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SBL Archive

Institutional memory is a dynamic but elusive phenomenon. It rides the waves of oral culture with its turbulence of competing perceptions, until the questions of a new generation or the desires of the older generations to preserve the past spur historians to sound the depths for artifacts on which to anchor full narratives.

—Andrew D. Scrimgeour (SBL Emeritus Archivist)

The Society of Biblical Literature is a well-established learned society, tracing its origins to a small group of scholars who first convened at Union Theological Seminary in 1880. Prior to the 1980s, however, the documentary history of the Society was sparse and scattered. Records were kept by individual members, with little or no overarching organization. When the Society celebrated its centennial anniversary in 1980, its leadership and members made a concerted effort to remedy this disarray. In 1982, the Society formally established its first archives at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado. This collection was moved in 2000 to Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, where it rested secure for eighteen years under the expert directorship of Andrew D. Scrimgeour. In 2018, the archives relocated once again, this time to Emory University’s Pitts Theological Library in Atlanta, Georgia, where it could be closer to the Society’s headquarters. Here it resides today, under the direction of Brandon Wason, the current SBL Archivist.

The archives contains a variety of records and artifacts from the expected to the bizarre, including administrative files; committee work; publications; materials related to the Annual, International, and Regional Meetings; and even the singed hair of a former Society president and colorful correspondence.

Members and staff may access this collection for research at the Jeschke-Graham Reading Room, Pitts Theology Library. The finding aid for the collection is freely available online. For information on visiting the archive, contact: Brandon Wason (404.727.1222; bwason@emory.edu).

We welcome additions to the archive. In addition to written documents, the archives house personal reflections, photos, and artifacts related to the Society and biblical studies more widely. Below are the projects currently accepting submissions. If you would like to submit something to the archives unrelated to one of these projects, please contact sblarchives@sbl-site.org.

 

For more on the history of the archives, see Andrew D. Scrimgeour, “Inventories of the Past, Intimations of the Future: The Archives of the SBL,” SBL Forum (2005).

 
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