Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Boston; the rules; old posts; and stuff

To answer an emailed question: This site contains more material than appears on the front page. Use the “older posts” button on the bottom of the page.

Rachael continues to work on the early publishing ministry. I’m still probing the months Russell and Barbour spent traveling and preaching. There is a mass of documentary evidence to which we have no access. The problem is the amount of the material exceeds what the archive is willing to photocopy. It runs to about eight hundred pages, I’m told. I cannot afford to travel to Boston, and I certainly can’t afford to pay for 800 pages of photocopy at the through the mail rates. They are letter size pages, but probably could be reduced to photocopy as two to a page. All this material relates to Arthur Prince Adams and represents his defense during the “trial” that removed him as a Methodist minister.

If you live anywhere near Boston and wish to help, let me know either through an email or post. I am not happy with the limited material we have for this era, but I’m treading new research ground. I don’t think anyone has really followed this trail before. If they have, they haven’t published their findings.

We have good solid biographical material on most of the really significant Barbourites within the time of Russell’s association. But we lack key detail on some events. We have only one of the semi-monthly issues of Herald of the Morning. The missing issues obviously contain material we should see. Anyone know where they are?

Important material is in the 1877 Pittsburgh newspapers. The library that owns the microfilms does not share them via interlibrary loan. I’m too poor to travel and too sick.

I don’t question your beliefs on this blog. Readers take both sides of the issue when it comes to Russell. Your beliefs are not my business. Every one who behaves is welcome. I need to repeat that if you post stupid comments, they won’t make it to the blog. If you have comments or questions on facts or merely wish to say you appreciate the blog, those are always welcome.

This is hard work. I’m not sure some of our readers know just how difficult, expensive and time consuming finding the facts is. In this past week we’ve purchased something like six books, 400 pages of photocopy and written eight letters or emails to various university libraries or private archives. It takes valuable time to digest what we find and follow up on leads and hints.

Four hundred pages may not seem like much. But when a library asks an initial fee of thirty-five dollars and then charges by the page, it becomes a significant investment. I have to calculate how much I can afford on a mostly fixed income.

There’s a book out there now, used, ratty and fifty dollars plus postage. The man selling it hasn’t a clue what he has. He’s priced it solely on the basis that he has the only one for sale. I want to read this book. More, I want to own it. There simply is no way for me to spend the money. It will have to wait.

Then there are the things that seem to be gone for good: Barbour’s spiritism booklet; Adam’s Bible Harmony; issues of various magazines, many of which most Witness researchers have never heard of or read.

This week I wrote to a group notorious for not sharing its research, and I asked for the moon. I’ve tried to appeal to them on the basis that what is said about the issue is wrong and harmful. They’d do better by putting the raw material in the hands of someone who will consider it fairly. I don’t expect an answer anytime within the next few months. They’re notoriously slow to answer requests like that. But, surprisingly, they do sometimes provide help. We’ll see.

The way we handle that in the current research is to simply say in text or footnote that such-and-such a library or archive owns the material and declined to make it available. It’s time some of these institutions be exposed to their own policies.

Years ago I did extensive research for someone else’s book. I had a great working relationship with the Library of Congress. That was back in the late 1980s and early 1990’s. The people that were helpful have all retired. The current crop of Library of Congress employees leaves me frustrated. They can’t read the text of an email, only skimming what I write and answering with comments that do not match my question. It’s become an unfriendly, difficult resource, unless you are in Washington, D. C. In contrast, The American Antiquarian Society is superior, friendly, helpful. The Library of Congress should take lessons from them. Boston University seems to hate outside scholars. Rochester Public Library is helpful and the staff I’ve contacted are superior. You can see it’s a very mixed experience.

Some of these institutions and societies seem to delight in withholding material from professionals – or anyone else. My worst experience was with a staffer at the Wyoming State Library who refused to fill an interlibrary loan request because it was critical of her religion, or so she thought. The material was from 100 years in the past. This is insane.

I’m wandering from my topic. Old men do that. Sorry. We need immediate help with the material in Boston. Anyone?

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