The 154 volumes represent a valuable resource for both scholarly research and personal information, said Bill Sumners, director of the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives.
"The SBC annual is a basic document for Southern Baptist history. All the major events that have happened within the convention are documented in the annuals," Sumners said.
The annuals are a key source for students engaged in dissertation research as well as people who, for example, might want to learn about an ancestor who was a Baptist minister years ago.
Sumners said the annuals also might be accessed in looking for an answer to questions like, "How have Southern Baptists addressed issues like the social gospel?" or "What kind of work was the Home Mission Board (now North American Mission Board) doing in Appalachia or among immigrants?"
Not only are the SBC annuals valuable as a record of the history and actions of the Southern Baptist Convention, but the early years contain the texts of speeches and sermons as well as useful statistics, said Kathy Robinson Hillman, director of special collections for Baylor University Central Libraries.
"Some of the earlier issues, particularly those from the 1800s, have limited availability even in the United States," Hillman said. "Reports by boards, agencies and seminaries document shifts in focus and expansion of missions and education in the convention. Certainly, anyone studying American religion or Baptists in the United States will be able to utilize these documents in their research."
The annual publication records business actions taken during convention gatherings, including entity reports, pertinent statistics, state convention information, and lists of staff, trustees and committees, according to the SBHLA website. A minister list appearing at the end of certain annuals includes pastors, ministers of education, ministers of youth, associate ministers, mission pastors, ordained ministers, chaplains, and evangelists.
The partnership project with Baylor began in June 2010, after the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives concluded a two-year project of scanning archived Baptist Press articles dating between 1948 and 1996, Sumners said. The actual scanning of the annuals, funded by Baylor, started in August 2010. The Executive Committee provided funding to make the results searchable and to post them on the Internet in July 2011.
Conducting the project in partnership with Baylor was crucial because scanning the 75,366 pages of material would have been "a bit overwhelming" for an organization with a small staff like his, Sumners said.
"It was a very cooperative endeavor. Baylor had excellent scanning equipment we did not have. They offered to do all the scanning and enter the metadata and get them ready to load onto the website," Sumners said. "We provided some of the annuals from our collection and Baylor provided the others. We worked with the Executive Committee to get permissions to do the scanning and put them up on the website. Hopefully people who use it will be pleased."
Hillman agreed: "The Baylor University Libraries are pleased to have cooperated in the SBC annuals digitization project. Partnering made possible what would have been a difficult process for either Baylor or the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives."
To access the files, visit www.sbhla.org and click on Collections to find "SBC Annuals" on the list. The archives can be searched using names, keywords or phrases. The files are indexed through Google Search and can be located through that search utility as well.
Mark Kelly is senior writer and an assistant editor for Baptist Press.
Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net