David Lipscomb compares Jesse Sewell against Alexander Campbell, Tolbert Fanning, Moses Lard and T. W. Brents

Some time ago I posted Benjamin Franklin’s impression of meeting and hearing Alexander Campbell in person for the first time.

In a similar vein comes David Lipscomb’s estimation of Jesse Londerman Sewell’s preaching.   This from Life and Sermons of Jesse L. Sewell (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Publishing Company, 1891), pp. 118-119:


As a preacher he was a man of one book, he preached the word of God in a meek, earnest, faithful manner and kind spirit. He spoke with ease to himself, and his style was pleasant to his hearers. His power was in an earnest and sincere presentation of the truth, remarkable for its simplicity, conciseness and clearness. He was familiar with the Bible as but few men are. His discourses did not cover a wide range of thought, but were finished and complete, eminently pointed and instructive. They showed he had viewed his subject from every standpoint and that the bearing of every passage of scripture on a position, taken, had been carefully considered. I have heard Alexander Campbell, with his clear thoughts, reverential manner, noble bearing, and profuseness of imagery, Tolbert Fanning with his Websterian clearness and force of statement, and majestic mien, and forceful manner, Moses E. Lard with his close and clear analysis and elucidation of his subject and his power to touch the sympathy and to stir the feelings with his tender pathos, I have heard Dr. [p. 119] Brents with his well laid premises and strong and convincing logic, but for a well-rounded, finished, completed sermon, stating the full truth on his subject in manner so simple that the humblest could understand it, and guarding at every point, against possible misconception or objection, my conviction has been for years, that Jesse Sewell in his prime, was the superior of any man I ever heard. He lacked the aggressive force and self-asserting power that belonged to these other men. He was lacking in both the mental and physical activity and vigor that make a great leader, but for clearness of perception, the ability to look on all sides of a question, and to view it in all its lights and to form just and sound conclusions, then to state them with clearness and critical precision, he had few superiors. He was one of the safest and soundest scripture teachers to be found.

My conviction is, the hold the Christian religion has upon the people of Middle Tennessee, is due under God to Jesse Sewell, more than any other one man. His singleness of purpose and devotion to the work explains the reason. Brother Sewell’s whole life was one of quiet, earnest simplicity, industry and genuine honesty. He had no taste for show or display of any kind. …

David Lipscomb, Life and Sermons of Jesse L. Sewell (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Publishing Company, 1891), pp. 118-119.


It is a revealing analysis for in it we see:

–Lipscomb’s description Campbell, Fanning, Lard and Brents are from first-hand direct experience.  Lipscomb heard Campbell in Nashville in the midst of the Ferguson fiasco; he was formed by Fanning’s teaching at Franklin College and in the Nashville congregations; he could have heard Lard at several places but Nashville seems the likeliest (although I do not have a date at hand, but rely on memory); and what is true of Fanning is nearly true of Brents, who preached in many places.

–Lipscomb’s evaluation which reveals what impressed him about each man’s preaching, and from it we could triangulate those qualities of homiletic purpose, style, function, and content that most commended themselves to David Lipscomb.

–Lipscomb’s knowledge of the churches of Christ in Middle Tennessee and of Sewell’s work among them over a period of time.  That final analysis is striking for I would assumed Fanning’s activity (directly through his papers and through the influence of his school and students) would have been uppermost in Lipscomb’s mind.  Lipscomb may have assessed Fanning’s formative role in similar or approaching terms (I cannot recall off-hand).  In light of this from Lipscomb about Sewell, we should hold loosely to any assumption that Fanning was the dominant actor among these congregations.  At least we should in the absence of other evidence.  I am happy to learn more.

–Lipscomb also was known for his simplicity of lifestyle, although through Margaret’s innovative spirit they eventually lived at a standard quite above the Sewell’s two-rooms-and-a-lean-to (see p. 120 against Hooper’s biography).  E. G. Sewell certainly lived above this standard in his neat brick home in East Nashville.  But the point is that Lipscomb highly esteems simplicity, plainness, forthrightness, industry, devotion, and the like.  We see this from Lipscomb’s taste for personal attire to his preferred manner of ministry and mission work to his comments about church architecture.

