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Two USC Groups Collaborate on Research Initiative

Two USC Groups Collaborate on Research Initiative
Pentecostal and Charismatic Research Archive workshop attendees visit the Bonnie Brae House in Echo Park.

The USC Libraries has partnered with the USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture to collect, catalogue and digitize documents on the global growth of Pentecostal and charismatic Christianity.

Weaving together local collections from around the world, the research archive, which will be called the Pentecostal and Charismatic Research Archive, will be the world’s first large database of materials on the subject. When complete, it will be publicly accessible through the USC Digital Library.

Funded through the Pentecostal and Charismatic Research Initiative, the project was launched by USC’s Center for Religion and Civic Culture in 2009 with a grant from the John Templeton Foundation.

Jon Miller is director of research for the center and a research professor at USC College. According to Miller, who oversees the project along with the USC Libraries’ Matt Gainer and Deborah Holmes-Wong, the archive is a vital part of a larger initiative.

“It’s a trove of information that will be of interest to scholars from a lot of different fields,” he said. “The argument behind the archive was, if you are creating a community of scholarship, you have to create research materials to support and sustain that scholarship.”

Miller, Gainer and Holmes-Wong have recruited archivists from several countries, including the Ukraine, Croatia, England, the Netherlands and the United States, to contribute to the archive. Participating archivists recently attended a three-day workshop at USC to learn cataloguing and digitization principles.

Locating collections proved a challenge in some cases, said Daniel Walker, a research associate for the center who was enlisted to find archives related to the Church of God in Christ. “The church doesn’t have a national archive or research center, despite being the oldest and largest Pentecostal denomination in America, and the largest of all religious denominations for African Americans,” he said.

Walker eventually found church members who preserved their church’s history on their own in the absence of an official archive. One was Emma Clark, a city librarian and a secretary to the national head of the church’s women’s division.

Using her own funds and her experience as a librarian, Clark created the Dr. Mattie McGlothen Library and Museum in Richmond, Calif., which preserves decades’ worth of church documents and other materials.

Another partner in the research archive was the Ukrainian Evangelical Theological Seminary in Kiev, whose archives chronicle what happened when the global Pentecostal movement encountered the Soviet Union’s official state suppression of religion.

“From their point of view, the history of Pentecostalism is the history of persecution,” Miller explained. “They’ve preserved a history of their movement trying to protect themselves from 70 years of state-sponsored persecution.”

Throughout the project, the libraries and the Center for Religion and Civic Culture have based their work on an earlier collaboration: the International Mission Photography Archive, which established USC as a center for scholarship on international missionaries.

“Using what we learned [from the International Mission Photography Archive], we’re now creating local and regional experts in digital archiving, with USC serving as a hub for new scholarship,” Gainer said. “The goal is for the research archive to become an essential source for historical materials on Pentecostal and charismatic Christianity.”

For his part, Miller hopes the research archive will encourage future collection and archival efforts on the subject.

“This really is a demonstration project,” he said. “With a global movement of half a billion people, what we’re archiving now represents just a tiny fraction of what is ultimately available.”

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