asia. Published in the 1930s, the pamphlets stand out not only because they are written solely by female authors, but also their dynamic cover art. The covers are printed with two colored inks that can function as positive or negative space, a simple and cost-effective design choice that contributes to a bold, graphic style. Limiting the color not only saves money on printing but works within the Art Deco movement which was extremely popular at the time and prevalent in poster advertisement design. The “Talks on the New Way…” cover really expresses the Art Deco aesthetic with its strong geometrical shapes and play on color and negative space. They also use popular font characteristics of the day; fat, san-serif lettering that is a stark contrast to the whimsical Art Nouveau designs popular with the previous generation. All of which is akin to poster art of the 20s and 30s more so than typically book covers. So that even among boxes of dusty, well-worn materials, there is still some great graphic design to be found.

Frederic Mayer Bird, Hymnologist

In my last post, I wrote about how I came to the Burke Library. For this post, I’d like to talk about how one of the collections I processed came here–and how coincidental it was that it was assigned to me.

My first task on being given the Frederic Mayer Bird papers was to research their creator. I soon discovered that Bird, a nineteenth-century expert in hymnology and hymnody, in other words, the study and performance of hymns, was a productive writer. In addition to editing and publishing books and articles on his own area of research, he wrote fiction. Both the amount and the kind of writing were in the family line: Bird’s father, Robert Montgomery Bird, was one of the most successful dramatists and novelists of the antebellum period. I knew the father’s work before I encountered the son’s: I had previously read The Gladiator (1831), a historical drama about Spartacus’s slave uprising in ancient Rome and Sheppard Lee (1836), a fantastical novel about a man who dies only to have his soul cycle through other people’s bodies until they/he die. There was nothing quite so fantastic in Bird’s papers, though hymns, of course, do relate to the soul.


A small photograph of Bird, UTS class of 1860. The Burke Library Archives, Union Theological Seminary Records, Series 18, Class Photographs.

Bird’s papers were not the first material of his to come to Union Theological Seminary. In 1888, Bird sold his personal library of over 3,000 volumes to Henry Day, a member of Union’s Board of Directors, who donated them to Union. Bird reasoned, as he would later write to Union’s President, Thomas S. Hastings, that “since I have given over hymnology except in the way of business–(writing on it when occasion comes, as I do on other topics)–it seemed fit to hand over most of my accumulations of former years.” Union’s hymnological department could now be considered “the largest collection of English hymnology to be found in any institution in the land.” [1]

It was noted at the time that many of the volumes had “many manuscript annotations.” In fact, 338 records in Clio carry a note that reads: “Ms. annotations by Prof. Bird.” Doubtless there are more. Some of those books were even found to have clippings, notes, and letters in them. Two letters from Henry S. Burrage, longtime editor of a Baptist newspaper, are an example. On November 2, 1886, Burrage wrote Bird about a new book project: “I am preparing for publication a work on ‘Baptist Hymn Writers and Their Hymns.’” Burrage was hoping that Bird would be able to answer a question about a particular hymn Burrage was planning to include. Two years later, November 12, 1888, Burrage wrote again to offer thanks: “I send you a copy of my ‘Baptist Hymn Writers,’ as a small token of your kindness to me during its preparation.” Both letters, a librarian’s note accompanying them in the Bird papers remark, were within Bird’s copy of that book when they came to Union.

Bird’s papers were not long in following his library. While it’s not clear who initiated the transfer, there is in the collection a February 12, 1891 letter from President Hastings to Bird about acquiring his papers less than three years after acquiring his library: “We shall be very glad to pay freight on anything you will send. The correspondence shall be put in scrapbooks & indexed.” Three days later, Bird replied: “I sent the parcel off yest.[erday] P.M., & had not time to write (or neglected to do so) before starting for my Sunday duty. The books will all be duplicates … I did not examine them all by any means.” Of the letters, which make up the bulk of the papers, he noted, “There are many of them, & I doubt if they are worth indexing &c. Some are practically trash.”

On the contrary, the letters are valuable for the way they document Bird’s consultations with a network of pastors, scholars, and collectors that traded the texts and histories of hymns. Bird was uncertain of the value of other parts of his papers, as well: “The hymn-cuttings are of no account,” he wrote, and “my clips from newspapers … may be little better. I by no means require the Library to preserve or even examine all in the parcel.” The library has preserved his papers–letters, hymn-cuttings, newspaper clips and all. A finding aid for the collection, including an index of correspondents, is available on our website.

[1] George Lewis Prentiss, The Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, (New York: M., W., & C. Pennypacker, 1899), 358.