–In these paragraphs we see something about Jesse Sewell, also Campbell, Fanning, Lard, and Brents.  And we something about D. Lipscomb, too.


Orders of worship, a final word, for now

The orders of worship I posted from a few minister’s manuals stemmed from a happenstance find in Christian Hymnary. I was not prepared to see the absence of the Lord’s Supper among proposed orders of Sunday worship in a major book used among the Christian Church (former ‘Christian Connexion’).  Actually that itself was a diversion.  I went looking for an old Philip Doddridge paraphrase.  And before I knew it I was chasing leads.

The bigger point is that I am writing again, and not just here.  But the writing here is a way to keep the pump primed.

That’s the point.

The Doddridge errand, and the order of worship diversion, are just icing on the cake.  Neither, by itself, is the point. Close to the point, but neither is the point.  The point is writing again.  The memory of blogging about this kind of thing is slowly emerging again and I am warming to it.

To put a bow on the order-of-worship errand, what I see from these sources is that there is no agreed-upon or standard order of worship among the Christian Churches or Churches of Christ in the latter half of the nineteenth century, nor in the first half of the twentieth.  The placement of the Lord’s Supper varies, the accompaniment of the offering alongside or apart from the Lord’s Supper also varies.  The flow of worship, if these proposals are any indication, varies as much from place to place as it does from generation to generation.  From what little I have seen, I cannot discern a trajectory.

One could begin much earlier, go much farther, and cast a wider net. Probably the place I would begin is with the Scottish Presbyterian and Congregational orders of worship from the late eighteenth century.  Those are the immediate backgrounds for the Campbells and Walter Scott.  I can see much value in spending time with Baptist worship as it was practiced in the East, then applied in the trans-appalachian frontier.  Much of the Campbell movement derived its membership from former Baptists.  So as much as the European orders of worship will be useful, I cannot see how neglecting Baptist worship can be of any benefit.  The O’Kelly Republican Methodist movement emerged from Carolina and Virginia Methodism (which itself came out of Episcopal practice).  All of those leads are worth chasing, in my mind at least.

The Presbyterians and Scotch Independents might shed some light on the proposed model worship service Alexander Campbell proposed in Christian System.  That model probably is as close as we might get to uniformity, but I know first hand that source materials which will prove it are scarce to non-existent.  Congregations simply did not print orders of worship or bulletins much before the 1890s, and even there they tend to survive from the largest city churches (Disciples), which betray a sensitivity to high churchliness that the country congregations simply did not share.  Bulletins and orders of worship which might tease out a hypothesis will survive here and there for Christian Churches, but much less so for Churches of Christ.  And if they do, they will be representative only for that congregation at that time in its life.  My hunch is as soon as a new minister arrived, the game could change.

But enough about upstream influence.  There are other avenues to explore, such as Standard Publishing Company’s volume On the Lord’s Day designed to provide congregations with just sort of these resources.  So there was a perceived need (or market) for this and that book will be useful.  There also is F. W. Emmons views on the order of worship, and that raises the angle of looking at Biblical texts, specifically Acts 2:42.  There is a strand of interpretation that has not been mined, in print, that I am aware of.  There are tracts here and there (and I resist every urge to go look for them).  Then there is periodical literature searches on a variety of keywords and topics which might yield some articles.  And more minister’s manuals (such as George DeHoff’s), and hymnals such as Gloria in Excelsis.  Maybe they have more to say?  After all, those hymnals are in the pew racks and certainly available for congregational leaders to use for ideas and guidance.

This could easily be a thesis.  A thesis which I do not intend to write here a post at a time.

Maybe someone will take this up.


Schedule of services for the Church of Christ in St. Petersburg, Florida in March 1926

Every now and then someone asks about the origin of church services on Sunday nights or mid-week services (usually on Wednesday nights).

