Billy Graham Center Archives Annual Report - 1999 Annual Report - Appendix

Appendix: Suk Mei (Irene) Wong's Report on Her Archival Training in The United States, Jan. 7 1999 June 11, 1999


This archival training program in the United States would not have been possible without the generous support and assistance of many individuals and institutions. Special acknowledgment should be made of the help and support from Ms. Shirley Leung, the University Librarian. She guided and gave me lots of advice regularly and I am grateful to her and the Hong Kong Baptist University to grant me such a precious leaning opportunity. I am also indebted to the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia and the Henry Luce Foundation which financially supported this training program. I owe a special debt of thanks to the Billy Graham Center Archives which hosted the program, and especially to Mr. Robert D. Shuster and Mr. Paul Ericksen. who designed such excellent and comprehensive archival program that enabled me to learn so much about archives in five months. Their patience, hospitality and thoughtfulness made me feel at home. I also wish to thank the American librarians and archivists who were very generous and helpful to me and made my visits to their archives and libraries absolutely fruitful. Last but not the least, I am grateful to my co-workers at the Hong Kong Baptist University Library who supported and encouraged me at my work and study.


The year 1999 is a milestone in my career life as a librarian at the Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU). It is my honor and privilege to be selected to participate in a six month archival training program in the United States hosted by the Billy Graham Center Archives of Wheaton College in Illinois. This comprehensive training program gave me both hands-on and theoretical training in archival management at the same time. I also visited several research libraries and archives, as well as attended archivists' conferences, and workshops. [Note: The first thing I learned about archival management was that the term "archives" is always used in the plural when referring to a single collection of archival materials.] All these valuable experiences not only have enriched my knowledge and skills in archival management, but also let me cultivate friendship and closer relationships with other libraries and archives in the United States. This training program has undoubtedly equipped me with invaluable knowledge and skills that I can use to improve our services at the HKBU Library, especially the Special Collections & Archives section that I supervise. I believe our improved library services will benefit the researchers and the academic community in Hong Kong and the region.

Study at Dominican University

Since I earned my graduate degree in Library Services ten years ago, I have been a cataloguer. Last year, I was charged with the new responsibility of supervising the Special Collections & Archives. As archives are different from libraries in many ways, such as management, collection development, and services, it is vital for me to acquire theoretical and practical knowledge on archival management. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to receive theoretical education by taking the course "Archives" offered by the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Dominican University after my arrival at Chicago in January. This four-month course covers various aspects of archival management including basic knowledge of different types, history and development of archives, as well as the more complex archival theories, procedures, and techniques in managing an archives.

In my study, I learned the fundamentals of archival management, such as mission and establishment, administrative location, holdings and collections, personnel, space and facilities, and service goals. All these gave me an insight of the backbone of an archives. At the same time, I acquired the practical skills of managing an archives by leaning about archival procedures and techniques, such as appraisal, documentation strategy, acquisitions practices, accessioning, arrangement and processing of archival materials, conservation and preservation, reference services and outreach activities. Furthermore, the lecturer, Mr. Patrick Quinn, is a very experienced archivist who has been actively involved in the archivist profession and education for more than thirty years. He always gave lots of concrete examples of different archives and archival practices in his lectures and shared his invaluable experiences with us in class. I learned a great deal about the practices and experiences of American archivists in four months. All this knowledge I acquired at Dominican University has laid a solid foundation on which I can accumulate my skills learned from the Internship at Billy Graham Center Archives.

Internship at Billy Graham Center Archives

The cornerstone of my training program is my internship at the Billy Graham Center Archives at Wheaton College, Illinois. The Archives is a prestigious cultural archives, which has been awarded with the Society of American Archivists' 1991 Distinguished Service Award "for outstanding service to its public and exemplary contribution to the archival profession". Only two archives in Illinois have ever received such outstanding awards. The Billy Graham Center Archives, established in 1982, gathers, preserves and provides unpublished documents on the history of North American nondenominational Protestant efforts to spread the Christian Gospel. It is committed to preserve the history of Christianity and the evangelistic activities of missionaries all over the world. Its collection is plentiful and diversified including correspondence, photographs, diaries, artifacts and memorabilia, posters, manuscripts, maps, records of various mission boards and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, etc. It also has a very unique and outstanding oral history program. The Billy Graham Center Archives is indeed an ideal archives from which I have been exposed to different types of archival materials and their respective management and processing methods.

