Tag Archives: MRL

Saying Goodbye to Burke…For Now

My last day really snuck up on me. One can really get lost in boxes and boxes of unprocessed archival material, it seems. But all good things must come to an end, and for me, that took place today. After a great 7 month internship at Burke, I closed the lid on my last archival box.

I can’t express to you how great this internship has been! I’ve learned the entire archival process, from acquisition to finding aid promotion. I’ve seen great material that paints a picture of the world the missionaries encountered. And I’ve worked with the amazing staff at the Burke Library. Brigette, the project archivist, was an outstanding teacher and mentor. From the very beginning she made sure I knew what we were working on and why. She is incredibly knowledgeable about the collection, knowing where everything is and how the entire collection is connected. The rest of the staff is stellar as well. They are insanely smart, friendly, welcoming, and passionate about the work they are doing at the library. If you ever get a chance to work with them on a research project, I suggest you do.

Though my internship time is done with the Burke library, my professional and personal relationship will continue. I look forward to my next step, knowing that Burke is the reason I’m taking it at all.

From Finding Aids to Floppy Disks

I spent yesterday and today getting acquainted with my first archival box. To learn and get experience with writing a finding aid, I’m working with materials that already have a finding aid, “The Chinese Church of Christ in Korea papers 1908-1975.” Some of what needed to be done was basic copy editing and formatting the document.

Korea cover photoBut the fun part was getting to explore the folders in the box. Part of what I was doing was comparing the box content to the descriptions in the finding aid, to make sure that it was accurate, and as detailed as it needed to be.

Exploring documents that ranged from handwritten letters to missionary history to brochures about Korea, I had to remind myself not to read the documents themselves. Processing an archive isn’t about reading the documents. Handing me pages and pages of typewritten and handwritten documents and telling me not to read them takes willpower! I only skimmed. I told myself I was familiarizing myself with the documents, and checking to see if any details jumped out that would improve the level of historical detail in the finding aid, to help researchers (and those searching on the web) find it, with better keywords. Yeah! That’s what I was doing. Not reading! No reading here!

The documents that I absolutely did not read covered the work Chinese missionaries were doing to establish missions and mission schools in Korea, covering a time and place in history I had known absolutely nothing about. And now I’m curious to learn more. (Maybe a stop by the UTS library on the way home!)

After I submitted my work on the finding aid for edits, my next task was to work my way through a box of floppy disks, get the documents onto the hard drive so they could be processed. Some of the disks I handled had one or two files on them, mostly Word documents, sometimes a PowerPoint or PDF. It is a little bit mind boggling to think about the fact that only a few decades ago, our portable media could hold mere kilobytes or megabytes of data. And now, several gigabytes can fit on an even smaller device.

docs and floppiesToday, I worked with, and handled documents that were typed or handwritten in the early 20th century. And floppy disks with documents saved in the early 2000’s.

I’d call that a very good day!

Fitting in the Final Pieces of the Puzzle: an Interlinked Collection

This semester is the beginning of the end for a collection that has been meticulously processed, studied, and preserved over the past three years. By the end of 2014, every scrap of paper from the Missionary Research Library Collection – a vast assortment of papers are related in some way to Christian missionary work around the globe since the 1700s – will have a home at the Burke library, and will be available for research purposes. It is very exciting to see a record group through to its end, and to imagine the way these collections that you have spent so much time on will impact academic research in a variety of fields.

As we near the end, the archival process takes a slightly different road. We are taking the final, unprocessed boxes and attempting to find the best home for them, and would hope that their new home would be in a currently processed collection. This means having an extensive understanding of what is already out there, and knowing how best these previously unrecorded materials can be inserted into a pre-existing collection and help bolster the information contained in that collection. Get it? You get it.

So let’s say you have some random letters about education initiatives in China in 1905, written by Dr. Edwin Bliss. These letters are currently not part of a collection, but are related to the materials throughout MRL: 6 (which is Mission Research Library section 6, the China Section). However, they are also related to materials in MRL 12: Ecumenical/World Mission, since Dr. Bliss was instrumental in founding and running the Bureau of Missions during this time. The letters could provide insight into the inner workings of that organization. What do you as the archivist do?

