Category Archives: Student projects

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

NOTE: The following was written by Union Theological Seminary student Heather J. Ketchum (MDiv 2020). Her brief bio is below.

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This week, the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature convene in San Diego  for the annual AAR/SBL conference, and this year, I was pleased to collaborate with faculty and librarians at the Burke Library on an exciting new online resource related to the conference: the Black Theology Papers Project. This online repository, which launched this week  in honor of the 50th anniversary celebration of Dr. James H. Cone’s Black Theology and Black Power, “aims to preserve and promote the intellectual heritage of black theology.”

The project provides electronic access to many of the papers and presentations given at the Black Theology Unit panels at the annual AAR/SBL conference. Thousands of scholars in religion-related areas gather in scores of small groups (or units) such as the Black Theology Unit at AAR/SBL, usually the week before Thanksgiving. These groups host panels on various themes such as “Racial Liminality and Cruciform Bodies in Cone and King” or roundtable discussions over recently published works like Josef Sorett’s Spirit in the Dark: A Religious History of Racial Aesthetics (Oxford University Press, 2016). These papers and presentations are wonderful glimpses into the ongoing work in the field.

Because of travel costs, scheduling, and other factors, many people who would otherwise love to engage in conversations around the cutting edge of religious scholarship cannot attend. Thus, Adam Clark, Andrea C. White, and Josef Sorett put together the Black Theology Papers Project, or BTPP, in the hope of expanding the availability of these papers beyond the yearly conference, making the scholarship more accessible and preserving the brilliant work going on in the discipline of black theology.

My role in this was helping take the papers emailed to the unit co-chairs and formatting them to a uniform journal template and then uploading them to the website. The process involved lots of split screens and a great deal of copy/paste.

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

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

 

This large-scale digital project was constructed in collaboration with the Columbia University Libraries, and with staff at the Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary. Columbia uses an online platform called OJS (Open Journal Systems) which is put out by the Public Knowledge Project. Columbia has a host of other online journals put out by various groups affiliated with the university. Once the article has been formatted, it is ready to be uploaded to OJS along with a signed Author Agreement and general information about the author. The BTPP journal is broken up by years and sections how a print journal would be except it is exclusively an online format. The final product (as of November 18th, 2019) looks like this:

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

The Black Theology Papers Project

 

It has been a wonderful project to work on and help launch! We hope that you will explore the site at https://journals.library.columbia.edu/index.php/btpp and learn a bit about the current happenings in Black Theology. –Heather J. Ketchum

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Heather J. Ketchum is a third-year MDiv student at Union Theological Seminary (NYC) concentrating in Systematic Theology. During her studies at UTS, Heather has worked at the Burke library as a Circulation Assistant and, more recently, assisting in the Burke special collections and archives. Heather is a Research Assistant for Andrea C. White, Professor of Theology & Culture at UTS, and the Assistant Minister at Madison Avenue Baptist Church. When not reading and writing about theology, Heather enjoys exploring the New York craft coffee scene.

“Spirit of ’68” Part II: Research in the Administrative Files

By Jake Hearen, Student Research Assistant for the “Spirit of ’68” Exhibit

(Posted c/o Carolyn Bratnober, Public Services Librarian)

I came to Union a bit behind the power curve. My formal involvement within a theological framework is relatively new. I had not heard of James Cone until I visited in the spring; I promise his books are near the top of my reading list. So, I jumped at the opportunity when I heard about Special Collections needing assistance with researching for the upcoming exhibit.

I realized how daunting the project as I became oriented to the particulars of the project. At its focus was the Union Commission and its predecessor organization, The Free University of Union Theological Seminary. These initiatives resulted in response to the tensions between Columbia students and the administration brought about by the Vietnam War and the gentrification brought of Columbia’s expansion affected the Union community.

In its entirety, the project was a single archival box stuffed with materials mostly from the 1968-69 school year but other documents appeared to include several that came from far beyond the walls of Morningside Castle. There were a few student publications from Columbia regarding the student protests. There were even a few standout pieces such as an international gathering of college students and a manifesto from the 1969 National Black Economic Development Conference.

