Some Good News on the Billy Graham Papers Front

Billy Graham Library

As many of you know, we have been covering the move of the Billy Graham Papers from Wheaton College to the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina. Much of our coverage has been negative.  I have expressed concern that the papers will now be closed-off to researchers. Read our posts herehere, and here to get up to speed.

Now it looks like the Billy Graham Library is going to hire an archivist to care for the papers.

This appears to be a step in the right direction.  I am glad to see that the BGEA is advertising through the Society of American Archivists.  It looks like someone knows what they are doing. Of course the hiring of a professional archivist tells us nothing about what future access to the papers might look like.  We will see how it all plays out.

The Billy Graham Library supports the mission of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association to proclaim the Gospel to all we can by every effective means available to us, and by equipping the church and others to do the same. Our staff and volunteers present the Gospel through the Journey of Faith tour, Memorial Prayer Garden, Homeplace, and evangelistic outreaches like Christmas at the Library. We also serve and equip Christians through the Billy Graham archives, Ruth’s Attic bookstore, Graham Brothers Dairy Bar, group programs, special events, memorabilia displays, student resources, communications, and donor ministry activities.

The BGEA archivist is responsible for the overall organization, management, supervision and preservation of the historical records program and the operations of the public research study center and program of the BGEA archives.

Essential Duties and Responsibilities

  • Oversee and manage BGEA archival functions and public research study center adhering to professional standards and requirements.
  • Process, arrange, catalog and store BGEA archival materials.
  • Manage archival collection and PastPerfect memorabilia databases.
  • Provide reference services to archival collections.
  • Plans and implement archival digitization and access initiatives.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of current archival processes, long term storage requirements, digitization of materials, and trends in electronic delivery systems.
  • Assists in the development and maintenance of the archive’s web presence (presentation and content).

Marginal Duties and Responsibilities

  • Coordinate with Library promotions director and assistant for memorabilia displays and development of special interest programs in the Library.
  • Coordinates with the Director, Media and Archive group for preservation, storage and access for study of the BGEA audio-visual historical collection.
  • Review archival policies and procedures on an annual basis to adjust, update and create as needed.
  • Maintain professional awareness and technical expertise in archival work through attendance at educational workshops and professional training as needed, through review professional publications, and in utilizing professional networks and archival societies.
  • Maintain budgets and financial records.

Reporting Relationships

  • Reports to the Executive Director, Billy Graham Library.
  • Works with; Ministry Operations Director, Ministry Development Manager, Guest Services Manager, Volunteer Program Manager.
  • Relates to a variety of BGEA departments and ministries.

Benefits

  • Employees filling regular full-time positions, who are working no less than 40 hours per week, are eligible to participate in BGEA’s benefits program.

Skills and Knowledge

Master’s degree in library science or archival training from an ALA accredited institution.

  • Has understanding and experience with evangelical history, archival collections and theological/educational  institutions.
  • Two or more years’ experience in library or archive setting.
  • Experience in processing and organizing archival holdings, development of catalogs and guide systems.
  • Experience in archival database operations and other technical requirements.

Physical/Mental Demands

  • Excellent communication skills, written and verbal, including the ability to present information in a variety of formats.
  • Demonstrate organizational and time management skills.
  • Possess good interpersonal communication skills.
  • Ability to move boxes, stack materials, retrieve memorabilia items, and access shelving.

Working Conditions

  • Ability to perform under pressure and work with tight deadlines.
  • Ability to work independently as well as a team environment.
  • Possess excellent computer skills, including experience with archival database systems.
  • Ability to work at a computer station for long periods of time.

 

Ministry Requirements

  • Maintains a personal, active relationship with Jesus Christ and is a consistent witness for Jesus Christ.
  • Faithfully upholds BGEA in prayer.
  • Participates in daily BGEA staff devotions.
  • Demonstrates behavior aligned with BGEA’s Mission Statement, Statement of Faith, Hallmarks, policies, and expectations.
  • Effectively represents Jesus Christ to those within both personal and professional spheres of influence.

Thanks to my colleague Devon Manzullo-Thomas for bringing this to my attention.

