Archives as a Path to Justice

No one would argue that a Bible printed in 1493, stained-glass windows from the 16th century, and Heinrich Hofmann’s 1890 masterpiece “Christ in Gethsemane” aren’t valuable assets. But just as valuable to The Riverside Church, established as an interdenominational church in 1930, are its thousands of institutional documents, committee minutes, sermons, program booklets, membership records, audio and video recordings, and photographs that capture the development of liberal Christianity and a unique slice of American history.

It’s a history seen through the eyes of a New York City church grappling in real time with the changes happening in society. With documents from predecessor churches dating back to 1841, Riverside’s collections have long been used by local, national, and international researchers, historians, and journalists as primary sources. Today, the church itself is making greater use of its archival materials to analyze the trajectory of its stance on issues of racial justice.

“Our past is integral to our identity,” says Diane Russo, who came to Riverside four years ago as director of its archives. “We’re looking at our journey – all the good and the bad – to assess who we are as a congregation. We want to see how we’ve dealt with things. It’s important for us to do this work to help figure out where we’re going in the future.”

Click here to read the full article by Masie Sparks at the Christian Science Moniter.