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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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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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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A Legacy of Women’s Healthcare in China

(CN 379, Folder 4-1)

Across the history of global missions, evangelistic work has often been closely tied with practical or humanitarian outreach, especially care for the sick and hurting. The Wheaton College Billy Graham Center Archives holds the records of many such missionary doctors, nurses, and mission hospitals. One of the oldest mission hospitals represented in our collections is the Margaret Williamson Hospital, opened in 1885 in Shanghai, China under the Woman’s Union Missionary Society of America for Heathen Lands (commonly referred to as Woman’s Union Missionary Society or WUMS).

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Around the World in 1905

(CN 330, Folder 71-3)

Fittingly, most of the records held in the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center Archives document the work of global missions and evangelism. But, as an archive of people’s lives, as well as their ministries, our records can also provide fascinating windows into the experiences and adventures of past generations. This week, we feature a scrapbook from Collection 330: Records of Moody Church that chronicles the 1905 world travels of William Borden, future missionary and board member of Moody Church.

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Jazz Age Evangelism: Paul Rader and the Chicago Gospel Tabernacle

Advertisement announcing the Steel Tent, which became the Chicago Gospel Tabernacle,1922. (CN 38, Folder 1-52)

Buswell Library Archives & Special Collections holds the stories of many an unsung figure in the history of evangelism, people who made an impact in their own time but are little remembered today. Such a one is Daniel Paul Rader, more widely known by his middle name Paul. The Chicago Gospel Tabernacle he started in the 1920s was a center of innovation and excitement, launching the ministries of several significant evangelical Christian figures of the next generation.

Rader was the son and grandson of ministers and was one himself for a few years, before a loss of faith led him to resign his pastorate. After leaving the ministry, Rader worked as a boxing promoter and then as an oil company representative. Around 1912 Rader experienced a renewal of his Christian faith. He became active in the Christian and Missionary Alliance, eventually serving as an assistant to C&MA founder A. B. Simpson on Simpson’s evangelistic tours. The next year Rader became an evangelist himself and preached around the United States. In 1915, he accepted the pulpit of Moody Church in Chicago and in 1919, upon the death of Simpson, Rader became the second president of C&MA.

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Music in the Archival Sphere

Music is an intricate part of every human culture, including not only the production and enjoyment of sound itself, but the place it has in shaping memory and the tone of everyday life.

Song sheet from a 1948 YFC rally in Nimes, France. (CN48, Folder 14-50)

While an expression of art, music can also be a demonstration of deep-held values, hopes and fears, both for individuals and communities. As one of the central missions of Buswell Library Archives & Special Collections includes preserving the history of evangelism and evangelical Christianity, we have sought to document the music of evangelism, in all its variety and multitude.

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“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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