Beacon Street Diary

February 4, 2015

We are pleased to announce the availability of two new collections in our New England's Hidden Histories (NEHH) program.

The first collection comes from First Church in Newbury, Massachusetts, and is part of Series I. It contains an 1853 copy of minutes from a 1669-1670 Ecclesiastical Council called by the church to render an opinion on the church's desire to change their style of governance by dismantling their Elder system. The Council advised against the proposal strongly, but by 1683 First Church in Newbury had no ruling elders. To learn more about this collection, visit the finding aid or view the item online.


letter written by Jonathan Edwards to Esther Burr, 1757

The second collection, found in Series II contains a single letter written by Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) to his daughter, Esther Edwards Burr (1732-1758), seen accompanying this blog post. The letter is dated November 20, 1757 and was written shortly after the death of Esther's husband, Aaron Burr, Sr. (1715/16-1757). You can view the letter online via the collection page.

February 3, 2015

The event previously scheduled for February 12th, "Capturing Your Memories", has been canceled.

Please visit our events page for more information on upcoming workshops and seminars at the Congregational Library & Archives. Follow us on Twitter, Falcebook, and this blog for regular updates and notifications regarding future events.

February 3, 2015

The Congregational Library & Archives will open at 10am today due to yesterday's weather. As always, our online resources are available to you and we would be glad to repsond to any email or voicemail messages. 

February 2, 2015

The Congregational Library & Archives will be closed Monday, February 2nd due to weather.

All of our online resources will be available as usual. If you have a question you'd like to ask the staff, send an us email or leave a voicemail, and we'll get back to you when we return to the office.

We will keep you updated if our planned schedule changes.

We hope all of our local patrons are safe and warm.

 


snowflake ornament image courtesy of Petr Kratochvil via Wikimedia Commons

January 26, 2015

UPDATE: At the recommendation of the City of Boston, we will remain closed on Wednesday as well.  We will reopen on Thursday, January 29th.


Due to the impending blizzard, our reading room will be closed on Tuesday, January 27th.

All of our online resources will be available as usual. If you have a question you'd like to ask the staff, send an us email or leave a voicemail, and we'll get back to you when we return to the office on Wednesday, January 28th.

We will keep you updated if our planned schedule changes.

We hope all of our local patrons are safe and warm.

 


snowflake ornament image courtesy of Petr Kratochvil via Wikimedia Commons

January 16, 2015

Our reading room will be closed on Monday, January 19th in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

All of our online resources will be available as usual. If you have a question for the staff, send an email or leave a voicemail, and we will get back to you when we return to the office on Tuesday.

 

January 12, 2015

There is still time to let us know if you'll be joining us for this week's free lunchtime discussion.


The Rise of Evangelical Christianity in Early America

Catherine Brekus is the Charles Warren Professor of the History of Religion in America at Harvard Divinity School, and the author of Sarah Osborn's World: The Rise of Evangelical Christianity in Early America.

Sarah Osborn was a schoolteacher, a wife, and a mother, who led a remarkable revival in 1760s Rhode Island that brought hundreds of people, including many slaves, to her house each week. Her extensive written record — encompassing issues ranging from the desire to be "born again" to a suspicion of capitalism — provides a unique vantage point from which to view the emergence of evangelicalism. Brekus sets Sarah Osborn's experience in the context of her revivalist era and expands our understanding of the birth of the evangelical movement — a movement that transformed Protestantism in the decades before the American Revolution.

An innovator in the writing of American religious history, Dr. Brekus's research has focused largely, but not exclusively, on women in emerging evangelical movements from the seventeenth to the mid-nineteenth centuries. Her other interests include how religious beliefs and conflicts have shaped American understandings of public and private life, and how American culture has influenced popular understandings of religion. She has taught more than 20 different courses including ones on American Catholicism, slavery and race, the Enlightenment and children and religion.

Dr. Brekus's book Sarah Osborn's World is available for borrowing to members of the Congregational Library and Archives.

Wednesday, January 14th (snow date January 21st)
noon - 1:00 pm

Free.
Register through SurveyMonkey.

December 29, 2014

We will be closing at 3:00 pm on Wednesday, December 31st, and will remain closed on Thursday, January 1, 2015. All of our online resources will be available as usual. If you have a question for the staff, send an email or leave a voicemail, and we will get back to you when we return to the office on Friday, January 2nd.

Happy New Year!

December 22, 2014

We will be closing at noon on Wednesday, December 24th, and will remain closed for the rest of the week. All of our online resources will be available as usual. If you have a question for the staff, send an email or leave a voicemail, and we will get back to you when we return to the office on Monday, December 29th.

To all of our patrons who celebrate, we hope you have a safe and happy holiday.

 

December 10, 2014

I had always known that there was a Congregational Library in London, but not much more than that. Over the past several years I've also thought about compiling a list of reasons for a visit — curiosity if nothing else — but the moment always seemed to escape.

Now the other Congregational Library is a reality. In November I traveled to London with Jeff Cooper, the Oklahoma State history professor who has made New England's Hidden Histories possible. Jeff and I were part of a day-long workshop on, yes, Congregational church records, along with scholars from France, Italy, and Great Britain. We were invited by Jeff's former student, Joel Halcomb, who is now teaching in East Anglia. It seems a little surprising that European scholars would have some of the same issues rescuing and preserving old church records — certainly history is a lot more present in a centuries-old city like London than even in Boston — but that was nothing compared to the discovery that Jeff and I were there as resident experts and our project a model they hoped they would one day emulate.


Dr. Joel Halcomb, conference organizer; Dr. Margaret Bendroth, executive director of the Congregational Library & Archives in Boston; Dr. James F. Cooper, Professor of History, Oklahoma State University; and Dr. David Wykes, director of the Congregational Library in London

This was even clearer the next day, when Jeff and I presented our work in a public conference held at Dr. Williams's Library, which houses the original collection of the English Congregational Library, founded in 1831. We met in a large drawing room with old portraits and tall windows (sound familiar?), a gathering of scholars, laypeople, and more graduate students than I would have ever imagined. When I saw the array of learned British faces I was a little worried that our presentations weren't academic enough to pass muster — but the opposite was true. Our hosts were absolutely intrigued with our project — more than one library director came up to me during lunch to say "we need to do what you are doing."

That was the real reward for me: we have been working away at our project for nearly ten years on a shoestring budget, and wondering if we'd ever make an impact. Thanks to the New York Times article, and just recently a piece on the BBC, we are no longer an obscure and struggling little outfit; we've chalked up some amazing finds and found some fantastic allies. But in many ways our real accomplishment is perseverance. Over the years, with the help of Jeff, the Jonathan Edwards Center, and our determined library staff, we have managed to build something unique. New England's Hidden Histories is an ambitious and successful digital program, carried out by a small independent library without the benefit of university funding, a large endowment, or cheap student labor. Yes, we've kind of figured things out along the way, sometimes in fits and starts and down a few cul-de-sacs, but we've kept at it. Will our model work in other small libraries? Maybe so and I hope we have the opportunity to find this out — but in the end, it's a vision carried out patience and persistence. True, we have a long, long way to go and a great need for long-term outside funding, but we've already come a long way on persistence, a quality our hard-working archivists, crack development staff, and dedicated student volunteers have in absolute abundance.

-Peggy

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