The Faith once Digitally Delivered Unto the Saints

Apr.04, 2014

Originally posted on the Brethren Life and Thought blog

As for us, our duty is clear. We should not only obey the complete Gospel, but we should teach it to others. We must accept the faith once delivered to the saints, and keep the ordinances as they have come down to us through the New Testament. While we dare not forbid those who teach and obey but half of the Gospel, we may do well to commend them for the good they do. But it is one thing to commend them for the good they do and quite another to encourage them in the neglect of many of the plain commandments. ((Our Relation to Others Engaged in Good Works,” The Gospel Messenger, January 7, 1905, 9.))

Suppose you wanted to see how Brethren used the beloved phrase of Jude 3 in its booklets, tracts, and papers. As late as 2010, this would have involved having to physically travel to a Brethren library or archive, look through catalogs and finding aids, and then thumb through issue after issue of material. If you were lucky, you could perhaps have microfilm of a Brethren publication sent to your local library, to which you would have to scroll page after page in a similar fashion. However, thanks to the work of the Brethren Digital Archives, many of these publications are now freely accessible and searchable on the internet.

Begun in September 2007, the mission of the Brethren Digital Archives is to digitize some or all of the periodicals produced from the beginning of publication to the year 2000 by each of the Brethren bodies who trace their origin to the baptism near Schwarzenau, Germany in 1708. It consists of twenty partners: archivists, librarians and publishers from every Brethren branch. To date, Brethren Digital Archives has digitized over seven hundred items, including full runs of major publications such as Messenger (beginning Henry Kurtz’s Gospel-Visiter and its variations), The Brethren Evangelist, Brethren Missionary Herald, and Bible Monitor.

One may wonder for the need of a small, volunteered powered organizations like Brethren Digital Archives to form and scan materials. After all, the Google Books Library Project has scanned 20 million book volumes of an estimated 130 million volumes in existence.1 Mainly there is much Google cannot do. Google’s mass digitization currently includes 40 of the largest research libraries in the world.2 This method produces a large number of items scanned on a limited footprint, yet misses many items not included in these libraries.  36% of all cataloged books are only held in one library.3 With over 100,000 libraries in the United States alone, it is unlikely that all these unique items are at the handful of libraries Google has visited.((“Number of Libraries in the United States,” accessed February 24, 2014, http://www.ala.org/tools/libfactsheets/alalibraryfactsheet01.))

Another challenge with the Google mass digitization project is the “scan now, ask questions later” approach to publisher and author rights. This approach brought about the Authors Guild v. Google lawsuit in 2005. While dismissed in November 2013, it is once again being appealed/4 Brethren Digital Archives sought another way, inviting publishers to the table from the very beginning of the project. This partnership has not only avoided possible legal repercussions, but has brought the depth and insight of Brethren publishers and editors to assist with the needs of the project.

Google’s mass digitization project is incredible, and includes many Brethren resources previously available only in the stacks of your local library. However, to successfully digitize the unique resources not available in the world’s elite library collections, local grassroots large-scale digitization projects need to take place.  ”Large-scale projects are more discriminating than mass-digitization projects. Although they do produce a lot of scanned pages, they are concerned about the creation of collections and about producing complete sets of documents.”5

A slow, intentional, dare I say Brethren, approach to such a project does have advantages. Two key advantages are accessibility and quality. Partnering with publishers, Brethren Digital Archives has been able to have candid conversations about open access from day one. Other digitization projects have brought about limited availability to many materials still in copyright, either through a “snippet view” feature or subscription paywalls.  Brethren Digital Archives sought to balance the current economic realities of publishers with the desire to have free open access to historical documents, and agreed to have copyright released up to the year 2000 for all publications when possible. Mass digitization without quality control often brings about, as have been chronicled in the The Art of Google Books blog, a variety of errors.6 Taking the time to select the best available copies of materials, followed by a careful inspection of the scanned product has avoided many of the errors possible with such a project. While aged documents will never look brand new in the digital medium, one can faithfully reproduce what exists.