More on the Billy Graham Archives Move from Wheaton to Charlotte

BG-Library-Fall-Events

Religion News Service is running another piece on the Franklin Graham’s decision to move the Billy Graham Archives from Wheaton College to the Billy Graham “Library” in Charlotte.

Back in March, I weighed-in as part of another RNS piece on this topic.  At that time I said this: “By taking the papers away from Wheaton, where access is open, Franklin Graham and the BGEA can now control access and can thus control the narrative of his father’s life in terms of who gets to read them….Evangelicals must come face to face with both the good side and bad side of their history by taking an honest look at people like Billy Graham.  I am not sure this will happen in Charlotte.  The Billy Graham Library in Charlotte is not a library.”

I also wrote a post here.

Here is a taste of Tim Funk’s recent RNS piece:

This week, at Wheaton College in Illinois, specially trained movers will begin organizing, preparing and packing 3,235 boxes of paper items, 1,000 scrapbooks of news clippings dating back to the 1940s and more than 1,000 linear feet of videos, cassettes, reels, films and audio.

All of it documents the life and ministry of evangelist Billy Graham, the Christian college’s most famous alumnus. And soon, all of it will be headed to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in Charlotte, N.C., Graham’s hometown.

The big transport trucks that will haul the valuable cargo won’t make the nearly 800-mile trip until mid to late June. But the controversy over moving the Graham materials all began more than two months ago. That’s when it was announced that, after June 1, the materials would no longer be housed at Wheaton’s highly regarded Billy Graham Center Archives.

Since it opened with Billy Graham’s blessing in 1980, more than 19,000 scholars, journalists and other researchers from around the world have spent 67,000 hours doing work there.

The BGEA’s Charlotte site does include the 12-year-old Billy Graham Library, but it was not designed as a research facility. Instead, it is a presidential-like museum celebrating the life of Graham, who died last year at age 99, and is a brick-and-mortar continuation of his worldwide evangelism efforts.

“The so-called (Billy Graham) Library is not a library,” said Edith Blumhofer, a longtime history professor at Wheaton who is now completing a study of the music of the Billy Graham Crusades. “It has no archives. It has no archivist.”

Read the entire piece here.

How is David Garrow’s MLK Article Faring Today?

King preaching

We are starting to hear from historians and others on today’s David Garrow’s Standpoint piece on Martin Luther’s King’s moral indiscretions.  I linked to the article here and blogged about it last night.

Here is some news/commentary on Garrow’s piece that we found today.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution covers Garrow’s piece, has an article about Garrow, and explains to readers why it is covering this story.  In the latter piece, the AJC mentions that Garrow approached the paper with his findings and wanted to work together on an investigative report. AJC declined because it did not have access to the King tapes.  (The tapes will be released in 2027).

Meanwhile, the Washington Post quotes several historians.  Gillian Brockell’s piece notes that Garrow has been skeptical in the past about using FBI memos on historical research.  Garrow makes the case that the MLK memos are different. Yale’s Glenda Gilmore questions the veracity of the hand-written notes in the memos.  (This is relevant because the reference to King watching a rape is hand-written). Gilmore adds that FBI files often contain “a great deal of speculation, interpolation from snippets of facts, and outright errors.”  Nathan Connolly of Johns Hopkins is also “deeply suspicious” about Garrow’s sources.  He said that Garrow’s decision to publish these documents is “archivally irresponsible.”

From this article at Insider we learn that the Guardian originally accepted the piece and then retracted it at the last minute.  It was also rejected by The Washington Post, The Atlantic, and The Intercept.

I am sure there are historians working on op-eds and blog posts as I type this.  I will monitor this as best I can.

Of course I have no idea if any of the allegations in Garrow’s piece are true.  Historians will offer interpretations.  The way they respond to this story could have career-defining implications.  I think you will see a lot of caution and hedging over the next few days and weeks.  And, I might add, this is a good thing.  Historians should be the last people to rush to judgement (one way or another) on a story like this.

Journalists will now try to track down people who know something about what is written in these FBI memos.  They will shape the so-called “first draft” of this story.