Archival folders in UTS2 Records, Administrative Files, Series 4B, Box 2, The Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University, New York NY

Archival folders in UTS2 Records, Administrative Files, Series 4B, Box 2, The Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University, New York NY

But what stood out most came from within the seminary. One letter, drafted by a student who witnessed seminarians severely injured while mediating between police and Columbia students, noted how our unique role as future chaplains and ministers allows us to instill change from within power structures more than any other vocation. Another document from the Union Commission itself highlighted the values of the seminary such as looking at the potential application of computers as technology evolves and the importance of the Burke Library.

This institutional memory clarified the gaps I felt between an earlier Union with activists like Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the later of James Cone. Those seminarians stood defiant with their peers before the atrocities beset upon an Eden and said no more. Their spirit of coming together against the destructive will of institutional corruption with compassion in their hearts is something that I pray I embolden over my next few years and the many more to come. -JH

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.

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.

 

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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.

Meeting “Pit”: Processing the Henry Pitney Van Dusen Papers

N.B.: The Burke Archives had the good fortune of inviting Olivia Rutigliano to be our Intern in Primary Sources for the 2016-2017 year. During this time, she has processed the papers of Henry Pitney Van Dusen, one of Union’s most well-known presidents. Read below to learn about Olivia’s first experience processing a large archival collection, Union’s history, and Van Dusen’s legacy.

In my capacity as Columbia’s Primary Source Intern for the 2016-2017 academic year, I have been working at Burke Library, processing an exhaustive collection of documents once belonging to Henry Pitney Van Dusen (1897-1975), who served as president of Union Theological Seminary from 1945-1963. The wide-ranging collection includes material concerning his teaching and academic responsibilities, his many book and article projects, his ministry and outreach, and his work for various international and domestic ecumenical committees and conferences, as well as his personal correspondence, and other materials or publications relating to his life as a public intellectual.

Portrait of HPVD. UTS1: Henry Pitney Van Dusen Papers, the Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York.

In short, it is a huge collection. In fact, before the collection had begun being processed, it took 72 banker’s boxes to hold the entire thing. Throughout the fall and spring semesters, my chief responsibilities principally included sorting through these boxes — organizing and classifying this large volume of materials within various definitive categories, removing them from packaging that might be chemically or physically hazardous to their preservation, locating dates and other identifying information for the contents, and producing a clear and intuitive Finding Aid, to help future researchers navigate the collection with ease.

Now, after nearly all the materials have been organized and sorted into (smaller, sleeker, and clearly delineated) manuscript boxes, we estimate that the collection physically spans around 100 linear feet (archival collections are measured the total width of every box in the collection). The collection contains letters, memos, sermons, lectures, photographs, magazines, pamphlets, programs, index and business cards, and entire book manuscripts, as well as countless drafts of both chapters and individual essays. It also contains several children’s illustrations completed in crayon on construction paper (likely made by Van Dusen’s children), messages from such longtime pals as John Foster Dulles (who filed a legal brief on his behalf, arguing that Van Dusen, who caused an outcry by admitting that he did not believe that Christ was literally born of a virgin, should not have his his minister’s ordination questioned by the Presbyterian General Assembly), and several copies of the 1954 Time, with Van Dusen as the magazine’s cover story.

A letter from Eleanor Roosevelet to HPVD. UTS1: Henry Pitney Van Dusen Papers, Series 8, Box 15, Folder 1. The Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York

A PhD student in Columbia’s English and Theatre departments, specializing in Victorian entertainment, I barely had any exposure to Van Dusen’s prolific and distinguished career prior to processing his papers. As I began to read and sort through his documents, I learned about the depth of his various worlds, and the impact of his tremendous influence. Indeed, Van Dusen was a prominent thinker and sought-after academic, whose expertise and engagement was vast — spanning very many contemporary issues. I processed many files of sermons and articles directly addressing contemporary theological and socio-political debates, as well as his own personal ruminations on ethical matters. He was the engineer behind many massive organizations of which I had heard, such as the World Council of Churches. He was also, I learned, an entrenched New Yorker — a descendant of one of New York City’s oldest families, who had been here since it inhabited a few hundred people and was called New Amsterdam. (Personally, I can claim three generations of family in the city — he could claim ten.) The Van Dusen family has, in its family tree, U.S. Presidents Martin Van Buren and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, as well as, I just found out, the Brooklyn-based clothing designer Dusen Dusen.