What remains for Brethren Digital Archives and similar efforts?  Plenty. Since Henry Kurtz took to the printing press in 1851 there have been over 250 Brethren periodicals published. Only twenty-seven of these have been digitized. Many of these publications have only one or two known copies, and are quickly deteriorating. Beyond the 250 Brethren periodicals are a world of Brethren affiliated blogs and websites, many of which could disappear today with a click of a button. In some ways the history of the past decade is in a more fragile condition than that of the past three centuries before. The ongoing work of such projects is important to pass on “the faith once delivered to the saints.”

By Eric Bradley

Eric Bradley is Reference and Instruction Librarian at Goshen College, as well as Project Coordinator for the Brethren Digital Archives.  His professional interests include next generation library development, theological librarianship, and historical research in the Believers’ Church traditions.  He and his son Neil love the Lake Michigan shoreline.

  1. Sophia Pearson and Bob Van Voris, “Google Wins Dismissal of Lawsuit over Digital Books Project,” BusinessWeek: Undefined, November 14, 2013, http://www.businessweek.com/news/2013-11-14/google-wins-summary-judgment-in-digital-books-copyright-case. []
  2. “Library Partners,” Google Books, accessed February 24, 2014, http://books.google.com/googlebooks/library/partners.html. []
  3. Brian F. Lavoie and Roger C. Schonfeld, “Books without Boundaries: A Brief Tour of the System-Wide Print Book Collection,” Journal of Electronic Publishing 9, no. 2 (Summer 2006), doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.3998/3336451.0009.208. []
  4. Claire Cain Miller and Julie Bosman, “Siding with Google, Judge Says Book Search Does Not Infringe Copyright,” The New York Times, November 14, 2013, sec. Business Day / Media & Advertising, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/15/business/media/judge-sides-with-google-on-book-scanning-suit.html. []
  5. Karen Coyle, “Mass Digitization of Books,” The Journal of Academic Librarianship 32, no. 6 (November 2006): 242, doi:10.1016/j.acalib.2006.08.002. []
  6. “The Art of Google Books,” accessed February 24, 2014, http://theartofgooglebooks.tumblr.com. []

Brethren Digital Archives Newsletter Released

Jun.06, 2012

Originally posted on BMH Editor’s Blog June 8, 2012.

The summer issue of the Brethren Digital Archives News has been delivered to inboxes around the country.

The newsletter includes information about publications from the Brethren movement that have been archived at the Internet Archive.

Hard copies of the newsletter will also be available at Brethren conferences in the U.S. this summer.

The mission of the Brethren Digital Archives is to digitize some or all of the periodicals produced from the beginning of publication to the year 2000 by each of the Brethren bodies who trace their origin to the baptism near Schwarzenau, Germany in 1708. Groups participating in the collaborative effort include the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, the Conservative Grace Brethren International, the Church of the Brethren, the Dunkard Brethren, the Old German Baptist Brethren (New Conference), the Old German Baptist Brethren, and colleges, libraries, and archives affiliated with those groups.

Brethren Digital Archives project enters Phase 2

May.05, 2012

Originally posted on Church of the Brethren Newsline May 3, 2012.

Brethren Digital Archives group meets to start Phase 2 of digitizing project for Brethren periodicals
Photo by Liz Cutler Gates
The Brethren Digital Archives group met April 23, 2012, at the Brethren Heritage Center in Brookeville, Ohio. The project is entering into a Phase 2 of digitizing historical Brethren periodicals.

The Brethren Digital Archives committee met on April 23 at the Brethren Heritage Center in Brookeville, Ohio. The group is guiding a project to digitize Brethren periodicals and publications.