A Hallway of Boxes: First Day with the Shinn Papers

Earlier today I was introduced to this hallway of boxes, the contents of which will occupy me for the next several months. ShinnBoxes Everything inside of them once belonged to the Rev. Dr. Roger Shinn, alumnus and professor emeritus at Union Theological Seminary. It will be my task to process Shinn’s papers, sorting and cataloging and eventually reorganizing them into different boxes so that they can be easily accessed in the Burke archives.

As I process these materials I will be learning on the job. I am a doctoral student in Hebrew Bible, not an archivist. My first experience with archival materials was this past semester, when I was one of several student curators for a rotating display called #LoveInAction highlighting the legacy of student activism at Union. I worked with two different student-driven initiatives from the 1960’s, the Student Interracial Ministry and the Free University. Thanks to several dissertations and books written about the period, I entered the project with a good basic understanding of the events and characters involved in both. Working with the archives, however, allowed me a different kind of access. I read student publications, seeing not only the articles related to my project but also skimming headlines that gave me a broader sense of the campus environment of the time. I saw drafts of press releases with handwritten corrections or notes and letters between people that were sometimes formal, and other times blunt or humorous.

It was while I was sifting through these materials that I first encountered Roger Shinn’s name. As a member of the faculty at Union, he had written an article in support of the Student Interracial Ministry. It was a compelling article, explaining to those outside of the endeavor what it was and why he considered it such a vital contribution to the theological and moral demands of the times. His voice came across as a powerful advocate of student activism, who understood how entwined his students’ passions were with their theological education at Union. I remember thinking at the time that he sounded like the kind of professor I would hope to be one day.

Now I have all of these boxes filled with his papers, and I look forward to getting to know him better as I work through them in the coming months. The vague labels on the boxes are intriguing – “Theater,” “WWII Papers,” “Genome,” “UCC Conferences,” “Tillich, Niebuhr ‘thought of.’” In the coming months, I will not only know what these boxes contain, but will get to be a part of the process of making their contents accessible to others. At the moment, I have little sense of how this hallway of boxes becomes part of the archives.

The Papers of Caroline Worth Pinkham

So far this semester, I have had the pleasure of processing four collections within “Series 1. Papers of UTS Faculty and Students” of the Union Theological Seminary Archives.  The creators of the first three of these collections had some things in common: all were born in the early-to-mid-19th century, male, and had long careers as pastors in the Presbyterian church.  All were also prominent citizens of their time: George Washington Blagden occupied the pulpit at Old South Church in Boston, Massachusetts and Thomas Samuel Hastings preached at West Presbyterian Church in New York City and served as president of Union Theological Seminary during the Charles Briggs heresy trials.  Phillips Brooks was famed for his preaching in his time and has been remembered long since, as he is memorialized in multiple published biographies and sculptures in Boston, Massachusetts and Alexandria, Virginia, and several schools bear his name.  In many ways, these may be the kinds of collections one would expect to find within the UTS archives and when I was assigned my next collection, I was ready to pick up where I had left off and add another Presbyterian pastor to my processing roster.

Enter Caroline Worth Pinkham.

Pinkham_HeadshotUTS1: Caroline Worth Pinkham Papers, 1867-1984, box 1, The Burke Library Archives, Columbia University Libraries, at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

Born near the close of the 19th century in Flushing, New York and not a pastor, but, as I was to learn, the first woman to receive the Ph.D., from Columbia and Union Theological Seminary in the History and Comparative Study of Religion, Pinkham lived a long and fascinating life, which is chronicled in her papers.  Raised with economic advantages and terrifically well educated, she held several jobs before marrying and moving to Lucknow, India, where she lived for several years in the early 1920s.  Back in the United States, Pinkham earned undergraduate, master’s, and doctorate degrees over a period of time while living with her husband in New Jersey, South Bend, Indiana, and Portland, Maine.  She was also a published author many times over, beginning at age 15 with the publication of her vacation tale “The Devil’s Hole in Bermuda” in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Sunday, August 4, 1912 ) and ranging from academic writing such as her master’s thesis and dissertation to work intended for a more general audience like her A Bungalow in India: Intimate Glimpses of Indian Life and People (1928).

Processing Pinkham’s collection was quite simple from the perspective of an archivist, as it arrived well-organized and in an access-ready order.  Most of the work to be done involved skimming the collection for information for a biographical note and rehousing.  The collection consists simply of a manuscript for an unpublished autobiography and manuscripts for a number of other books.  The content of that material, however, is incredibly rich and paints a vibrant portrait of a thoughtful, perceptive woman who engaged in 20th-century life with brio.  The collection also is enlivened by a large number of photographs as well as other ephemera, such as postcards, cancelled stamps, greeting cards, programs, and news clippings.