These are the kind of questions that are facing us as we wind down an extraordinary collection. Personally, I find it to be an exciting time, one that allows the archivist to explore the collection thoroughly, whether for the first time (as most of it is in my case), or as a revisit (as it is for project archivist Brigette, who has been here since the beginning). It also highlights how the collection should be seen as a whole entity, instead of many boxes that happened to be housed together. If you haven’t had a chance to see what the MRL collection currently holds, take a look! And check back often as we update, reorganize, and make the collection more accessible and understandable to use.

Final Thoughts on My Last Day at Burke

As I sat on the subway during my commute this morning, it occurred to me that this is the last time I will be heading uptown and entering the doors of the Union Theological Seminary and finding my way to the Burke Library. Interning at the Burke Library Archives this summer has been an incredibly rewarding experience. Throughout the summer I processed five collections; arranging and rehousing the material, writing finding aids, uploading them to Burke’s website, editing Voyager catalogue records, and creating EAD versions. Along with these five collections, I have also worked with Brigette and my fellow interns to tackle the immense collection of administrative files created by the Missionary Research Library (MRL).

Throughout the summer I worked on three collections from MRL 12: Ecumenical/World and two from the WAB collection. The first collection I processed was the Ecumenical Conference on Foreign Missions Records, which documented the largest international missionary conference held in New York in 1900. This was the most extensive collection I independently processed this summer, with a total of six manuscript boxes as well as an oversize item. After the Ecumenical Conference collection, I worked on the Board of Foreign Missions of the Netherlands Reformed Church Records, Preparation of Missionaries Records, the John Ferguson Moore Papers, and the Hendrik Kraemer Papers. Hendrik Kraemer was a Dutch Reformed missionary leader and professor who gave a series of lectures on The Christian Faith and Non-Christian Religions at the University of Geneva in 1954. The collection consists solely of that lecture series. Similarly, the John Ferguson Moore Papers document the Protestant author and Y.M.C.A railroad secretary’s research on Roman Catholicism and the Church’s opinion towards secret societies through an incomplete typescript and reports.

I personally found the two other MRL collections to be slightly more challenging than the Moore and Kraemer Papers. The Preparation of Missionaries Records is an artificial collection that was created by the Missionary Research Library by gathering information and material from a variety of sources on the subject of missionary and personnel training. Since the material was collected by MRL as a subject file it was necessary to keep the material together, even though some of the material comes from organizations found in other Burke collections. Another challenging collection was the Board of Foreign Missions of the Netherlands Reformed Church. Not only was much of this material written in Dutch, forcing me to utilize online translators to determine the subject matter, it was originally two separate collections. Series 1 of this collection was originally called the Netherlands Missionary Society Papers, but in researching the organization and discovering that the society eventually merged with the Netherlands Board of Foreign Missions, I determined that the documents should be brought together into a single collection.

When I first started this internship I had already had some experience processing collections, but working with Brigette and the MRL and WAB collections provided me with the opportunity to really hone those skills. These collections document organizations and individuals that have left lasting impressions on missionary and religious scholarship, and I am excited that the work I have done to arrange and document the collections will contribute to a future researcher’s work.

Working with Brigette has been an invaluable experience; she truly wants her interns to have the best experience possible and always takes time to answer questions, teach new skills and discuss best practices and strategies for tackling challenging material. Not only did Brigette impart her knowledge of processing, she also took the time to discuss professional development with me and my fellow interns. Brigette encouraged us to utilize Web 2.0 technology to our advantage, and she showed us her online portfolio and gave us a tutorial on how to create one ourselves. Though I will miss coming to Burke twice a week and working with Brigette and my fellow interns, I am grateful for the experience and the knowledge I have gained from the opportunity.

