How I Spent My Summer Vacation--Know Your Archives, Part IV


Indeed, I have many thoughts on archives I visited recently (while my wife and kids lounged on the California beach). Unlike those of you who experienced the beauties of an un-caffeinated Provo or the modernist wealth and splendor of the bean-town Congregationalists, I went on a fundamentalist/ evangelical greatest hits tour. And I only visit archives made of brick, as the images below illustrate.

University of Washington (I know, not exactly a bastion of fundy/evangelical truthiness): nice research room; great archivists (thank you tax-payers); and student assistants who make things interesting by not always putting the correct collection/box/folder numbers on your copies.

Moody Bible Institute: limited collections and multiple perimeters of security to navigate ninja-style before you find the archives room.

Biola University: No research room, but a friendly archivist who does her best to accommodate researchers while simultaneously attending to one of her hundreds of other library assignments.

Gordon-Conwell: it ain’t Boston, but the Puritans still live nearby. One of the best collections of early-to-mid twentieth century Christian magazines anywhere. You can stay on campus on the cheap if you want to re-live your college glory days of shared bathrooms, no TV, and sleeping on a cot.

Bob Jones University: despite my dress shirts, khakis, and short hair, everyone, and I mean everyone, knew that I was an outsider on the compound. BJU security knows when you come, when you go, and what you do. Greenville must be a more dangerous place than I realized because the campus is entirely surrounded by a gate, much of the faculty live on campus, and there are K-12th classes on campus so that faculty and their kids never have to leave. Eating is done communally in the cafeteria--the library shuts down from 5-6 so everyone can eat together. The archivist at BJU is incredibly accommodating and will go to great lengths to help researchers. He also lets you eat donuts and drink coffee (in my case Pepsi) in the archives room--so take that Turner.

American Baptist Archives (Atlanta): $10 a day to do research; $.50/copy; and two and a half months later, I am still waiting for my copies to arrive. Enuf said.

Fuller Seminary: Beautiful research room with no windows or doors. O.K., I guess there was one door. I got in somehow. Staring down at you is a giant portrait of the late Wilbur Smith (of “The Atomic Bomb and the Word of God” fame.) It is a little eerie to read his papers while he watches.

Wheaton/Billy Graham Center Archives: still the best, most comfortable place to work on evangelicalism. Professional, smart archivists, plenty of room to work, friendly policies, and they even have trains going by outside all day, which make for a nice distraction perfectly suited for a three-year-old or the father of a three-year-old. And that is how I spent my summer vacation.


Paul Harvey said…
Too funny -- a Sutton post that will rank among the classics! But why do your enviable academic research skills so consistently fail you in researching players for your fantasy football team?
Matt Sutton said…
Paul--fantasy football is just beginning. Like both of the J.C.'s--Jay Cutler and Jesus Christ--I am going to rise from the ashes.
Randall said…
Awesome description, Matt. This all makes me wonder what an archives at the Branch Davidian Compound might have looked like. Was there a reading room at the Children of God HQ? Not too friendly, I'm guessing.

BTW, I wonder if anyone out there in the internetasphere has ventured to Liberty U to do some hunting and gathering. Some wag called Liberty the most ironically named college in America.
John G. Turner said…
Matt, BJU is actually at the top of my list because of that cup of coffee. However, LDS Cafeteria is light years better than BJU cafeteria. So it's food versus coffee, I guess.
Everett said…
You people have completely cured my dreams of a second PhD in history. All I had to do at Chapel Hill this summer was open my laptop on the way out, so they knew I wasn't stealing any unpublished short stories.

Do ask me sometime, however, about earlier experiences in Latin American archives patrolled by AK-47-toting soldiers. You thought having Wilbur Smith looking over your shoulder was uncomfortable, Matt. ;)
John said…
You missed one of the best libraries on the evangelical circuit, the J. P. Boyce Library at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Anonymous said…
Your BJU impressions contain a great deal of inaccurate information. Most faculty live off campus. Everyone doesn't eat together. There are multiple dining rooms on campus, but no one is required to eat. For an historian, your documentation skills are a bit suspect.
Matt Sutton said…
Anonymous: My skill as a historian is fine. It is my skill as a blogger that needs serious improvement.
Wayne Ratzlaff said…
My expereinces at BJU have always been enjoyable. Nice campus and they have always offered me coffee in the morning. They have a number of fundamentalist periodicals that I can't find anywhere else.

An additional caveat about Wheaton is that the Buswell library on the north side of campus has a good collection of bound evangelical periodicals and also has a very good cafeteria.

One place I have enjoyed visiting that has not appeared on anyone's list is the Presbyterian Church in America archives in St. Louis, which has the papers of several clergymen from the Bible Presbyterian Church and the PCUS. The archvist there, Wayne Sparkman, is a fount of knowledge and has always been very helpful and accomodating.
Matt Sutton said…

I am 100% with you on the BJU archives--Patrick and his crew are WONDERFUL! (Which I tried to indicate in the post)


I am not sure why "anonymous" is defensive. I would think a Christian university that actually takes notions of community seriously would be something to brag about, not something to dispel.

Finally, the AP is reporting tonight that there are 2,000 cases of swine flu on my campus, so I am in no position to be critical of others. We know where God's wrath is falling at the moment.
Paul Harvey said…
"Anonymous" -- anyone who says Matt's "documentation skills are a bit suspect" obviously hasn't read any of his scholarly work, and fails to appreciate the humor he brings to posting. Get a life.

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