Indeed, as Connolly and Gilmore note, we need to think about bias in these FBI sources.  This is important, especially in light of what we know about J. Edgar Hoover.  I read some of the documents embedded in Garrow’s piece and I also had suspicions about the hand-written marginal comments.  The memos Garrow found were documents that were obviously part of an ongoing editing process.  I am guessing that the final, more polished, reports are with the tapes.  Once historians see them they will be able to make more definitive statements about how the FBI interpreted the tapes.

We also know that context teaches us that King was not a saint when it came to these encounters with women who were not his wife.  Any historian will take this into consideration. King historians can comment on just how far of an intellectual leap is needed to get from what we already knew about King to the allegations in the FBI memos.

And what if we learn that Garrow is right about King?  This will be a reminder that all historical figures are complex and deeply flawed people.  Stay tuned.

This is also a great opportunity for teaching students and others about how to read the Internet responsibly.  (See Sam Wineburg’s new book and our interview with him here).  Different news outlets and opinion sites are already reporting this story in different ways.

The David Library of the American Revolution in Washington Crossing is Closing

David Library

I was recently contemplating a research trip to the David Library of the American Revolution (DLAR) in Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania.  I have some left-over professional development money that I need to spend by the end of June and the DLAR offers me the best bang (in terms of collections) for my buck.

I enjoy research at the David Library for several reasons:

First, the early American history collections are outstanding.   I have so much stuff I still need to look at for my current project!

Second, the David Library farm is a wonderful place to work.  Fellows have 24-hour access to the library.  One does not have to worry about parking.  There is housing on site. And the farm’s location on the Delaware Canal provides opportunities for walking and other forms of exercising.  It has always been my favorite place to work.

Third, former fellows and other scholars can stay at the on-site residence at a discount.  I have taken advantage of this several times. Meg McSweeney has always been so hospitable.

Fourth, I am nostalgic.  I attended my first McNeil Center for Early American Studies (it was then called the Philadelphia Center for Early American Studies) seminar at the David Library in 1995.  I held a research fellowship at the DLAR in 2008-2009.  I wrote my first The Way of Improvement Leads Home blog post in my room at the residence. I have lectured at the DLAR on several different occasions.  My family even visited one rainy Saturday afternoon during my fellowship and we organized baseball cards in my room.

David Library 2

But the days of the David Library–at least the Washington Crossing days–are coming to an end. The DLAR has just announced that it will be selling the farm and moving its collections to the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia.  Here is a taste of the press release:

In a bold decision that will preserve the material record of American Revolutionary history and make it accessible to scholars across the globe, the David Library of the American Revolution (DLAR) and the American Philosophical Society (APS) announce a new partnership that will create an unparalleled single site for the comprehensive study of early U.S. history.

The newly formed David Center for the American Revolution at the American Philosophical Society will provide for the long-term care and protection of the David Library’s collections, permit expanded public access to the materials, advance the current fellowship program, and enable the digitization of the documents. This new model of preservation comes at a time when many American historical institutions are struggling to maintain their collections.

“As a former research fellow at both the David Library and the American Philosophical Society, I am incredibly excited about this partnership,” said Dr. R. Scott Stephenson, President & CEO of the Museum of the American Revolution. “In an era of tight budgets and uncertainty about the future of some of our most venerable historical organizations, this collaboration will make the David Center a powerhouse of scholarship on the American Revolution.  With the 250th anniversary of the nation fast approaching, this is definitely a case of 1 + 1 = 3.”

The David Library will continue to operate as usual in Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania until the end of 2019.The transition period is expected to begin as early as this summer, as various committees work to fulfill the joint vision of the partnering institutions. Relocation of the collection from the David Library’s Bucks County campus to the American Philosophical Society will begin after the Library closes at the end of this year.

James J. Linksz, President of the David Library said that the partnership will ensure the long-term success of the David Library. “For the David Library to fulfill its potential to be the pre-eminent institution for scholarship and study of American history in the era of the American Revolution, the Board of Trustees determined that we needed a strong and distinguished institutional partner. In the American Philosophical Society, we think we have found the best partner possible. We are sad to leave Bucks County, the David Library’s home since its founding in 1959, but we are excited to join the APS in Philadelphia, the city where the United States of America began, and we look forward to our future as the David Center.”

