The Brethren Digital Archive committee met today in Ashland, Ohio. The group is working to digitize historical Brethren publications from the mid-1800s until 2000, including issues of the Brethren Missionary Herald.
The Brethren Digital Archives includes representatives of the groups that trace their history to Alexander Mack and the group of eight people who were baptized in the Eider River in Schwarzenau, Germany. On today’s agenda is to select a vendor who will begin work on the first phase of the project, which includes all English-language publications of the groups prior to 1883.
For more information, see http://www.brethrendigitalarchives.org/.
The Brethren Digital Archives (BDA) now has a website at www.brethrendigitalarchives.org . The website includes background about the project, the mission statement, a list of the partners, news, and contact information. There are plans to add an option for online contributions.
The website was introduced at the BDA meeting on March 4-5 held in Winona Lake, IN and hosted by the Brethren Missionary Herald office. A significant portion of the meeting was spent evaluating vendors interested in digitizing Brethren periodicals. Also considered were digitizing standards, fundraising, promotion, and by-laws. There were tours of the Manchester College library and archives, the Grace College library and archives, and the facilities of the HF Group in North Manchester, IN, one of the potential vendors. The next BDA meeting is scheduled for June 28 in Ashland, OH.
The mission of the Brethren Digital Archives is to digitize Brethren periodicals produced from the 1851 through 2000 by each of the Brethren groups who trace their origin to the baptism near Schwarzenau, Germany, in 1708. The first Brethren periodical was begun in 1851 by Henry Kurtz and titled The Monthly Gospel-Visiter.
The first periodicals to be digitized will be those published before 1880, documents that are common to all the groups. Plans are now being made to raise funds for the first phase, which includes 49 volumes, 1,504 issues, and 23,000 images or pages. It could cost up to $40,000 for the first phase.
At their meeting on June 3, 2009, the Brethren Digital Archives (BDA) adopted the following mission statement: “To digitize with maximum searchability Brethren periodicals produced from the beginning of publication to the year 2000.” The word Brethren in the statement refers to bodies that trace their origin to the baptism near Schwarzenau, Germany, in 1708. The group plans to produce a digital archives according to nationally recognized standards that can be made available to researchers through the various participating Brethren bodies. Some Brethren periodicals have been transferred to microfilm for preservation, but microfilm is not searchable on a computer.
Brethren periodicals provide a great deal of historical data and theological information about the Brethren. Included in their pages are Bible study articles, intense theological debates, accounts of missionaries, reports on Annual Meetings, family history information, and sometimes photographs.
The ultimate goal of the BDA is to digitize Brethren periodicals beginning with The Monthly Gospel-Visiter begun by Henry Kurtz in 1851 and ending with all Brethren periodicals being published at the end of the twentieth century. The first phase of the project would include the periodicals published before the divisions of the early 1880s.
The June 3 meeting was hosted by the Brethren Historical Library and Archives in Elgin, IL. Three earlier meetings of the group were hosted by the Brethren Heritage Center in Brookville, OH. The next meeting is scheduled to be hosted by the Young Center in Elizabethtown, PA. These meetings are historic in that for the first time they include archivists, librarians, and historians from many Brethren bodies.