Moravian Archives Receives Digitization Grant for Labrador Records

Posted January 13, 2020 in General

Moravian Archives Receives Digitization Grant for Labrador Records

On January 9, 2020, the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) announced grants for eighteen digitization projects throughout the United States and Canada. The Moravian Archives is extremely pleased to announce that one of the approved projects is “Uncommon Bonds: Labrador Inuit and Moravian Missionaries” ($168,349.00). During this 24-month project the Moravian Archives in Bethlehem, PA, will digitize 56,199 pages of manuscript records from the Moravian Church in Labrador. Our partners in this project are Memorial University of Newfoundland, the Nunatsiavut Government, and the Moravian Church in Newfoundland and Labrador (MCNL), with project support provided by the National Heritage Digitization Strategy of Canada.

The project will begin on April 1, 2020. During the project the Moravian Archives will digitize records of the Moravian Church in Labrador from 1764-1944. These records were transferred to the Moravian Archives in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in 1959 and pertain primarily to the mission stations of Nain, Hopedale, and Hebron in Labrador, Canada. Mission stations at Killinek (in present-day Nunavut), Ramah, Zoar, Makkovik, and Happy Valley-Goose Bay are also represented.

The records consist of correspondence with the general administration of the Moravian Church in Europe as well as correspondence between mission station superintendents in Labrador; station diaries and proceedings of church conferences and house conferences, chronicling spiritual life at the settlements (e.g., worship, music, and traditional belief systems) as well as physical operation of the missions like building construction and repair; extensive linguistic material in the form of dictionaries and grammars; commerce and trade records; copies of legal documents regarding land grants and shipping vessel rights; memoirs of Inuit themselves (often in Inuttitut); liturgical writing in Inuttitut; membership records useful for genealogy; as well as data regarding medicine, meteorology and weather, and wildlife (e.g., hunting and fishing conditions). Also contained in the collection is a small number of maps from the region, which provide a remarkable window into the development of cartography in the region, settlement patterns, and place-names.

These records provide invaluable documentation of the lives of Inuit and missionaries in these communities and their relationship over the course of nearly two hundred years. The digitized material will be made available through the online finding aid of the Moravian Archives, on the digital platform (Digital Archives Initiative) of Memorial University of Newfoundland, and on the online Collections Repository of the Nunatsiavut Government.

The Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) is an independent, nonprofit organization that forges strategies to enhance research, teaching, and learning environments in collaboration with libraries, cultural institutions, and communities of higher learning. To learn more, visit CLIR’s Digitizing Hidden Collections grant program is made possible by funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Besides digitizing records, the “Uncommon Bonds” project includes a site visit to the Moravian Archives by representatives from the project partners in Labrador and Newfoundland. Archives staff will travel to Labrador at the end of the project to present the results of the project in each of the four Labrador communities with a Moravian presence.

“Uncommon Bonds” is one of eighteen funded projects among over 100 applicants. This is the third time the Moravian Archives has received a grant from CLIR. In 2009 we received a collaborative grant together with Lehigh University for the cataloging project, “The Moravian Community in the New World: The First Hundred Years”; in 2019 we received a digitization grant for the project, “Archiving Antigua: A Digital Record of Pre- and Post-Emancipation Antigua, 1760-1948.”