The new Center will house the vast collection of rare and important documents, microfilm and other material from the David Library of the American Revolution, including original letters and journals from George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams and other founding fathers.

The David Library Board of Trustees will be tasked with determining the next life for portions of the 118-acre Bucks County property along River Road in Upper Makefield Township (Washington Crossing), where the Library has been located for the past 45 years.  A significant portion of the property, 52.53 acres, has already been protected from development through the Bucks County Agricultural Land Preservation program, and will remain open space. With that restriction, the entire property will be offered for sale and the proceeds will help to fund future programming and collections care at the David Center for the American Revolution at the American Philosophical Society.

“The DLAR and the APS have long shared missions to support scholarship and disseminate knowledge about the birth of our nation,” said Robert M. Hauser, Executive Officer of the APS. “This new partnership allows the DLAR to preserve that mission while leveraging professional, financial, and technological resources at APS that will expand the David Library’s reach and impact.”

Read the rest here.

I will reserve judgement until I learn more about the nature of “David Center for the American Revolution.”

T.J. Stiles: “America is losing its memory”

Archives

Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning historian T.J. Stiles has a great piece at The Washington Post on reduced funding for the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).  This is a must read.

A taste:

Every American can go to the National Archives and get direct access to our past and present. And everyone suffers from the failure to pay what it costs to maintain it. In fiscal 2010, Congress granted NARA $475 million , for example. The next year, it cut the appropriation to $420 million. The appropriation for 2018 was $403.2 million. For 2020, the Trump administration is asking for $358 million. Such repeated, harsh reductions are even worse when adjusted for inflation.

Even as appropriations decline, the workload increases. Already NARA facilities are near full capacity for record storage, holding some 4.5 million cubic feet. Yet more files arrive annually, with as much as 2.5 million cubic feet of “permanently valuable, historical records” expected over the next 14 years.

Selecting and preserving these records demand countless hours of expert labor. Some records need special care; all must be identified and catalogued; security and privacy concerns require diligent attention. On top of that, NARA has been asked to digitize those existing paper records. In 2018, it lagged nearly 12 million pages behind its goal of making 65 million available online — in itself a small fraction of its total holdings.

The fiscal constriction shows at the scores of facilities where the public accesses federal records. NARA maintains more than a dozen presidential libraries, 13 federal records centers, 11 regional facilities and two personnel records centers, not to mention two central locations in College Park and Washington. Recent years have seen visitor hours restricted, new fees levied and a shrinking workforce.

That staff consists of dedicated professionals. I’ve worked with many of them personally, from rank-and-file archivists to the agency’s nonpartisan leadership, and I have great confidence in them. (I spoke to no one at NARA about this essay.) But only so much can be accomplished with a shrinking budget. In 2017, an employee survey found 73 percent agreed that “my agency is successful at accomplishing its mission.” In 2018, that figure declined to 66 percent, an alarming level for such a critical body.

We owe it to ourselves to substantially increase funding for the keepers of our national memory. No financial interest or large popular pressure group lobbies on NARA’s behalf. Its constituency is all of us — and every American to come. If we lose touch with who we have been, what we have endured and how we have argued, the United States will stand for nothing at all.

Read the entire piece here.

More on the Billy Graham Papers

Billy Graham LibraryAdelle Banks has a piece on this at Religion News Service.   I was happy to weigh-in.  I also covered this here.  This is yet another example of evangelicals trying to control their historical narratives.  This is similar to what I experienced in writing the history of the American Bible Society.

So I wonder, is Franklin Graham worried that scholars and historians will find more unflattering things about his father?  Let’s face it, evangelicals need good history more than ever.  We need to look into the mirror of the past and see what we have done well and where we have failed.  I am afraid that this will not happen if more and more evangelical institutions try to control access to records in this way.  History will become hagiography.