The internship program at the Billy Graham Center Archives involved three components. The major part was processing archival materials, the other two parts were the weekly discussion on some theoretical and practical issues of archival management, and the oral history program.

Processing archival materials

Processing archival materials is a completely new experience to me because archival materials unlike monographs, serials, and audio-visual materials, require different processing treatment. Despite the fact that I am an experienced cataloguer, my knowledge and skills are still inadequate in handling archival collection. I was so lucky to have Mr. Robert D. Shuster, the Director, and Mr. Paul Ericksen, Associate Director of the Billy Graham Center Archives as my supervisors. They designed an excellent five month internship program for me so that I could acquire the basic knowledge and techniques in managing an archives.

Robert and Paul patiently and systematically taught me all the fundamental techniques in archival management. In those five months, I was assigned to work on the archival materials of six missionaries of the China Inland Mission. These British and American missionaries stationed in China in the first half of the twentieth century. The materials that I worked on included manuscripts, song books, sermon notes, correspondence, diaries, photographs, photo albums, scrapbooks, audio tapes, maps, lecture notes, documents, and memorabilia, etc. Paul and Robert taught and guided me to arrange and process these materials. The skills I learned are very practical and useful, and I can apply them to my work at the Special Collections and Archives of the HKBU Library. For instance, I learned how to record and accession new collections systematically; to appraise the materials carefully so as to make the collection unique and useful; to arrange and process the archival materials orderly and systematically for easy access; to prepare precise and concise finding aids for patrons; and to input informative MARC records in the library automation system so as to help patrons retrieve the appropriate records. All these basic techniques in processing archival materials are essential skills that an archivist must possess. With these practical skills in addition to the theoretical knowledge that I have learned at Dominican University, I am now much better equipped to manage the University Archives and Archives on the History of Christianity in China, and provide better services to our patrons.

Discussion and meeting

In addition to the practical training, I also acquired knowledge on archival management through the weekly discussions with Robert and Paul. We discussed both theoretical and practical issues which were specific to the archives of the HKBU Library. These inspiring weekly discussions helped me in the planning of the physical setting and functions of our Special Collections and Archives. For instance, after we had reviewed and studied the mission statements and collection policies of some archives in the United States, I planned the mission statement and collection strategy for our own archives at the HKBU Library. Later, Robert introduced me to two faculty members of Wheaton College, Dr. Brent Fulton and Dr. Charles Weber, who are frequent users of archives in the States and other countries. They gave me many constructive suggestions and useful opinions from a scholar's perspective. Other issues we discussed weekly in my five-month internship included disasters planning and architectural design for an archives. This pragmatic knowledge on archival management will enable us to make the best use of our existing resources to set up the best environment to house our archival materials, and to safeguard and protect the integrity of our archival collection.

At the Billy Graham Center Archives, I also participated in their regular staff meetings. Through thorough discussion and working out practical solutions to problems, I am now prepared to meet the future challenges and more confident in managing our own archives.

Outreach activities

Archives are not popular in Hong Kong and many students know very little about using primary resources in their research work. Therefore, it is of utmost importance for us, as librarians, to take a proactive role in introducing students to the concept of archives, informing them of the usefulness of primary resources in their study and research work, and making them aware of the archival resources at the HKBU Library. Thus, it is our responsibility to reach out to our patrons and to promote the services of the Special Collections and Archives.

At the Billy Graham Center Archives, I had many opportunities to participate in different kinds of outreach activities. These activities included treasure hunt for home school students, different workshops for elementary and undergraduate students, and a presentation at the Glen Ellyn Bible Church. By participating in these activities, I was introduced to different innovative methods to promote the services of an archives. The archivists there demonstrated to me how to arouse the students' interest in archival resources, and how to illustrate to them the importance and usefulness of using archival materials in research work. I also learned from them how to take initiative and cooperate with faculty members to incorporate research materials available in the archives in their students' course work. The strategies and skills in planning these inspiring outreach programs will be very useful in the promotion of our services at the Special Collections and Archives, as well as those of the HKBU Library as a whole. I believe we can improve our library services to the University community, and we can lead the students to self-access learning, helping them use the library resources more effectively and efficiently in their research work.