Letter from John Masefield on the birth of John George Van Dusen. UTS1: Henry Pitney Van Dusen Papers, Series 8, Box 2, Folder 1. The Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting two members of the Van Dusen family, Hugh, Van Dusen’s second son, and Hans, his grandson. They stopped by Burke to check out the collection, and I was delighted to show them a few items from it: birth announcements, letters of congratulations (including from UK poet laureate John Masefield) and a baby photo of Van Dusen’s oldest son, John George, as well as (a personal favorite of mine) a series of letters exchanged between Van Dusen and Eleanor Roosevelt, in 1954, through which Roosevelt enlisted Van Dusen’s help to work the Membership Drive Committee for the American Association for the United Nations. 

It was wonderful to meet Van Dusen’s family, who were excited to look at the documents and glad to chat about them; spending weeks upon weeks organizing and filing his material legacy, it was both lovely and uncanny to meet the people who had known him the best, during the life that he had documented so well. 

#LoveInAction: Voices in Social Justice

 

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The Burke Library is excited about the start of it’s newest outreach project, #LoveInAction: Voices in Social Justice.  This project will train two Union Theological Seminary students in the theory and practice of oral history and archival research.  The students will be doing extensive research in the Union archives in order to prepare and conduct oral history interviews of alums during the Student Interracial Ministry reunion, a program that will happen in May 2017 (details TBD).  The participating students were selected through a competitive application process and we are thrilled to announce them here:

Kristine Chong
Tabatha Holley

We are so excited to have Kristine and Tabatha working with us on this amazing project for the next academic year!  We will be sure to post updates along the way.

#LoveInAction: A reflective essay

That sounds familiar! #LoveInAction_CarolynAs I sifted through the materials in the Burke archives, reading student publications and looking at pictures that were over forty years old, I kept recognizing my classmates in these relics from our predecessors. My project was tracking a series of student-driven movements in the 1960s and 1970s that radically transformed the academic program and governance structure at Union. One of those, the Free University of 1968, began with a late-night call to mobilize seminarians because the police were moving in on protests across the street at Columbia. It was after the end of the semester, and well after midnight, but the students rallied and turned out to support the protestors. That happened my first year at Union, when the Occupy Wall Street encampment in Zucotti Park was raided. That night a group of us had settled into the Social Hall with cups of coffee and end-of-semester papers to write. But within fifteen minutes of the first tweets announcing the raid, we were all headed downtown to see how we could help. It happened again in 2014, as the Union community turned out en masse to participate in #BlackLivesMatter protests across New York City.

Back in 1968, after a night of supporting Columbia students in their confrontation with the police Union students came home and looked at their own community. At Columbia, students were protesting major justice issues: links between the university and the institutional apparatus supporting the Vietnam War, as well as the gentrification of Harlem. But Union students recognized that their own institution, too, was complicit in perpetuating injustice. The last week of classes was canceled and replaced by what was called the Free University as the entire campus instead spent the week investigating Union’s problems and making a plan for moving forward. This balance between protesting injustice outside our walls and engaging in serious soul-searching within them is also one I recognize in my classmates. Union in Praxis, activism surrounding the Jackson Mitchell Chair, the Latinx Working Group, #WhoseUnion – all of these belong to the same tradition as the Free University. And like the movements I’ve seen in my time at Union, the Free University was a messy endeavor. Some students were frustrated that activism was interrupting their studies, and considered the Free University a waste of time. There was tension between those whose energies were focused on issues at Union, and those who were pulled toward solidarity with the Columbia protestors.