Pope Francis to Open Records of Pope Pius XII’s Papacy

Pope-Pius_1561952c

The records of Pope Pius XII will be open to scholars next March. If you want to know why this is important check out David Kertzer‘s piece at The Atlantic: “The Secrets That Might Be Hiding in the Vatican’s Archives.”  Here is a taste:

On Monday, 80 years after Pius XII’s election to the papacy, Pope Francis announced that the archives of the controversial wartime pontiff would be opened to scholars next March. The decision follows more than half a century of pressure. Pius XII—a hero of Catholic conservatives, who eagerly await his canonization as a saint, while denounced by his detractors for failing to condemn the Nazis’ genocidal campaign against Europe’s Jews—might well be the most controversial pope in Church history.

Less noticed in initial accounts of the announcement is the fact that Francis’s opening of the Pius XII archives makes available not only the 17 million pages of documents in the central Vatican archives, but many other materials in other Church archives. Not least of these are the archives of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (formerly known as the Holy Office of the Inquisition) and the central archives of the Jesuit order. They, too, are likely to have much that is new to tell us.

Read the rest here.

Did Paige Patterson Take Letters Dealing With an Alleged Rape from the Southeastern Seminary Archives?

southwestern-baptist-theological-seminary

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

I had never heard of Wade Burleson until this whole Paige Patterson mess broke.  I find his commentary to have a degree of moral clarity that seems to be missing from the decisions of the members of the Southwestern Baptist Seminary Board of Trustees.  Southern Baptists should be embarrassed by the way the Board has handled Patterson’s departure.

Here is a taste of Burleson’s latest blog post:

Social media and the Southern Baptist Convention are in a firestorm over the decision by trustees at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to elevate Dr. Paige Patterson to the position of President Emeritus, to continue paying him an annual salary, and to allow him to live on campus.

Christianity Today and others report Patterson Is Out, but those in the know remember that Dr. Russell Dilday, Dr. Ken Hemphill, and other former Presidents of SBC seminaries were never given such cushy treatment when they were “out.”  I also guarantee you that every Southern Baptist pastor who’s been told “You’re out!” would love their church to define “out” the way the SWBTS trustees define it.

I scratch my head till it hurts trying to understand how President Paige Patterson can be exalted to President Emeritus just a couple of hours after a vote to terminate him as President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary failed by just two votes (15-17). 

Then, of course, it hits me. 

The trustee board is stacked with Patterson loyalists who seem so blinded by their allegiance to a man, they can’t see the serious sycophancy. Maybe the school’s stained-glass windows stunt clear optics for the trustees charged to ensure Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary takes no misteps.

Trustees almost fired Paige Patterson, then in the next breath they exalted him to President Emeritus. I’d say it’s unwise, but in the name of every current SWBTS administrator that Paige Patterson will eventually throw under the bus for the imminent financial collapse of Southwestern, I’m compelled to say it’s dangerous. There is hope for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, but that requires the termination and removal of Paige Patterson from every position of leadership.

Read the rest here.

And now, if Burleson is right, it looks like Patterson tried to take boxes from the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary archive.  Patterson was the president of Southeastern when he allegedly tried to cover-up a rape on campus.  Here is Burleson:

Dr. Patterson left Southeastern in the summer of 2003,  not long after the meeting in President Patterson’s office with the rape victim and three of Paige Patterson’s proteges. Dr. Patterson left to become President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. 

When Dr. Patterson went to Fort Worth, Texas, he took a man named Chris Thompson with him. Chris was Dr. Patterson’s Chief of Staff at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He’s a Paige Patterson loyalist. Chris is now a Southern Baptist pastor in North Carolina. Chris was interviewed by the Religious News Service this week regarding Dr. Paige Patterson’s removal promotion to President Emeritus.

“To retroactively punish him for remarks he made years ago is unfair,” said Chris Thompson, a pastor and former chief of staff for Patterson during his 10 years as president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.“I don’t know any pastor, or public speaker for that matter, who would ever want to be subject to someone pulling an audiotape from some archive and having to answer for those words 18 years later. Who’s next, is really what my question would be.”Well, Chris, I’ll answer your question “Who’s next?”

It’s your turn.

(NOTE: I gave my personal cell number to Chris’s secretary and asked that he return my phone call. I would not post till Saturday to give him time to call me. Chris did not return my call).

