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About Eric Ames

Assistant Director for Marketing & Communication, Libraries and ITS and adjunct lecturer in Department of Museum Studies, Baylor University.

Rachel Risk didn’t expect to make a life-changing discovery in Box 47 of the Kathleen Kenyon Archaeology Collection, but that’s the kind of thing that can happen when you’re doing original research on a topic you love.

Rachel Risk (Senior, University Scholar) examines a typewritten transcript of a letter written by Dame Kathleen Kenyon as her faculty sponsor, Dr. Deirdre Fulton, looks on.

When Rachel entered Baylor University her freshman year, she thought she wanted to pursue a career in Biblical archaeology. She decided to major as a University Scholar, a build-your-own-path program for high-achieving students that would allow her to bring in elements of religion, Biblical languages, anthropology and more. And it was while sitting in her Hebrew I course – taught by Dr. Fulton – that the focus of her academic career (and possibly her life) was changed thanks to a random question.

“I knew Rachel had an interest in Biblical archaeology and I thought I knew of a project that might be intriguing to her,” Deirdre told me when she and Rachel sat down to talk about their work together. “I had been introduced to the Kenyon collection by Jennifer Borderud, who knew of it from her work in rare books with Moody before she went to the Armstrong Browning Library. And I thought Rachel would enjoy taking a look at it.”

“It” turned out to be an archival collection of papers and files generated by Dame Kathleen Kenyon, one of the 20th century’s most important archaeologists. Best known for her excavations of the important Biblical cities of Samaria, Jericho, and Jerusalem, Kenyon’s contributions to the field were extremely influential, in particular her refinement of an approach to excavating sensitive sites in a grid-focused, methodical way that gives archaeologists a good view of the changes in the soil strata over time. (The method, known today as the Wheeler-Kenyon method, is partly named in her honor). Kenyon’s papers were purchased by Baylor University in 1984 and processed as the Kathleen Kenyon Archaeology Collection.

The papers had seen some use when Miriam Davis wrote her biography of Dame Kenyon – Dame Kathleen Kenyon: Digging Up the Holy Land – which was released in 2008. Davis had focused her research on Kenyon’s work in Jericho and Jerusalem, leaving the bulk of the collection in the broadly cataloged state in which she found it. But when Jennifer Borderud mentioned the collection to Deirdre, neither could have known that it was Kenyon’s interactions with a well-known epigrapher that would come to be of interest to Rachel Risk.

“I am only concerned with the archeological aspect.”

While Kenyon was working at Jericho and before her famous work in Jerusalem, she was involved in the story of what are arguably the most important ancient texts found in the Holy Land: the Dead Sea Scrolls. Discovered by Bedouin shepherds in 1946 in the Qumran Caves, these fragments of texts have been a source of great interest to scholars in any number of disciplines including linguistics, religion and archaeology. The scrolls have also generated a fair share of controversy in that their texts are often prone to widely divergent interpretations and they were found in a region whose geopolitical stability is often as perilous as the shifting desert sands.

But it was the involvement of a man named John Allegro – a scholar of Hebrew dialects – that drew the attention of Dame Kenyon. Allegro had made a name for himself by translating and releasing a book about the so-called Copper Scroll, a work whose contents Allegro believed would lead to the discovery of an actual treasure trove. Allegro wrote a book about his interpretation of the Copper Scroll’s contents and promptly set about trying to find the “buried treasure” he felt it described, and that is when Kenyon put her foot down.

In a letter dated January 6th, 1960, Kenyon gives Allegro a piece of her mind regarding his approach of hastily excavating sites that had been undisturbed for centuries. “What you are doing is exactly comparable as regards the destruction of evidence as if I were to cut up a manuscript with a pair of scissors without any prior record of its contents,” Kenyon writes scathingly. “Whether or not you find anything, you are destroying evidence with your rabbit burrows. It will be more especially disastrous if you do find anything, as only proper stratigraphical [sic] excavation could establish how and when it was deposited.”

Portion of the January 6, 1960 letter (in transcript form) from Kenyon to John Allegro

It was this letter – and this paragraph in particular – that drew Rachel’s interest as she worked her way through Box 47 of the Kenyon materials. She knew about Allegro and his interest in the Copper Scroll – which he believed would point readers to the Second Temple Treasure – and about the general difficulties surrounding the Dead Sea Scrolls, but this was the first she had seen of Dame Kenyon’s involvement in the matter. She soon found that there were several copies of this letter condemning Allegro’s actions in Kenyon’s archives, including a typewritten transcript.