Oral history project

As in many other archives, the Billy Graham Center Archives also has a very successful oral history program and Robert gave me a comprehensive training program in oral history while I was in Wheaton. I attended a lecture given by Dr. Evvy Campbell on oral history at Wheaton College. Then Robert gave me some literature on oral history that included information on how and where to conduct an interview as well as a manual on training interviewers. These publications provided me with basic background information on designing an oral history program. After that, Robert taught me the techniques in conducting interviews, and demonstrated to me how to use the equipment. He also guided me to prepare some question lists for interviews and taught me how to find interviewees. Finally, I had an opportunity to conduct an interview with Dr. Han who lives in Indiana. Dr. Han talked about the history of Christianity and churches in Henan, China before 1945. Robert then evaluated my oral history interview and gave me some constructive suggestions for improvement. This is a very precious learning process and experience which is hard to obtain in Hong Kong. When we have the resources in the future to start an oral history program, the knowledge I have gained will undoubtedly become handy and useful.

Other activities at Wheaton College

Besides participating in an internship at the Billy Graham Center Archives, I also took part in other exciting activities at Wheaton College that made my training more colorful and meaningful. I gave a talk to a class of graduate students on research resources on Christianity in China available in Hong Kong. I was able to introduce our Special Collections and Archives, and some other Hong Kong libraries and research centers to the American students. I also had a meeting with the staff of the Buswell Memorial Library of Wheaton College. At the meeting, I introduced to them the HKBU Library and librarianship in Hong Kong. We shared our experiences and exchanged ideas on library administration. These two occasions provide us an opportunity to foster cross-cultural understanding and stimulate intellectual exchange.

Internship at other archives

Besides the Archives on the History of Christianity in China, the HKBU Library also has a University Archives and a Contemporary China Research Collection in our Special Collections and Archives section. Therefore, I also tried my best to seek learning opportunities by taking internship in other university archives and special collections. I spent several weeks working in the Marion E. Wade Center Archives, the College Archives & Special Collections of Wheaton College, and the University Archives of Northwestern University. I had some hands-on experience in arranging and processing university records and personal papers, preparing finding aids, and searching for appropriate materials for special collections. Besides, I also learned about the daily administration and operation of the university archives and special collections. Since these archives and special collections have been established for many years, and the archivists have accumulated years of valuable experiences, I learned from them the appropriate methods to establish and manage a successful university archives to document the activities and heritage of a university. I also learned the process to acquire records from various departments, offices, faculty, and students' organizations, etc. systematically and effectively. The archivists at both Wheaton College and Northwestern University not only shared their knowledge with me, but also gave me lots of constructive suggestions and answered many of my queries concerning the operation of archives and special collections.

Attending archivists conferences and workshops

Experiences of other archivists are treasures to a novice like me. Thus, it was important for me to meet archivists from all kinds of archives, and to attend conferences and workshops on archives. During those six months in the United States, I attended two archivists conferences and four workshops. The conferences that I attended were the Society of Californian Archivists Annual Meeting held in San Francisco in late April, and the Midwest Archivists Conference held in Chicago in mid-May. There were many sessions on a great variety of topics, such as electronic resources, copyright issues, and oral history programs. The four workshops I attended were on conservation and preservation, archival reference services, and fundamentals of collection development and appraisal. Many of the conference sessions and workshops were on important topics that were not covered in my internship. For instance, I learned about the importance of collection development and appraisal to a comprehensive archival collection. In the preservation and conservation workshops, I learned some useful solutions to protect our book collection from hookworms and mold. In fact, I find that attending conferences and workshops is an effective way to learn about the latest development in other archives and the experiences of different archivists.