Perhaps at some point I will write up the few things I have found, but I do not have time to devote to that just now.  It is enough for now to note this ad from Christian Leader, 16 March 1926, at page 13, below which I offer two observations:

Advertisement, Christian Leader, March 16, 1926, p. 13

1. Old church papers such as Christian Leader are rich in advertisements such as this, and as I hope this post demonstrates, they can be a helpful source of information.  For anyone doing local history they supply chronological markers and physical locations, as this one does, for ministers and the congregation.  Thanks to Google Maps we can virtually visit the neighborhood to get a sense of the lay of the land.  It took me about 30 seconds to learn the address for W. A. Cameron on 10th was within earshot of the meeting house location on 9th.  Point being, Cameron lived and ministered in this neighborhood.  From the looks of the front of the nice building (now vacant) on 10th a block away, it appears his work may have had lasting effects.  Anyone interested in local history or anyone interested in gaining a textured view of congregational practice can benefit from this ad.  And that brings me to the second point:

2. This congregation meets twice on Sunday and once mid-week, in this case Wednesday evening.  The Sunday evening worship evidently has additional time devoted to singing, otherwise it appears that the two Sunday worship services are just about identical.  Both services feature preaching and communion, suggesting that a second offering of the Supper for all in attendance might have been the normal practice there, then.

I am also sometimes asked about various practices of the second serving of the Lord’s Supper at evening services.   I do not have the time now to get into that, either.  The short answer is that absent a massive amount of research, I cannot say there is a standard practice among Churches of Christ that held sway across time or geography.  Bottom line is the test of this hypothesis is in ads like this, in addition to articles, anecdotes, descriptions, memories, oral history, and the like.  I offer this ad as one tiny data point that gives texture to our understanding of past practices.

The world of books, on a flyaway, by Clarence Day

I found this recently, in typescript, on a fly-away.  It has this attribution: “Clarence Day, one of the founders of the Yale University Press, in his the Story of the Yale University Press Told by a Friend.”


this at the bottom of the page: “Some years ago I was assigned to write a paper on university presses for a social history class and ran across this. I think it’s great and have it framed on my desk, an incentive to stick to the job when there are times I’d rather go water the hedge.”

Those preliminaries aside, here is Clarence Day:


“The world of books is the most remarkable creation of man. Nothing else that he builds ever lasts. Monuments fall, nations perish, civilizations grow old and die out, and after an era new races build others. But in the world of books are volumes that have seen this happen again and again and yet live on, still young, still as fresh as the day they were written, still telling men’s hearts of the heart of men centuries dead.”


C. E. W. Dorris helps us remember how Tolbert Fanning eulogized Barton Stone

Charles Elias Webb Dorris was a collector, and reader, of old periodicals.  His complete set of Gospel Advocate was one of the few in existence in his lifetime. Its rarity ensured he was sought after by budding historians such as Earl West (Search for the Ancient Order) and Stephen Eckstein (Churches of Christ in Texas).

Dorris used his library and the documents of the past therein  to engage with the issues of his day.  This is particularly true of the institutional controversy in the late 1940s through the 1950s.  I am thinking of a series of articles he penned for Preceptor.  He also occasionally sent snippets to B. C. Goodpasture for inclusion in Gospel Advocate.  Under the title “Honor to Whom Honor” he states that he has “thought for a long time that writers both past and present, give Alexander Campbell honor that belongs to Barton W. Stone. In this I am not by myself as will be seen in the following from the pens of Philip Mulkey and Tolbert Fanning.”  Dorris’ point is that Stone’s work preceded Campbell’s in time and his doctrine of restoration, “the ‘Bible alone’,” and the church also preceded Campbell’s.

The Mulkey excerpt is from Old Path Guide, 1879, pp. 291-292.  Perhaps I will at some point post it.  But here I am more concerned to post the short note Dorris quotes from Tolbert Fanning.

Dorris says, without further comment:

“Tolbert Fanning, in commenting on the death of B. W. Stone, said:

If justice is ever done to his memory, he will be regarded as the first great American reformer,–the first man who, to much purpose, pleaded the ground that the Bible, without note, commentary, or creed, must destroy antichristian powers, and eventually conquer the world.  Although I have heard Father Stone slandered, and his views grossly perverted, yet never did I hear mortal man utter a syllable derogatory to his moral worth. A man more devoted to Christianity, has not lived not died, and many stars will adorn his crown in a coming day. ” (Christian Review, 1844, page 288.)