Under Deirdre’s guidance, Rachel had been working with the Kenyon archives, which included creating enhanced finding aids for the collection so other researchers could have a better sense of what was housed in its 76 boxes (38 linear feet). The work was being conducted using funds from an internal Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Achievement (URSA) grant secured by Dr. Fulton, which paid Rachel for her time working in the archives. The more Rachel worked with the materials, the more she began to realize that Dame Kenyon’s involvement in the controversies surrounding the Dead Sea Scrolls had been largely forgotten by subsequent generations of archaeologists, and she decided she wanted to pursue available avenues to spotlight the situation.

She formulated and submitted a poster presentation to the American Schools of Oriental Research conference in Boston, and was accepted. She attended the conference using URSA funds and presented “Kathleen Kenyon and John Allegro: Revealing the Contents of the Dead Sea Scrolls” alongside Deirdre; she is presently working on a presentation, also with Deirdre, for the inaugural Baylor Libraries event “Sharing Her Story: Spotlighting Women’s Collections at Baylor.”

Rachel’s experiences in the Kenyon archives have begun to shift her belief about her post-graduation career path. Initially interested in a career as a Biblical archaeologist doing field work, now she’s considering a job in the researching side of the profession as an archivist, museum professional (she’s a Museum Studies minor), or scholar. “I’m shifting my ideas about my career away from acquiring artifacts toward being the scholar back home who researches the stories behind the objects and writes about that process,” Rachel said.

For Deirdre, guiding an undergraduate in the process of doing original research from archival materials was a new one and it required a good deal of trust in Rachel. But taking that risk – combined with Deirdre’s background in Kenyon’s methodology, archaeological methods and the politics of the Middle East – has produced a new view of Dame Kenyon’s participation in a fascinating moment in archaeology’s modern era.

For their part, the Baylor Libraries hope to leverage Rachel’s work in the Kenyon archives into an opportunity to do further work with expanding finding aids and more original research projects, said Andrea Turner, the Special Collections Manager for Central Libraries. Andrea worked with Rachel and Deirdre to provide access to the materials and guided them in the process of working up finding aids for an archival collection. The end result will be a more fully realized picture of what’s in the collection, Andrea reported, and that will likely make the next researcher’s investigation into Dame Kenyon’s fascinating life all the easier.

Rachel Risk and Deirdre Fulton, photographed in the Riley Reading Room of Moody Memorial Library, February 9, 2018

As the archaeological and cultural heritage communities continue to work out what it means to be ethical catalogers of the world’s antiquities, it’s comforting to know that thoughtful people like Deirdre and Rachel are pursuing academic careers aimed at expanding knowledge while respecting the originating cultures who created the items we see in our collections of antiquities and artifacts. And as new discoveries are made – and new careers are charted – our libraries will be there to provide access to the techniques, resources and expertise necessary to fuel them.

An Interesting Footnote

John Allegro, the man whose interpretation of the Copper Scroll led Dame Kenyon to liken his archaeological methods to digging “rabbit burrows,” would go on to infamy for a book he wrote titled The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross, in which he posited the theory that the stories that form the basis of Christianity were the result of an Essene cult that experienced hallucinations after ingesting psychotropic mushrooms; he also believed that a historical Jesus never existed, and he was instead a new version of the “Teacher of Righteousness” mentioned in the Dead Sea Scrolls. This was, to put it mildly, a controversial theory and resulted in Allegro being discredited by almost all of his peers.

Baylor University's librarians provide crucial academic support for a thriving community of scholars, but what often goes unheralded is the amount of their own scholarly output that is generated every year in the form of articles, presentations, poster sessions and service on committees and panels. Recently, the Research & Engagement (R&E) group joined their colleagues in Delivery Services and the libraries' special collections to review some of the Baylor librarians' accomplishments for 2017 and to preview the upcoming year's impressive slate of academic activities. Take a look below to see some of the ways this diverse group of professionals is making an impact in the world of librarianship, academic research and the broader field of library science.

