UCC and ARIT agree on American Board archives in Istanbul

UCC and ARIT agree on American Board archives in Istanbul

The American Research Institute in Turkey (ARIT) is pleased to announce that it is now the custodian of the library and archives of the Amerikan Bord Heyeti, historical descendent of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions’ administrative agency in Turkey.

In December 2010, after almost two centuries of operation, the Amerikan Bord Heyeti, the manifestation in Turkey of what is now Wider Church Ministries of the United Church of Christ, has transferred its records and library holdings to ARIT. This major acquisition makes ARIT one of the most important local and international holdings of source material related to American missionary undertakings in Turkey during the Ottoman and Republican periods. ARIT intends to place nearly all of these vital sources on the worldwide web.

The collection is in two parts—library and archives. The American Board library contains roughly 3,000 items, including historical works, missionary biographies, the Board’s published annual reports and a full run of its monthly news bulletin, The Missionary Herald, as well as books, pamphlets, and periodicals printed by the Board’s publication department in English, Ottoman, modern Turkish, Armenian, Armeno-Turkish, Greek and Karamanlıca. As a first step in the digitization process, the Istanbul Center opened a digital library in 2011, and the collection now numbers close to 300 pamphlets and periodicals from the 1800s and early 1900s related to the Board, its affiliates, and other American institutions in Turkey and the surrounding region. ARIT plans to augment the digital library in 2012 with a full set of the journal The Levant Trade Review and a nearly complete run of the newspaper The Orient. Published by American organizations in Istanbul between 1910 and 1931, these are two of the most important local English-language periodicals from this decisive era.

The library resources are currently located at ARIT’s Istanbul Center (in Arnavutköy) and may be consulted by scholars.

The archives, currently stored offsite and closed to researchers, comprise approximately 500,000 pages of primary documents, such as administrative reports and correspondence, financial records, and photographs spanning nearly two hundred years. Though some of this material is duplicated in the American Board collection at Harvard’s Houghton Library, many of the site reports, drafts, and administrative correspondence are unique to this collection.

ARIT will also begin providing some archival material online this year, starting with the personnel cards of missionaries and contract workers who served the American Board in Turkey during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Additionally, ARIT is currently working on providing in-house access to further archival materials, and expects to announce archival additions to both in-house and Web collections at regular intervals, as funding and space in the ARIT Center becomes available.