–C. E. W. Dorris, “Honor to Whom Honor,” Gospel Advocate, July 19, 1951, p. 452.

What catches my eye, aside from Dorris’ use of the past and his claim about Stone, is how Fanning characterizes Stone’s work.  For Fanning, Stone is the pathbreaker who pleads for the Bible against “antichristian powers.”  This is how Fanning epitomizes Stone’s life’s work.  The Bible “without note, commentary, or creed must destroy antichristian powers and eventually conquer the world.”

This is how Fanning characterized Stone’s work.  Dorris picks it up and uses it a century later.  Did the readership of Gospel Advocate  in 1951 characterize the work of post-war Churches of Christ in the same way?  Would they recognize in their churches of that day Fanning’s description of Stone’s work?

James DeForest Murch suggests two model church services, 1937

Well, why not continue a bit more now that I’ve gone this far?

A generation after R. C. Cave’s 1918 book comes James DeForest Murch, Christian Minister’s Manual (Cincinnati: Standard Publishing Company, 1937).  The copy I have bears a distribution stamp of the Christian Leader Company, Dresden, Ohio.  Uncle Rhod acquired it while he was living in Shawnee, Ohio, early 1960s.  It was advertised in Gospel Advocate Company catalogs of that era and served a generation or more.

He says

“Ministers should avoid elaborate worship programs.  Christ taught His disciples to pray ‘without vain repetitions.’ The early church employed hymns, Scripture readings, prayers, as simple methods of worship. Emphasis should always be placed on simplicity.  The participants in worship should be enjoined to do all ‘in decency and in order,’ ‘according to God’s will’ and with ‘the spirit and the understanding.’

He then says

“The general guiding principles of worship are reverence, dignity, order, simplicity, adjustment to the needs of the people, honoring Christ, His Word and His church, and variety and freedom of expression.”

And with that he gives two orders for morning worship, pages 47-49. I omitted some minor notes and instructions:


The Organ

Processional Hymn*

The Call to Worship


Responsive Scripture

The Gloria Patri


The Prayer

Choral Response

The Communion (hymn, words of commemoration, thanksgiving for the loaf and cup)




Hymn of Invitation

The Benediction

Choral Response

Organ Chimes


[after the closing song of the church school, presumably which meets in the sanctuary?]




Scripture Reading


Communion Hymn

Communion Service


Special Music or Hymn


Invitation Hymn



*congregation standing

Spencer’s 89 credits

I have counted 89 credits to Claude Spencer’s assistance to scholars and authors in the prefaces, forewords, and acknowledgement pages in their theses, dissertations, and published monographs.

Where a dissertation was also published, I counted it twice.  Sometimes he was not credited when I am almost positive he assisted.  For example, Lester McAllister does not credit him in his dissertation on Thomas Campbell (which was published by Bethany Press in 1954, Thomas Campbell: Man of the Book).  I cannot conceive of Lester working on that dissertation apart from Spencer’s assistance in some form or fashion.  But, he is not credited and therefore not on my list.

My list only includes theses, dissertations and published monographs because there exist for these conventions for crediting research assistance.  The conventional place to look is in forewords, prefaces, and acknowledgments and if a credit is to be found, it is probably findable there first.  I chose not to explore published congregational histories for two reasons: 1) I do not have access to the DCHS files where they would be held; 2) such could handily take months.  I drew a line knowing there is more.

The earliest citation I can find is in George L. Peters, The Disciples of Christ in Missouri. Celebrating One Hundred Years of Co-operative Work. Centennial Commission [of Missouri Convention of the Disciples of Christ], 1937.

The latest is David Filbeck, The First Fifty Years, A Brief History of the Direct-Support Missionary Movement. Joplin: College Press Publishing Company, 1989 (second printing; copyright is 1980).

