Baptist Studies Center for Research will preserve Baptists' global heritage

March 14, 2011

The Baptist Studies Center for Research at Baylor University, approved Feb. 11 by the Baylor Board of Regents, will preserve the 400-year global heritage of Baptists -- the country's second-largest denomination -- through a virtual depository of important Baptist documents, photographs, books and other collections.

Stained Glass

The center, which will include hundreds of thousands of items already housed throughout Baylor's campus, will be established through the department of religion in Baylor's College of Arts and Sciences. It will continue the Baptist story as part of the university's mission, said Dr. Bill Bellinger, professor of biblical studies/Old Testament and religion department chair.

"We think Baylor is the logical place for this center," he said. "We'll have a new layer of accessibility for researchers." Besides making materials about Baptist heritage available for visiting scholars, who in return will provide a lecture series, the center will support research projects for Baylor faculty and encourage students to learn about Baptist identity. Materials also will be accessible to laity.

Baylor and other institutions hold a treasure trove of Baptist materials, and the center will work with Baylor University Libraries and libraries elsewhere in the country and abroad to create an ongoing virtual collection. Work on digitizing materials already has begun at Baylor.

Significant documents, books, photographs, letters and recordings are housed at Baylor in several locations, including the Institute for Oral History, the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies, Baylor University Central Libraries, George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Armstrong Browning Library and the Texas Collection.

The Baptist Studies Center for Research will:

  • Serve as a resource for visiting scholars, who also will lecture at Baylor.
  • Provide access to materials for those researching the Baptist tradition.
  • Support such faculty research projects as "Early English Baptist Texts" and The Baptists' Bible project.
  • Sponsor an essay contest for students on Baptist identity and encourage student travel and study.
  • Support entities which contribute to such journals as Baptist History and Heritage and Perspectives in Religious Studies.
  • Provide an emphasis in Baptist studies for the Ph.D. program in religion. Baylor is the only Baptist university that offers a Ph.D. program in religion.

While some other Baptist universities house collections, "they've often been specifically tied to church relations or undergraduate curriculum," Bellinger said. "There really hasn't been something comprehensive and tied to research. We have resources with our digitizing that not everybody has."

Among myriad materials in Baylor's collections are:

  • More than 100,000 photos, documents and correspondences of Baylor's presidents.
  • The personal archives of Joan Riffey Sutton, retired musical missionary and 1951 Baylor graduate.
  • Eyewitness recordings of denominational leaders, pastors, missionaries and laity.
  • Recorded interviews of histories of Baptist institutions.
  • Photographs, letters, diaries and other memorabilia of William Buck Bagby and Anne Luther Bagby, pioneer Baptist missionaries, and their family.

For information on how you can support this project, call 254-710-2561 or e-mail".