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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.

Congratulations to Andrea Turpin for winning the 2017 Lilly Fellows Program Book Award!


Click here for Baylor Media story




For more information on the award:

In light of the upcoming solar eclipse on August 21st, special collections catalogers Allie McCormack and Susan Bowlin share some rare books from the Central Libraries' Polk and Hughes collections that discuss the subject.

For as long as they have been gazing skyward, humans have studied eclipses and tried to explain them. Many of these explanations understandably involved the sun being eaten: the ancient Norse believed that wolves devour the sun during a solar eclipse, while the Mayans believed the sun had been swallowed by a serpent. Though these stories are fascinating, here we will describe several of the items in the Baylor Libraries that discuss eclipses in more scientific terms.

This book, the Libellus Astronomicus, is a textbook of astronomy written by German scholar Bernhard Hederich in 1598. It doesn’t resemble modern textbooks at all — there are few illustrations, and instead of simply explaining astronomical concepts to readers, it posits questions in the style of a Socratic dialogue. It is almost entirely in Latin, with some Greek and German phrases mixed in.

If you look closely, you will notice that the German words are printed in a different typeface than the other text. In the early days of European printing technology, certain fonts were affiliated with different cultural groups (like Italic type being used in Italian books). Latin was the language of universities and scholarship during this time period, so the inclusion of German words in this book suggests it may have been made specifically with a Germanic audience in mind. Even so, this audience would have been educated: literacy levels were low, and only advanced scholars would have been able to read Greek as well as Latin.

This next textbook, Hiram Mattison’s Elementary Astronomy, will probably look more familiar. It is structured around distinct lesson plans and has an appendix of “Questions for Examination.” The preface tells us that it was created specifically for primary schools, but this wasn’t for students to use on their own. Instead, this was a book for teachers, and the preface includes suggestions for how instructors could use the book in their classes. The picture to the right shows a table of solar eclipses that would be visible in Europe and North America from 1847, the year before the book was published, to 1900. Though for a younger audience, this book was grounded in the latest scientific knowledge.

This next picture is from Gillet & Rolfe’s 1883 textbook First Book in Astronomy. The book shows a professionalization of teaching: the writers are a professor and a former school headmaster, and there is more of a pedagogical focus in the text. There are even sections of the text that could be abridged or omitted by the classroom teacher, printed in a smaller typeface for distinction. A full 10 pages are devoted to eclipses, with questions printed after each section. There are many illustrations and diagrams throughout the text; the one to the right shows the path of a lunar eclipse in 1871.

The paper used in this book does not feel as soft as the previous textbook, and it is more acidic in content. The rise of compulsory schooling laws throughout the late 19thcentury likely created a demand for more textbooks, and new printing and papermaking technologies allowed books to be created faster and more cheaply. However, these pages in these books are prone to chipping, and they may be more fragile and in worse condition than books many decades older.

Textbooks weren’t the only way Americans learned about eclipses. Almanacs, annual publications that were written for the general public, contained weather-related predictions, dates of religious celebrations, information on the local government, and even literature. Solar eclipses affected the tides and animal behavior, so it would have been important for fishermen, farmers, and others to know when these were going to occur in a given year.

The almanac pictured to the right, a 1761 edition of Poor Richard Improved, is one of the more erudite American almanacs of the period. Besides calendars and tables, it contained poetry, essays, and practical advice for everyday living, including tips for making advantageous friendships. This sophistication is even evident in its section on eclipses, which contains a large illustration showing the mechanism of a lunar eclipse. The stylistics of this almanac may be due to its writer and printer, renowned polymath and Founding Father Benjamin Franklin. It is telling that the eclipses were described not at the beginning of the volume, as in most other almanacs of the period, but rather at the very end. This may suggest that Franklin was writing for the urban elites of Philadelphia rather than rural workers.

Contrast this with the next almanac, Ames’ Astronomical Diary, also for the year 1761. Information about eclipses comes even before the calendar in this volume. It is not illustrated, making it cheaper to produce, and had no literature and very little poetry. Instead, it contains practical articles on world coinage, fermenting wine out of currants (a type of berry), and the treatment of smallpox.

Franklin’s almanac also contained an article about smallpox. This highly contagious disease, which had a mortality rate of about 30%, was endemic throughout the world until the practice of vaccination became widespread at the end of the 19th century. Outbreaks occurred regularly in Colonial America, and indeed one had taken place from 1755-1756. Though both books contained information about the spread of and treatments for smallpox, they had different focuses. Ames’ almanac specifically described how to clean and disinfect houses where people had been infected by smallpox, once again showing its focus on practical knowledge.

Practicality is also emphasized in this volume of the New England Farmer’s Diary and Almanac, published in Vermont in 1820. Its calendar is extremely detailed, and the astronomical tables have both solar and lunar calculations. The eclipse chart is again at the front of the book and includes the latitude and longitude coordinates for the path of the eclipse. Instead of literary works, the almanac contains epigrams about weather and gardening as well as longer treatises on agricultural topics. It was clearly intended for a rural, working audience.

