What Does Special Collections Collect?: A Brief Guide for Donors and Patrons

ACU Special Collections and Archives actively seeks materials from, by and about the Restoration Movement from its earliest days to the present.  We hold books, periodicals, ephemera, photographs, audio and video recordings, archival materials and artifacts.

Books and periodicals:  Ideally we will preserve one copy in as pristine a condition as we can locate.  Where we have two copies, one will be available to researchers as a ‘use copy’ while the other is kept as a ‘preservation copy.’  We are always looking to 1) fill in gaps in our collection; 2) to acquire better-condition copies; and 3) acquire signed or inscribed copies.  In outstanding cases we will retain additional signed or association copies.

Several first editions of the works of Alexander Campbell. Abilene Christian University Special Collections and Archives, Brown Library. Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX.

Masthead, Gospel Advance, September 1919, vol. 1 no. 1. Edited and published by Price Billingsley. Abilene Christian University Special Collections and Archives, Brown Library. Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX.

Ephemera and photographs:  Printed for the moment then cast aside, ephemeral items open a window into our history that is, regrettably, seldom preserved.  Broadsides, leaflets, posters, advertising cards, clippings and the like can help us understand moments that comprise our history.  Photographs, portraits, snapshots, and slides document the moment without using words.

Campbell Street Church of Christ, Louisville, KY. 3 June 1923. Abilene Christian University Special Collections and Archives, Brown Library. Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX.

Scrapbook, Box 1, Folder 1, Mable Fuchs Papers, 1920-1921. Center for Restoration Studies MS #445. Abilene Christian University Special Collections and Archives, Brown Library. Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX.

Audio and Video Recordings:  We estimate that we hold over 15,000 recordings in a variety of formats (from magnetic tape reels to phonograph records to cassettes to VCR tapes and DVDs).  Listen below to Lynn Anderson’s sermon Ride the Wild Horses:

Listen below to Zelma Stroop remember David and Margaret Lipscomb:

Archival material: We currently house just under 490 collections of personal papers of ministers, evangelists, professors, editors and missionaries.  Each set is as different as its creator.  Some are rich in sermons or correspondence, others in manuscript materials and some contain records from congregations or organizations.  Many have a little of everything. Congregational records include minutes books, selected bulletins, membership rosters, and directories.

Letter from Carl Ketcherside to Stanley Paregien, 11 February 1970. Abilene Christian University Special Collections and Archives, Brown Library. Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX.

Letter of Recommendation for both G.W. Varner and A.V. Varner signed by the entire congregation. Abilene Christian University Special Collections and Archives, Brown Library. Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX.

Artifacts: The iconic pulpit used by Thomas Campbell at Ahorey (Ireland) Presbyterian Church may be our most recognizable artifact.  But we have communion ware from the 19th and early 20th centuries, a pew from the Madison, TN Church of Christ and artifacts from across the world from several missionaries.  These items tell yet another side to the story.

Bed-sheet sized sermon chart on Heaven, ca. 1940s-1950s. Abilene Christian University Special Collections and Archives, Brown Library. Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX.

Brass printing plates used in the production of Great Songs of the Church. Abilene Christian University Special Collections and Archives, Brown Library. Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX.

If you have materials like these you would like to donate, please contact Mac Ice, Director of Special Collections and Archives at mac.ice@acu.edu or (325) 674-2144.  Mac will be pleased to discuss any aspect of the holdings and work of ACU Special Collections and Archives.

Mission Journal (1967-1988) now available online

We are pleased to announce Mission Journal is now available online for full-text browsing, searching, and download. From 1967 to 1988, Mission Journal was a forum for theological reflection on issues such as race, gender, war and peace-making, the place of the church in urban society, the nature and implications of Restorationism and critical Biblical and historical scholarship.  It was one of the most controversial periodicals among Churches of Christ in the decades of the late 1960s-mid 1980s.

Bob Turner, in his preface to this oral history project, describes Mission’s character as “unique—sort of Sojourners meets Village Voice meets MAD Magazine. It was smart enough to provoke a theologian but accessible enough to put on your coffee table; classic enough to attract intellectuals in the 1960s but avante garde enough to get picked up by a college kid a generation later. It was unquestionably the literary counterculture of Church of Christ periodicals for two decades.”

Turner’s oral history compiles reflections from some of the key persons involved in Mission from its founding to its closure in 1988: Dwain Evans, Don Haymes, Richard Hughes, Victor Hunter, Warren Lewis, and Thomas Olbricht.

Olbricht provides in this essay, New Journals for the Sixties: Restoration Quarterly and Mission, an extended reflection and assessment of the impact of these journals. Drawing from his deep insider involvement in Mission and from Abe Malherbe’s in Restoration Quarterly, Olbricht situates them within the journalistic, editorial, theological and historical contexts of the 1950s-1970s Churches of Christ.

