Post 11, Primary Sources and Completed Research on the Internet

I received an e-mail yesterday from a hard-working teacher/administrator in an Australian high school. Garry frequently amazes me with the depth and the quality of his research into the context of early Sabbatarian Adventism.

Back in 1972, as a student at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University in Michigan, I strained our fragile family budget to travel and stay close for just a few days to what was then Aurora College in Illinois (USA). It was thrilling, in my view, to be able to undertake research in the Jenks Collection there and read, for instance, the 800 letters that William Miller wrote or received. Not many years after that, the Advent Christians graciously allowed their marvelous collection of original sources to be given to the world in microform (see Gaustad, editor, The Rise of Adventism, 1974, and Hoornstra, editor, The Millerites and Early Adventists: An Index to the Microfilm Collections of Rare Books and Manuscripts, 1978). So anyone can now read these priceless documents in the Ellen G. White/Seventh-day Adventist Research Centres (and similar research entities) conveniently located in the various geographical regions of the world. What I am saying is that, in the past forty years, effective research is so much more possible for so many more people.

Of course, many people want research done for them and served up in convenient form on the Internet. Such people find it helpful to go to sdanet.org/atissue, the website expertly maintained for many years by Mrs Billie Burdick and her colleagues. Bille Burdick placed on that site the paper that I delivered in San Francisco at the 1987 annual meeting of the Adventist Society for Religious Studies. That gave me the benefit of comments from people in many different parts of the world. Subsequently, Bille added more of my articles and papers, as well as other studies about Elllen White by Bert Haloviak, Graeme Bradford, Robert Wolfgramm, Alden Thompson and others. Sometimes it is quicker for me to access one of my articles from sdanet than it is to walk three paces from my computer to a filing cabinet to access a printed copy. I deeply value the atissue site because it carries an array of research about Ellen White that is satisfying for enquiring minds. So the Internet is helpful for those who want to read completed research, and for those who want the primary source materials that are essential for effective research.

The value of the Internet is well illustrated by Garry, mentioned above. He has neither the funds nor the time to travel to the other side of the world to the seventeen archives that Merlin D. Burt visited, while researching his doctoral dissertation on early Adventism (completed 2002). Garry wants to do original research; he does not want the hard work in the area of his specialty to be done by someone else. Merlin Burt is now one of the valuable people who make original source materials available to diligent folks like Garry. Dr Burt and his staff do this at the Center for Adventist Research located on the campus of Andrews University and, increasingly, via the Internet.

But there is more. Last month Dr David Trim (introduced elsewhere on this website as Director of the Office of Archives, Statistics and Research at the church’s world headquarters) included a paragraph in an e-mail showing how the Information Age facilitates effective research:

The Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research maintains two websites that can help scholars of Adventist Studies: the AdventistArchives.org and AdventistStatistics.org. The former hosts historical documents, books, periodicals and some scholarly papers; the latter hosts historical (and current) statistics. The Archives of the General Conference house over 20,000 linear feet of records covering the entire history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Holdings include legal instruments, minutes, reference files, reports, correspondence, publications, recordings, films, video and audio tapes, and photographs. At present, minutes of several important committees are available online at http://www.adventistarchives.org/DocArchives.asp – but currently, most of the over 1.6 million pages of contents are drawn from periodicals. It makes available all the major SDA periodicals, at world, division and union level, in fully searchable form, downloadable in .djvu and/or .pdf. Other resources available include a number of books, all the SDA Yearbooks and Annual Statistical Reports, some early Millerite periodicals, several hundred photographs, and a range of Archives, Statistics, and Research research papers.

Arthur Patrick, 23 October 2011

About adventiststudies

Arthur Nelson Patrick, DMin, PhD, is an Honorary Senior Research Fellow, Avondale College of Higher Education, New South Wales, Australia
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