The Free University ended with the academic year but the issues it raised continued to be addressed, first by a working group called the Union Commission and then by the Union Assembly, a body of faculty, students, and staff that governed the school for five years. Major changes occurred during this time: the switch from an A-F grading scale to our current system, closing the School of Sacred Music, replacing the B.D. with the M.Div. and the Th.D. with a Ph.D., and Union set a goal of recruiting and admitting students and hiring faculty, “so that Black persons will number at least one-third of the total… and so that women (including Black women and those of other minorities) number at least one half the total.” Here, too, I recognize my classmates in the dozens of past students who participated in the necessary, but rarely glamorous, committee work of negotiating and discerning a better path forward for the seminary on first the Union Commission, and then the Union Assembly. Working alongside faculty, administration, alumni/ae, and staff for five years, students contributed to major changes in how Union functions. All of this work – from confrontations with police in the streets to policy changes within Union – is activism. All of it is #LoveInAction.

Carolyn Klaasen, among many things, is a current PhD student at Union Theological Seminary and one of the student curators for the library’s #LoveInAction project. Carolyn’s exhibit is currently on display through to May 16, 2016 on the 1st floor of the Burke Library. Her exhibit is a look into activism in education exploring the archives of the Union Commission and Union Assembly, and the Student Interracial Ministry, both of which were student-driven.  The records of the Union Commission and Union Assembly document the school’s history roughly from 1968 to 1974 and are housed within the Union Theological Records, 1829- held by the Burke.  The Student Interracial Ministry Records, 1960-1968, also held by the Burke, are a testimony to a student-run ministry in which students, congregations and community members from racially diverse backgrounds came together to be part of a radically different and truly immersive hands-on approach to ministry education.

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!

#LoveInAction

 

RBMS presentation banner_cropped

I started at the Burke Library a little over a year ago.  Not coming from a theological background, I was a little intimidated. However I quickly saw how my background in public history and public services could help do effective outreach to promote usage of the amazing materials in our special collections by Union students. It was during my first Student Senate meeting where the new senate officers announced that they would be adopting the theme #LoveInAction.

Based off of the infamous words of Union professor, Cornel West, “Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public,” #LoveInAction embodies perfectly the activist spirit held by the students, alumni/ae and faculty at Union both today and yesterday.  Seeing an immediate link between Union’s archives and this sentiment, I saw the potential in getting students aware of Union’s history not just through other’s words but through their own research experiences.  With the approval from the Burke Library’s director, Beth Bidlack, I set upon recruiting Union students to curate the library’s display cases that would help begin to tell of Union’s activist history.

Three students were recruited, Benjamin Van Dyne (MDiv, 2017), Carolyn Kaasen (PhD cand.), and Timothy Wotring (MDiv, 2016), to curate a series of three small exhibits in the library’s first floor display cases.  Each student has curated an exhibit that narrates Union’s activist history in one area: Carolyn selected education; Benjamin, activism in action; and Timothy, local community involvement.

Timothy’s exhibit, which is currently on display until September 28, 2015, focuses on the East Harlem Protestant Paris (EHPP).  Created by Union students in 1942 EHPP was an interdenominational ministry that provided leadership in the development of community life as served as an excellent example of an ecumenical ministry in a local, inner-city setting.  For his exhibit, Timothy dug into  the EHPP (1942-2007) records held at the Burke Library.

Love in Action poster_3

Up next will be Benjamin’s exploration of activism in action, and will focus on Union’s archives relating to student-led activism.  Primarily focusing on the time period between 1922 through to 1969, his cases hope to show the major shift in the civil rights narrative that occurred in the mid to late ’60s.  Benjamin’s exhibit will be on view from October 5, 2015 to November 30, 2015.

Carolyn has been researching forms of activism within education and has been sifting through the student driven and led Student Interracial Ministry (SIM) records (1960-1968) and archives relating to the Free University and the Union Commission. Carolyn’s exhibit will be on view in January 206 through to April 4, 2016.