Last Day…Final Words…

As I walked through the large heavy double doors of the main entrance to Union Theological Seminary this morning I realized it would be my last time walking down the cool glazed brick paved hallway and wending my way to the Burke Library entrance. The summer of 2013 has flown by and I am sure part of the quick passage of time is due to my relatively brief but highly educational and enjoyable tenure as an Archival Intern at the Burke Archive. Working under the tutelage of Brigette Kamsler I have been exposed to and gained hands on experience in the wild and often times dusty world of a working archive.

Initially fearful I would forget my Columbia UNI every time I needed to log onto the University system, petrified I would somehow mangle fragile, priceless and irreplaceable documents, I found myself looking forward to the two days each week I spent on the fifth floor of the Burke Library. I am pleased to report I did not break anything nor have I had to have my UNI tattooed onto my forearm. In addition, I have learned so much, not only regarding archives and archiving but in personal and professional development. I am saddened by the fact this is my last day at Burke but am grateful for the experience and the knowledge I will take with me out the main entrance of Union Theological Seminary when I leave.

Not only was I allowed to rehouse, access and inventory portions of an incredibly large and disorganized collection the Missionary Research Library Archival Collection, but I was given the responsibility of organizing, re-housing and drafting finding aids for three smaller collections within MRL itself, as well as one from the William Adams Brown Ecumenical Library Archives (WAB). Once the finding aids were finished we published them online onto the Burke Archives website, created and updated records in Voyager for the Columbia University Library System’s CLIO OPAC and then announced this fact through a swath of social media platforms! Lest the reader think all an archivist does is wade through boxes of papers and ephemera nobody has seen for long stretches of time – I was also given a chance to learn EAD (Encoded Archival Description) which employs the same ilk of XML tagging the SEC employs in its online filing system EDGAR.

The first collection I worked with was the Kagawa Toyohiko Papers, the subject of my previous post – Happy Camper at Burke. I followed the 15 box Kagawa collection with three smaller collections the Loren E. Noren Papers, the Charles Tudor Leber Travel Correspondence and the Lutheran World Federation Records. Each of these collections provided a unique and distinct glimpse into the past through either personal letters, conference minutes or statistical reports.

Charles Tudor Leber traveled the globe following World War II and the Leber Travel Correspondence collection features missives he sent home to the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions. Leber witnessed the social and economic turmoil of four continents and his observations are recorded in his highly detailed letters. Loren E. Noren was a missionary from the American Baptist Church and was stationed first in mainland China and subsequently in Hong Kong during the 1930’s through 1950’s. During his time in China he was incarcerated by the Communists! His collection at Burke consists solely of a statistical and detailed report he made of the churches within Hong Kong, the congregation numbers, financial information and the like. The sheer amount of work Noren poured into his study is incredible. The final collection I worked on was the Lutheran World Federation Papers which include the minutes and documents from the Lutheran World Federation Assembly held in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1957. These documents were housed in a number of different locations and the Burke Archive collection includes three sets: one in English, one in German and one in Norwegian. The fact my work in rehousing, organizing and creating finding aids for these collections will provide access and hopefully use of these collections really makes me proud.

Brigette is an incredible manager and the time she takes to educate and include her bevy of interns in the multitudinous tasks her position as the Luce Grant Project Archivist at the Burke Archive entails was not lost on me. I was introduced through practice and readings to best practices in the field of archiving. More Product, Less Process became a mantra for my summer of 2013. In addition to helping with the work at hand, Brigette made sure to take the time to discuss future career options, job search techniques and the like. She showed myself and fellow interns her online portfolio, encouraged us to make ones for ourselves and discussed best practices in employing social media for future career success. I really cannot say how grateful I am for all the knowledge she imparted to me this summer.

I really cannot believe that this post will be my last on the Burke Archives Blog, that today will be my last day up in the tower and that I will not see the friendly and supportive faces of those I have worked with and around much of the summer. But like most good things in life, this internship too must come to a close. I know I will carry not only the work place skills I have learned and been exposed to but also the intangible benefits from having worked under so skilled a manager and mentor as Brigette.

Something Fun – MRL May 1961

The Quintessential Librarian!

While most people today do not get to see the room pictured in the above image, staff and student workers are well-acquainted with it.

