Archive for June, 2011

Monday 27th June, 2011

Audio, starting with the 1974 LSTC course in Theological Method

by Matt Frost

Well, with the basic space upgrade required to post MP3 files, we’ve got 8GB of storage here.  With the current conversion rate of our 96kHz, 24-bit raw files to MP3, that means we can host up to 118 hours of audio before we need to upgrade.  So, while our primary audio hosting is done over at the main Archives page, there are a few things that are works in progress that will start off here.

The first thing to be hosted here is going to be Joe’s Fall 1974 course in Theological Method, taught as part of LSTC’s core curriculum while Carl Braaten was off on sabbatical.  Rob is eagerly awaiting these, and perhaps he’s not the only one, and they’re good stuff, so here we’ll have them as I get them done.  The first two sessions are posted below; you can either click on the links or use the streaming player.  I’d be glad to get feedback about which is preferable; I know my particular browser and OS combination doesn’t always play well with the embedded player here.

Session 1, 1974-09-30 — course introduction and definition of terms

Session 2, 1974-10-02 — Luther: intro and the 95 Theses


Tuesday 21st June, 2011

Finds at PTS

by Matt Frost

The Barth-Aquinas conference has been great, but I just missed Amy Marga’s presentation on Grace and Justification for an appointment to spend 3 hours in the Luce Library’s Special Collections room.  Ah, conflicts!  There’s only so much time.  Kenneth Henke, the reference archivist, was a great help.

The Pauck manuscript collection is very nicely organized, and in letter-sized 5″ boxes.  Every box has folders labeled “Box ___ folder ___”, and the materials are not described on the folders, but in a separate archival description (found online at the website — it’s what I used to find which boxes I wanted in the first place).  There are some nice pieces in there, including correspondence between both Wilhelm Pauck and his second wife Marion — still alive and apparently a great conversationalist!  The great find was a Sittler typescript of a speech he delivered in honor of Wilhelm Pauck, of which we now have a photocopy from the original left with Pauck.  Its context data happens to be in the same box, in another folder of correspondence.  It’s always nice to have identifying information!

The McCord manuscript collection is plus formidable!  It doesn’t come in 5″ boxes, but letter-size file boxes that weigh a ton each.  Where I asked for 5 Pauck boxes, and they were convenient, I feel bad about the eight crates of McCord papers!  Some very good finds — a set of 1968 correspondence with handwritten notes and a speech in memory of Joseph Haroutunian, papers from the Chicago Theological Discussion Group in the 40s, and a full file of New Delhi papers and context information — but otherwise quite a lot of misses in places I thought might have been hits.  But I got data from them anyways — ruling out events.  There’s more that I didn’t get to see, too, but there’s only so much time to squeeze in.  You have to pick your best guesses!

Oh, and the leads I have to follow up!  More work…


Thursday 16th June, 2011

Some Princeton Spelunking

by Matt Frost

The beginning of next week will be spent out at Princeton Sem for the Barth-Aquinas conference, so while I’m out there, I may be spending some free time in their archives. We have several recordings of Joe at PTS, and those are first on the list, for researching some of the details. I know there were other occasions where Joe and Pres. McCord were in the same places, and McCord’s files show correspondence from the Institute of Theology. In Pauck’s files there’s a Sittler bio of Pauck and some correspondence, and the McIntire files have something as well. (Which is a big win for web-accessible standard archival descriptions – a benefit to a) standard fonds collection and organization at the institution level, and b) a paid archivist.) That’s a fantastic start, before I get there! To have leads in hand with series and box numbers, from the website … I want that for the Sittler Archives. Obviously I’m also interested in the materials, but gleaning methods is part of the job, too!

Monday 6th June, 2011

“Hidden Collections”

by Matt Frost

Part of my job is cataloging, and part of that job is taking the paper sheets we write up for our inventory and figuring out the best way to turn them into digitally accessible records.  In 1997, when the Sittler Archives was founded at LSTC, one of our “if the money exists” desiderata of the charter was an OCLC-compatible catalog.  Now, it’s been quite a while, and that’s more or less a joke with no full time archivist and no full-time cataloger, only a 10-hour fellow and the volunteer labor of the founders.  But shrugging off the idea of making MARC records, the basic idea is to make this collection accessible to off-site users in increasing ways, and so to extend the mission of our Archives beyond its walls.

So, in my reading, I came across a whole issue of RBM devoted to a dear subject to my heart: Hidden Collections.  (All of the pieces in it are available in full in PDF.)  There but for the grace of God (and the Georges, and the Sittler family) go we!  You see, the Sittler Archives shares LSTC’s archival vault with a whole vast trove of predecessor-body archives from other seminaries and churches, including a few scraps of the old Suomi Synod archives.  All for the most part unused, and quite qualified for the label “Hidden Special Collection.”  The Sittler Archives aims to be as unhidden a special collection as possible, but all this means is we’re trying to solve the problems that plague our shelf-mates in the vault.  And as a dedicated independent organization, we can do that in ways that the Jesuit-Krauss-McCormick library that houses us can’t — it is our sole mandate to take care of this particular special collection.

First off, Mandel is quite right about the “white elephant” nature of these bequests and acquisitions!  JKM’s archivist has been hobby-working on some of them for years, and if he were to turn full-time to it, it would still be a massive undertaking!  In today’s budget climate, the library can no longer spare him even for the hobby-work.  And so the collections sit in climate control and wait.  Which they can do — but that’s not the point!

And reading through Jones’ whitepaper, “Hidden Collections, Scholarly Barriers,” I have to say that I see all of the issues she raises!  But many of the solutions she proposes in 2003 now exist in usable and practiced form in 2011, which is an advantage.  The tools are there.