Each exhibit also has a program tied to it.  For the unveiling of Timothy’s display cases, the Burke Library hosted a panel that was organized by the student curator and which brought 3 Union folks together, all of whom are at different points in their activist careers, to discuss the guiding philosophies of the EHPP founders.  Benjamin is working with Burke Library staff and the Union alumni/ae liaison to put together a panel of Union alumni/ae and current Union students to reflect on how their education here at Union is preparing and/or has prepared them for a career in activism.  This panel is to take place in the main reading room of the Burke Library on Friday, October 9th from 2-3:30pm, and is part of the roster of fabulous events planned for Union Days 2015.

If you would like additional, more detailed accounts of this project please check back here as links will be added to articles that are slated for publication shortly!

We are looking to carry on this project for at least another round, and are on the look out for new student curators. If you are interested and are a current Union student please reach out to us by email:

burke@library.columbia.edu

The next round would start in early January 2016 and run through the spring semester.  The time commitment would be at least 3 group meetings during the semester as well as individual research sessions.

Even if you feel you might not have the time to commit to being a student curator you can contribute to the project in other ways.  In order to help students document all of the work they are doing that celebrates the theme #LoveInAction, we have created a website that invites members of the Union community to contribute their personal photos, videos, writings, etc.

Codicology: Part 4

In the Spring of 2015 Union Theological Seminary students from CH108: The History of Christianity Part 2: Introduction to Western European Church History (c.1000-c.2000) viewed manuscripts and early printed books from the rare books collections at Burke Library. Over the course of the semester they chose manuscripts or early printed books to study and wrote codicological descriptions. Excerpts from their work are recorded below – along with the opportunity to read their research in full.

Dr. Jane Huber and Russ Gasdia, Teaching Fellow

**Please note: For footnote citations and bibliography, see paper in full at the above author link.  


 

John Rogers — UTS Ms. Cop. 1 [and Arabic]
Psalter, n.d.; Coptic Manuscripts collection; UTS Ms. Cop. 1, Burke Manuscripts.

Click for PDF of complete paper

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The Psalter, found within the “Coptic Manuscripts Collection” of the Burke Library, could also be labeled “A Liturgical Handbook.” Coptic Psalters are traditionally a collection of one hundred and fifty-one psalms. An additional psalm is contained in the Coptic tradition written specific for David when he combated Golaith (Kamel 205). The existing information regarding this specific book is sparse. Filed under the call number “Coptic 1 (and Arabic),” the worn, brown leather binding of the Coptic Liturgical Handbook is as nondescript as present codicological information. The cover of the manuscript measures 6.5” x 4.25”. The hand-laid paper on the inside spans 6.25” x 4.25” with a depth of 1.75”.3 Exposed end-bands hold the manuscript. The blue spring found within the end-bands appears intentionally visible.4 To conclude this description of the external physical features of the Psalter, a hole on the back cover should be noted. An examination of other bound Coptic Manuscripts supports the assumption that the hole once functioned to tie the book to a table (Kamel 7).

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The process of translating the Psalter led to less knowledge about the documents content, but indicated further clues regarding the Psalter’s origins. With my A Simplified Coptic

Dictionary (Sahidic Dialect) in hand, I attempted to decode the title page (figure one). Two unfamiliar letters, however, halted this process. By combing other resources I found these letters, an alpha and gamma, in the Bohairic dialect. Bohairic Coptic is known as the Memphitic dialect.

These letters do not appear in the same form in the Sahidic dialect and thus this finding altered my method. Upon further investigation, I found out that Bohairic Coptic had replaced the

Sahidic dialect as the official liturgical language of the Coptic Orthodox Church since the 11th century (Budge xiv). The world around the text began to expand. The realization that the Psalter is written in Bohairic Coptic inspired further inquiry regarding the manuscript’s origin. Since the Memphitic dialect derives from the western Nile Delta, I posit this region could be the document’s source. Furthermore, there are a number of watermarks sprinkled throughout the pages. The damp conditions of the western Nile Delta have hindered the preservation of the area’s earlier texts, but later documents—like this one —survive (Kamel 5). Finally, while interest Sahidic Coptic has increased due to the discovery of early Gnostic Christian texts Nag Hammadi, the Bohairic dialect proves more valuable for later texts.

