Short Stories from Heritage Hall
Origins Online? Why?
I am a digital person. I have a blog and several social media accounts. But I remember when life was analog. I learned to type on a manual typewriter in the early 1980s. In college I wrote papers and an undergraduate thesis by hand and then typed them. Not until graduate school in the late 1980s and early 1990s did I start to write on a computer. These days I read almost all newspaper and magazine material online. While I prefer to read books in print and take notes in the margins, as a matter of convenience I read many books in Kindle format on my iPad.
It’s time for Origins to enter the digital age, along with Heritage Hall generally, and reach more people.
Heritage Hall is the the archives for the Christian Reformed Church, Calvin University, and Calvin Theological Seminary. It also has rich resources in Dutch North American history and Reformed intellectual history.
The archives published Issue 1:1 of Origins: Historical Magazine of The Archives in 1983. The curator at the time was Herb Brinks, who also taught in the history department at Calvin College. (I had him as a professor in 1987-1988 in a course on Colonial America.) Issue 1:1 included several stories about Netherlanders in Chicago, and it promised future issues on “Western Michigan, Ontario, Iowa, and California.” Issue 1:1 also introduced the staff and work of Heritage Hall and called readers to contribute their “buried treasures” to the collection.
A donation from a Mr. John Meyer had enabled the archives “to realize a long cherished objective, the publication of a popular historical journal.” Issue 1:1 did not elaborate much on the goals of Origins but stated simply that the magazine “was designed to publicize and advance the objectives of the Archives.” These objectives were “the gathering, organization, and study of historical materials produced by the day to day activities of the Christian Reformed Church, its institutions, communities, and people.”
Origins Online will not replace the print version of Origins. The mission Origins is not changing, nor is that of Heritage Hall. We will continue to tell stories about the history of Dutch North American communities and about the Christian Reformed Church, Calvin University, and Calvin Theological Seminary. Rather, going digital will enable us to reach more people.
Origins Online is part of a larger effort by Heritage Hall to enhance its mission by doing digital history. Our collection of material related to Dutch immigration and Reformed intellectual and social life has been searchable online for several years. This fall, the finding aids for the Christian Reformed Church and Calvin Theological Seminary will become searchable online. We plan to put the large Calvin University collection finding aid online soon too. And we plan to make more of our images, documents and other sources available online.
Origins: Historical Magazine of the Archives tells full-length stories. Origins Online will be more like postcards. It will include short stories about the past not found in the print version of Origins. It also will feature brief summaries and snippets from older issues of Origins magazine and provide a link to the full print version of the story. And it will publish stories about what’s happening Heritage Hall today.
What are our staff and volunteers doing? What interesting new collections have come in? How are current events connected to the history Heritage Hall and Origins cover? It’s not just Heritage Hall and Origins that are evolving. The communities associated with the denomination, seminary and university are evolving, and thus so is “our” history. We have become more diverse, with communities of indigenous, Africa, Korean, and Latino descent. That means there’s lots of great new and old stories to tell.
William Katerberg is professor of history and interim curator of Heritage Hall at Calvin University.