In attendance were Terry Barkley, Virginia Harness, Larry Heisey, Eric Bradley, Gary Kocheiser, Liz Cutler Gates, Steve Bayer, as well as Jeff Bach and Jeanine Wine via conference call. Three different Brethren groups were represented at the meeting: Church of the Brethren, Grace Brethren, and Old German Baptist Brethren. The Dunkard Brethren are also involved in the project, but unfortunately their representative was unable to attend this meeting.

Periodicals to be scanned for the archive from the Brethren Historical Library and Archives (BHLA) in the next phase of the project include “The Brethren’s Missionary Visitor,” “Der Bruderbote,” “The Gospel Messenger,” and the “Progressive Christian.” Other periodicals will be scanned from various institutions, including Bridgewater (Va.) College and Elizabethtown (Pa.) College.

The most extensive undertaking will be “The Gospel Messenger,” which is bound by year in 82 volumes, many of which are oversized. The group also hopes to include the various Brethren almanacs in the digitization project at some point in the future.

This is the second phase of periodicals to be digitized. The hope is to scan from originals, as in Phase 1, but some periodicals may have to be scanned from microfilm.

Check out the publications already available in the online archive at http://archive.org/details/brethrendigitalarchives . Periodicals can be read online, or downloaded in a variety of forms including PDF. The text is searchable, and there is an audio component to hear the text read out loud.

Some funds remain from Phase 1, but additional fundraising efforts will be needed to meet the needs of this next phase. The committee plans to meet again in March of next year.

– Virginia Harness is archival intern for the Brethren Historical Library and Archives at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill.

Digital Archives Committee Meets

Apr.04, 2012

Originally posted on the BMH Editor’s Blog April 24, 2012.

The Brethren Digital Archives committee met on Monday, April 23.

As the first phase of digitizing historic Brethren publications nears completion, the Brethren Digital Archives committee met Monday in Brookville, Ohio. The Brethren Heritage Center hosted the meeting.

The group reviewed the list of publications yet to be scanned and made plans to be certain the work is accomplished. They also discussed promoting the project among the cooperating groups. While much of the effort has been funded through a grant from Lyrasis, the nation’s largest regional membership organization for libraries and information professionals, additional monies still need to be raised to complete this first phase.

Digitized Items Posted

Nov.11, 2011

Since August over 400 items from various Brethren archives, libraries and publishers have been digitized as part of Phase 1 of the Brethren Digital Archives project.  These items can now be viewed at Internet Archive at http://www.archive.org/details/brethrendigitalarchives/.

Call for Volunteers to Check Digitized Pages

Jun.06, 2011

Brethren Digital Archives

Digitized Brethren Periodicals Dating from 1851 to 2000

—-Volunteers Needed! —-

Review each digitized page on-line at www.archives.org for:

  • Missing pages
  • Pages in correct order
  • Correct metadata
  • Image quality

Each volunteer will be assigned a periodical and date range to review.

To offer assistance with this very important work, please contact BDA coordinator Eric Bradley, eric AT ericbradley DOT com to register.

May God bless you!

Scanning Work to Begin Soon on Brethren Publications

Mar.03, 2011

From the BMH Editor’s Blog

On online archives of Brethren publications from the mid-19th century to the year 2000 is nearing reality as the Brethren Digital Archives committee met on Monday, March 28 at Winona Lake, Ind. With more than $15,000 in hand the group is ready to begin scanning the first set of old documents, many of which are crumbling on library shelves.

At today’s meeting, the group made plans to begin delivering publications to scanning centers by early summer. They have partnered with Lyrasis, the nation’s largest regional membership organization for libraries and information professionals, to see the venture completed. It is hoped to scan 22 periodicals and 10 almanacs that are attributed to the Brethren movement as part of this first phase. The final documents will be available at no charge on the Internet Archive.

Included in this project are publications attributed to the Grace Brethren movement: the Brethren Missionary Herald magazine, which published from 1939 to 1996 and two academic journals published by Grace Theological Seminary, Grace Journal (1960-1973), and Grace Theological Journal (1980-1991).

