“A Gal, A Plane & A Dream”

This March, Buswell Library Archives & Special Collections celebrates Women’s History Month and commemorates the many women whose unique voices and stories are preserved in letters, diaries, recordings, and photographs scattered throughout our collections. Pieced together, these historical fragments offer a glimpse into the lives of faithful Christian women who fulfilled their unique vocations in a range of callings as missionaries, writers, doctors, preachers, educators, musicians, evangelists, and more.

Snapshot of Betty Greene (Printed in Mission Aviation, Summer 1948)

Today we remember the life and ministry of Elizabeth Greene (1920-1997), accomplished aviator and first pilot of Mission Aviation Fellowship, whose flying career spanned more than two decades and crisscrossed the globe from Peru to Sudan to Western New Guinea. Greene’s aviation adventures and single-minded focus on missionary service are documented in correspondence, articles, film footage, and photographs sprinkled throughout Collection 136: Records of Mission Aviation Fellowship.

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Constructed in the Clouds: The Unrealized Buildings of Wheaton College

Buildings, like people, mature and settle, acquiring unique histories and personalities through the passing seasons. Even when a beloved structure is lost to time as the result of demolition or decay, its influence burns a distinct impression into communal memory. At other times a form is planned but never built, perhaps due to lack of funding, changing needs, or diminished interest from its advocates.

The following structures, projected for the Wheaton College campus, remained stagnant on the drawing board but suggest fascinating, unrealized possibilities.   

The idealistic depiction on the left, conveying the ambitious “Greater Wheaton” project printed in the 1934 Tower, visualizes a series of modern buildings burgeoning upward from the solid basis provided by the old fashioned, neo-Romanesque Blanchard Hall. In this sketch, the drafts of a future Wheaton pile higher and higher into the clouds of the artist’s imagination, where it would remain.

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Holistic Evangelism in the Deep South: John Perkins and Voice of Calvary Ministries

(PF: Perkins, John)

In celebration of Black History Month this February, Buswell Library Archives & Special Collections highlights the transformational work of the Voice of Calvary Ministries, founded in Mendenhall, Mississippi by John M. Perkins – pastor, writer, and civil rights advocate.

The many reports, brochures, photographs, videos, oral history interviews, and correspondence available in Collection 362: Records of Voice of Calvary Ministries and Collection 367: Papers of John M. Perkins tell the story of a dynamic ministry that sought to emphasize evangelism in a context of holistic community development, economic distribution, and racial reconciliation.

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Out of War, An Open Door for the Gospel: Commemorating 75 Years of SEND International

Advertisement for GI Gospel Hour in Manila, Philippines, 1945. (CN 406 Folder 2-18)

World War II not only commanded the world’s attention and shaped international politics but also proved to be a decisive moment for missions’ history. Young American men and women military personnel traveled the world, saw the war’s devastation, and came face-to-face with the spiritual needs of the local populations. Their war experiences shaped the college educations they returned to the U.S. to complete and the futures they later stepped into.

But the context they returned to was also evolving. American Evangelicals were emerging from their isolation following the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy of the 1920s to take a more active role in church, political, entertainment, education, and business spheres. The National Association of Evangelicals was formed, the roots of Billy Graham’s ministry were already taking hold, Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, Navigators, and Campus Crusade for Christ were established on college and university campuses, and Youth for Christ was on the move among American high school students. Out of this convergence of factors grew new mission agencies, including the Far Eastern Gospel Crusade (FEGC), now known as SEND International.

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Ring in the New, Accession the Old: 2021 Edition

As circulation and movement slowly returned, life approached closer to normal in Buswell Library Archives & Special Collections, as elsewhere, in 2021.

The first accession of 2021: 21-01 the papers of David Howard, described below.

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. 

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O Holy Night

One of the joys of archives and archival work is the opportunity the collections offer to explore the great variety of human invention and artistry across both time and space, as well as the ways in which common ideas and images endure through different cultures and generations.