Though the previous almanacs showed age-related yellowing of the paper, this one has visible dark spots and staining. As we mentioned earlier, this is likely due to the higher acid content of the paper. The cheaper and faster production meant that this almanac could reach a wider audience than previous works, but this came at a cost. Indeed, this volume may be in worse condition than the textbook from 1598 featured at the beginning of this post!

We hope you have enjoyed reading about some of the eclipse-related books in the Central Libraries Special Collections. To see any of these items for yourself, or to learn about other scientific works in these collections, start with our webpages and plan a visit.

Works mentioned:
Astronomical diary, or an almanack... Boston: B. Green,1761. (Polk AY201 .B7 A63 1761)
Gillet, J. A. First book in astronomy. New York: Potter, Ainsworth, & Co., 1883. (Hughes QB45 .G47 1883)
Hederich, Bernhard. Libellus astronomicus. Rostock: Mylandrinis, 1598. (Polk QB26 .H43x 1598)
Mattison, Hiram. Elementary astronomy. New York: Huntington and Savage, 1848. (Hughes QB46 .M44 1848)
The New England farmer’s diary and almanac. Windsor, Vt.: Jesse Cochran, 1820. (Hughes AY321 .W565x N48 1820)
Poor Richard improved. Philadelphia: B. Franklin and D. Hall, [1760](Polk AY53 .P6 1761)

Survey of religious studies scholars reveals many embrace 21st century study habits but are unsure how to utilize them.

Armstrong Browning Library - Stained Glass - Interior - 10/04/2013

In the early days of the Christian church, scholars would study sacred texts and handwritten epistles in cloistered, holy spaces, shielded from the outside world. A recent national study conducted by Ithaka S+R reveals that, in many ways, those early scholars’ modern contemporaries prefer to conduct their research in a similar way: with primary resources, in familiar spaces and without significant impediments between themselves and the Word.

Modern religious studies scholars find themselves with one foot in the old world and another in a rapidly evolving information landscape, with almost-instant access to a mass of raw data unimaginable to previous generations, and new resources coming online literally every day. And despite new avenues for data collection and dissemination, many scholars find themselves in the awkward position of feeling required to publish their findings in traditional print journals, a process dating back to the earliest days of scholarly publishing that can take months – sometimes even years - to complete.

Beginning in 2016, Baylor joined with 17 major institutions across the country in order to analyze the study habits of modern religious studies scholars. The results of the study were released under the title, “Supporting the Changing Research Practices of Religious Studies Scholars.” The research conducted with Baylor religious faculty was gathered by two scholars from the Baylor University Libraries: John G. Bales and John Robinson. Bales and Robinson interviewed faculty from the Baylor University Religion Department and the George W. Truett Theological Seminary, and the information gathered from those interviews was then anonymized and pooled with data from  the other participating institutions to create the source material for the report.

In many ways, the study’s findings on religious scholars reflect similar issues faced by other faculty in the humanities. Like their peers in history and art, for example, religious studies scholars find themselves facing a set of pressures different from faculty in the “hard sciences” — physics, chemistry or biology. The humanities scholar relies on access to primary sources that often reside in collections that are available only in physical form, necessitating travel to far-flung and occasionally poorly organized archives. Humanities scholars are often expected to present their findings in book-length form, rather than as stand-alone articles in peer-reviewed journals.

But even even as they knew the general landscape of the state of humanities research, Bales' and Robinson's research provided opportunities to gather new insights. As Bales put it, “On the one hand, it was thrilling for me to hear some of the intriguing, interdisciplinary areas of research that our faculty are exploring. Their research confirmed to me how essential the University Libraries are to their cutting-edge scholarship. Because of the Libraries’ robust print and electronic collections, the Libraries are prepared to serve the current needs of our faculty and students.

“On the other hand,” Bales continued, “I also realized that due to the interdisciplinary nature of current research, I needed to become better equipped to handle the way that I was supporting their research.”

Bales’ sense of needing to do more to assist his faculty charges is not unique. The Ithaka S+R study revealed that a majority of religious studies scholars felt overwhelmed with new avenues for finding primary and secondary sources in their field of study. Beyond a simple Google or Google Scholar search, some only felt comfortable navigating a small set of online databases with which they worked on a regular basis; new resources and tools like data analysis sites were viewed as too difficult to master for a limited return on the time invested.

Robinson reported that one faculty member said, “We are really getting past the point where you can have one scholar writing a monograph about something…. There’s too much for one person to undertake, too much data, too much information.” But there is an upside: this feeling of inadequacy can be seen as an openness to collaboration, both with library and information specialists but also with faculty from other disciplines whose expertise can augment the religious scholars’ work.

Beth Farwell, Director of Central Libraries, said of the study, “It’s a perfect example of the new roles the library plays in the academy.  Libraries are partnering with scholars and colleagues to research and master interdisciplinary research methods, new technologies, economic impacts, scholarly publishing trends, and digital literacy.  I’m proud of our Baylor Libraries professionals for their participation in this important national study that helps identify methods for supporting our Baylor faculty.”

Read the full Ithaka S+R Report

Read the report of Baylor’s study findings