Billy Graham Center

(The documents and images featured in this exhibit are for the personal use of students, scholars and the public. Any commercial use or publication of them is strictly prohibited.)

from PHOTO FILE:  Collins, Laura Neva 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 other day I rec'd a letter from the St. Louis, Mo. paper asking that I send them material sufficient concerning my work to fill a page in their Sunday issue, with such pictures of myself and natives as I would care to have published.

In subsequent paragraphs Collins expressed some reluctance to cooperate with the paper. Young passed Collins' letter on to Mr. Palmer, AIM's Director of North America, whose reply of 1/19/1914 directs her to limit her cooperation with the publication. In her 2/15/1914 reply to Palmer, Collins concurs with his advice, but then points to the new problem of a suggestion that she use her photographs to raise funds, a practice which would deviate from mission practice.

I have ordered a stereoptican [projector for stereo slides]. They wanted me to do so and now they suggest of taking up a collection or charging admission at the door when I show the pictures.

The images, which include Collins' own labels, comprise two sets. The first illustrates AIM's work in Kenya. Collins may or may not have taken these photographs herself, but they do show scenes from her time of service there. This set also includes one image from the Belgian Congo and another from Uganda. The second set is something of a mystery, consisting of pictures of the work of Presbyterian missionaries in south central Cameroon. Some of these and perhaps all could not have been taken before 1899 or after 1903. Whether Collins was given these negatives or they were at some point, perhaps after her death, boxed with her negatives, is unknown.

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.

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   Click to go to a complete series of miniatures of all the images

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Last Revised: 6/21/01
Expiration: indefinite

Wheaton College 2005