on Asia-Pacific Forum for Library and Achives Management
Bangalore, India, June 7, 2004
The Role and Significance of Archive / Resource Management
In Asia and Pacific
Self identity - Who Am I?
Elizabeth Tapia of the Philippines wrote a poem entitled
WHO AM I? In this poem make changes as we read it
to make it fit who you are - replace Filipino with
your own nationality, for instance.
am a woman
I am Filipino
I am alive
I am struggling
I am hoping.
am created in the image of God
Just like all other people in the world;
I am a person with worth and dignity.
I am a thinking person, a feeling person,
a doing person.
I am the small I am that stands before
the big I AM.
am a worker who is constantly challenged
and faced with the needs of the church and
society in Asia and in the global community.
I am angered by the structures and powers
that create all forms of oppression, exploitation
I am a witness to the moans, tears, banners and
clenched fists of my people.
I can hear their liberating songs, their hopeful
prayers and decisive march toward justice and freedom.
believe that all of us – women and men
young and old, Christians and all others –
are called upon to do responsible action;
to be concerned
to be involved
I am hoping
I am struggling
I am alive
I am Filipino
I am a woman.
could rewrite this poem to make it specific to ourselves:
I am a man / woman / old or young. I am a –
whatever your country or nationality is. And as you
go through the poem you would add to or change some
of the other “I am”s, “I can”s
or “I believe”s.
you feel that you are unique – have a special
identity? Do you feel that your college, church, people
have special identities which mark them apart from
other communities? Take a moment to think about it.
… Where do you stand? … What is it that
makes you and your people different / special - your
own person or community of believers? You are a unique
person, and your people, your church, college, group
within society, are all unique in themselves.
did that person who is me – or how did my faith
community – my school, the group I am committed
to working with for the benefit of others, come to
be so special? What has made us who we are? How can
we find out what has made us who we are? What has
history to tell us? Where can we find out about these
Let us think a while of Ancestors, History and Theology
i.) Honouring Ancestors
As we begin any major task, and especially in librarianship
and teaching, we should pause to recognise those on
whose life and witness we stand – to ‘honour
our ancestors’ in faith and culture. ….
And here too we will find some clues about the path
along which we and others have come.
national Maori leader in Aotearoa New Zealand has
said “The human story of which we are a part
has no ending. We make our contribution and in the
process we are enriched by what has come to us from
the past. The recorded story can shed light on what
is happening to us now.” (These are the words
of the Most Reverend Sir Paul Reeves, Archbishop and
Bishop of Auckland, in the Preface to Parish Archives
Handbook put out for the Anglican Church in New Zealand.)
records may be found in many places: parish registers
of births, marriages and deaths, on grave stones,
census records, academic listings, shipping lists
or logs of voyages, weekly records of pay and conditions
for men and women who served in armed forces long
ago, yearbooks, in structures for worship or living
in days gone by, historical writings etched on steles,
land records (perhaps written on skins and rolled
up), minutes of meetings, letters, diaries, reports,
memos, maps, film, paintings, sketches, cassettes,
pamphlets, newsletters, brochures, old photographs,
and most importantly in talking with people who remember
other times. All these can reveal the past in our
is not only the facts of a past life, the listings
and statistics, but also the thoughts and beliefs
of those who have gone before that have shaped where
we are today – those things that have enriched
us, what we have found to be important in our lives
of faith and hope and love, what we hope to hand on
to those who follow us. We are not only honouring
ancestors but acknowledging, and becoming a part of,
the communion of saints. We are a part of that story,
part of that communion of saints, the company of all
people striving for peace, justice, togetherness,
communion. With those who have gone before we are
building a significant cultural understanding and
feeding today’s theology / faith story. We are
finding ourselves within the particular story or our
people, and history is coming alive in and through
History coming Alive
Many of our colleagues, even in our colleges and libraries,
have only a vague sense of history yet without this
we become merely the “playthings of history
and are apt to become its victim”. We can see
many clear examples of this in today’s events
- in West Asia for instance! – and without a
growing knowledge of the faith tradition within which
we stand, we are playthings of random and destructive
is the context of all life. It is a people’s
story. It is the past in the present and leads us
to the future. History is both the source of our bondage
and the source of our liberation. History both as
the essential context and as the focus for reflection
plays a central role in all creative theology. Theology
itself takes part in the "particularity of history",
for it is grounded in the historical life-death-and-life-again
of Jesus-with-others, which itself is grounded initially
in the history of Israel and West Asia, and later
in the histories of all Asian and Pacific countries,
as in Europe and North America. And the One Living
God of all life is bringing history to its purposed
end, the One Commonwealth of God. (And this we can
believe in whatever religious tradition we belong
to, as there is only the One Living God.)
