Work Group 2 - Mission Archives at Mission Schools

Group 2 was charged to explore the idea of institutions other than mission agencies serving as repositories for mission archives. Focusing on theological seminaries and missionary training schools as possible mission archive centers, we discussed the advantages and obstacles related to an academic institution establishing a missions archives program. We concluded our discussion with the listing of concrete goals and actions that would facilitate partnership arrangements between mission agencies and academic institutions.

In considering what types of institutions would be best suited to serve as respositories for mission archives, the Group concluded that the following characteristics would be important:
1) There would be some natural affinity between the academic institution and the mission agency. This affinity might be because of similar theological beliefs, geographical proximity, and/or personal connections between the leaders of the institution and agency. The crucial factor would be a sense of trust between the institution and the agency. Some natural partnerships already exist; other partnerships would need to be developed more intentionally.
2) The academic institution would have curricular programs related to missions, ideally on a graduate level. These programs would benefit from the availability of mission archives for research purposes and foster continuing commitment to the development of the archives. The missions agency would need to be willing to open its archives to researchers beyond its internal staff in order to have the partnership be mutually beneficial.
3) The academic institution would be willing to make some financial commitment to creating and maintaining an archival program. While it is quite probable that a mission agency would be asked to contribute funds toward the preservation of its records, the academic institution would also need to recognize the financial implications of providing storage space, reader space, and staff costs for processing and accessing the archives.
4) The academic institution would have a philosophical commitment to the value of maintaining archival collections. Leaders of the institution would be strong advocates for the archives program, viewing it as mutually beneficial to the institution and to the mission agency.

The Group concluded that partnerships between academic institutions and mission agencies would have the following advantages: 1) A valued archival collection could keep an institution true to its heritage, encourage useful interaction between the institution and mission agency, enhance the reputation of both parties, and serve as a publicity or fundraising opportunity. 2) A symbiotic relationship between the academic institution and the mission agency could evolve that would be beneficial to research, recruiting, alumni/ae relations, production of publications, etc. 3) There would be advantages to having multiple mission archives at one academic institution. Comparative research could be done more easily. There would be economies of scale, more likelihood of environmentally-controlled storage space, and more likelihood of developing staff expertise at an academic center. 4) Archival collections would be complemented by the library collections of the academic institution and by the research and/or missionary training activities of the institution.

There are, of course, various obstacles standing in the way of developing partnerships between academic institutions and mission agencies for the purpose of establishing archival collections:
1) In a few cases there are clear natural partnerships between institutions and agencies, but in many cases the partnership agreement would need to be developed with considerable labor and care. As noted above, the element of trust is crucial. Finding the right combination of affinities of theological stance, geographical proximity, and personal contact might be difficult. There is no one umbrella agency for evangelical academic institutions or nondenominational mission agencies that could serve as a kind of clearinghouse for developing partnerships, though the International Foreign Mission Association and the Evangelical Foreign Mission Association may be able to play some role in this process.
2) Financial concerns are a barrier. An academic institution would need to be prepared to spend funds on a longterm basis for space and staff.
3) There is a complex matrix of interested parties, at various tiers, who would need to work together to establish a viable archives program, including mission executives, institutional administrators, faculty members, and archivists. It may be difficult to sustain commitment and interest at all tiers over the long haul.
4) Inertia, related to lack of time, is a barrier to action. We all realized that it would be difficult to sustain the enthusiasm generated by this meeting when we returned to our normal activities at our home institutions and organizations.

Group 2 concluded its work with discussion of ways in which the Consultation on Nondenominational Mission Archives could have lasting impact and lead to the development of partnerships between academic institutions and mission agencies. It was the Group's recommendation that a project be initiated, called "The Evangelical Missions Archives Project" (see Appendix A for a draft mission statement for this project.)

The following steps were recommended as incremental advances toward the carrying out of such a project:
1) Create a web site linking to relevant documents and training opportunities, hosted by an institution that has a longterm interest in mission archives.
2) Establish an email list to maintain contact between Consultation participants and provide a platform for inquiries. Announce this email list in other venues to attract additional interested participants.
3) Conduct an email survey to find out what mission archives are already held by evangelical institutions of higher education represented in the Fellowship of Evangelical Seminary Presidents and/or Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. Post the survey results on the web site. (See Appendix B for a proposed work plan for conducting this survey.) 4) Develop models or templates for partnership agreements between academic institutions and mission agencies.
5) Develop a cost model for establishing an archival program, so that institutions and agencies can have a clearer idea of the financial implications of a partnership agreement.
6) Identify leaders at potential Amagnet@ academic institutions and encourage communication between them. Suggested Amagnet@ institutions are: Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Fuller Theological Seminary, Dallas Theological Seminary, Columbia International University, Trinity International University, Biola University, Billy Graham Center.
7) Explore the possibility of having an archives Aconsciousness-raising@ session at meetings of umbrella organizations such as the IFMA, EFMA, ASM. Provide information about the potential magnet institutions.

Some of these steps can be undertaken (and have been) without major funding implications. Steps 4 and 5 would require some coordination and time commitment of unidentified individuals. Steps 6 and 7 would need to be initiated by individuals within the relevant institutions and organizations.

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Last Revised: 12/04/01
Last Revised: 1/5/05
Expiration: indefinite

Wheaton College 2005