Founded in 1853, the Congregational Library & Archives holds over 250,000 items documenting the history of one of the nation's oldest and most influential
Operating as usual
We continue to update our digitized collections within "New England's Hidden Histories" courtesy of National Endowment for the Humanities. The latest batch comes from our valued partners at Maine Historical Society .
William is back this week with a new collection highlight, this time looking at the Newton, MA. Central Congregational Church records, 1868-2003.
This collection is one of the largest held by the CLA at over 36 cubic feet. The collection contains a vast trove of records including membership records, manuscript sermons, vital records, auxillary group records, newsletters, and photographs. All told the collection offers us an incredibly detailed look at daily church life in suburban New England during the 19th and 20th centuries!
Here at the CLA book club we're reading University of Minnesota History Department Professor Jean O'Brien's "Firsting and Lasting: Writing Indians out of Existence in New England" - feel free to join us!
Learn about the delightful early children's book known as The New England Primer, in this blog by our librarian Sara. Unlike the dime-a-dozen textbooks of today, early editions of the Primer with their woodcut illustrations and alphabetized couplets were often "loved to death". They also evidence Puritan society's concern with early childhood reading and letters - contrary to some popular depictions! http://www.congregationallibrary.org/blog/202011/adam-new-england-primer-congregational-library
This past week CLA staff read and discussed the book, "Lies My Teacher Told Me" by James W. Loewen. During our discussions we talked about the lack of primary sources in highschool classrooms and how the CLA's own digital collections can help change that.
Answers very but we hope to do more work to make our digital content accessible to educators and to do all that we can to make our records accessible to as many people as possible.
Read the whole post here: bit.ly/3e9iB8o
Today, Billy highlights the library's collection of Churchman's League records, an organization active throughout the 20th century with the goal of promoting civic righteousness, social justice, and the general improvement of society.
Today is #AskAnArchivist Day! Our archivists are ready to answer any and all questions you might have for us; no question is too serious or too silly. Leave a comment below with your question and we'll be sure to respond.
Hoping to hear from many of you today!
Do you have any questions for the CLA's resident archivists? If so, you are in luck! Tomorrow (October 7) is Ask an Archivist Day and to celebrate, Zack, Billy, and Jules will be answering your questions here on Facebook and Twitter! #AskAnArchivist
We are so excxited to announce that the CLA will be participating in this years #AskAnArchivist Day on October, 7!
So, get your questions ready as the entire archival team at the CLA, Zachary, William, and Jules, will be answering them all day as they come. All questions are welcome! No question is too theoretical, practical, silly, or humorous!
For more information on this event and how you may participate, read our news post here: https://bit.ly/3cPWfrP
As you might have guessed by these posts, access is kinda important to us. And improving access means not only implementing new tools or creating more linked data, it also means finding what has been repressed and bringing it forward to an expanded audience.
In this mode of access, Jules, in collaboration with numerous scholars, has been working on expanding and improving our finding guide for records relating to Black, Indigenous, and other people of color within our 17th-19th century collections. We hope to see this new finding aid released soon!
And in the meantime, Jules highlights the Abyssinian Church from Portland Maine, whose records are online as part of the NEHH Project, which was founded as a Black Congregational church in 1828 from disaffected parishioners of the Second Congregational Church who had endured racial animus and segregation from the majority white church.
Special thanks to the Maine Historical Society! It's only because of their work that the CLA can provide digital images of the Abyssinian Church records.
18th-century handwriting is difficult to read in the best of circumstances, and chances are, as you leaf through a random volume of church records, the circumstances are not going to be the best. I've learned that the hard way many, many times over.
Transcription though can provide important access to handwritten materials for those who are not trained in reading old manuscripts, and even those who are trained. To provide better access to materials digitized as part of NEHH, the CLA has provided surrogate transcriptions for a percentage of our total digital holdings. But in the months and years to come, the CLA hopes that with new technologies, and even the DAMS system, we will be able to provide even more transcription, and text reading, capabilities to our wide-ranging audience.
