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.
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 – the serious and the lighthearted. One of the most enduring of these student traditions documented by the Archives is that of the college prank.
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.”
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.
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.
In 1922, the Chicago Gospel Tabernacle began some of the first use of radio for Christian programing in the city. Soon Tabernacle leader Paul Rader tapped Clarence Jones, a musician on the Tab’s staff, to lead the radio department, which broadcast fourteen hours on Sunday and programs every day of the week.
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.
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.
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.
Buswell Library Archives & Special Collections holds a wide variety of rare book collections, including more than 200 editions of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, many early texts by and about influential theologians and ministers like John Wesley and Jonathan Edwards, and hundreds of other manuscripts on Christian life, missions, art, and history. A few of these books also include inscriptions and marginalia – the scribbles, notes, and other markings made on the cover pages or in the margins of texts. These extra-textual materials often provide unique insights into the history of a book, as well as its impact.
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).