“(I am) not happy (to say the least) with your actions and methods of securing  boxes from the archives.” Those are the words of Librarian Dr.  Shawn Madden in a letter to Dr. Paige Patterson after discovery the archives had been taken without permission from those responsible for them.

Shawn Madden provided me a copy of his letter. In addition, he sent me a copy of a letter written a few months after Patterson became President of SWBTS in July 2003. Dr. Madden gave me permission to publish it:

“Persons not associated with Southeastern entered our archives without informing myself nor my archivists and removed material that at that point was technically the possession of Southeastern Seminary and my responsibility for their security… My concern is that material from the President’s office was removed, material that is the possession of this institution and not of an individual. What is generated by the President of this institution is owned by this institution and ought not to have been removed, especially in the dark of night.” (Dr. Shawn Madden, a letter written in 2004)During the ensuing investigation, SEBTS Librarian Shawn C. Madden was told by Michael Lawson, who is currently the Chief of Security for SEBTS, that the archives were taken by Chris Thompson.

Yes, that Chris Thompson.

Dr. Michael Lawson informed Dr. Shawn Madden that Paige Patterson’s Chief of Staff came to North Carolina from Fort Worth and “removed the material” in the dark of night when the school was closed.

Again, read the entire post here.  The plot thickens.  And who said archivists who collect primary sources and historians who interpret them are unimportant?

Archives Season

PHS

I’ve spent many summer hours toiling away at the Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia

Over at AHA Today, Christina Copland, a Ph.D candidate at University of Southern California, has a nice piece on summer archive work.  Here is a taste:

 

Larger archives are the watering holes of the history world. Some offer meet & greet opportunities—the Huntington Library where I did much of my writing hosted weekly afternoon tea breaks. In other places, sometimes all we need to do is to ask fellow researchers about the documents they’re looking at. I’ve also found that, especially in smaller and more specialized repositories, archival staff love to talk about sources and are keen to hear about where we might take our projects. Some of the people who were most enthusiastic about my PhD research were the staff at the Biola University library, the archive where I spent the bulk of my time (once the mold problem was fixed, that is). The fact that archivists are passionate about their collections—and know them better than anyone else—means that they can help point us in the direction of potentially useful sources. Often an archive will offer funding to researchers. The time spent building up a network of library contacts might prove invaluable to getting these fellowships.

It’s not just records we access at an archive. These are spaces in which we find future conference panelists, encounter other grads and faculty members working in our fields, or meet archivists who help us out of a research roadblock. The archival landscape is shifting, however, perhaps with significant consequences for this part of our lives as historians. More archives are moving their collections online, accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Digital archives make our lives easier; there’s no travelling involved, no risk of running out of time on a research trip. But what’s the trade off? What we gain in research convenience, might we potentially lose in community?

Read the entire piece here.

I can’t remember a summer when I did not spend at least a few days in the archives.  I will be spending most of this summer promoting Believe Me, but I still hope to steal away from the book tour and get to one or two archives.  We will see how things go.

Here’s a piece I published fifteen years ago at Common-Place.

Rutgers University is Collecting 2018 Women’s March Signs

Women's Rights

Daniel Munoz reports at Tape Into Newark:

Believe it or not, we’re living through history right now. That’s why the Rutgers University Libraries want to collect artifacts and memorabilia from the present day.

If you took part in yesterday’s women’s march in Morristown, or one of the “sister” marches across the state, you should consider donating your signs and protest memorabilia to Rutgers – for future historians.

Any donated items will be part of the library’s Women’s March Archive Project, which itself is a section of the Rutgers’ Special Collections and University Archives.

Last year, we collected signs, buttons, pamphlets, newspapers, stickers and one embroidered goose patch from Women’s March Participants,” reads a statement from library officials.

Any donated items will be part of the library’s Women’s March Archive Project, aimed at documenting these materials for future scholars.

Read the rest here.  Great idea.

Springsteen Donates Papers to Monmouth University

bruce-springsteen1

It makes sense.  Monmouth University is a Jersey Shore institution located only a few minutes from the house where Springsteen wrote “Born to Run.”  The college has also hosted scholarly conferences on Springsteen and already houses a collection of Springsteen materials.

