“I Wasn’t Prepared for the Emotion”: Archival Research in Religious and Theological Studies



One might think that primary research in library and church archives would be a dry, lifeless endeavor, far removed from the present–day spiritual urgency that quickens the religious studies classroom. After all, archives raise the specter of musty tomes housed in dark, dank, and isolated basements. To the contrary, based on interviews with several students and teachers doing such research, this article maintains that primary archival research in religious and theological studies is often experienced as empowering, connecting researchers to their subjects with an immediacy that secondary sources simply cannot provide. Diaries, letters, hymns, administrative reports, and church–school teaching notes are the sorts of documentary evidence and personal effects at issue, and these offer unexpected insights to researchers who brave the archives.