In 1954, six books appeared which credited Spencer’s assistance.  Seven appeared in 1958.  These represent his work with scholars in the years leading up to the move from Canton to Nashville.  As the work in Nashville was fully underway (and as he neared retirement), five titles appeared in 1963, 1964, and 1966, respectively.   After he retired he made himself available to consult with scholars and authors.  Though the numbers trail off, (no entries for 1974 or 1978) at least one new item per year appeared until 1980 (he died in 1979).

To what end?

Well, I wanted to chase a line of inquiry about his impact on scholarship and I cannot discern a better way than this to gauge impact for archivists.  Few there be who research in primary sources such as sets of personal papers, manuscripts, and organizational records.  These are the kinds of materials for which archivists prepare discovery tools such as finding aids, registers, calendars, and box- or folder-lists.  But scholars cite the location of the item at hand, rather than the creator of the finding aid which directed them to the collection, series, sub-series, or folder in which the item is housed.

So even when scholars use or rely upon the work of the archivist, the archivist is usually not credited.

And this is just for processed archival collections.   I can conceive of no way to measure the impact of collection development on scholarship, even if one tallied original library catalog records generated, it is another step to demonstrate impact on scholarship in tangible terms.   About the best that can be done in this area is to discern the number of original catalog records against the known total of all catalog-able items in a domain.  Assuming such is even possible.  At least then you could say that archivist or librarian X created access points to Y percentage of the body of published and archival knowledge Z in domain A or B or C.  Theoretically that could be possible in Stone-Campbell studies by somehow combining all OCLC records for all Stone-Campbell materials held at our several libraries, then cross-combing them for original records.   Don’t ask me how one could do that, or even if one could do that.

Another way to measure impact is to track the gross development of a collection over time, either as a whole or in some specific area.  However, in this case we would assess collections as such, and still we are left with no real way to measure (nor can they) how its development impacted scholarship. Simply put, the conventions just are not there that can accommodate this.

So, I am left with counting citations and notes of gratitude to Spencer in prefaces, forewords, and acknowledgements in theses, dissertations, and monographs.

All said, 89 over a career seems stellar to me, considering from my experience and what I know of his, that the explicit credits that are findable and countable in print are just the tip of the iceberg of assistance provided.

Ummm…isn’t this vain?

I can see how one would raise that objection.  In a sense, yes.  But in another sense, no.

One of the standards for obtaining tenure in academic settings is to demonstrate impact through scholarship, teaching, and service to the institution and one’s field.  One way to demonstrate impact is to publish peer-reviewed reviews, journal articles, chapters or monographs.  Other ways could include attempts to measure impact by measuring citations.  Though librarians and archivists are held to the same or similar standards, however they usually contribute to scholarship in ways in addition to or other than the traditional academic journal article or monograph.  Two primary examples come to mind: by creating catalog records (I have in mind original cataloging) for print materials and by processing archival material and generating finding aids.  In both cases they apply original and creative scholarly creative work to ensure materials are visible to scholars and the general public.  Thus they contribute to scholarship by facilitating it; further, done well and right the first time catalog records and finding aids will endure into perpetuity.  But even in these case, as I note above, assessing the creation of such is one thing; assessing the use of it–and counting credits to that use–is quite another.

I again ask, how can one measure, in definite and concrete terms, this impact?  Absent other methods, I think amassing a list of the known citations and credits to an archivist (Claude Spencer in this case) quite decisively demonstrates something of his impact on scholarship.

Hence this post.

Book review: Henry Petroski, in The Book on the Bookshelf

Henry Petroski, in The Book on the Bookshelf (New York: Vintage, 1999).

Sometimes books come by bolt of inspiration.  This one came by quiet observation.

Petroski explains this one, thusly:

One evening, while reading in my study, I looked up from my book and saw my bookshelves in a new and different light. Instead of being just places on which to store books, the shelves themselves intrigued me as artifacts in their own right, and I wondered how they came to be as they are. Question led to question, and I began to look for answers in –where else?–books.  Books led me to libraries, where I naturally encountered more bookshelves. I have found that as simple as the bookshelf might appear to be as an object of construction and utility, the story of its development, which is intertwined with that of the book itself, is curious, mysterious, and fascinating.

–Preface, p. ix.

And so off he goes and does just what he proposes to do.