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Link to catalog record in CLIO


Gregory Simpson – Latin to German Dictionary
Lateinisch deutsches Wörterbuch de 1463, manuscript, 1463; UTS Ms.24 Burke Manuscripts.

Click for PDF of complete paper

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With call number UTS MS 024, this manuscript forms part of the Leander Van Ess (1772-1847) collection in the Burke Library of Union Theological Seminary (UTS). The manuscript acquired two years after the founding of UTS in 1836, is a 249 page Latin to German Dictionary, with its origin of writing dating back to 1463 in Germany. Although no reference is made about the original owners specifically, Gatch reports that in 1500 the manuscript was owned by Sebaldus von Plaben of Nürnberg (Gatch 158-9). It follows the manuscript tradition of German texts of the Middle Ages, demonstrating particularly unique features both in binding and text writing style (Ricci 1643). This codicological description will seek to uncover some of these unique features, in addition to gaining some understanding of the region, reasons and purpose for the writing of this manuscript.

This hand written manuscript written in Cursiva script, and lacking imagery and color inside the book, strongly suggests that this dictionary was used in a scholarly way. It was not meant for a general readership, but for those engaged in research. The region from which the owner Sebaldus von Plaben of Nürnberg, was known to be a conservatively and free Lutheran city, where authorities allowed evangelical preaching in 1521 (MacCulloch 616, 630). Depending on the depth of the preaching, it can be imagined that exegesis of biblical text may have required research and translation from Latin to German. The Free City of Nürnberg would have been fertile ground on which to expand and expound ideas of Lutheranism through preaching in German. This was a time of reformation in Europe, where writing and knowledge of scripture fueled Protestant ambitions (Ozment 257, 463). Outside of the fascinating history of the late 15th and early 16th century, the other point of interest for this author was in the technology used to produce the manuscript. Particularly the use of cords in the binding of the paper and the use of parchment waste to strengthen the manuscript. The thought of further study on where the waste came from and what books were they first published in, if any, posed interesting thoughts for pondering. The necessity for clasps and hinges also was of interest, and it is hoped that further research would lead to better understanding of the reasons for these types of ornaments during this time.

Link to catalog record in CLIO


Jason Storbakken – Martyr’s Mirror
Het Bloedig tooneel, of, Martelaers spiegel der doops-gesinde of weereloose Christenen, die om’t getuygenis van Jesus haren salighmaker geleden hebben ende gedood zijn can Christi tijd af tot desen tijd doe : Versamelt uyt verscheyde geloofweerdige chronijken, memorien, en getuygenissen,
Thieleman J. van Braeght, 1685; Burke Union Rare Folio.

Click for PDF of complete paper

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The Martyr’s Mirror was first published in Dutch in 1660 and documents the testimonies of Christian martyrs. The second edition appeared in 1685 and includes additional content as well as engravings not included in the first edition. The Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York contains a copy of this magisterial 1685 edition of the Martyr’s Mirror, and it is this text to which I will provide a codicological description. The full title of the book is The Bloody Theater or Martyrs Mirror of the Defenseless Christians who baptized only upon confession of faith, and who suffered and died for the testimony of Jesus, their Savior, from the time of Christ to the year A.D. 1660. Second only to the Bible, the Martyr’s Mirror is held in utmost prominence among Anabaptists, especially Amish and Old Order Mennonite. The term “Defenseless” is in reference to the pacifist convictions of the Anabaptist martyrs.

The 1685 edition was published after van Braght’s death by a group of Anabaptist investors. This edition included 104 superbly crafted copper etchings by the renowned Mennonite artist Jan Luyken. There are 49 etchings in Part 1 and 55 in Part 2. Each of the etchings captured the climactic moment in a particular martyr story. According to Roth, “The Luyken etchings were not only a stroke of marketing genius, making the 1685 much more popular than the earlier version, but they also transformed the way later generations would encounter the volume” (Roth). Luyken’s powerful images provided a simple way to understand and interpret the massive and complex martyr stories, making the text much more user-friendly, although these images perhaps simplified the depth and nuance of many of the stories.