Greg McKinzie conducted an interview session at the 2017 Christian Scholars’ Conference, Lipscomb University, Nashville, TN, dedicated to recording the stories of Dwain Evans, Vic Hunter, and Richard Hughes in the production of Mission Journal. Participants reflected on the motivations, hardships, and successes of publishing thoughtful, courageous content during a tumultuous time for the country and for Churches of Christ. What were the personal costs? How did the journal evolve and why? What would they do differently if they had it to do over? And what is the legacy of Mission for today? Listen here:

With the completion of the digitization project, fully searchable and downloadable PDFs of every issue are available at http://digitalcommons.acu.edu/missionjournal.  Mission on ACU DigitalCommons contains the full run of the journal, from volume 1, number 1 (July 1967) to the final issue, volume 21, numbers 5-6 (December 1987-January 1988). This digital archive will ensure Mission is widely and easily available for historical research and continued reflection on the issues it raised and discussed.

The digitization initiative was led by Mac Ice, Director of Archives and Special Collections. Student workers Julia Teel and Cayla Savari accomplished much of the digitization work, from scanning to page proofing.  Archivist Amanda Dietz worked with BePress to fine tune the public display details and ensure each issue was uploaded and working properly.  We are grateful for the partnership with Greg McKinzie, Executive Editor of Missio Dei Journal, Bob Turner, Librarian at Harding School of Theology and Thomas Olbricht for their fine work in contextualizing Mission’s voice amid the editorial landscape of late 20th century Churches of Christ.

The Open Arena (1914-1916) now available online

Special Collections and Archives is pleased to announce a rare early twentieth-century periodical is now available online for full-text browsing and download.

The Open Arena, Vol. 1. no. 1, March 1914. Center for Restoration Studies, ACU Special Collections and Archives

In 1914 Austin McGary (1846-1928) entered his fourth decade of journalistic work among Churches of Christ when he launched The Open Arena.  From 1884-1902 he edited Firm Foundation; from 1903-1905 he published The Gospel Outlook; and in 1913 he served as Co-Editor of The Faithful Witness. All three were based in Texas. Subscriptions to The Open Arena, which consisted of eight pages, cost 25 cents for six months or 50 cents for a full year.  A. J. McCarty (of Killeen, Texas), C. H. Kennedy (of McKinney, Texas) and Joe McPherson (of Nashville, Tennessee) joined McGary as Associate Editors beginning in January 1915. Later that spring W. L. Stafford (of Altus, Oklahoma) joined became an Associate Editor and served through January 1916.  The bound volume we have in our collection lacks volume 1 numbers 9 and 10.  Further, readers will notice the numbering sequence advances into volume 2 (going through number 5 in July 1915) before reverting to volume 1 number 18 in August 1915.  The paper continued this sequence to the last issue, volume 1 number 28, in June 1916.  Indications suggest McGary could not secure enough subscribers to continue the paper past the summer of 1916.

Devoted to “the good fight of faith” the paper was characteristic of his journalistic stye: forthright and plain-spoken.  McGary is perhaps best known for leveraging his periodicals as a tool for advocating his views on a range of issues, from baptism to socialism, and from the nature of the church to the work of the Holy Spirit.  In the first issue McGary presents three reasons for starting a new paper even as he acknowledges the journalistic field among Churches of Christ has “too many papers:”

…although we already have too many papers, too many of these many we have are dodging certain points of “the faith once delivered unto the Saints” and flying the gospel track–the “narrow way” ordained of God….

I start this paper because there are parts of the field, upon which “plants” that were not “planted of the Heavenly Father,” are growing rankly and overshadowing truth, that none of our papers giving attention to, in a “rooting-up” way, that this paper will give some “digging” attention to…

…When the Faithful Witness was discontinued…brethren and friends from many sections of Texas and Oklahoma…supplied me with the funds to introduce the paper and defray the expense of its upkeep for one year…*

Readers of The Open Arena will find much in its pages on these, and many other, topics.  Also of great value are the many items of news and notes about happenings among Churches of Christ.  Congregational and regional historians, students of intellectual and social history, and anyone interested in the history of Churches of Christ and Christian Churches will find the volumes of The Open Arena a welcome addition to their palette of source material.  It is the newest addition to our growing collection of digitized print materials pertaining to Churches of Christ, currently with over 500 books, tracts, pamphlets from across the Stone-Campbell movement available online.


*[Austin McGary, “‘Too Many Papers’,” Open Arena, 1(1), March 1914, p. 6.