Individual Projects

  • Josh Been co-authored an article in Volume 36, 2017 of the Medical Reference Services Quarterly called “Using Maps to Promote Data-Driven Decision-Making: One Library's Experience in Data Visualization Instruction.” (Read the abstract here: He has also proposed a presentation, along with a collaborator at the University of Houston, for the University of Houston Conference on Hispanic Studies called “Understanding and Visualizing Latinx Experiences on Social Media.”


  • Clayton Crenshaw will present a poster at the MLA (Music Library Association) annual meeting in February called “Availability of New Releases in Streaming Audio Databases.”


  • Bruce Evans chairs the Online Audiovisual Catalogers (OLAC) Cataloging Policy Committee, where he presented about the formation of a new taskforce to create a unifying a best practices document in special format cataloging.  Bruce was also recently elected to the board of the Music Library Association.



  • Kara Long contributed a chapter titled “From Records to Data,” to be published in the upcoming book Technical Services: Adapting to the Changing Environment.


  • Pete Ramsey will be presenting a hands-on workshop to TLA (Texas Library Association) in April on using Trello for project management and how he’s used the software with students to guide them through the research process. Pete also has an article forthcoming in Public Services Quarterly called “The Professor-Librarian: Academic Librarians Teaching Credit-Bearing Courses.”


  • Mike Thompson presented at the Charleston conference in November along with Baylor’s EBSCO customer service representative called “’Mr. Watson–Come here–I want to see you.’ Upgrading Your Tech Support Communications.” The presentation focused on communication effectiveness between librarians and vendors; Mike plans to follow the presentation up with an article. Mike will also be presenting on a panel at TLA in April called “How to Run Trials for Electronic Resources: Workflows, Communication, Promotion, and Organizing Feedback.”


  • Sha Towers will present a virtual midwinter session for the ACRL Arts Section on arts-based outreach in the library, specifically what fellowships, exhibits and events librarians are putting on to highlight their arts collections and resources.


  • Sinai Wood continues her work with The Technical Report Archive & Image Library (TRAIL) which identifies, acquires, catalogs, digitizes and provides unrestricted access to U.S. government agency technical reports.  She provides regular information sessions to help members join the organization.


Joint Projects / Collaborations

  • Mike Thompson and Josh Been will present at the ER&L (Electronic Resources and Libraries) conference in March on a rubric for evaluating the data in subscription content for use in digital scholarship.  Their presentation is called “Drilling Down: Assessing Digital Scholarship Options Available through Commercial Vendors.”


  • Bill Hair and Josh Been will present at ATLA (American Theological Library Association) in June on collaborations to embed digital humanities into religious/theological studies.  Their presentation is called “Slave Narratives, the Bible and Hymns, Oh My … Religion Text Mining/Analysis as a Liaison Service.”


  • Eric Ames (chair) and Kara Long served on the planning committee for the 2018 Texas Conference on Digital Libraries (TCDL), sponsored by the Texas Digital Library.


  • Bill HairEileen Bentsen and Josh Been have proposed a poster for TLA in April called “Another Hammer in the Humanities Liaison’s Toolkit: Text Mining/Analysis” that will focus on a broader use of collaborations between liaisons and the digital humanities.


  • Amie Oliver and Josh Been have proposed a presentation for the SSA (Society of Southwest Archivists) conference in May called “Visualizing City Directories” about a digital scholarship project they are planning that integrates an 1886 map of Waco with the first Waco residential and business directory which will look at population concentration, age, religion, businesses and social networks.


  • Sinai Wood and Josh Been will present a seminar for Baylor’s Academy for Teaching and Learning’s Seminars in Excellence in Teaching in the spring called “Integrating Data Visualizations in the Classroom.”


  • Billie Peterson-Lugo and Christina Chan-Park will present at TLA in April on “Cultivating ORCIDs on your Campus.”


  • Allie McCormackSha TowersJennifer Borderud and Amie Oliver have proposed a participant-driven presentation for RBMS (Rare Books and Manuscripts Section of ACRL) in June called “Converging Collections: Collaborations Across Campus” on the many special collections collaborations they have been a part of across campus in partnership with different disciplines.


  • Allie McCormack and Sha Towers have proposed a poster for RBMS focused on using special collections in English composition classes.


