YDS, Hong Kong institutions collaborate on documenting Chinese Christianity

By Paul Stuehrenberg
Librarian of Yale Divinity School

On Nov. 19, in Hong Kong, I had the pleasure of participating in the launch of a significant digital denominational periodicals project jointly sponsored by Yale Divinity School Library and Hong Kong Baptist University.  The project represents yet another step in YDS’s ongoing efforts toward strengthening the documentation of Chinese Christianity.

Wong, Li, StuehrenbergIncluded in the initiative were 13 denominational periodicals selected for digitization by five Christian Hong Kong institutions, under the direction of Irene Wong, director of special collections and archives at Hong Kong Baptist University.  After the periodicals were identified, Wong arranged to have the periodicals scanned by staff at the Hong Kong Baptist University, using mutually agreed upon standards. 

The Yale Divinity Library then arranged to have computer-output microfilm—a process for copying data from electronic media on computers onto microfilm, which can be produced as microfiche or as 35mm-roll microfilm—created to serve as the preservation medium for the periodicals.  Each of the participating institutions, along with YDS, received positive copies of the microfilm.  The cost of the project was underwritten by the Kenneth Scott Latourette Initiative for the Documentation of World Christianity.  Forty-eight persons attended the launching ceremony, many of them denominational leaders.

Organizations whose periodicals were digitized include the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Anglican Church, the Baptist Convention of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Council of the Church of Christ in China, and the Hong Kong Christian Council. Twelve of the 13 periodicals are in Chinese; the thirteenth is in English.  The digitized periodicals were published between 1951 and 2009.

Yale Divinity Library has exceptionally strong retrospective holdings documenting Christianity in China, and this project builds on efforts to expand that documentation on the contemporary level.  The project is but the first in a series of projects documenting Chinese Christianity that the Yale Divinity Library will carry out in collaboration with the Hong Kong Baptist University.  Future projects might include not only material published in Hong Kong, but also in mainland China and Taiwan.

This initiative accomplished at least two important ends.  First, it improves access to these periodicals, and so to the history of Christianity in Hong Kong.  Both Hong Kong Baptist University and Yale Divinity Library intend to mount the periodicals on the web, thus providing free access to anyone with access to the web.  In addition, by creating the computer-output microfilm, the periodicals are preserved for posterity.

The Latourette Initiative is a proactive program that gathers the documentation of world Christianity.  Its funds come from an endowment established by Kenneth Scott Latourette (1884-1968), professor of missions at Yale Divinity School.  Other projects previously funded by the Latourette Initiative include print and archival collections held by the World Council of Churches, the University of Edinburgh, Uganda Christian University, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Gujarat United School of Theology, and the Melbourne School of Theology.

Posted: 01/09/2012