While Buswell Library Archives & Special Collections continually adds new digital content to our online archival photograph database and oral history interview collections, most of the thousands of pages of records in our collections can only be accessed in the Manuscripts Reading Room. We frequently receive inquiries from researchers who are unable to travel to use the collections, and so keep a list of local researchers who provide research and scanning services to distance patrons as “proxy researchers.” This week, we sat down with Chelsey Geisz for a behind-the-scenes look at proxy research in the Archives.
Chelsey Geisz is in her final semester of Wheaton College Graduate School’s MA in Systematic Theology. For the last year and a half, she has also served as a proxy researcher and a research assistant for a major College history project. Because of her work as a research assistant, she has the dubious distinction of likely being the only person alive who has read every Wheaton student publication from 1860-2000!
In celebration of Women’s History Month, Buswell Library Archives & Special Collections commemorates the many contributions from women whose unique voices and experiences are documented throughout our rich collections. This March, we highlight the life and missionary service of Hulda Stumpf, a missionary to Kenya from 1907-1930.
A native of Pennsylvania, Stumpf left the comforts of her middle-class, Midwestern life for the unknown challenges of missionary service as a single woman in British East Africa in 1907. During her two decades of service at the Kijabe Mission Station in Kenya, Stumpf became an outspoken advocate for the education and advancement of women and girls from the surrounding indigenous ethnic people groups. Her willingness to challenge the long-cherished cultural mores and religious rites resulted in her tragic murder at the age of 62.
Next week will mark the five year anniversary of Rev. Billy Graham’s passing on February 21, 2018. This month, in remembrance of his remarkable life and legacy, Buswell Library Archives & Special Collections commemorates the beginnings of Billy Graham’s evangelistic ministry as a fledgling undergraduate preacher at Wheaton College in 1940.
During Billy Graham’s time as a student at Florida Bible Institute (1937-1940), Alma Toff Edman, mother of then-interim president of Wheaton College, V. Raymond Edman, heard Graham preach at a local service. Impressed, she told her son Elner Edman and his friend Paul Fischer about the young preacher and urged that they hear him too. The two men invited Graham with them as a caddy for a round of golf. Similarly impressed with his passion for ministry and gift for speaking, they urged him to attend Wheaton College after graduating from FBI, to add a liberal arts education to his Bible and homiletics training. Graham applied to Wheaton and was accepted, starting on September 19, 1940.
In celebration of Black History Month this February, Buswell Library Archives & Special Collections commemorates the legacy of Montrose Waite, dedicated missionary to Africa and founder of one of the first independent Black faith missions in America, the Afro-American Missionary Crusade.
Born 1893 in Jamaica, Waite immigrated to the United States in 1916 with the promise of munitions factory work created by the ongoing World War. Settling in New York City, he wrote of his interest in missions to Dr. A. B. Simpson, founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA), who encouraged him to seek out missionary education at the C&MA’s Nyack Institute.
“Collection” and “Accession” are words used all the time in the archival profession. In Buswell Library Archives & Specials Collections, an accession is material received from a single donor, usually an individual or an organization. It might be a single folder or hundred of boxes, with only a general inventory to use as a finding aid. A collection is a set of materials (perhaps including paper-based records, photographs, audio or video recordings, etc.) that has been fully arranged and described. Most of our collections have been formed from several accessions. Here in the Archives & Special Collections, both collections and accessions are open for research (unless there have been donor-requested restrictions) but the lack of a complete finding aid and access points can make accessions difficult to locate or use for research.
It has often been astutely observed that our warm feeling for Christmas are not about the present but the past. In other words, sentimental memories of remembered holiday seasons profoundly color our present expectations. As the caretaker for the physical memories of Wheaton College, Buswell Library Archives & Special Collections maintains many photos, stories, and other mementos of the joyous, bygone yuletide seasons celebrated throughout the college’s history. As we wistfully glance back at campus festivities, perhaps the candlelit glow of our present Christmas will burn even brighter.
One of the richest artifacts in Special Collections is the 95 hours of oral history interviews with Kenneth and Margaret Landon, conducted over thirteen years by their youngest son, Kip (Kenneth). Gathered together as ‘The Landon Chronicles,’ the interviews provide rich detail and insight into the lives of these two amazing individuals.
Margaret Mortenson and Kenneth Landon met as undergraduate students at Wheaton College in the early 1920s. Kenneth graduated in 1924 and the two were engaged in September 1924 before his move to Princeton, where he pursued a Th.M. degree. Margaret graduated from Wheaton a year later in 1925 and taught school until their wedding in June 1926.
While many of the records in the College Archives relate to the work of the administration, staff, and faculty at Wheaton College, the collections also hold documents from generations of Wheaton students, including biographical files, personal scrapbooks, student group papers, oral history interviews and student publications. Through these records, the College Archives preserves students’ experiences and traditions, from the serious to the lighthearted. One of the most enduring of the student traditions documented by the Archives is that of the college prank.
Tales of Wheaton students’ antics appear from the very early days of the college. In A Minority of One, Clyde Kilby recounts one prank on the first president of Wheaton College, Jonathan Blanchard: On April Fool’s Day, students placed a goose on the lectern prior to Blanchard’s arrival. Upon entering Blanchard assessed the situation and left the classroom after exclaiming, “Well, students, I see you have chosen a new leader. Since he must be more to your liking, I will take the only course open to me. I will withdraw.”
An archivist never knows what they will find as they begin opening boxes and folders in donated materials to arrange and describe a collection. And they don’t know what threads might appear that lead to other collections or lines of inquiry, or what gaps the new material might fill. For all they can’t anticipate, archivists can expect that there will be materials that will uncover or add to areas of interest for researchers. Sometimes new materials become their own puzzle to figure out — like who is the unidentified Western female in several of the photographs below? — while other times they provide the missing piece to a partially completed puzzle. A recent example of this is the photo album that Ruth Adeney donated to the Archives in 1997 along with the rest of the papers of her husband, David Adeney (CN 393), soon to be opened for researcher use.
At the end of September, Buswell Library Archives & Special Collections hosted historian Dr. Aaron Griffith for the 2022 Archival Research Lecture, “American Evangelicals and the Making of Modern Prison Ministry.” For those who were unable to attend the lecture, this month we feature an interview with Dr. Griffith about the many visits he made to the Archives during his research on prison ministry and evangelical attitudes to criminal justice.
When and how were you first introduced to Archives & Special Collections?
Believe it or not, when I was a Wheaton undergraduate student (and a philosophy major, not history), I had very little idea of the Archives’ existence or purpose (though I remember a friend telling me that the third floor of the Billy Graham Center was a nice, quiet place to hang out). It wasn’t until much later, as I started getting interested in American religious history during my M.Div. program, that I realized that the Archives was an absolute goldmine for the study of evangelicalism. My first research trip to the Archives was when I accompanied Grant Wacker there for a day, to assist him with some research for his book on Billy Graham. We were both in Wheaton for a conference, and he asked me to help him read through some letters to Billy Graham and categorize them. I remember feeling energized by this work, and I think it was this experience that really sealed the deal for me in terms of getting me excited about historical research and showing me how important the Archives is for understanding American evangelicalism.