History is replete with imagery and metaphors that are indiscernible to modern audiences. Today's memes will become yesteryear's political cartoons, like this mid 19th-century image of a dough-face. Yet understanding such imagery is often key to fully grasping the meaning and context of primary source material.
Sara details the difficulty we all have with understanding primary resources. But we are not without tool! And the entire staff of the CLA are always ready to assist anyone with understanding primary sources, regardless of their researcher skill level.
History is full of differing values and opposing views. This is just as true for Congregationalists. The Conscientious Objectors World War II papers, 1940-1946, offers a unique opportunity to survey the various views of Congregationalists towards World War II.
William McCarthy describes in detail the historic value of this collection. Especially important and vital to the collection are the forms which "provide a snapshot into why people would not be willing to engage in military service in their own words."
The CLA staff are back in the office and that means we have been able to renew our acquisitions workflows and process new materials. But it has also led to some rethinking of how we go about working with potential donors.
Zachary writes for the Beacon Street Diary this week to talk a bit about the acquisition of born-digital materials. These records are just as important as a record book from 1847 and must be a part of the CLA's mission to collect, preserve, and make accessible the memories of Congregationalism. Fortunately, the CLA is well positioned already to undertake the steps necessary to properly handle born-digital records.
One does not simply write in a library book. However, when examining books from the past, paratextual additions by past owners and readers can offer amazing insights into book culture and provenance.
Using examples of marginalia and other types of paratextual additions from the CLA's collections, Sara show just how important these additions are to truly understanding the history of a book, and of it's reader.
Today William McCarthy brings another excellent collection highlight to the Beacon Street Diary, this time highlighting the papers of Edna and Loy Long.
These two were missionaries who took three trips to India. Much of this collection of personal papers relates to their work in Ahmednagar, India. Especially prominent in the collection are the Long's personal bulletins, titled "The Long's Broadcast," which covered such diverse topics as the work of Mahatma Gandhi to the local neighborhood house the couple managed.
Exhibits have always been an incredibly important part of the CLA's mission for outreach and access. Today, Zachary, writes for the Beacon Street Diary about the role of digital exhibits in today's world.
Unfortunately, right as the CLA finished renovations on our new exhibit space, the global pandemic forces us, and most other cultural institutions, to close our doors to the public. The result has been a renaissance of digital exhibits which can accomplish much of what a physical exhibition can.
The staff share some of their favorite new and ongoing digital exhibits in this post; and now we ask you to share with us some of your favorites bellow in the comments!
Jules Thomson is back with another highlight from our New England's Hidden Histories collection. As she writes, there is hardly "a more comprehensive Hidden Histories collection than that relating to Congregational and Separatist minister John Cleaveland (1722-1799).
John Cleaveland's papers and sermons document his history and tremendous career from his expulsion from Yale to his experiences during the French and Indian War, to his sometimes fraught attempts to court Mary (nee Dodge), to his time sermon railing against British tyranny. This collection of personal papers, financial records, and manuscript sermons, offer an invaluable insight into early New England revival culture, as well as just the religious and social lives of 18th century Americans.
These digital records were made available only through the work of our partners at the Phillips Library of the Peabody Essex Museum.
As someone who regularly handles archival records that predate the formation of the United States of America, this Beacon Street Diary entry by Sara about the relative nature of "old" really speaks to me.
Old can mean so many different things to different people. And even the question "What is the oldest item at the CLA?" can have so many different meanings. However no matter what, we at the CLA are so glad to make these "old" materials freely available to our users.
Nature and Congregational history meet in this vivid blog post by our library director, Tom Clark. Join Tom on a walk through the woods as he describes the environs of the Second Parish in Gloucester, Mass.
The backbone of cultural history is the writings and experiences of everyday men and women. And the CLA's archival collection contain many examples of personal diaries and papers including this week's collection highlight!