knowledge, understanding where we have come from and
what points us to the future, therefore has at least
three main aspects:
It is the source of ideas and experience wherein we
meet and wrestle with the great thinkers, actors,
and significant events of the past.
b) It constantly shapes our life today, the past in
the present becomes our future.
c) As persons and faith communities we embody the
past. We cannot be understood apart from it. It is
the context in which we live and from which we draw
much that we call 'ourselves'.
result of critical historical knowledge is a clearer,
more accurate perspective of ourselves, our heritage,
and the heritage of others. It is indispensable in
the exploration of our deepest faith concerns. History
is necessary so that those concerns be rooted in human
life, where God is always coming to meet us. It is
necessary, too, in order that those concerns spring
from mature reflection. This rootedness in all aspects
of Asian, or Pacific, life is our priority.
Here then lies the vital importance of archives (and
of course of our libraries).
Archives are a means of self-discovery and of finding
our identity. Every person of faith, every congregation
and denomination should have access to the story of
Christianity and other religions within their/its
own culture, along with access to the story of the
universal and historical church and of human religious
development. Every seminary and theological training
institution needs to be able to provide such information
to resource its churches. Informed decision-making
can only happen following adequate historical research;
and living the faith today is endlessly enriched through
the knowledge of what has gone before. Because we
know the journey behind us we can begin to see ahead
new paths in our pilgrimage.
because we have not taken archives and local resources
seriously, we find that people say, and unfortunately
believe, that neither Asia nor the Pacific have a
long or rich Christian history, nor long and creative
theological traditions. Here is a challenge to all
within each church and community, and particularly
for theological librarians. We affirm the importance
of history for theology and for living the faith,
but we must also put that affirmation into practice
by cultivating a deep historical sense, and by digging
deeply in the records and memory of our people. Church
history in all its forms, especially in our own countries
– and therefore the resources for this –
requires of us a much greater commitment both of resources
and personnel than we have yet given.
primary need then is for much fuller historical resources,
records, and also research on these, which librarians
and archivists must promote and build.
each situation from which you come such records, stories
and fragments can be found - often unexpected, and
too often disregarded. Yet in them lie many sources
of our peoples’ selfhood and outgoing faith.
In this search a great variety of forms, literary,
artefact and oral, over lengthy time scales, must
be restored, searched for information, and secured
for future generations. For we have here the foundations,
the pioneers and inspiration that most often make
the latest promotion from the west unnecessary!
First a story - Andrew Walls, in addressing the Rome
consultation, 2002, “Rescuing the Memories of
our Peoples” spoke of two graduate students
who had recently completed their doctoral dissertations.
Both dealt with Christian missions in southern Ethiopia,
but one drew primarily on missionary archives now
held in Canada, while the other utilized oral history
interviews with the region’s Gala peoples. Walls
said that you could be forgiven for thinking that
these theses were about two different places. Christian
missionaries had arrived in this part of Ethiopia
in the early 1930s, and were expelled shortly afterwards,
when Italy invaded. When they returned after World
War II they found a thriving church. Letters home
from the returned missionaries talked of a miracle,
but through oral history interviews it had became
clear that an indigenous Gala prophet in the 1930s
had attacked the village-based tribal cults urging
the people to pray instead to a universal god. Hence
the message the returning missionaries brought fell
upon fertile soil, far more so than they had expected
since they were ignorant of local religious history.
Two different stories emerged about the same place
and piece of history since the topic was approached
from two different standpoints. The missionary archives
told one story; the local interviews told a different
have often posed the question to librarians in our
region “Where are your feet?” And the
answer to this question points the way to the orientation
of all our work. What is the orientation of your library?
Your college? The archival collection you will develop?
What priority do you, will you, establish for the
work you will do in all your resource collection and
development work? What is most important to your people
/ place? Where are your feet?
necessity, all libraries / archives require careful
policies for collection or promotion. Our archives
cannot be indiscriminate or include literally everything.
Therefore the orientation of the collection, and the
aims behind it, are all-important.
Who are archives for?
Dr Herbert Swanson of the Office of History, Church
of Christ in Thailand, worked for many years to develop
an archival centre for the Church of Christ in Thailand.
This is now the nucleus of the Payap University Archives.
Swanson comments: “That the archives could serve
the academic world was not at all a ‘bad thing,’
but that role did not fulfil its central purpose as
church archives, which was to collect, preserve, and
provide access to historical materials to the substantial
benefit of the work and life of the church.”
