Focusing on East Asia: 6th International Conference of Digital Archives and Digital Humanities

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We are very pleased to announce that our conference proposal for the 6th International Conference of Digital Archives and Digital Humanities at National Taiwan University in Taipei has been accepted. The project team will be presenting a poster entitled Baptists in Burma: Collaboratively Mapping Missionary Archives. 

A beta version of the project can be accessed here.

The aims of this conference are: to engage more researchers in an ongoing dialogue around issues affecting East Asia, to stimulate new interdisciplinary approaches to issues in East Asia, and ultimately to contribute to the growth and flourishing of East Asia’s research community of Digital Humanities scholars.


Project Team @ American Baptist Historical Society

Located on the professional campus of Mercer University in suburban Atlanta, the American Baptist Historical Society is the archive and historical interpreter of American Baptist Churches in the United States of America.

Materials held in the Archives Center include:

  • original correspondence of home and overseas missionaries,
  • official denominational minutes and publications,
  • documents from the Baptist World Alliance,
  • personal papers of Baptist leaders,
  • photographs and glass slides,
  • artifacts and mementos.

For several days, Joshua Finnell pored over the American Baptist Missionary Union Register to identify American Baptist missionaries with an affiliation with Denison University. A master list of missionaries can be found here. Whereas missionaries such as Gordon Seagrave are fairly well known, many lesser known Denison-affiliated missionaries were uncovered in the archive.

critiqueLewis Ezra Hicks

Denison University class of 1868.

Natural History faculty at Denison University

President of Rangoon Baptist College

Wallace St. John IMG_2992

Denison University class of 1893

English Faculty Member at Rangoon Baptist College

Author of The Literature of Burma

Washington Irving Price

Denison University class of 1864

Appointed to Karen Mission of Shwegyin, Burma

Irving PriceIrving Price 2






In addition to research, Joshua spent several days discussing avenues of partnership between Denison University and the American Baptist Historical Society in digitizing the personal letters and correspondence of several Denison-affiliated missionaries with Dr. Deborah Bingham Van Broekhoven and Jan Ballard.

The American Baptist Historical Society will continue to be a valuable partner as the project continues to develop.

Project Team @ Yale Divinity School

Underneath crisp autumn skies in New Haven, the project team spent a few days on the campus of Yale University. With the expert assistance of Martha Smalley, Joshua Finnell pored over boxes of pamphlets, letters, and official correspondence from American Baptists in Burma. Documents in the archives ranged from the founding of the Pyinma Agricultural School to the Karen Theological Seminary. Of particular interest was a report on the 1941 Japanese bombing of Burma by Gustaf A. Sword, presented at the Mission Secretaries’ Workshop in Granville, Ohio. The depth and breadth of the missionary collections at Yale are quite remarkable.Yale Divinity Library

The Yale Divinity Library will play a key role in this project as they continue to digitize their vast missionary holdings. For example, the Yale Divinity Library holds more than 25,000 missionary postcards. These postcards were produced by mission sending agencies and distributed throughout Europe and America with the intent of promoting support for the missions’ work and providing information about non-Western peoples and customs.

More than 6,000 postcards have been digitized and are accessible via the following two websites:

We look forward to working with Martha Smalley, and the rest of the staff at the Yale Divinity Library, as our project expands.

Project Team @ Northern Illinois University

This past week, Joshua Finnell & Sherry Harlacher spent several days at Northern Illinois University attending the
Dressing Difference: Exploring Ethnicities in Modern Burma opening at the NIU Art Museum and Imaging the Others: The Art of Ethnography in Modern Burma, an international symposium convened by the Center for Burma Studies.IMG_1580

Co-curated by Sherry Harlacher, director of the Denison Museum, and Catherine Raymond, director of the Center for Burma Studies,  Dressing Difference will open at the Denison Museum on February 15, 2015. The exhibition questions the practice of categorizing ethnicities as an artificial construct viewed by outsiders. It also questions the display of “desirable” artifacts arranged in pseudo-scientific order. The focus is on one of the most ethnically diverse regions in the world. Objects arrayed around the gallery conform to an imaginary map of Myanmar/Burma. Groups along the walls inhabit the uplands encircling Burma’s Central Plain. The variety of hat styles displayed in the center of the gallery evokes the convergence and impact of intersecting trade routes. With diverse migratory origins and speaking a multiplicity of languages from three major linguistic families of Asia (Tibeto-Burman, Mon-Khmer, Tai-Kadai), ethnic groups are distinctive in their choice of clothing and accessories. This exhibition features seven selected ethnic groups: The Chin, Naga, Kachin, Lahu, Shan, Wa, Karen, and also the Bamar.

IMG_1582In conjunction with the exhibition, a day-long symposium, Imaging the Others, was held on Friday, September 19th. Dr. Laura Hostetler, Chair of the History Department at University of Illinois, Chicago, was the keynote speaker. Catherine Raymond underscored the complexity of illustrating ethnicity in modern Burma while Sherry Harlacher examined Fred W. Carey’s photographs and journals from his travels through the Chinese Shan States.

Image-1Meanwhile, Joshua Finnell spent a few days meeting with Hao Phan, Southeast Asia Curator at Founders Memorial Library, and Angie Schroeder, Senior Library Specialist in Rare Books and Special Collections, to assess NIU’s collection of historic Burmese maps. The team identified an 1824 relief map (hachures and spot heights) of the Burmese Empire drawn by H. Hamilton of the Surveyor’s General Office in Calcutta. The map is currently being scanned at high resolution by Brian Conant, and his wonderful team, at the Northern Illinois University Digitization Lab.