A Foundation for Research

The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations have made a major contribution to the Seminary Library’s Special Collections through a grant to organize, preserve, describe, and make publicly accessible three major collections of personal papers: the John Mackay Collection, the Carl McIntire Collection, and the Thomas F. Torrance Collection.

The McIntire and Torrance Collections are fully processed, and searchable guides for each are available online. Processing the Mackay Collection is ongoing.

According to Clifford Anderson, curator of Special Collections, the McIntire Collection “has become among our most popular, drawing historians from around the country and the world.” Scholars from the southern United States, from Singapore, and from Finland have recently come to Princeton to use the collection.

All three collections are significant in both size and importance. The McIntire Collection is the largest in the Seminary archives, totaling 650 linear feet. It and the Mackay Collection together “document two faces of American Protestantism during its heyday, and the Torrance Collection provides access to the unpublished correspondence, sermons, and manuscripts of the most significant English-speaking theologian of the second half of the twentieth century,” explains Anderson.

Working on this project has uncovered complex links between the collections. In particular, the Mackay and McIntire papers document the struggle over the future of Presbyterianism at mid-century, and the combination of the two collections at one library puts each into an interpretative context that would be diminished if they were located at separate institutions.

The Mackay and Torrance Collections are complementary, explains Anderson, “not only because both collections document the influence of Karl Barth on English-speaking theology, but also because they illustrate the influence of Scottish theologians on the American theological scene.” Mackay was the fourth president of Princeton Seminary, and a world church leader and ecumenist. Torrance is the father of current PTS president Iain Torrance.

Special collections like these provide original sources and therefore resources for original historical research. Church historians, historians of doctrine, and students need to work from contemporary documents, and not rely solely on published narratives.
Finding aids for the McIntire Collection are at http://digital.library.ptsem.edu/ead/collection/222/. Finding aids for the Torrance Collection are at http://digital.library.ptsem.edu/ead/collection/223/.