Katz’s article, emphasizing “partially processed” as a perfectly valid category, and the primary use audience of scholars and teachers, has an appeal to me.  Especially as we have just had a visiting scholar doing research with our collections!  It’s a very useful way to gain perspective on what it is you’re doing, and which materials you should be doing it with, first!

Tabb’s emphasis on “preliminary record” cataloging is where I’m headed, for the simple reason that I love the materials in our files far too much to get a sizable swath of them accessible by digitizing full records for each and every one in one go.  It’s horribly time consuming!  And I know I won’t be on this job forever, and that the next student won’t necessarily have the experience I have.  It’s better by far to turn over a working bare-bones structure that can be easily embellished, than a mountain of work to be climbed one box at a time.  And the key there is also “working” — if we can get basic listing access available to the public, it’s a usable first step.  “The perfect is the enemy of the good.”

So, some of the things the Archival Fellow is thinking about lately.

Friday 3rd June, 2011

Style and Sittler

by Matt Frost

Of all the regular topics Joe addressed, style seems to be one of the most persistent and popular.  There were a whole mess of quotes for it; from “Style is the man himself” (George-Louis Leclerc de Buffon) to “it is style which is the deference that action pays to uncertainty” (J. Robert Oppenheimer).  That last deserves a bit more expansion:

The problem of doing justice to the implicit, the imponderable, and the unknown is of course not unique in politics. It is always with us in science, it is with us in most trivial of personal affairs, and it is one of the great problems of writing and of all forms of art. The means by which it is solved is sometimes called style. It is style which complements affirmation with limitation and with humility; it is style which makes it possible to act effectively, but not absolutely; it is style which, in the domain of foreign policy, enables us to find harmony between the pursuit of ends essential to us, and the regard for the views, the sensibilities, the aspirations of those to whom the problem may appear in another light; it is style which is the deference that action pays to uncertainty; it is above all style though which power defers to reason.

This served a major role in the formation of ethical style; in the 1977 Summer Seminar at Valparaiso, Joe leaned heavily on it.  I don’t have the quote handy, but something about the need for absolute action in the midst of absolute indeterminacy.  Simply put, even inaction is a choice with consequences, and if one is not to lean into a codification of what is right ethical action (that way lies casuistry, and the assurance that the codified action will be the wrong one at some critical juncture), style is the only thing that we have to rely on for consistent choices.

As I listen to another recording, from 1982, there is a Whitehead quote used to describe Joe’s approach.  Joe cites it in the opening of Essays on Nature and Grace, and it is this: “Style is the morality of the mind.”  As the opening speaker on the recording puts it, “Style is not something added to the thought processes and the human experiences in life, but is the means by which we come to the reflections as we bring together our sense perceptions of the world and our attempts and our desires to pull it together.”  And yet I have a further Whitehead quote on the topic that brings me around to the point I want:

The most austere of all mental qualities; I mean the sense for style. It is an aesthetic sense, based on admiration for the direct attainment of a foreseen end, simply and without waste. Style in art, style in literature, style in science, style in logic, style in practical execution have fundamentally the same aesthetic qualities, namely, attainment and restraint. The love of a subject in itself and for itself, where it is not the sleepy pleasure of pacing a mental quarter-deck, is the love of style as manifested in that study. … Style, in its finest sense, is the last acquirement of the educated mind; it is also the most useful. It pervades the whole being. The administrator with a sense for style hates waste; the engineer with a sense for style economises his material; the artisan with a sense for style prefers good work. Style is the ultimate morality of mind. … Style is the fashioning of power, the restraining of power … with style the end is attained without side issues, without raising undesirable inflammations. With style you attain your end and nothing but your end. With style the effect of your activity is calculable, and foresight is the last gift of gods to men. With style your power is increased, for your mind is not distracted with irrelevancies, and you are more likely to attain your object. Now style is the exclusive privilege of the expert. Whoever heard of the style of an amateur painter, of the style of an amateur poet? Style is always the product of specialist study, the peculiar contribution of specialism to culture.”

In 1982, Joe is quite blind.  Having been a perfectionist in crafting his presentations, he is forced now to “think more on less.”  And it is in this that his style changes.  I might disagree therefore with this last bit from Whitehead, except that Joe admires those for whom polish and elegance in systematic presentation of material remains their metier.  But Joe has become what they call him: the prober, “Old Brooder.”  His is a meditative and reflective style, an organic one as it reproduces the manner in which the matter in question — whatever it may be — appears to him.  And here is where I need not disagree with Whitehead, for it was indeed the last acquired!  But the end is never attained without side issues; indeed, side issues are the point!  Whitehead desires an efficiency, an economy of style which fits his world as a man of math and physics.  But the theologian may perhaps never have such a clear path to her object, and indeed must never assume a clear path as long as the sights are set on God.  And indeed Sittler is bold to talk about style as the provenance of any agent, not just the professional; style as the necessity, not the donum superadditum, of even commencing to work.  This great generalist, a constructive thinker rather than a precisely focused systematic theologian, was willing to be an amateur learning anything that might be done in the world.

Did he lack style?  No, and this is where I would place the Oppenheimer quote over against Whitehead.  Rather than the straightforwardness of efficient and directed action, Joe’s style was filled with the deference of singular concern exercised in a plural world.  Peripatetic, circumambulatory, growing in one direction by learning in every other, with a strong sense of the necessity of play (without ever having to refer to Heidegger for any of this, though Ricoeur may have something to do with it…).  The man himself became style, in the end.  He was, as he said once of Conrad Bergendoff, a man who “looked like what he was, who was what he said, who did what he promised, whose inwardness was permeable to any gaze without the perception of any gap.”  And perhaps this is the key, however one may polish one’s style over time: integrity.  Authenticity.  “Style is the man himself.”