The Brethren Digital Archives committee met today at CE National in Winona Lake, Ind.

A second phase will begin as soon as funds are raised. This will include oversized publications and ones that are not bound, which is a requirement of the grant under which the first phase is being done.

If you would like to donate to the archives project, donations may be sent to the Brethren Missionary Herald Company, Box 544, Winona Lake, Ind., 46590, or the Brethren Heritage Center, 428 Wolf Creek St. Suite No. H1, Brookville, OH 45309-1297. Be sure to designate Brethren Digital Archives with your gift.

Volunteers are also needed to check the accuracy of the documents once they are scanned. If you would like to help, call the Brethren Heritage Center at (937) 833-5222 or email mail@brethrenheritagecenter.org.

Brethren Digital Archives News is Out

Dec.12, 2010

The first Brethren Digital Archives newsletter is available, check it out at the link below.

BDA Newsletter 1.1

Welcome to the first edition of the newsletter for the Brethren Digital Archives.

We are representatives of the various groups that trace our spiritual heritage  to Alexander Mack and have partnered to create a digital archive of our various  publications.

This newsletter will be sent regularly to individuals who are interested in this important project. If you would like to receive it via email, please register with your email address at our website, brethrendigitalarchives.org.

Press Release: Archives Project to Move 19th Century Documents into the 21st Century

Sep.09, 2010

To view PDF of this press release, click here.

For immediate release (September 22, 2010)
For more information, contact Larry E Heisey, leheisey@gmail.com, (937) 339-1995
Photos are available. Contact Liz Gates, lcgates@bmhbooks.com, to access the online archive.

Archives Project to Move 19th Century Documents into the 21st Century

A 1911 issue of The Gospel Messenger, the official publication of the Church of the Brethren.

Moving the 19th century into the 21st century might seem an impossible task, but the Brethren Digital Archives hopes to accomplish just that by making available digital copies of old printed publications, some that date back to 1854.

The group plans an online archive of newspapers, magazines, journals, and almanacs produced by the various Brethren groups that trace their spiritual heritage to Alexander Mack and the baptism of eight believers in Schwarzenau, Germany in 1708. The documents to be included in the project span the years 1854 to 2000.

The Brethren Digital Archives committee has partnered with Lyrasis, the nation’s largest regional membership organization serving libraries and information professionals, to create an online archive of Brethren documents printed in the U.S. from the mid-1800s to 2000. Grant funds make it possible to scan these publications at a rate far below the original $150,000 estimate. Now it is hoped to complete the project, including oversized documents, for approximately $50,000.

Much of this funding must be raised before the end of the year, to ensure the project gets underway. The grant which makes the costs so attractive runs out at the end of 2010 and while there is hope the grant will be extended, there is no promise. Gifts to the project may be made through the Brethren Heritage Center, 428 Wolf Creek St., Suite H1, Brookville, OH 45309-1297. (Be sure to specify Brethren Digital Archives with your gift.)

Meeting of the Brethren Digital Archives committee at Brookville, Ohio, September 13, 2010.

There are also volunteer opportunities for individuals to help check the accuracy of the documents once they are scanned. If you are able to help, call the Brethren Heritage Center at (937) 833-5222.

The committee requests prayer for the project, as well, asking that the work would be completed well and in a timely fashion. They also want to be good stewards of the funds that have been provided for the work that is to be done.