Here is the press release:

WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. – When Monmouth University announced plans for its collaborative partnership to establish The Bruce Springsteen Archives and Center for American Music earlier this year, global interest in the Bruce Springsteen Special Collection skyrocketed.

Much of the collection, comprised of Springsteen’s written works, photographs, periodicals, and artifacts, had been on loan to the university for the past six years, and now has been formally gifted to the university for inclusion in the Archives by The Friends of the Bruce Springsteen Special Collection, Inc., a not-for-profit organization for people interested in helping to preserve the history of Bruce Springsteen and his music.

“When Bob Crane and I started this collection more than 15 years ago, we imagined something big: something impressive, permanent, and unique, an unparalleled resource of use to fans, students, and scholars around the world,” said Christopher Phillips, publisher and editor of Backstreets and president of the Friends of the Bruce Springsteen Special Collection. “Given the importance of Bruce Springsteen’s work in our own lives, we wanted to preserve and consolidate all this material before it faded away. But I don’t think either of us imagined how much the collection would grow — thanks to the dedication, labor, and generosity of fans worldwide — and that we’d eventually find such a perfect home. As a founder, I couldn’t be more pleased to have discovered a partner in Monmouth University to preserve and expand the collection for future generations. And to be able to augment Bruce Springsteen’s personal archive is literally a dream come true.”

The Bruce Springsteen Special Collection originated in the summer of 2001 when the Springsteen fanzine, Backstreets Magazine, organized a fan-to-fan campaign to collect and organize essential documents from each phase of Springsteen’s career, ensuring that the historic record would be publicly accessible to all who have a serious interest in Bruce Springsteen’s life and music. Originally held in the Asbury Park Public Library, the university acquired the collection on loan in 2011. At that time, the Asbury Park Public Library also donated its own collection to the university. The collection offers Springsteen fans the chance to explore various aspects of his career. Students, scholars, and journalists continue to benefit from the enhanced access to the diverse holdings. The collection has continued to grow with the addition of recordings, photographs, oral histories, film footage, and other documents, totaling nearly 35,000 items from 47 countries, all of which will be housed in The Bruce Springsteen Archives and Center for American Music at Monmouth University.

“The Archives represent a learning opportunity for our students that will resound for decades to come,” said Kenneth Womack, dean of the Wayne D. McMurray School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Monmouth University. “We owe a great debt to the Friends for establishing the collection and for working with Monmouth University to expand the holdings and seek out new ways for sharing music education across our local communities and beyond.”

The Bruce Springsteen Archives and Center for American Music will preserve and promote the legacy of Bruce Springsteen and his role in American music, while honoring and celebrating icons of American music like Woody Guthrie, Robert Johnson, Hank Williams, Frank Sinatra, and others. The expanded partnership will help to more deeply integrate the history and inspiration of American music into the curriculum and research experience at Monmouth. It will also serve to bolster an already highly successful music industry program at the university, one of only 14 university affiliates of the GRAMMY Museum.

How to Have a Great Experience in the Archives

Archives 3

Apparently today is archive day at The Way of Improvement Leads Home.

If you are new to working in the archives, I recommend taking a look at Andrea Turpin’s recent post at Religion in American History: “Adventures in the Archives: Tips for Minimizing Expenses, Maximizing Time, & Having Fun.”

Turpin offers five pieces of advice:

  1. Apply for grants
  2. Be shameless
  3. Let archivists help
  4. Tailor your research style to the nature of the archives
  5. Have fun both inside and outside the archives

See how Turpin unpacks these points at Religion in American History blog.  This is helpful stuff.

Can a “Discovery” Be Made in an Archive?

Archives 2I am in the archives this week.  I am hoping to discover something that will be useful to my current research project.  I am not expecting to uncover something that no one has ever seen before, but if I do stumble across a manuscript that had either been misplaced or forgotten, and somehow advances our understanding of my field in new ways, I would probably consider it a “discovery.”

Over at The Atlantic a couple of archivists are debating the meaning of the term “discovery.”  A lot of it seems to be semantics, but it is still an interesting debate.

