“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.
As in past years, our collections and accessions in 2022 cover a multitude of subjects, including the intersection of politics and religion, global missions, the development of evangelical Protestantism around the world, ministry to the incarcerated or HIV-AIDS patients, the life of Billy Graham, the Jesus People movement, and religious broadcasting, among many others.
The Archives & Special Collections opened one new mixed-media collection this year, CN 727: Papers of the Vereide Family. The collection features the work of Abraham Vereide and his daughter Alicia Davidson in founding and extending the prayer breakfast movement, an attempt to bring together religious, political, civic and business leaders in national meetings in many countries. Over the course of 2022, the Archives also added significant materials to four existing collections, including materials about evangelist Billy Graham in Collection 15, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in Collection 74, and National Religious Broadcasters in Collection 309.
Collection 393: Papers of David Howard Adeney was another collection substantially updated this past year. The collection originally consisted solely of several hours of oral history interviews. The collection has been expanded to include 25 boxes of correspondence, manuscripts, lectures, notebooks with handwritten notes, and subject files, plus hundreds of photographs and slides.
These additions cover most of the 20th century, during which Adeney was a missionary in China, served with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship in the U.S. and International Fellowship of Evangelical Students in East Asia, rejoined Overseas Missionary Fellowship (previously China Inland Mission) to establish the Discipleship Training Centre in Singapore, and taught at the New Berkeley College in California. Before being expelled from China along with other Western Christian workers by the Communists, Adeney assisted the young China Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship in its work among university students. More than a wealth of information documenting his own life and ministry, Adeney’s papers also record the missionary enterprise in China, the Chinese church since 1949, Chinese Christians in the U.S., Asian evangelical Christian leaders, and evangelism and ministry among university students in Southeast Asia.
Along with the above manuscripts and paper collections, five new oral history collections were opened to the public. The audio recordings for most of these collections are available online and all of them can be accessed in the Manuscripts Reading Room. The collections represent over sixteen hours of interviews and document many aspects of the worldwide evangelical movement over the last forty years, covering the work of pastors, HIV-AIDS workers, health program administrators, and youth ministers. They describe church planting, evangelistic work and humanitarian assistance in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Hong Kong, India, Kenya, Norway, Thailand, Uganda, the United States and Vietnam, as well as influential mission organizations like World Vision and Youth with a Mission (YWAM). In addition to these new oral history collections, the staff transcribed over 16 hours of interviews from existing oral history collections into 400 pages of searchable text files.
And then there are the accessions—the “new” old documents we acquired in 2022. Here are some of the highlights:
One of the most exciting and certainly the largest acquisition during the year was the archives of The Evangelical Alliance Mission, usually referred to as TEAM. Started in 1890 by Frederick Franson, TEAM expanded its work throughout the 20th century to reach five continents, leading efforts in evangelism, church planting, theological education, medical care and humanitarian relief across more than forty countries.
The Archives received the enormous files in seven different shipments during the first part of the year. Besides the paper records covering more than 125 years of the mission’s work, the donation included photos, films, videos, audio recordings, and digital files. These are essential records not only for the study of the North American mission enterprise, but also for the development of evangelical Christianity on every continent. The inventory of just one of these accessions gives in an idea of the variety and richness of the materials.
Another significant accession arrived at the very end of the year—the papers of Ronald J. Sider, theologian, professor, author, and activist. Among his many activities, Sider founded Evangelicals for Social Action in 1974 (now Christians for Social Action) and for decades was one of the major leaders among evangelicals in the movement for social justice.
Before his death in July 2022, he had been in discussions with Wheaton about donating his papers (The Archives already holds the records of CSA and many other movements and conferences with which he had been associated). His family continued the discussions and in December Archives staff members drove a van from Illinois to Pennsylvania to retrieve more than 70 linear feet of his records. These boxes included Sider’s correspondence, manuscripts of his many articles and books, reports, materials from numerous conferences, as well as his personal files. Together they document his activism, teaching, writing, work with ESA, the World Evangelical Fellowship, and many other organizations.
While the Archives is always thrilled to receive large and comprehensive accessions like hundreds of boxes from TEAM, many of the donations we receive consist of a just a few folders or items.
In 2021, the Archives opened Collection 541: Papers of George Beverly Shea, and over this last year, material about his long career as one of the most influential Gospel vocalists of the 20th century continued to pour in. One accession consisted of rare wire recordings of his radio programs. Another held newsletters for Songs in the Night, a program stemming from Shea’s time as music director at Western Springs Baptist Church just outside of Chicago in the 1940s. Other accessions included phonograph records from his long recording career, as well as sheet music and photos. Also in the melodic vein was an accession consisting of interviews by Bruce Horner between 1969 and 1971 of musicians and composers associated with Youth for Christ about the changes in popular Christian music.
Ruth Crawford Porter’s skill at gathering and leading quartets, ensembles and orchestras was a major contribution to the evangelistic ministry of her husband Percy Crawford. In 2022, the Crawford family contributed many phonograph records and tapes of that ministry, as well as Percy’s funeral service, at which fellow evangelist Billy Graham spoke.
Among the most used of the Archives collections are those relating to the so-called 1956 “Operation Auca” in which five American missionaries were killed while trying to bring the gospel to the Waorani tribe, an indigenous people group in the Ecuadorian rainforest. Documents about the incident concern not only the men’s deaths, but the later efforts of Elisabeth Elliot and others to evangelize the Waorani and the development of Christian communities among the Waorani and Quichua. In the fall of 2022, Frank Kollinger, a Plymouth Brethren missionary to Ecuador, contributed a variety of related materials he had collected over his career, including transcripts of statements from various Waorani men and some of Elisabeth Elliot’s notes and diary entries.
Besides these documents of mission outreach in Ecuador, the Archives received the private papers of several missionaries working in the Belgian Congo, China, France, Malaysia and Thailand. These comprised prayer letters, photos, reports, maps, translation notebooks, scrapbooks, clippings and correspondence. We also received files from Women of the Good News, an indigenous ministry of the Africa Inland Church of the Congo, which included handbooks in English, Swahili, Kingiwana, and Bongola for use in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sudan.
Finally, the staff conducted about eleven hours of oral history interviews with Christian workers from China, Ethiopia, Kenya, and the United States. Topics covered included evangelism and church development in all these countries as well as such topics as the life of Billy Graham, Maasai culture, and the work of Prison Fellowship International.
Explore all of the accessions and collections held by Buswell Library Archives & Special Collections through our archival database at archives.wheaton.edu.