Plans are being made to scan the following documents and make them available on the Web:
Ashland Theological Journal (1981-2000)
Bible Monitor (1922-2000)
Christian Family Companion (1865-1873)
Christian Family Companion and Gospel Visitor (1874-1875)
Der Brüderbote (1875-1877)
Der Brüderbote (1880-1892)
Der Evangelische Besuch (1852-1861)
Grace Journal (1960-1973)
Grace Theological Journal (1980-1991)
Messenger (1965-2000)
Schwarzenau (1939-1942)
The Brethren at Work (1876-1883)
The Brethren Evangelist (1885-2000) and The Brethren’s Evangelist (1883-1884)
The Brethren Missionary Herald (1939-1996)
The Brethren’s Missionary Visitor (1894-1896)
The Gospel Messenger (1883-1964)
The Gospel Preacher (1879-1882)
The Gospel Visitor (1857-1873) and The Monthly Gospel-Visitor (1851-1856)
The Inglenook (1900-1913)
The Missionary Visitor (1902-1930)
The Pilgrim (1870-1871 & 1875-1876) and The Weekly Pilgrim (1872-1874)
The Pilgrim (1954-2000)
The Primitive Christian (1876 & 1880-1883) and The Primitive Christian and Pilgrim (1876-1879)
The Progressive Christian (1878-1882)

In addition, almanacs published by Brethren groups in the late 19th century will be included. So far, this includes:
The Brethren’s Almanac (Holsinger, 1871-1874)
Pilgrim Almanac (Brumbaughs, 1873-1874)
The Brethren Family Almanac (Brumbaughs & Quinter who had purchased Holsinger, 1875)
Brethren’s Almanac (Brumbaugh’s & Quinter, 1876-1879)
The Brethren’s Family Almanac (1880-1917, ‘s dropped in 1903)
Brethren Annual (started by Holsinger about 1884 with almanac format until 1915-1924)
The Brethren’s Family Almanac, 1875, J. Quinter
The Brethren’s Annual For the Year of Grace, 1885 (Holsinger)
Our Almanac and Annual Register, 1880, 1883, 1885 (Kurtz)
The Brethren at Work, Almanac and Annual Register for All The People, 1882, Brethren At Work Steam Printing House

Some of the Brethren Digital Archives committee (left to right): Liz Cutler Gates, Brethren Missionary Herald; Darryl Filbrun, Old German Baptist Brethren, New Conference; Gary Kochheiser, Conservative Grace Brethren; Steve Bayer, Old German Baptist Brethren; Paul Stump, Brethren Heritage Center; Eric Bradley, Morgan Library, Grace College and Seminary; Larry Heisey, Brethren Heritage Center. Seated, Shirley Frick, Bible Monitor.

The Brethren Digital Archives is a collaborative effort of publishers, libraries, and archives affiliated with the various branches of the Brethren movement. Partners in the project are:
• Bethany Theological Seminary / Lilly Library
• Ashland University / Library / Brethren Church / Archives
• Brethren Church / The Brethren Evangelist
• Brethren Heritage Center
• Brethren Historical Library and Archives
• Brethren Journal Association / Brethren Life & Thought
• Bridgewater College / Alexander Mack Library
• Grace College and Seminary / Morgan Library
• Church of the Brethren / Messenger
• Conservative Grace Brethren / The Voice Newsletter
• Dunkard Brethren / Bible Monitor
• Elizabethtown College / High Library / Young Center for Anabaptist & Pietist Studies
• Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches / Brethren Missionary Herald
• Juniata College / Beeghly Library
• Manchester College Archives and Brethren Historical Collection / Funderburg Library
• McPherson College / Miller Library
• Old German Baptist Brethren Church New Conference / The Testimony
• Old German Baptist Brethren Church / The Vindicator
• Old Brethren / The Pilgrim

For more information, see brethrendigitalarchives.org.

Brethren Digital Archives Moves Closer toward Accomplishing its Mission

Sep.09, 2010

Availability of old Brethren publications is closer to reality as the Brethren Digital Archives moves toward accomplishing its mission.

The Archives committee hopes to create a digital record of documents produced by the various Brethren groups that trace their spiritual heritage to Alexander Mack.

