Looking Back on A Year of New Old Stuff

Song sheet (ca. 1928) for evangelist Betty Weakland, one of the most well-known of the so-called “girl evangelists,” popular in the first decades of the 20th century. Donated by long-time friend of the Archives, Robert Dresser. Accession 2022-053.

“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.

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Remembering Christmas Past

Blanchard Tower displays a huge wreath, decorated with lights, c. 1960.

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.

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The Landon Chronicles: Excerpts from a Lifetime of Adventures in Southeast Asia

Kenneth Landon’s graduation from Wheaton College, 1924

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.

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Scraps of Humor in the Archives: Stories from 160 Years of Wheaton College Pranks

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.

In a 1931 prank, senior jackets were strung on a clothesline during chapel. (College Archive Photograph #B8772)

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.”

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Leafing through the Pages of China Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship

Mr. Chang & David Adeney, Shanghai, 1950. (Photo File: OMF-China II)

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.

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Stories from the Archives: An Interview with Dr. Aaron Griffith

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.

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A Workman for Souls: Remembering William R. McCarrell

College Archives Photograph A1922

The influence of professors, students and administrators is often felt long after they are gone. A ministry might be deeply influential publicly or privately, but after the passage of years, memory of that work diminishes. Fortunately, Buswell Library Archives & Special Collections offers an opportunity to revisit the particulars of hard-won contributions to the history of Wheaton College, local Chicago missions, and world evangelism. One such story is that of Dr. William R. McCarrell.

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Snapshots of Global Missions

CN 278: Papers of Elisabeth Elliot, Slide 66

Missionaries often find themselves in disparate places all over the world, and even though their primary role is not to be photographers, many have a camera in hand to capture the landscape, people, rituals, homes, costumes, daily activities, ministry activities, staff group shots, and more. Sometimes the images are intended for use in prayer letters or marketing efforts by their agency or sending church. Other times missionaries, like amateur anthropologists, are perhaps among the first to photograph a people group, such as Elisabeth Elliot’s shots of the Waodani people in Ecuador.

As we archivists say to budding researchers, understanding why a document is created (including photographs) is one key to interpreting the document. Knowing the original contexts and the intended use of these photographs helps us understand them more deeply.

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In the Heart of the North Woods

Honey Rock Camp, ca. 1950 (Honey Rock Records, Box 1)

This month hundreds of new Wheaton College students will visit HoneyRock Center for Leadership Development in the northern woods of Wisconsin as a part of the start of their Wheaton journey. Envisioned as “a laboratory in counseling and leadership for students,” time at HoneyRock has become a touchstone for many students’ experiences at Wheaton, as well as for Wheaton College faculty, staff, and their families.

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