NASHVILLE — Digital files of the Baptist and Reflector and the Tennessee Baptist, its predecessor, which are searchable, are now available from issues published from 1835-1914.
The files are available at www.sbhla.org, which is the website of the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives, Nashville. The digital files of issues published from 2000-08 will be available soon on the website. By this summer, files from 1914-1939 should be available.
The project of making the files of the B&R and its predecessor available began in 2012, said Bill Sumners, director of the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives, and was initiated by Albert Wardin, a retired Nashville historian.
Wardin, a long-time member of the Tennessee Baptist Historical Society, enlisted the help of the society. Though the society is small at about 126 members, the society took it on.
At a recent meeting of the TBHS, members heard a short report on the B&R Digital Project, which is well on its way to being completed.
Charles Parker, outgoing president of TBHS who works with InterFACE Ministries in Nashville, said the society was glad to adopt the project and gave Wardin the credit for making it successful.
Wardin, retired professor of history, Belmont University, Nashville, explained that he realized the need for the project while researching and writing the history of Tennessee Baptists, Tennessee Baptists — A Comprehensive History 1779-1999.
Wardin said he relied on the B&R for much of his research but learned that it was not indexed in any way to make finding information quicker. Thus, he spent about two years reading through many issues of the B&R to compile needed information for the book, he explained.
Wardin not only enlisted TBHS to adopt the B&R Digital Project and of course SBHLA which works closely with the society, he also asked the Tennessee Baptist Foundation to give most of the funding. The Foundation board led by Gary Coltharp, president, gave a grant of $7,000 for the project.
Currently the project is basically paid for, said Sumners. He thanked all parties involved including Union University, Jackson, the fourth Baptist entity to become a part of the project.
Union provided the 2000-08 files working with SBHLA and will provide the files from 1940 into the future because the school’s library also has the needed equipment, noted Sumners. This is a great help because of the small staff of SBHLA, he added. Initially SBHLA was assisted by a student intern who worked for one summer at the agency and by the discovery of files already scanned by Baptist Bookshelf in Nappanee, Ind., who shared them with SBHLA, said Sumners.
When going to the Internet site, www.sbhla.org/tb_archive or www.sbhla.org and choosing Digital Resources, a person can either download a pdf of a particular issue or search for a topic or subject. The B&R has been published weekly for most of its history. The search will then show a list of issues including the word or words which were the object of the search. Those issues can then be chosen and downloaded.
Wardin said what has excited him is the fact that four Baptist entities cooperated to make the project possible. “It is really remarkable,” he noted.
“It’s going to be so valuable for historical research and for the staff of the Baptist and Reflector to find information that they need to find.”
Lonnie Wilkey, editor, said, “We are grateful to Dr. Wardin who spearheaded this effort to digitize the Baptist and Reflector. We also appreciate everyone who helped accomplish this task.
“It is an invaluable tool for those who desire to research Baptists or even personal history,” he added.