What is an archives? No, it's not a chain of islands in the South Pacific. It's not a case of painful itching. And archivists are not people who plot rebellion and bloody insurrection.
What is an archives then? Informally defined, an archives is a collection of unpublished documents and other materials preserved for research use.
An archives is a place where one-of-a-kind materials are kept--the original records of days gone by. It's the place where you can find out right from the "horse's mouth" what really happened and how the people who experienced it felt about it.
In the archives, you can do bottom-line research--going back to the original, unpublished materials, getting the real story as it happened--not pre-digested and regurgitated on the pages of a book. It's the kind of research that pays off in the Eureka! of personal discovery.
Yes, there are frontiers left for modern-day adventurers. So don your exploring gear, saddle that steed--and get ready to explore the frontiers of history!
Every archives collects something special. No archivist would be so foolhardy as to try to collect everything that is available on every subject.
The Archives at the Billy Graham Center specializes in collecting and preserving unpublished information that tells the story of North American Protestant non-denominational missions and evangelistic activities through the years.
The archives contains four kinds of Protestant nondenominational records:
*Records of American evangelists and evangelistic organizations, with information on people like:
Billy Graham ... Billy Sunday...William Biederwolf ...Tom Skinner ... John Wilbur Chapman...Charles Finney... Henry W. Stough... John Perkins and Mel Trotter.
It was innocent enough. A barrel of screwdrivers in a hardware store. So, friends and strangers alike were amazed when the missionary took one look and burst into tears. Why did she cry? There was a logical explanation--one that was rooted deep in her experience of life in Zaire as a missionary.
What's it really like to be a missionary? How do well-known evangelists handle personal disappointments? What are the struggles Christian leaders have shared with only their closest friends? You'll find things in the archives that you won't find in the history books--or any other books.
You'll find the answer to the missionary's tears in Collection 169, Tape Tl. Or, see how God rescued a Peruvian man who was buried alive (Collection 204, Box 1, Folder 7). Or, what happened when a Tibetan tribesman got mad at his entire village and decided to use the missionaries to get back at them all (Collection 205, Tape T2). Or find out why a Denver doctor kept a bottle of sawdust on his desk, along with his mother's Bible (Collection 197, Box 1, Folder 3). Discover what led to the founding of the first American agency created to send single women to the mission field. Answers to questions you never even thought to ask--the archives has it all.
Bored? When you can watch the pulpit-pounding, stage-stomping antics of Billy Sunday on film? For a change of pace--an exotic glimpse into another time and place--come to the archives. No need to be bored when you can:
See what happened when Henry W. Stough took on the "Booze Kings" of Scranton, Penn. Or view "Jungle Blood Hunters," a 30-minute film on Vietnam in the early 1950s. (Rated: must see.) Learn about frontier life in the early 18OOs--from the perspective of missionaries to the Wild West. Or, find out how a baby opened the door to missionary work in the Ngawa Kingdom in Tibet.
See what Billy Graham looked and sounded like in the crusade that brought him national attention in 1949. Read the little-known facts about the Chicago businessman who was the force behind the founding of many of today's largest Christian organizations.
See the Battle of Gettysburg from the perspective of a confederate soldier writing home to his father.
Or, experience the Boxer Rebellion or the Congo Crisis with the missionaries who lived through them.
Or learn about Consuella York's decades of ministry as a chaplain in Chicago's Cook County Jail.
Carefully lift the yellowed stationary from the protective folder--and the sights and sounds of the Persia of 100 years ago come clamoring into the quiet room. You're handling letters that were penned by an excited missionary newly arrived in an exotic country far from the sunny windows and well-padded chairs of the archival reading room.
From the far corners of the earth the materials have come--letters, diaries, scrapbooks, reports, maps, posters, inter-office memos, financial ledgers, blueprints, photographs, slides, cassette tapes, video tapes, microforms, and films.
Information on thousands of people, organizations, movements, and cultures are contained in hundreds of collections available to you for use in the archival reading room.
Anyone may use the materials in the archives at no charge. Simply register, sign a form, and you have access to information available nowhere else. There are comfortable desks and chairs for reading, cassette players for listening, and equipment for watching film and video tapes. The reading room at the archives--there's a new world waiting for you!
Ok. So you're ready for adventure. Now what? If that stuff is so rare, it must be a real hassle to use. There'll be all kinds of rules, and someone will be watching over your shoulder to make sure you don't fold, spindle, or mutilate something valuable.
Wrong again! There are a few guidelines for using the materials, which the archivist will cheerfully explain. But no one will be reciting rules to you and anxiously watching your every move.
The archivists at the Billy Graham Center are some of the friendliest people in town. They are delighted to have you use the materials. After all, that's why all that information has been collected in one place--so that it can be used conveniently.
The archivist will be glad to help you get the most out of your research. They'll make suggestions, show you how to use the files, even give you ideas for a research paper.
If you want to see how you can make use of archival research for personal information, classroom assignments, or just for fun, come to The Archives at the Billy Graham Center. There's a whole new world waiting for you.