  • Bruce Evans and Allison Yanos were a part of the committee that submitted the document “Core Competencies for Cataloging and Metadata Professional Librarians” that was accepted by ALCTS at ALA Midwinter. They have submitted an article about the process to the ALCTS journal Library Resources and Technical Services.

This list, while impressive on its own, is just a sampling of the many ways Baylor's librarians and library staff work each semester to support the academic endeavors of our campus and to forward the various fields in which they work. Their commitment to Baylor's success may be behind-the-scenes for many, but it is crucial to our university's long-term aims of attaining Tier 1 research status, and the libraries are committed to reaching even greater heights in 2018.

BANNED BOOKS WEEK 2017: Sept. 24 - Sept. 30

Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read.

Coordinated by the American Library Association (ALA), the week brings together a community of people and events to highlight the harms of censorship.

The Central Libraries is celebrating the freedom to read with some of our favorite faculty readers.  They’ve picked some of their favorite classics that have continued to be banned and challenged over the years. This video features Bill Hair, DeAnna Toten Beard, Tom Hanks and Lauren Weber.

BONUS video: Randy Umstead reads Atticus Finch's closing arguments speech from "To Kill a Mockingbird."

Keep reading for more information from ALA on this important topic.

Beth Farwell
Director, Central Libraries

Q: What is the difference between a challenge and a ban?

A: A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group.  A banning is the removal of those materials.  Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others.  Due to the commitment of librarians, teachers, parents, students and other concerned citizens, most challenges are unsuccessful and most materials are retained in the school curriculum or library collection.

Q: Why are books challenged?

A: Books usually are challenged with the best intentions—to protect others, frequently children, from difficult ideas and information. See our Notable First Amendment Cases page.

Censorship can be subtle, almost imperceptible, as well as blatant and overt, but, nonetheless, harmful. As John Stuart Mill wrote in On Liberty:

If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind. Were an opinion a personal possession of no value except to the owner; if to be obstructed in the enjoyment of it were simply a private injury, it would make some difference whether the injury was inflicted only on a few persons or on many. But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.


Archival boxes containing some of the Feuerstein Collection

The Baylor Libraries serve a wide range of users: students, faculty and staff of our fine university and the greater Central Texas area, for starters. In fact, almost a million visitors come into the Central Libraries buildings every year. But sometimes we get the opportunity to connect on a personal level with a patron, and in the case of a recent visit by Victor Kramer, it's a connection with a personal tie.

Mr. Kramer is the nephew of Thomas C. Feuerstein, a 1952 Baylor graduate and longtime theater, speech and drama instructor. Feuerstein's materials were donated to the Central Libraries Special Collections, and Mr. Kramer contacted Central Libraries Director Beth Farwell for a chance to see them in person. Beth, Victor, his wife Dewey and special collections manager Andrea Turner spent time last week looking through the collection of unique materials from Thomas Feuerstein's academic and professional career, including scrapbooks, personal correspondence and Baylor memorabilia from the 1950s.

We wanted to show off some photos of the meeting as a look into one of the many ways our Central Libraries interact with our patrons on a daily basis.

Beginning this week, the Central Libraries are now home to six new KIC self-service scanners, available in both Moody and Jones for our patrons' convenience. These easy-to-use scanners allow users to make digital images of books, papers, notes and other study materials directly to a USB memory stick. (And if you forget your flash drive, don't worry: you can check out a loaner from the TechPoint desk on Moody Garden Level! Or, purchase your own from our supplies vending machine on Moody 2nd floor.)

KIC scanner near the Moody 1st Floor circulation desk, August 2, 2017

The scanners were purchased using funds donated to the libraries to support our patrons' academic endeavors, and we are excited to offer them throughout the Central Libraries' two main buildings. They're designed to be user friendly and fast, but if you have any questions, feel free to stop by either buildings' circulation desk or the TechPoint desk for help.

KIC Scanning Stations in Moody and Jones

Moody Garden Level (near the Techpoint desk)
Full features, largest scanning bed, available during all "24 hour" periods

Moody 1st Floor
In front of the circulation desk

Moody 2nd Floor
Next to the BearCat quick look-up station in the elevator lobby

Moody 3rd Floor
At the top of stairwell, near the copier

Jones 1st Floor
Near the information desk, by VIA stations and the copier

Jones 2nd Floor
Near the restrooms, near the copier