William brings us yet another amazing collection highlight this week: the papers of Edward Franklin Williams! This facinating collection, originally held by the Chicago Theological Seminary before making its way to the CLA, includes the personal papers of the Congregational minister, E. F. Williams and includes diaries, lecture notes, and manuscript sermons.
For those interested, the CLA isn't the only place to find Williams' papers; the Amistad Research Center
To say that the Salem Witchcraft Trials permeate US popular culture is an understatement; but what have we lost in the process? For one, we have collectively forgotten that the trials occurred over the summer of 1692 and not during October!
This week Jules has provided the Beacon Street Diary with an amazingly well written piece exploring just that question. She also highlights recent efforts to reorient discussions of the Salem Witchcraft Trials, including the CLA's own part in digitizing previously unavailable trial documents from the Peabody Essex Museum!
From 1911 to 1926 the CLA had a subscription to The Crisis, the official magazine of the NAACP, which are now a part of our permanent collections and an incredibly important resource.
In this entry in the Beacon Street Diary, Sara takes a look at the history of The Crisis and offers some important context for why the CLA holds these magazines. For those who want to explore these magazines, especially the incredible photography found within, you can at UPENN: https://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/webbin/serial?id=crisisnaacp
In an article for the Political Theology Network, the CLA's executive director, Stephen Butler Murray, crafts a masterful response, and rebuke, to "John Milbank’s twitter bombshell" and his "casual dismissal of contextual and liberation theologies." In the article, Stephen explores his own important lessons learned from "black, womanist, LGBTQ, and feminist theologians" and how "Williams encouraged me, as a theologian, to be a minister in a variety of contexts, to purposefully place myself in uncomfortable situations, to expand my world beyond what I knew already."
Williams encouraged me, as a theologian, to be a minister in a variety of contexts, to purposefully place myself in uncomfortable situations, to expand my world beyond what I knew already.
The CLA is happy to announce that a revision of our popular Records Management for Churches booklet and workshop is currently in the works. It is still in the early stages but it's hoped that the booklet will come out in the coming months.
But in preparation for this, Zachary has spent a bit of time outlining some of the steps your church can take to begin drafting a records retention program. It can seem incredibly daunting, but the end result is incredibly valuable to your church and church community. And as always, the CLA, and it's staff, are always happy to lend a helping hand!
Church records are an incredible source of information and they hold the memories not only of the administration of the church, but of the people who were members of the church.
Our processing and reference archivist, William McCarthy, processed the materials of the 2nd Church in Dorchester, Mass. and found a plethora of unique materials that told an amazing story about the church and it's people. Today, William, details some of his finds from this important collection.
Diaries are an incredibly important resource, especially within the field of social history. There is nothing quite like looking at history through the eyes of an everyday person living through it.
Today, on our own Beacon Street Diary, Jules has compiled a list of all the diaries which the CLA has digitized as part of the New England's Hidden Histories project. This is a significant collection of personal diaries whose authors "include farmers, the proprietor of a forge, clergymen, missionaries, and even Cotton Mather himself." And they diary of Mary Cleaveland especially provides a rare 18th-century look at history from a woman's perspective.
He may be cute and fuzzy, but this bookworm can be a menace to print culture and rare books.
Sara uses today's entry in the Beacon Street Diary to shed some light on bookworms, and all the other types of creatures which endevor to devour books, paper, and leather, in this incredibly humor filled post.
Librarian and archivist friends, what creepy crawlies have you unexpectedly found when handling new acquisitions?
We are easily accessible by public transportation and encourage visitors to use the MBTA. The nearest subway stop is Park Street Station, at the intersection of the Red Line and Green Line. Upon exiting Park Street Station, turn left and walk up Park Street, toward the Massachusetts State House. Turn right on Beacon Street. The library is located on the second floor of 14 Beacon Street. It is less than a five-minute walk from the Park Street station.