Daily Life

IMG_5308UTS1: Caroline Worth Pinkham Papers, 1867-1984, box 1, The Burke Library Archives, Columbia University Libraries, at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

One aspect of what makes Pinkham’s manuscript for Victorian Echoes, An Autobiography so special is that early on she begins weaving in excerpts from diaries that she kept during the time that she writes about.  For example, she includes a diary entry from when she was 18 in which she said, “A day to remember: I traversed the numerous buildings of Barnard and Columbia.  I was overpowered by their massiveness and splendor.  They surely were great bulwarks of knowledge” and then reflects, “Now in my sunset years I might add to my early diary that little did I know then that one day I would attend classes at Barnard, and eventually be the first woman to get the Ph.D., from Columbia and Union Theological Seminary in the History and Comparative Study of Religion” (Box 1, Folder 6).

As the autobiography continues, the retyped diary component becomes predominant and regular entries describe Pinkham’s day-to-day life: as a student at the Packer Collegiate Institute (“At school I had the pleasure of dissecting a poor sheep’s brain.  If I don’t understand the working of a brain now, my own cerebral hemisphere must be a hollow cavity”), what she wore (“After two hours hunting for a coat, I have managed to get one at Nuttings.  It is a navy blue corded serge.  Style demands that I should wear a mustard shade, but that color makes me feel bilious just to look at it.”) and ate (After German Club I went to H.S.’s at the Mohawk.  We made fudge.  I have never tasted richer confectionary!  We used maple sugar, cream, chocolate, marshmallows, vanilla, and a pound of butter”), the lectures (“In the evening we three heard Dr. H. at Plymouth Church speak on The Russian Revolution  We also heard him speak on the present war.  He seems to be reaching the heights of his predecessor, Henry Ward Beecher.  He hurled his condemnation on those Americans who do not show moral indignation at the indignities that Germany has inflicted”), sermons, and performances (“Mother took me to the Hippodrome.  There was one startling act after the other; Sousa’s band, marvelous acrobats, dancers and skaters”) that she attended.

FullSizeRenderUTS1: Caroline Worth Pinkham Papers, 1867-1984, box 1, The Burke Library Archives, Columbia University Libraries, at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

She also speaks compellingly of events and political issues occurring around her and farther away:

“A beautiful illustration of Gidding’s theory of Like-mindedness came up today, It was horrible in character.  Five thousand women and children crowded City Hall Park, and cried for food.  Stable articles, such as potatoes, bread and milk have soared to such heights within the last few days that Eastsiders of N.Y. find themselves starving.  It was not a reasonable crowd.  The two fundamental instincts, hunger and the desire for preservation, had been hit.  It seems criminal for carloads of food to be rotting, because of lack of transportation.  Warehouses are stored with food which the owners refuse to sell at reasonable prices”  (Box 1, Folder 6)

Pinkham also has an uncanny ability to describe changes that she senses as they happen.  In October, 1917, she notes:

“Everywhere you go, in everything you do, you find traces of the war.  Our music is changing from silly love-sick tunes to popular martial strains.  There are exalted themes even in posters and magazine illustrations.  Perhaps because of the very horrors of war, we are turning to higher and more beautiful themes” (Box 1, Folder 7).

Following her graduation from school, Pinkham held a series of jobs in offices that she describes in her autobiography.  A quotation from her diary in 1919 during her employment at Sperry Gyroscope Company displays her keen sense of observation, which seems to have informed her writing:

“It is interesting to watch the different types of men at the office.  There are hustlers and bustlers, dreamers and procrastinators, and some who are well rounded individuals.  They all have to be handled with gloves.  Each has to be catered to.  Neither wants to feel that his work is not receiving the same amount of attention.  The busier the man the less critical he is of trivialities.  The real high mighty mites do not show their authority.  They unconsciously command attention.  It is not difficult to pick out the true executive” (Box 1, Folder 7).

“Oh, the joy of a real companion for a husband.”

When she was 22, Pinkham met her future husband, a former aviator in the United States Air Service called Lloyd Francis Pinkham, at a September, 1919 dance at the Pershing Club, which was club operated beginning in 1918 to provide hospitality and accommodations to officers.  She wrote of him in her diary, “He said that he saw me in the subway with Mother.  He decided that I must be going to the Pershing Club.  With all of the activities that go on in N.Y., how did he know that?  He rushed to the Y.M.C.A. in Brooklyn, where he was staying, showered, changed his clothes, and sped to the Pershing Club” (Box 1, Folder 7).