So, in 1988, the Church of Christ in Thailand founded
the Office of History. It sought to move beyond the
custodial model of information management –
then the classic model for church archives –
to a new model that intended to make local churches
the chief beneficiaries of the Church of Christ in
Thailand’s information processes.
will look at what solution was devised in a later
lecture. However, as you will see from this example
from Thailand, the question of “Who for?”
is an important local question – are archives
gathered principally for the academic paper or thesis
or are they for the life and work of the church? …
Or some other purpose? … To support a local
may know the saying: "Until the lion learns to
write, tales of hunting will always glorify the hunter."
Is it sufficient that your story and your people’s
story, your country’s story, be heard only through
the study and the voice of those from outside your
situation? Is it important for your people’s
story to be known and heard through the voice of your
own people? Then we must be aware that much of the
true historical record of our people is not written
down. The other story of those who are illiterate
must be recorded as well. We cannot be solely reliant
on missionary archives or western interpretation important
as these may be. There is another story which comes
directly from the heart and soul of our own people,
the life story lived out in a particular culture in
everyday ways and understanding. Oral history therefore
assumes special importance in our archives (along
with local records or reports) – and later examples
will show how this can be done.
Thus we have a bias.
Not only will you take care of the archival records
you are given for your archive, but you can search
for materials and build up your archival holdings.
Regardless of the use made of an archival repository,
it is important that records be preserved impartially.
Archivists are the guardians of the evidence on which
the truth can be established. Within our region however
we do have a bias - towards our own Christian history,
our own theological development, and our own society
from which theological endeavour arises and within
which our Christian witness is carried out. It is
directed from where we stand, our people’s journey,
Christian (or Buddhist or other faith tradition) identity,
our own Asia-Pacific saga, our own vision, our own
autonomous traditions. We have unique records and
a unique witness of life where we are and these form
the basic roots for all our work in our library, our
college, our church, our community - and in our work
with archives. These records for which we will care
are basic not only for our religious heritage but
also for our community as a whole. For example, if
governments, non-government organizations, or even
United Nations or other international agencies want
to understand education or public health in a given
area, the church archives are often the best, and
in some cases the only, resource available.
Our tribal communities are a particularly rich source
of tradition and oral history, much of this is essential
for their present endeavours, and for the participation
of our churches in such struggles. But such resources
of authentic identity and witness are also essential
to the larger archives of our national churches.
my own country, New Zealand, the indigenous Maori
peoples are finding again their own tribal roots.
During much of last century many had left for the
cities to find work and lost touch with their tribal
lands and traditions. Now, because of a cultural resurgence
and because government is trying to right the wrongs
of earlier land seizures and oppressions, it is vitally
important for Maori to know to what tribal group or
iwi they belong, and for this to be more widely acknowledged.
most of our countries the indigenous and tribal groups
have their own particular records and in many parts
of the region these become extremely important as
people seek to protect their land and their culture
against economic exploitation both from within their
own country and from overseas. It is also vital to
the recovery of their own identity as faith communities
– and remember that many of our most flourishing
and individual churches are found amongst tribal communities.
Practical work in archives management will be covered
in later sessions of this course, but here let me
suggest a few major “first practical questions”,
or implications, of what we have been saying.
We need to be clear about our priorities. We cannot
make our collections exhaustive. Each archive is unique
with its own priorities, goals and problems. A religious
archive, a government archive, a hospital archive,
a non-governmental society or club archive, an oral
history project, will all have specific differences
in the way they are set up, remembering for whom they
exist. Decide what your priorities ought to be in
setting up the archives for which you are responsible,
what you are able to do in relation to time, budget,
ability and facilities available – what is best
for you and your constituency in your situation.
This means that you develop a collection strategy.
To do this it will be necessary to work with other
institutions to ensure a full coverage of all archival
materials. Find out what other centres hold and decide
on collection strategies together, develop your own
specialty that is related to your institution, your
church, your history or bias. Focus your collection.
This is more valuable than an indiscriminate collection
of materials. But ensure that somewhere all areas
are covered. Do not throw out anything because it
does not fit with your particular focus or speciality.
It must be saved somewhere. Work out a pattern with
other repositories of historical materials. As an
example a national repository may say that all materials
held must be by or about national people or concerns.
