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Missionary Research Library Pamphlets

The Missionary Research Library Pamphlets collection contains selected pamphlets from the Missionary Research Library Archives held by The Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary. Columbia University Libraries, of which The Burke Library is a part, is funding the ongoing digitization of the pamphlets collection. Content will be added here over time as more pamphlets are digitized.

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About the Collection

The Missionary Research Library (MRL) was established by future Nobel Peace Laureate John R. Mott and opened in June 1914 with seed funding from John D. Rockefeller, Jr., following the 1910 World Missionary Conference (WMC) held in Edinburgh, Scotland. It marked an important moment in the evolution of the Protestant missionary project, bridging a preceding century focused on “Christianization” and the increasingly ecumenically-minded and pluralistic century that lay ahead.

Originally, the MRL was located at 25 Madison Avenue in New York City. The materials collected were made available for missionaries on furlough and in the field, those in missionary organizations or on mission boards, professors and scholars of missions, anthropologists, government officials, other libraries, and the general public. Materials collected by the library ranged from published pamphlets to archives of individual missionaries and institutional records. Comprising an ever-growing collection of materials from around the globe, the MRL recorded the context — historical, political, social, cultural, anthropological, medical, and educational — of mission “fields” in the early nineteenth through twentieth centuries.

In 1929, because of a lack of funding, the MRL was moved to the newly constructed Brown Tower at Union Theological Seminary. Thanks to the stewardship of librarians such as Charles H. Fahs and Hollis W. Herring, the MRL continued to grow despite financial constraints. The library’s minimal funding did eventually run out in 1976, at which time its collections were transferred to the Burke Library. What is referred to today as the MRL collections include 564 linear feet of archives of missionaries’ papers and institutional records, hundreds of printed books, and more than 21,000 pamphlets. All of this material has been processed, and is available through CLIO, Columbia’s online catalog, and through the library’s archival finding aids. Taken as a whole, the MRL collections form a remarkably comprehensive record of missionary work in education, politics, philanthropy, health, and related fields, and of the places in which that work was conducted over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

— Call, E. & Baker, M. (2015). “Philanthropy, faith, and influence: Documenting protestant missionary activism during the Armenian genocide.” The Reading Room: A Journal of Special Collections 1(1), pp. 12-13.