The Missionary Research Library, created in 1914, moved to Union Theological Seminary in 1929 after financial difficulties became too much to bear. MRL rented space from Union in Brown Tower, and still maintained its own library. These financial difficulties continued until 1967 when it was fully integrated into the Union Seminary Library. Burke Library became part of the Columbia Library system in 2004.

The image above dates from May 1961 and was found as part of the large set of unprocessed material included in the Luce Foundation project. MRL maintained the material, allowing researchers in to the reading room which was presided over by a staff member, shown here. This MRL reading room was complete with a spiral staircase, which staff would use to retrieve some records from above. You can see the staircase peeking out on the left side of the image.

Today, these two floors are part of the non-public archives storage onsite. While the rooms look much different, the spiral staircase still stands and is a testimony to times past.

A view of the stairs today, opposite side of the room

A Selection of MRL Pamphlets

Recently while researching for MRL10: American Home Missionary Society Records, I had to pull some material from the MRL pamphlet collections.  The MRL pamphlet collection, which has been individually item-level cataloged and is available in CLIO, contains over 30,000 missionary reports and other publications. Many of these pamphlets are primary source materials and can often be valuable for the information contained within.

They also can have interesting topics or cover art. Below are a few that stood out during my search:

Henry F. Colby, “Five Great Reasons for Foreign Missions.” [1903]


Titus Coan, “
The Sailor's Sabbath; or, A Word from a Friend to Seamen.” [1846]


Doris M. Cochran, “Poisonous Reptiles of the World: A Wartime Handbook.” [1943]


Edwin L. Jones, “The Church in an Atomic Age.” [1947?]


All of the pamphlets are non-circulating, but they can be requested and reviewed during Special Collections hours. To do so, please fill out our Rare Books & Archives Request Form: http://library.columbia.edu/indiv/burke/materials_request_form.html.

Gustavus Elmer Emanuel Lindquist Papers, 1897–1955

G.E.E. Lindquist with American Indian Man. Credit to MRL10: Lindquist Papers, in
The Burke Library Archives, Columbia University Libraries, at Union Theological Seminary, N. Y

The Burke Library is happy to announce the processing and availability of the GEE Lindquist Papers, 1897-1955, part of MRL10: North America!

Please see the finding aid HERE.

Gustavus Elmer Emanuel Lindquist was a prominent figure in twentieth-century Protestant missions among Native Americans and an active member of Home Missions Council of the Federal Council of Churches. A full biography on the life of Lindquist can be seen on the Finding Aid.

The collection was originally organized in its original order as organized by the Missionary Research Library. In October 2012 the collection was entirely reprocessed and the organization was overhauled by Brigette C. Kamsler as part of the Luce Foundation grant. The collection is organized in two parts: boxes 1-34 consist of paper documents and writings and boxes 35-66 are the photographic materials. The contents of Boxes 35-66 are digitized and available on line at http://lindquist.cul.columbia.edu/.


Collection Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of correspondence, reports, government publications, committee minutes, papers, surveys, conference materials, articles, newspaper and journal clippings, articles or manuscripts by Lindquist, postcards, booklets, questionnaires, pamphlets, maps, photographs, and lantern slides. Dates are provided when they are known.

Series 1 contains original and carbon copy correspondence dating from 1917-1953. These letters are both to and from Lindquist, and include letters from other individuals. Lindquist annotated the letters that were of particular interest, including:

Letter from M. K. Sniffer to Lindquist, April 25, 1920.

Credit to MRL 10: Lindquist Papers, series 1, box 1, folder 3, The Burke Library Archives, Columbia University Libraries, at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

Organizations represented include but are not limited to schools, such as the Fort Mojave Indian School, the Charles H. Cook Christian Training School, an interdenominational Christian training center for Indians, and the Pawnee Indian Boarding School; the National War Work Council of the YMCA, the Interchurch World Movement, The American Indian Defense Association, The Federation of Protestant Activities, and the Roe Indian Institute; churches, both national such as the Reformed Church in America, Presbyterian and Congregational churches, and local entities including the Chemawa Campus Church.