Will you limit your college’s archives only
to those materials which are about your college or
parent church body? – or will you also include
materials which place that story in its context, both
historical and social?
is equally a question that relates to the holdings
in your library as a whole. The people who use your
library or archives are preparing themselves for work
within a particular community, which is found within
a particular region, and must reflect this. It may
mean that you will need to identify key gaps in both
library holdings and archival collections, that you
will need to develop a programme for reconstructing
the focus of the materials held and set about a policy
of aggressive re-acquisition. You may need to work
through Christian publishers to encourage the publication
of materials with local focus, or set up exchanges
through which you can have access to some materials.
advising a research centre which was to focus on Asian
and Pacific materials I made the following summary
of what materials should be actively sought. Such
a pattern could be adapted to develop your own priorities
and collection strategy, with both archives centre
and library. See also pages 46-50 in Ministering Asian
Faith and Wisdom for a fuller listing.
materials to be covered would eventually include:
A. Writings by Asian/Pacific Christian theologians,
church historians and lay people, beginning with 'standard'/'representative'
Writings which take seriously the context in which
Asian/Pacific Christians live and work:
i) as complete a collection of Christian writings,
particularly theological materials in whatever form,
ii) basic and representative works on the religions
of the area, including indigenous religious movements
and new religious movements;
iii) basic and representative works on the social/political
conditions including contemporary social issues and
iv) art and literature which seeks to express the
life and beliefs of women and men in relation to a
Christian understanding of God.
Materials from national/international ecumenical agencies
in the region, for example Christian Conference of
Asia, Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences, Associations
of Theological Schools in Asia and the Pacific, Programme
for Theology & Cultures in Asia, World Student
Christian Federation Asia/Pacific, Young Men's Christian
Association Asia/Pacific, Asian Christian Art Association,
Asian Institute for Liturgy and Music, Asian Women's
Resource Centre for Culture and Theology, ecumenical
and theological associations which publish in the
Pacific, and so on.
should work out your own pattern of what should be
collected in your area and who will hold which sections.
Remember - You are not starting from the beginning
It may sometimes feel that there is a limitless ocean
of work ahead of you – an uncharted sea. But
others have gone before. Many archival collections
held overseas have something to offer you. Your history
is often well documented in these repositories. For
the sake of research in your place however, you should
request the return of these or at least copies of
them. There are agencies that have already microfilmed
many of the materials which would make a good foundation
for your work. One of these is IDC (Inter Documentation
Company bv). Get copies of these records – or,
because these are expensive, ask the missionary agencies
covered by these records to send them to you. They
are your story! Get copies, or at least listings,
of what is already held elsewhere.
can request a complete catalogue of holdings of your
history from repositories overseas which will give
some idea of what is already available somewhere.
But even more important, get in touch with archival
repositories within your own country to both learn
of what they hold which is relevant to your work and
also to build a relationship of mutual support between
such archival centres and your own. They will have
already found ways appropriate to your country, climate
and availability of preservation methods which you
can use to advantage.
i) In the confusion of sorting out the materials you
hold, and to care for them adequately, you will need
perseverance! When an archivist was asked how he was
able to continue with his work despite many set-backs
he replied “What keeps me going? – A sense
of history and a sense of purpose. Everything that
lives is holy and has a purpose. … We are here
to contribute our vision of our peoples’ faith
story – which may even mean that we have to
fight for what we feel to be important. … What
we do is not for today, not for this week, but for
the 21st century and beyond.” A sense of history
and a sense of purpose ….
But for us we have another source for our continuing
commitment. We are professional people who have a
ministry to perform within the Asian and Pacific Christian
community. Our work is both a response and an offering
– to the One Living God whom we all serve. We
stand at the beginning of a new journey. Through this
training course new skills, new understanding will
task in which we are engaged is that of equipping
the people of God for their work and mission, not
only in the church but also within our society. Librarians
and archivists are indeed priests and ministers -
they are mediators of truth and wisdom and grace in
the sacraments of the work they offer, and in the
communion of saints which is known and experienced
through our libraries and archives. And what we have
to offer is, like the Eucharist itself, food for the
road – the past in the present leading toward
an informed future.
the development of this work, you will continue to
study, to explore, to adventure. Be sure that your
calling is one of continuing joys, excitements and
challenges. Above all be sure that as you embark upon
this most significant ministry within the Asian and
Pacific Churches you are not alone for the God of
all peoples is with you, and you walk in a fellowship
of theological librarians and archivists in every
country of our regions, along with their forebears
over many centuries.
Sebastian Karotemprel prepared a prayer for the planning
group of the 2002 Rome Conference “Rescuing
the Memory of our Peoples”. I have adapted some
of this as we commit ourselves to this great task.
God our Father and Creator,
You have left your image on every creature.
Your footsteps are on all the pathways of the universe.
Your fingerprints adorn and embellish every being.
we gather up the scattered fragments
Of the history of heroism and holiness,
Of love for all the peoples of the world,
And the history of service to all peoples.
May we cherish and preserve them.
May we learn form previous experience.
May we be inspired by the zeal of those who have gone
May your blessings accompany our enterprise.