As circulation and movement slowly returned, life approached closer to normal in Buswell Library Archives & Special Collections, as elsewhere, in 2021.
Most of the staff worked from the office for almost the entire year and with proper precautions researchers could once more be seen reading in the Reading Room. Normalcy (to borrow President Harding’s term from just over a century ago) could be seen in other areas too. In 2020, the Archives acquired 16 accessions, totaling a little more than 9 cubic feet. In 2021 there were 45 accessions, totaling 119 cubic feet.
These 2021 additions included fifteen hours of oral history interviews with a variety of Christian workers in which they described their own faith and spiritual development.
These interviews also covered such diverse topics as reconciliation ministries in Rwanda, the development of the Christian film industry in the 20th century, early Evangelical efforts on the Internet, children ministries in the United States and the Congo, counseling ministries for missionaries, the Lausanne movement’s proclamation evangelism program, African American churches in Chicago, origins of the Baseball Chapel, and student impressions of the Wheaton College Graduate School.
By far the largest physical acquisition this year was the records of Gospel Communication, formerly known as Gospel Films. Gospel Films, especially under the leadership of Billy Zeoli, was one of the leading producers of Evangelical films for churches, schools and general audiences throughout the second half of the 20th century. Under its changed name it also pioneered Christian evangelical use of the Internet. At the turn of the century, the Gospel Communication Network introduced some 300 different ministries to the World Wide Web before the organization closed down in 2013.
The voluminous documents, videos, and DVDs now in the Archives form a nice compliment to the records of other film ministries already held by the Archives, such as the Baptista Film Mission (Collection 225) and Ken Anderson Films (Collection 673). In a separate acquisition this year, the Archives also collected several reels of home movies from Christian workers in China from the 1930s through the 1980s.
We also continued to receive rich resources about the life and ministry of Elisabeth and Jim Elliot, including letters to family and friends and recordings from the 1950s about the impact of the death of the five missionaries, including Jim, in the so-called Auca Incident in 1956. David Howard (Elisabeth’s brother and Jim’s college roommate) also had a significant ministry as a missionary in Colombia as a senior executive at Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, President of Latin American Mission, and International Director of the World Evangelical Fellowship. Many boxes of his correspondence, sermons, and other files were received in 2021 to be added to his existing papers (Collection 484).
Other accessions document a wide range of evangelistic ministry in the United States and worldwide. These include the files of SEND International in Japan and the Philippines, the diaries and other papers of Bessie Traber, founder and first president of the Bible Club Movement (one of the few Evangelical ministries founded and led by a woman), as well as recordings, sermons, and photos of leading evangelists such as Paul Rader from the 1930s, H. A. Ironside from the 1940s and Torrey Johnson from the 1950s and 60s. We also received several boxes of letters, photos and reports telling the story of more than forty years of mission work by Rex and Jeanne Blumhagen in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Cyprus, and the United States.
Besides taking in, the Archives has also been giving back. That is, we opened some significant collections to researchers during the year. Audio files of four oral history interviews were put online totaling about 14.5 hours. They are:
CN 217 – Elisa Espineli Chinn – Her experiences ministering among university students in the Philippines and the United States with InterVarsity. The collection also includes many documents from her work.
CN 619 – Singapore Bible College – Interviews with three faculty members that detail the history and culture of SBC and observations of the church in China and Southeast Asia.
CN 667 – Joanna Defoy – Work in France among university students with the Groupes Bibliques Universitaires (GBU) and church planting with International Teams, as well as survey trips to Bosnia, Croatia, Herzegovina and Tunisia.
CN 682 – Kioko Mwangangi – Evangelist and pastor with the Africa Inland Church in Kenya.
In addition to these newly processed interviews, the staff transcribed many interviews in existing collections and most of these transcripts are now available through the online guide for the collections. These included more than 20 hours of recordings, filling 488 pages.
Throughout 2021, several paper collections were also made available for the first time or had new materials added. These include:
CN 46: Records of the Lausanne Movement (25 cubic ft.) Correspondence, minutes, audio and video files of the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization held in Cape Town, South Africa in 2010.
CN 111: Papers of Charles Troutman Jr (2 cubic ft.) Journals and correspondence covering some sixty years of Troutman’s education and work as a staff member with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship in the United States and Australia and with Latin America Mission in Costa Rica, 1939-1990.
CN 224: Papers of J. Shufelt Stratton (.5 cubic ft.) Correspondence, posters, photos, and clippings about Shufelt’s work as a song leader and evangelist, including his work with H. A. Ironside, Jack Shuler, John R. Rice, and Torrey Johnson, 1924-1982.
CN 236: Records of Latin America Mission (1.2 cubic ft.) Correspondence, press releases, manuals dealing with Protestant Evangelical ministry and Christian Education in Latin America in the second half of the 20th century, especially in Costa Rica, 1944-2007.
CN 278: Papers of Elisabeth Elliot (1 folder) Correspondence of Elliot with her friend Eleanor Vandevort, a missionary in Sudan about events in their lives, including reflections on missions and the providence of God, 1950-1962.
CN 541: Papers of George Beverly Shea (11.1 cubic ft.) Correspondence, sheet music, audio recordings, photographs, hymnbooks. Documentation for the whole of Shea’s career as one of best known gospel singers of the 20th century, especially rich for the beginning of his career and last years of his life, 1931-2010.
CN 562: Papers of Roger and Mary Howes (.5 cubic ft.) Correspondence, diaries and prayer letters of the Howe’s work as missionaries in China from 1925 through 1945, including their time in a Japanese internment camp during World War II.
CN 660: Records of the CoMission and the CoMission II (15.6 cubic ft.) Documentation of a joint effort of over eighty American evangelical ministries, in cooperation with the Russian government after the fall of Communism, to provide training for Russian educators in teaching Christian ethics and morals in public schools, 1991-1998.
CN 719: Papers of Janet Wismer (.8 cubic ft.) Transcripts of broadcasts, correspondence, newsletters and memorabilia from Wismer’s work as a staff member and producer of Elisabeth Elliot’s radio program, Gateway to Joy, 1959-2012.
CN 720: Papers of Louise Pierson (.4 cubic ft.) Scrapbook with pressed flowers, drawings, letters, photographs, and clippings about the 19th century work of the Woman’s Union Missionary Society in Asia, including Pierson’s own work as a teacher in Japan, 1871-1899.
Although only a snapshot of our year in 2021, we hope this review gives our researchers an idea of some of the newly available riches at Buswell Library Archives & Special Collections. And as we begin the new year today, we also look forward in anticipation and gratitude to the new accessions and collections to come in 2022.