Meeting Monday, September 13, at the Brethren Heritage Center in Brookville, Ohio, the committee made further plans to partner to Lyrasis to create an online archive of documents printed in the mid-1800s to 2000. Grant funds make it possible to scan these publications at a rate far below the original $150,000 estimate. Now it is hoped to complete the project, including oversized documents, for approximately $50,000.

Much of this funding needs to be raised before the end of the year, to ensure the project gets underway. The grant which makes the costs so attractive runs out at the end of 2010 and while there is hope the grant will be extended, there is no promise. Gifts to the project may be made through the Brethren Missionary Herald Company, Box 544, Winona Lake, Ind., or the Brethren Heritage Center, 428 Wolf Creek St., Suite No. H1, Brookville, OH 45309-1297. (Be sure to specify Brethren Digital Archives with your gift.)

There are also volunteer opportunities for individuals to help check the accuracy of the documents once they are scanned. If you are able to help, contact the Brethren Heritage Center at 937-833-5222.

The committee requests prayer for the project, as well, asking that the work would be completed well and in a timely fashion. They also want to be good stewards of the funds that have been provided for the work that is to be done.

Plans are being made to scan the following documents and make them available on the Web:

Ashland Theological Journal
Bible Monitor (1922-2000)
Christian Family Companion (1865-1873)
Christian Family Companion and Gospel Visitor (1874-1875)
Der Brüderbote (1875-1877)
Der Brüderbote (1880-1892)
Der Evangelische Besuch (1852-1861)
Grace Journal (1960-1973)
Grace Theological Journal (1980-1991)
Messenger (1965-2000)
Schwarzenau (1939-1942)
The Brethren at Work (1876-1883)
The Brethren Evangelist (1885-2000) and The Brethren’s Evangelist (1883-1884)
The Brethren Missionary Herald (1939-1996)
The Brethren’s Missionary Visitor (1894-1896)
The Gospel Messenger (1883-1964)
The Gospel Preacher (1879-1882)
The Gospel Visitor (1857-1873) and The Monthly Gospel-Visiter (1851-1856)
The Inglenook (1900-1913)
The Missionary Visitor (1902-1930)
The Pilgrim (1870-1871 & 1875-1876) and The Weekly Pilgrim (1872-1874)
The Pilgrim (1954-2000)
The Primitive Christian (1876 & 1880-1883) and The Primitive Christian and Pilgrim (1876-1879)
The Progressive Christian (1878-1882)

In addition, almanacs published by Brethren groups in the late 19th century will be included. So far, this includes:

The Brethren’s Almanac (Holsinger, 1871-1874)
Pilgrim Almanac (Brumbaughs, 1873-1874)
The Brethren Family Almanac (Brumbaughs & Quinter who had purchased Holsinger, 1875)
Brethren’s Almanac (Brumbaugh’s & Quinter, 1876-1879)
The Brethren’s Family Almanac (1880-1917, ‘s dropped in 1903)
Brethren Annual (started by Holsinger about 1884 with almanac format until 1915-1924)
The Brethren’s Family Almanac, 1875, J. Quinter
The Brethren’s Annual For the Year of Grace 1885 (Holsinger)
Our Almanac and Annual Register, 1880, 1883, 1885 (Kurtz)
The Brethren at Work, Almanac and Annual Register for All The People, 1882, Brethren At Work Steam Printing House

Some of the Brethren Digital Archives committee (left to right): Liz Cutler Gates, Brethren Missionary Herald; Darryl Filbrun, Old German Baptist Brethren, New Conference; Gary Kochheiser, Conservative Grace Brethren; Steve Bayer, Old German Baptist Brethren; Paul Stump, Brethren Heritage Center; Eric Bradley, Morgan Library, Grace College & Seminary; Larry Heisey, Brethren Heritage Center. Seated, Shirley Frick, Bible Monitor.

The Brethren Digital Archives is a collaborative effort of publishers, libraries, and archives affiliated with the various branches of the Brethren movement.  For more information, see Brethren Digital Archives.

Portions from BMH Editor’s Blog