Visits to archives and libraries

The Archives and Special Collections at HKBU is still at an early stage of development. Therefore, we have a lot to learn from other research libraries and archives to improve our collection, administration, and services. This was why I visited different kinds of archives and research libraries including religious archives, university archives, special collections, and research libraries, oral history sections and conservation laboratories in different cities such as Chicago areas, Madison, New Brunswick, San Francisco, and Los Angeles (appendix 1). These archives are different in nature, collection, history of development, and style of management. However, they are all very prestigious and have made distinguished contributions to the academic community.

Some well-developed religious archives I visited were:

1. Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Archives;

2. Archdiocese of Chicago's Joseph Cardinal Bernardin Archives & Records Center in Chicago;

3. United Methodist Church Archives in Madison, New Jersey; and

4. Ricci Institute for Chinese-Western Cultural History of University of San Francisco.

Some of the useful techniques I learned from the archivists of these religious archives include different ways of organizing records of churches and congregations, as well as their systems of collecting records from churches and missionaries. The archivists of Ricci Institute for Chinese-Western Cultural History also shared with me their successful experiences in designing web-base projects, and in launching many joint projects with archives and libraries in Mainland China. This helped me understand some of the proactive means to cultivate inter-institutional co-operation.

The research libraries that I visited include:

1. Newberry Library, Northwestern University Library in Chicago;

2. Bancroft Library and the Center for Chinese Studies Library of University of California at Berkeley; and

3. Alexander Library and East Asian Library of Rutgers University, State University of New Jersey

All these libraries have special collections and university archives with a long history of development. Bancroft Library and University of California at Los Angeles also have very successful oral history programs which preserve the history of the university and the local community. Visits to these research libraries helped me understand more about the actual administration of university archives and special collections. Exposure to these different management systems in archives and special collections enlightened me and gave me many good examples that I could learn from.

Besides research libraries and archives, I also visited different conservation laboratories in the Newberry Library, Northwestern University, United Methodist Church Archives, and Alexander Library. The conservators explained to me on how to make corrugated clamshells and boxes for manuscripts, and they showed me the proper ways to preserve archival materials and to control book worms. They also gave me some manuals on preservation work. All these information is very useful for a library in a hot and humid climate like that in Hong Kong. Having learned some of the latest methods in preservation and conservation, I hope we can find better solution to preserve our library collection in the future.

All in all, my visits to other research libraries and archives are very fruitful. The archivists and librarians I met were all very friendly and helpful. They told me about their achievements and challenges, patiently explaining to me their projects and how they built and managed the archives and special collections. They also gave me constructive suggestions specific to our Special Collections and Archives at HKBU Library.


I have learned so much about archives and special collections management during those six months of training in the United States. The training program has broadened my perspective on archival management and library services, and taught me how a library can take an active role in providing a diversity of services to the community. It also gave me opportunities to build up friendly relationships with other archivists and librarians which would be important in future information exchange and resource sharing. I treasure everything that I have learned in this training program. I am sure I can apply my knowledge to provide better services to the Hong Kong Baptist University as well as the academic community in the region.

Appendix 1. List of archives and research libraries I visited in the United States

1. Alexander Library and East Asian Library, Rutgers University, State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, New Jersey: Special Collections and University Archives, Oral History Program, special projects, conservation laboratory

2. Archdiocese of Chicago's Joseph Cardinal Bernardin Archives & Records Center

3. Bancroft Library, University of California at Berkeley, California: University Archives, reference section, electronic projects, Regional Oral History Office

4. Buswell Memorial Library, Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois: Marion E. Wade Center, College Archives and Special Collections

5. Center for Chinese Studies Library, University of California at Berkeley, California

6. Drew University Library, Madison, New Jersey

7. Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Archives, Chicago, Illinois

8. General Commission on Archives and History, The United Methodist Church, Madison, New Jersey: Archives, and conservation laboratory

9. Newberry Library, Chicago, Illinois: Conservation laboratory, reference section, Special collections and Archives

10. Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois: University Archives, Special Collections, conservation laboratory

11. Ricci Institute for Chinese-Western Cultural History, University of San Francisco, California

12. University of California at Los Angeles, California: Oral History Program

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