Collection 177, Folder 8-12

As people all around the world begin their celebrations of Advent, this month we delve into the many intriguing variations in our collections on one of the most enduring of Christmas images – the Nativity.

From the origins of the story of Jesus Christ’s birth in the world of first century Palestine, to Western Europe and North America, and across the globe in India, China, and the Philippines, a review of just a few of the images of the nativity held by the Buswell Library Archives & Special Collections demonstrates the many ways the Christmas story has been reflected and reimagined in a myriad of different times and places.

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Little Hollywood on the Prairie

Was Wheaton, IL once a headquarters for cinema in the Midwest? Well, perhaps not quite. But it is true that in the middle decades of the 20th century, Wheaton was the center for the regular production of dozens of films, pioneered by the Scriptures Visualized Institute, also know as the C. O. Baptista Film Mission and C. O. Baptista Films, among other names.

Embracing their central slogan, “The Old Gospel in Modern Technique,” C.O. Baptista films represented one effort among many by Christians in the 20th century to use the possibilities of ever advancing new technologies – from recorded sound on wax cylinders to instantaneous communication via the internet – as new channels for the gospel.

The records of the Baptista Film Mission, including selections of its film catalog, are available and open for research at the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center Archives.

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Finding “A Clear Voice”: 65 Years of Christianity Today

On October 15, 1956, 65 years ago today, Christianity Today published their first issue. Explaining the place of the new magazine in an editorial titled “Why Christianity Today?”, the editors stated, “evangelical Christianity needs a clear voice, to speak with conviction, and love, and to state its true position and its relevance to the world crisis.” Employing that clear voice to wide effect, this first printing was sent to more than 250,000 pastors, seminary students, and evangelical Christian leaders across the world.

An autographed copy of this first issue, as well as correspondence, board meeting minutes, financial reports, memos, photographs, audio tapes, and other material mostly relating to the founding of the magazine and a wide range of religious, social, and political issues can be found in Collection 8: Records of Christianity Today, held here at the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center Archives.  

A copy of the first issue autographed by four of the magazine’s original five editors (CN8, Folder 14-1).
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What’s To Do in the Archives?: The Annual Archival Research Lecture

Some may look to October for the start of crisp fall weather, trips to apple orchards, and pumpkin carving, but here at the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center Archives we celebrate October as American Archives Month. Joining archives, historical societies, and special collections around the country, we take this time to highlight the place of archives in preserving and making accessible the important records of our past and present communities.

David Kirkpatrick

While much of the work of archives takes place behind the scenes, both with archivists in stacks and researchers in reading rooms, this month we invite the wider community into the Archives through the 2021 Archival Research Lecture, A Gospel for the Poor: René Padilla and the Reshaping of Global Evangelicalism, presented by Dr. David Kirkpatrick at Wheaton College on Thursday, October 7th.

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The Form & the Message: Letterheads in the Archives

History is all about context. Usually this means the wider circumstances, including what lead up to the events we study and the mental word of the people we seek to understand. But it has a physical aspect too – the material objects that surround people, shaped by and shaping the culture of which they are a part.

Take, for example, the letterhead – the pre-printed part of a piece of stationary that gives the sender’s name, address and other information. Any archivist or scholar who goes through hundreds or thousands of letters will find amazing variety in this simple device.

Some state their data with clipped simplicity, some overflow with the sender’s beliefs, principles, mottos, and images to such a degree that they easily dominate whatever sentences can be squeezed into the remaining white space of the page.

The ability of the physical page to communicate as well as the words upon it is illustrated by the correspondence of J. Edwin Orr (1912-1987). In 2020, the Archives opened Collection 355, the papers of Orr, an influential evangelist and scholar who exchanged thousands of letters worldwide with people over half a century of ministry. What he and his correspondents wrote to each other is fascinating, insightful, and instructive. But what they wrote upon, the stationary itself, can also be charming, illustrative, and sometimes weird, quietly (or not so quietly) conveying its own message and tone.

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