Suzanne Fischer of The Henry Ford says that if you “discover” something in an archive it is not a “discovery.”   Helena Iles Papaioannou of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln argues that it is a “discovery” if you find something in an archive that no one knew was there.

This debate arose in the context of Papaioannou’s find of a Surgeon General’s report on the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

So what does count as a “discovery?”

Summer in the Archives

ArchivesMicrofilm

I will be in the archives this summer.  If all works out as I have planned it, I hope to be spending some time at the New Jersey State Archives in Trenton.  Stay tuned.

Over at Religion in American History, Cara Burnridge has collected some of that blog’s “‘greatest hits” on American religious history archives.

Here’s a small taste:

Now that RAAC2017 has come and gone,* summer is in full swing. For me, and I suspect many readers too, that means it’s time for archival research. Fortunately, we’ve accumulated a quite a few posts for those who might be researching for the first time or heading somewhere new. Here’s a round-up of what we’ve posted previously.

Read the rest here.

What Does the Trump Budget Mean for Civics, History, Archives, and Education?

make-america-great-againThe National Coalition for History sums it up pretty well:

On May 23, President Trump sent his proposed fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget request to Congress.  As expected, it includes devastating cuts to federal history and humanities funding including elimination of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and K-12 history and civics grants and Title VI/Fulbright-Hays international education programs at the U.S. Department of Education. Click here for a link to a chart summarizing the proposed budget for these and other federal history-related programs. There will be an in-depth agency-by-agency analysis posted on the NCH website shortly.

FOUND: A New Parchment Copy of the Declaration of Independence

national treasure

Read all about it at The New York Times.  Harvard University professor Danielle Allen discussed her find yesterday at the Yale University conference honoring Bernard Bailyn. She thinks the mid-1780s parchment was copied by order of James Wilson.

Here is a taste of Jennifer Schuessler’s story on the find:

Archival research doesn’t get much more exciting than the 2004 heist movie “National Treasure.” Nicolas Cage, playing a historian named Benjamin Franklin Gates, discovers a coded map on the back of the Declaration of Independence. Globe-spanning intrigue ensues — accompanied, offscreen, by a tsunami of eye-rolling by actual historians.

But now, in a bit of real-life archival drama, a pair of scholars are announcing a surprising discovery: a previously unknown early handwritten parchment of the Declaration, buried in a provincial archive in Britain.

The document is the only other 18th-century handwritten parchment Declaration known to exist besides the one from 1776 now displayed at the National Archives in Washington. It isn’t an official government document, like the 1776 parchment, but a display copy created in the mid-1780s, the researchers argue, by someone who wanted to influence debate over the Constitution.

It may not hold the key to a Masonic conspiracy, as in “National Treasure.” But its subtle details, the scholars argue, illuminate an enduring puzzle at the heart of American politics: Was the country founded by a unitary national people, or by a collection of states?

“That is really the key riddle of the American system,” said Danielle Allen, a professor of government at Harvard, who discovered the document with a colleague, Emily Sneff.

That riddle has bedeviled American history, from debates over Southern secession to calls to abolish the Electoral College today. And it was the burning question in the mid-1780s, when the American experiment was at risk of falling apart, and the push for a federal constitution, creating a strong national government (with, crucially, the right to tax), gained steam.

The new parchment will hardly end the argument. But it “really shifts our understanding in how the nationalist position emerged,” Ms. Allen said.

It remains to be seen what scholars will make of the discovery, which will be announced on Friday at a conference at Yale. A paper, posted online, runs through a wealth of textual and material evidence supporting the claim that the document, while found in Britain, was created in America in the 1780s. Ms. Allen and Ms. Sneff’s conference presentation will focus on their leading candidate for person behind it: James Wilson, a Pennsylvania lawyer and one of the strongest nationalists at the 1787 Constitutional Convention, who probably commissioned the parchment.

Some historians who have previewed their research are impressed.

“The sleuthing they’ve done is just remarkable,” said Benjamin Irvin, an associate professor of history at the University of Arizona and the author of “Clothed in Robes of Sovereignty,” a 2011 study of the Continental Congress. The identification as American, from the mid-1780s, he added, “looks pretty watertight.”

Read the rest here.