Lindquist also corresponded with a number of well-known individuals, such as Hubert Work, secretary of the interior and Stephen E. Keeler, bishop of Minnesota.

Another person of note is from Henry Roe Cloud. His letters are comprehensive and contain information on his trips. For example a letter from May 19, 1919 details a trip he made on behalf of the YMCA to Chicolo, where he addressed the students. He was dismayed to see the “distinct lack of interest in the YMCA.”

Letter from Henry Roe Cloud to Lindquist, May 13, 1919.
Credit to MRL 10: Lindquist Papers, series 1, box 1, folder 2, The Burke Library Archives, Columbia University Libraries, at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

Series 2 pertains to Lindquist’s personal writings and publications from 1912-1954. The material is organized alphabetically by the title of the article and come from published magazines as well as manuscript or typescript, some of which was noted as not for publication. Also incorporated with some articles are the draft versions by Lindquist, including his corrections, and the final published version.

Series 3 consists of 8 boxes of records pertaining to specific Native American tribes and reservations that Lindquist worked with and studied, including the Navajo, Hopi, and Apache, from 1900-1954. Lindquist also kept separate files on the drug peyote; this section has been left in series 3 as Lindquist intended because of its intrinsic value to the culture of many tribes. The large amount of material is organized geographically by state, and includes other countries such as Canada, Mexico and South America.

Series 4, Missions from 1897-1955, contains mission-specific and religious material, as well as records from organizations that were involved with missions to the Native Americans. The Home Missions Council (HMC) material contains Annual Reports, Survey of Home Mission Agencies and other administrative records including conferences, meetings, and seminars. The Joint Committee for Indian Work was a combination of HMC and Council of Women for Home Missions (CWHM). The series also contains detailed Indian survey information, including that from the Interchurch World Movement, of which Lindquist was director.

Deaconess Bedell and Seminole Indians Outside the Glade Cross Mission Headquarters, 1912-1953.
Credit to MRL 10: Lindquist Papers, series 8A, box 38, item 723, The Burke Library Archives, Columbia University Libraries, at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

Education, 1915-1953, fills Series 5, and pertains mainly to Native American schools. The series also offers information on non-religious schools, and the Home Missions Literature Program.

Series 6 spanning 1912-1953 contains government affairs and includes information on general topics as well as specific departments within the government. Conferences, committees, proposed legislation, Indian migration and freedom of religion are some of the topics covered. Other items of note contain records relating to “wardship,” the Wheeler-Howard Act, and a handwritten notebook kept by Lindquist detailing Native Americans serving during World War One and World War Two. Specific departmental information in the series is from the Department of the Interior, the Office of Indian Affairs, the Board of Indian Commissioners, and finally the National Fellowship of Indian workers.

The section on National Fellowship of Indian Workers details information on the organization, which was formed to promote the interest of missionaries and all those engaged in the education and civilization of Native Americans.

National Fellowship of Indian Workers, Group of Conference Attendees in front of a Brick Building, 1942-1951.
Credit to MRL 10: Lindquist Papers, series 8A, box OS, item 1833, The Burke Library Archives, Columbia University Libraries, at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

The final series in the first section of the Lindquist material contain source files. Series 7 spans 1912-1953 and offers general materials outside of missions, tribes and government/educational affairs, and appears to be files that Lindquist kept for information on specific topics. Topics include Indians and health, athletics, ethnology and home life.

Series 8 is restricted due to the fragile nature of the material. However the large selection of original photographs, negatives, and postcards collected and taken by Lindquist during his work is available through this wonderful website http://lindquist.cul.columbia.edu/. A wide range of states and locations are depicted, including in the United States as well as Mexico and Canada. Photographs include individual portraits, landscapes, group images, buildings such as churches, private residences and schools, agricultural and industrial scenes, leisure activities and other events and living conditions experienced by a variety of Native communities. The maps are currently unavailable at this time while they undergo conservation treatment.

Please come by soon to conduct research with the Lindquist Papers!