The Congregational Library & Archives is an independent special collections library and archives located on the second floor of the Congregational House at 14 Beacon Street in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts. The Library was founded in 1853 by a gathering of Congregational ministers and has since evolved into a professional library and archives that holds more than 250,000 items, predominantly focused on 18th to 21st century American Congregational history. The Library's reading room is free and open to the public for research but the Library's stacks are closed and book borrowing privileges are extended exclusively to members. The Library welcomes visitors and researchers of all backgrounds and experience level, from folks with a passing interest in history to family genealogists to scholars utilizing our collection for a thesis.
If you have any questions, please send a message via Facebook or an email to [email protected] and a member of our team will respond to you as soon as possible. Please visit our website If you would like to browse our online catalog, become a member, or learn more about our New England's Hidden Histories program.
Be the first to know and let us send you an email when Congregational Library & Archives posts news and promotions. Your email address will not be used for any other purpose, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
Contact The Museum
Send a message to Congregational Library & Archives:
Welcome to CLA's History Matters lecture with David Powers!
Welcome to CLA's History Matters program featuring Michelle Coughlin's Lecture- Plymouth Colony First Lady Penelope Pelham Winslow
Welcome to CLA's History Matters: Who Are You, Phillis Wheatley? Lecture with Historian Richard Kigel
Heather Curtis Live from the Congregational Library and Archives
Paving the Way for Pluralism: Mainline Protestant Responses to Immigration During the Twentieth Century
Immigrants and refugees over the last century contributed significantly to U.S. culture, helping challenge the Anglo-Protestant norms that dominated American society for most of the nation’s history. An important part of this history is the response of white mainline Protestants. Through their home mission programs and political activism, mainline Protestants began gradually tolerating the cultural diversity of immigrants, refugees, and ethnic Americans, while still hoping to maintain the nation’s Protestant identity. On the political scene, liberal Protestant leaders advocated immigration reform and challenged the restrictive and racist policies in place since 1924. Such hopes for reform were realized in 1965 when the national origins system was overturned, allowing for increasing immigration from Asia and Latin America. This change in policy, however, would have unintended consequences, for it would soon sponsor a more robust pluralism that would eclipse the social dominance of white Protestants.
About the Speaker:
Nick Pruitt is a Visiting Assistant Professor of History at Eastern Nazarene College. He completed a BA in History at Wayland Baptist University, an MA in Church-State Studies at Baylor University, and a Ph.D. in History also at Baylor. His research interests are primarily in the history of American religion and culture. He is the author of an essay on the role of religion in the novels of Eudora Welty published in Southern Quarterly and the editor of a collection of essays on Texas Baptists during the Civil War under contract with Louisiana State University Press.
Add Women & Stir: Liberal Women in Conservative Times: Progressive Churchwomen in the Years Before “The Feminine Mystique”
During the 1940's and 1950's, an era usually associated with bobby sox and happy housewives, thousands of women in mainline Protestant churches were pursuing a radical social vision. The largest organization, Church Women United, forged an interracial campaign for civil rights, supported the UN, and protested nuclear weapons. Their leaders met with Eleanor Roosevelt and President Truman, leading atomic scientists, and lobbied Congress. Surprisingly, though, we know little about these remarkable women, who preferred using their husbands’ last names and never liked being called “feminists.” Come and learn more about their story, a vital clue to the women’s movement in the 1960s and the long and complex history of women in the twentieth century.
Join Librarian Sara Belmonte as she talks about Emma Darling Cushman #ShePersisted #BeBoldForChange
please concact me. i found pilgeam things when i was 14...i want to show it....please.it misht be history....who can i talk too????\
Do you posses a copy of a history of West Congregational Church that I wrote a decade ago: Wheat & Weeds in a Country Parish?
I was pastor of the church during the 1960s and associate until about 2001.
I was professor at NECC for 3 decades, retiring 2001 as emeritus.
My education: The Roxbury Latin School (Boston), Wheaton College (Illinois), Fuller Theological Seminary, and Boston University (PhD in philosophy).