Laura Neva Collins (shown at right in what was probably a passport photo, possibly taken around 1914) was born in Greenfield, Illinois, in 1878. She commited her life to Christ at the age of twelve. After a year of attendance at Moody Bible Institute, she completed the application process (click here to see the completed application) and joined the Africa Inland Mission. In 1907, she sailed for the British colony of Kenya, where she worked as a teacher and evangelist for the next forty-five years until her death in 1952. She spent most of those years in Kenya working among the Kikuyu people. After a year at Kijabe, she moved to the newly founded station at Kinyona, where she remained for the rest of her first term.
The images displayed here reflect an imaginative and industrious woman's view of Africa, mostly of Kenya, at the beginning of the twentieth century, probably before 1914. They depict the country's society, customs, economics, and geography, as well as its growing Christian church, the missionary community assisting in that endeavor, and Collins herself. Whether she took some of the pictures or gathered them from colleagues is uncertain, but in 1914 she returned to the United States briefly on a furlough, and apparently brought glass negatives from which to make slides or photographs, which she would show to supporters.
Excerpts from several of Collins' letters in her correspondence file (found in Collection 81, box 19, folder 21) in the AIM records suggest ways she was considering or being asked to use this record of her experience. (Click here to review the entire container list for the AIM records, among which is the Collins correspondence file.) The first comes from her 1/13/1914 letter to Miss Young of the AIM office.
The Collins collection consists of ninety-one original slides; those
slides were made into photographic negatives and prints through a grant
from the Ericksen/TeBeest Memorial Fund. The images in this exhibit are
only a sampling of the Collins' photographs. We invite you to visit the
Reading Room to view the remaining images in the collection, as well as
to browse through a file of Collins' correspondence. click
here to read the descriptive guide to the Collins collection.