Link to catalog record in CLIO

 


 

Hannah Tasker — On the Freedom of a Christian
Von der freyheyt eynes Christen menschen, Martin Luther, 1520; Burke Union Rare.

Click for PDF of complete paper

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These Luther pamphlets are two copies of the same treatise titled “Von der Freyheyt eynis Christen menschen” which translates to “On the Freedom of a Christian”. Both pamphlets were printed in Wittenberg, but by the different printers, which was very uncommon. In November of the year 1520 is regarded as an important year for the Reformation where Martin Luther created many pamphlets that opposed the abuse of the papacy. Each pamphlet contains leaves measuring 20.5 centimeters tall and 15.5 centimeters wide. These pamphlets were printed on paper with small black text and paragraph markers at the beginning of each paragraph. For the Luther, Christian freedom of faith from the papacy is essential to the life of a Christian. Addressed to Pope Leo X, Luther points out the abuse of power surrounding the Roman Curia and articulates his Reformation concept of justification by faith. This meant the freedom of a Christian was not dependent upon good works and the practice of the sacraments but on faith and the grace of God alone. Luther believed this liberating idea outweighed Pope Leo X’s papal authority. For Luther, the inner spirituality of a person is saved by faith alone and those who are saved by faith therefore engage in good Christian works. These works help the neighbor and discipline the soul.

The early years of the Reformation, the supply of pamphlets needed to reach a large audience with its message, therefore there was a major turn to the vernacular (Edwards 21). Only a small portion of the German population could read and an even smaller portion could read Latin. This drastic turn to print in the German language made the pamphlets more available to the small population that was literate. The pamphlets themselves were resolutely addressed to the laity hence the switch to the vernacular (Edwards 81). Due to the popularity of Luther’s pamphlets there was massive printing and reprinting of his works. This meant that because of the amount of pamphlets being printed it actually saved money to print from one’s actual town rather than to send for the products that were being produced in a much larger printing town. This may explain why there were two of the same pamphlets printed in the same place in the same year by different printers. Luther’s popularity was growing and the demand for his writings was so great that two printers were used. Also since Wittenberg wasn’t a big printing area like Augsburg or Leipzig, it was necessary for two printers to print the work. Since Luther brought Melchior Lotter to Wittenberg to print his works, there was an obvious necessity demand for another printer.

Link to catalog record in CLIO


Heidi Thorsen — Necrology
Necrology, ca. 1400; UTS Ms. 60, Burke Manuscripts.

Click for PDF of complete paper

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This necrology originates from an unnamed Benedictine convent in the diocese of Halberstadt, near Hadmersleben. The convent was affiliated with a double cloister located in nearby Huysburg. Double cloisters, or double monasteries as they are also called, attempted to create a symbiotic relationship between communities of monks and communities of nuns. Women in particular had to rely on ordained men for practical and spiritual needs, from representation in public and financial matters to celebration of the mass and administration of other sacraments (Griffiths 5).Two other necrologies of Hadmersleben are known (Digital Scriptorium). This paper seeks to describe the book that contains the necrology, speculate on its uses, and rediscover the identity of an unnamed community of women who created and stewarded this book for centuries.

The necrology dates from the 15th century with entries up to 1710. It does not stand alone, but is bound together with a martyrology (1v-52) and the Rule of St. Benedict (53v-68)—I will refer to these documents as Part 1 of the manuscript and the necrology as Part 2, which will be the main focus of this paper. However, there are some interesting things to note first about the documents with which the necrology now shares its present binding. Both documents in Part 1 are printed, in contrast to the various styles of handwriting we will find in Part 2. The Digital Scriptorium notes that the martyrology is a defective document, missing its first two leaves (Digital Scriptorium). The entire book is heavily worn, with ruffled or torn pages, stains, and various annotations. However, the edges of the pages on the Rule of St. Benedict are noticeably more ruffled, possibly indicating that this section was referred to most often by the monastic community. There are numerous examples where the book has been repaired with scraps from a missal printed in red and black. The expense of other text for the preservation of these pages suggests that all the documents in this book, not just the Rule, were of paramount importance among other texts in the convent library.

Link to catalog record in CLIO