IMG_6001UTS1: Caroline Worth Pinkham Papers, 1867-1984, box 2, The Burke Library Archives, Columbia University Libraries, at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

Less than a month later, Lloyd had left to return home to Maine before embarking on a stint of world travel and beginning work for Standard Oil in Madras, India.  Included in the autobiography manuscript during this period, in the chapter “Courtship,” is the correspondence between Pinkham and Lloyd, which continues until Lloyd’s proposal in 1922.

IMG_5999 UTS1: Caroline Worth Pinkham Papers, 1867-1984, box 2, The Burke Library Archives, Columbia University Libraries, at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

Both write of happenings large and small in their respective locations and soon after, begin to fall in love.  Lloyd wrote:

“Today I was very much pleased to receive Christmas and New Years Greetings from a very good friend of mine.  Oh!  You could never guess?  She is a very sweet little dancer, whom I used to ‘trip the light fantastic’ with at the Pershing Club, when I was a young chap and not burdened with business cares.  I believe that she is a voter in your home town, is registered as having no occupation in particular, but really does teach a Sunday School class on the Q.T.  She eats ice-cream and cake, attends lectures on the Philippine Islands, a very interesting conversationalist, an accomplished violinist, uses a royal typewriter, is very thoughtful and considerate of her friends and on the whole she is one of these true blue, fourteen karat young ladies that would just cause one to know her ‘to find something about everything to be glad about’” (Box 2, Folder 1).

Soon after marriage, Pinkham writes of Lloyd teaching her to drive:

“He said today that he wanted me to be able to do everything he did. – Oh, the joy of a real companion for a husband” (Box 3, Folder 3).

Pinkham and Lloyd’s love was lasting.  While his career (at The Remington Cash Register Co. following their return to the United States) took them to live in South Bend, Indiana and Portland, Maine at various points, Lloyd remained supportive of Pinkham’s academic ambitions.  In 1934, she noted that “L writes, ‘Sweetheart, I am very proud of your intellectual attainments, and I too, would not rest content until you have completed what you set out to do.  I am right behind you in whatever you set out to accomplish.  All my love to the best wife a fellow ever had.”  In 1935, Pinkham records an excerpt from a letter from her husband, which includes:

“While other folks find it difficult to take two credits, my wife steps out and takes eight, lives in another State, and drives fifty miles back and forth each day.  I am quite aware of the mental effort and push it requires to accomplish that, and also get the rank that you do in your studies.  You have such a keen insight into things that I always like to get our observations and deductions on my problems.  I sure could not live without you” (Box 4, Folder 11).

Americans in Colonial India

After marrying Lloyd, Pinkham returned with him to India, where they lived during 1922-1925.  For this period, included in the autobiography manuscript material is a set of letters from Pinkham to her parents in which she describes her life in India, as well as larger events of the day.

For example, in 1923  she wrote:

“There has been a great rejoicing among the natives for the past few days, due to the fact that the Government has released Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi” (Box 3, Folder 7) and, in further depth: “Great masses of Indians are becoming educated and want to run India.  They are, of course, not fully educated because of the years of suppression, and if they do get Home Rule will probably make a sad mess of it at the beginning.  There is a lack of unity among the Indians.  The Muhammedans are always rising up against the Hindus and vica versa.  Because of this fact, England for many years has been able to pit one against the other, so to speak, and rule on the side line, but things are changing.  There is really not the opportunity to invest in things out here, because times are so changeable.  If the Indians demand home rule, I am inclined to think that Europeans will be able to reside only in the largest cities and then just for commercial purposes.  If the Englishman goes in India, the American will have to go too, I think” (Box 3, Folder 5).

Combined with the courtship correspondence between Lloyd and Pinkham, these letters to her parents constitute a spectacular source of primary source material of expatriate American life in India during the early 1920s, a time when organization against British colonial rule was increasing.

“Reams of paper and a pencil make me happy beyond words.

There are many other aspects of the autobiography and embedded diary that are of great interest, such as Pinkham’s reflections on spiritual matters, both internal (e.g., on Mar. 17, 1926, “St. Paddy’s Day! I have tolerance for Catholics.  When it comes to the things that really count in life, they are true.  People should not have religious prejudice.  Why should Catholics and Protestants slight each other?  God alone is perfect.  Help me to keep away from narrow religious fanaticism!  Whether to worship through Christ or the Virgin, what does it matter?”) and external (e.g., in 1935: “Many Protestant denominations have much to learn in regard to women and their status.  Woman is indeed the conservor of the race.  I think this world would be a better place if women had a share in the management of world affairs.”)

