I’ve spent the last three days working 8 hours days in the archive at the University of Dundee. In the three days that I have been there, I have photographed well over 2,000 pages of documents relating to the Glasite/Sandemanian Churches. It has been in many ways exhausting work, standing up, then sitting down, bending over documents, strategically placing leather and cloth weights on pages to keep them down while trying to obstruct as little of the text as possible.
Almost all of the documents in the Dundee archives are handwritten, and many are hard to decipher. Additionally, almost all of the documents are unpublished, which means that under U.K. copyright laws, I can make a copy for research, but I cannot provide these copies to others. That means that the documents that I am obtaining at Dundee will not be available via the Glasite Digital Archive. This is a shame, but a legal necessity. However, since I am able to make copies of the documents and bring them with me, it means that I can do research in the more comfortable confines of my own home or the library using digital copies of the text. I already see the potential for several articles from the data that I have collected. I am also spending tomorrow in the archive, continuing to take photos and document texts and artifacts.
There are so many different items related to the Glasites in the archive that it is utterly impossible for me to capture them all in the short time I have here in Dundee. I am categorically skipping items from the mid to late 20th Century, and focusing on the 1700 – 1800’s. I had to make the decision early as well to skip many of the sermon and exhortation books, in favor of actual records, letter collections, and written manuscript collections. There remains a large treasure trove of sermon and exhortation texts that were meticulously recorded by members of the congregations using shorthand, and then written out in long hand. The theological content of these documents is rich, but I just don’t have the time. They will have to wait until I can return, or until another researcher comes to comb them for content.
One insight that I have gained from this is that the Glasites were sticklers for record keeping. The archive has, I believe, about 100 service books, recording the bible verses read, members missing from services, and visitors from other congregations for every week of a given year. I’ve photographed a couple of books that consistently note visitors from other congregations, because, as a case of disfellowship against the famous Glasite scientist Michael Faraday shows, the Glasites did not tolerate members missing worship.
Also, today, I visited the grave of John Glas. Glas is buried in the Howff Cemetery, which is the middle of downtown Dundee. I have read about Glas since I was 15 years old, which makes twenty years of reading about, wondering about, and being curious John Glas this year. It was surreal to finally be able to visit his grave and walk in the areas that he trod.
Stay tuned for some discoveries from the archive that I’ll post later.