The book is strongest and most engaging just at this point: at the intersection of the history of the book as an object with the utility of the means of its storage and use.  In eleven chapters he traces the development from papyrus scrolls to parchment and vellum codices to printed and bound volumes.  In a parallel move he describes the storage methods from bins to shelves to armaria to bookshelves in academies, universities, to personal and private home studies.

In 1999 Petroski was Aleksander S. Vesic Professor of Civil Engineering and Professor of History at Duke University.  He brought both skill sets to this project and the result is just as he stated in the preface.  He unfolds the curious development of the application of technology and engineering to the challenge of storing and using and facilitating the use of books in their manifold forms in the West over the past 2500 or so years.  He explains how the form of the book informs the form and function of the furniture of its storage and use.  And vice versa.  Along the way we get insights into how readers created and used texts.  From binding forms and styles to shelving arrangements (e.g. chained libraries in which the books were shelved upright, spines to the back), he moves each chapter along at a good pace.  And each chapter prepares for the next.

If you are interested in all things bookish, especially the history bookmaking and reading, this one is worth the few hours it will take to read.  It is an easy read, amply researched, modestly paced, and clearly written.  He punctuates it periodically with appropriate illustrations.  Ezra at his armarium and the book fool are two of the more striking examples.

The chapter on institutional application of shelving either got a bit tedious, or the children were a bit loud, so I skimmed parts of it.  The remainder went quickly.  I polished it off, mostly, in an afternoon and finished it the following evening.  It is the kind of book you read easily read, and enjoy, while the children putter about the house on a holiday break.

The publisher relegated citations to the end and did not utilize footnote numbering in the text.  However, all quotes are attributed as are the illustrations.   I’d rather have the footnotes numbered and right there at hand at the bottom of the page.  No doubt the publisher thought the hoi polloi could not stomach such.  Balderdash.  How will they learn better until challenged?  Besides, anyone reading book about the history of bookshelves surely can handle a numbered footnote!

Benjamin L. Smith proposes orders of worship, 1919

A year after Cave published his manual for ministers, Benjamin Lyon Smith published A Manual of Forms for Ministers for Special Occasions and for the Work and Worship of the Church (St. Louis: Christian Board of Publication, 1919).  At 225 pages of text, it was the largest manual among Disciples to date.  Cave’s had 116 pages of text, about the size of Green’s 124 pages.  Cave and Smith both have a few blank pages at the end into which a minister could record wedding, funerals, baptisms, and other special occasions.  Both are bound in limp black leather, much like a New Testament, and are the size of a testament.

Smith is far more expansive, with sample services for just about any occasion a congregation could face.  I will concentrate here on the orders of service for regular Sunday worship.  “There is no place where one can show good taste more than in conducting the public worship of the church,” he says as a preface to all of the orders of service.  “From the Gloria in Excelsis,” he states, “we select some orders of service that are admirable.  They are capable of many different modifications and combinations.”  He refers to W. E. M. Hackleman, ed. Gloria in Excelsis, A Collection of Responsive Scripture Readings, Standard Hymns & Tunes, and Spiritual Songs for Worship in the Church and Home. (Indianapolis: Hackleman Music Company and St. Louis: Christian Publishing Company, 1905 with later printings).  The congregations which would have found Gloria in Excelsis attractive, a book which Hackleman considered his best work by the way, strike me as a far cry from the many churches R. C. Cave envisioned “that can not have a minister of the gospel with them oftener than once or twice a month, and are usually limited to a simple service led by an elder, or some member of the congregation” (Cave, p. 41).

Hackleman offers a suite of options for each element in five kinds of services: three variations of morning services (which Smith uses; see below), two variations of the evening service, an evangelistic service and a vesper service.