Towards the end of my processing of the collection, I realized that beyond her connection to Union Theological Seminary, Pinkham shared something else in common with the pastors whose papers with which I have worked already.  Each of the creators of these collections are writers of sorts, whether they used the skill primarily in preparing sermons, remarks, words to hymns, or, like Pinkham, to reveal themselves in narrative or fiction.  One of the unexpected pleasures of accessing materials at the Union Theological Seminary Archives is getting to read the words of people who took such joy in expression.  As Pinkham put it in a letter to her future husband in 1922: “Reams of paper and a pencil make me happy beyond words.


Final Reflections and Thanks

Hey again, I cannot believe my time here at the Burke Library is coming to a close so soon. These past three weeks have absolutely flown by and I have learned so much in such a relatively short period of time. I have greatly appreciated the friendly nature of the Burke Library staff who have been more than happy to answer any questions I have had and assist me when I have run into problems. Under the supervision of Brigette Kamsler I have been taught how to process archival materials from three different collections and am almost done my fourth and final one. I also had the opportunity to attend one of the Burke staff meetings which focused on a review of the Library’s CUL/IS disaster response policy. It was very interesting to see some of these policies put into practice firsthand the following day when a significant amount of rain water caused some flooding. In addition to this meeting I was also able to attend a lecture at the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library which focused on the archival preservation of architectural records and blueprints. The lecture centered on issues related to digital preservation, how designers can best preserve a record of their work and how archivists should acquire and shape legacies of contemporary architectural practices.

Brigette also conducted a small meeting where we discussed resumes, CVs, cover letters and job interviews. This was a very informative experience and I was able to get a lot of great suggestions on how to improve my job application resources and also create an online presence for future employers to evaluate. I hope to create my own Weebly page this summer in order to better articulate the skills I have developed throughout my academic career. Outside of my work on the finding aids, I also did some more rudimentary work, stamping folders and assessing the overall archival holdings for audiovisual materials. While these are totally different aspects of the overall archival process they are still important ones.

The two collections I completed finding aids for after James H. Ecob were the papers of two American pastors and theologians: Frederick John Foakes Jackson and Allen Macy Dulles. Both of these individuals had distinguished academic and pastoral careers. Dulles is also known for being the father of John Foster Dulles, Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Secretary of State and Allen Welsh Dulles an American diplomat and lawyer who became the first civilian Director of Central Intelligence. The Jackson papers consisted of a broad range of biographical documents, correspondence and memorabilia including two large notebooks in relatively poor condition. As a result of this, I was taught by Brigette how to properly wrap them in acid free paper and bind them. Dulles’ papers were considerably smaller consisting of a number of papers on the history and nature of apologetic. I found the Jackson papers to be particularly interesting as they consisted of a very diverse range of documents including a Honorary Doctoral Degree, obituaries, correspondence with UTS Presidents Arthur Cushman McGiffert and Henry Sloane Coffin, and a Form of Solemnization of Matrimony. The correspondence in particular contains significant information about Jackson and his academic position at Union Theological Seminary. The letters written after his death depressingly reveal that he unintentionally left his wife destitute and without financial means to support herself. Currently I am finishing up my last finding aid for the papers of David Dudley Field, a pastor and local historian in Connecticut who lived in the 1800s. This collection is made up of 4 notebooks that will be individually wrapped for preservation purposes.

During my brief time here I have had the opportunity to meet a number of incredible people while also learning how to effectively evaluate, inventory, process and store archival documents. I also was instructed in how to write and edit finding aids, create finding aid entries using EAD, update MARC catalog records using Voyager and upload completed finding aids onto Columbia’s website as digital assets. I hope to take more courses and attend lectures related to cataloging and other aspects of archives in order to build upon the solid foundation of archival skills I have acquired under Brigette’s supervision. Overall I learned the value of attention to detail in order to ensure that the finding aids adhere to the proper format improving accessibility to the archival collections.

As someone with a strong interest in history and primary source documents this has been an amazing experience. I hope the skills I have developed here will open up further opportunities for archive employment. Finally I would like to thank everyone here at the Burke library especially staff members Matthew Baker, Beth Bidlack, Liz Ridout Miraglia, training coordinator Meredith Solomon my fellow interns Margaret Kaczorowski, and Katherine Palm and most importantly Brigette Kamsler for accepting me as an intern and providing assistance and advice throughout my time here. It has truly been an unforgettable experience. If anyone finds themselves near Edmonton, Alberta feel free to let me know, I will try and keep in touch and stop by next time I am in New York City!