Here are Smith’s three models of the Sunday morning worship, pages 127-129:


Organ prelude


Invocation and Lord’s Prayer

Responsive Reading


Lesson and Prayer

Offering and Announcements

Special Music


Invitation Hymn

Lord’s Supper

Closing Hymn



Organ Prelude

Opening Sentence – Responsive Sentence by Choir

Invocation and Lord’s Prayer


Responsive Reading

General Prayer



Hymn of Invitation

Communion Hymn

Lord’s Supper

Offering and Announcements




Organ Prelude

Opening Sentence, with Response by Choir, sining the first stanza of Hymn

Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty

Early in the morning, our songs shall rise to Thee

The Twenty-third Psalm (in concert)

Invocation and Lord’s Prayer


Lesson and Prayer

Communion Hymn

Lord’s Supper

Offering and Announcements

Special Music. Solo or Anthem


Invitation Hymn

Reception of New Members

Closing Hymn or Closing Chant or Doxology




Finding Aid Roundup: 2022 Year in Review

A few days ago I reblogged a post from the ACU Special Collections blog reviewing the growth of our print collection in 2022.  Last year I did this and want to indulge my readers here for one more cross-posting to describe our processing and finding-aid work for archival materials.

The basic definition I use to distinguish print vs. archival is that print items (books, periodicals, tracts, leaflets, and the like) were generally mass-produced for consumption by the public. Albeit some could have had a small print run, but they are printed on a press in quantity aimed at distribution and circulation.  Maybe mass-distribution, maybe a limited print-run, but distribution nonetheless.  

Archival materials on the other hand are unique by definition and by nature.  Unlike print items, archival materials are not intended for distribution.  And they almost always exist as singular objects.  Whether correspondence or diaries or photographs or manuscripts or other written or typed records, they were created in the course of doing something and usually that ‘something’ is not public-facing like print materials.

Print items are cataloged (we use Dewey Decimal System) and shelved (or sometimes filed in boxes or cabinets) with other cataloged items.  The catalog system is itself a schema imposed on the set of books to facilitate repetitive, accurate, and scalable discovery and growth.  Archival materials remain together in their discrete collection–collections are not intermingled–and are numbered as a set and the whole is shelved in folders in boxes. To facilitate access to archival materials, we creating Finding Aids. I could go on, but that is the gist of it.  Print stuff gets cataloged and archival material gets a finding aid, one per collection.

So each month or so my colleague Amanda Dietz composes blog posts describing new or updated finding aids. She also creates posts which delve deeper into select collections. Follow the link above and check out the ‘Foldered and Finished’ posts on the ACU Special Collections blog.

I said a few days ago I think it critical to keep our donors informed of the progress in building the collection.  I know lists of titles and authors are not the most compelling reading, and the same goes for lists of archival collections, but first-class research-level collections do not happen by accident or fashion themselves.  They do not drop from the heavens, they are built.  In our case, they are built almost solely by donors and used by researchers whose work deserves to be sourced by the very best collection that can be assembled.  They are built methodically, diligently, consistently, all for the purposes of preservation and use.  These lists of books and archival collections reflect that curation and growth.  So, I hope the lists are useful. For those interested in this slice of American religious history, this is our bread and butter. This is the raw material from which ‘history’ is wrought (and re-wrought).

In 2022 we had 61 accessions of archival material come across the board. Some of these were entirely new collections, other were accruals to collections we already had. Together, they added about 730 linear feet. Amanda, Erica, and student workers compiled or revised 99 finding aids for some 1,100 linear feet of material.

2022 was another exceptional year for generating high-quality and accurate full-form PDF finding aids to manuscript and records collections. While there is basic finding-aid information for all 575 collections online (most are here) but there are some University Records sets that are not online yet), this work brings us almost to the half-way mark in having full-form PDFs available. This kind of baseline work will pay rich dividends in the future because, all things being equal, once a collection is processed and described well, it probably will not have to be redone. We can always go back and enrich the description, but a good finding aid should endure forever. Beyond facilitating discovery for researchers, this lays groundwork for targeted digitization. But I think in broader terms it demonstrates to the university, our donors, and patrons that these materials are important. It also allows us to be responsive to new acquisitions and prevents a backlog of un-accessioned and therefore unknown and invisible material.

So with 575 collections in house, 282 have full-form finding aids; 293 remain, with about 36 of those in some stage of improvement already. In short, we’re getting there. Big thanks to my colleagues Amanda and Erica and our student workers for another year of great work!

Finding Aid Roundup: 2021 Year in Review