EDITOR’S NOTE: Additional information has been added to this story since its initial release on July 1.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Baptist Press articles dating to 1948 now are available online in a searchable PDF format following a two-year digitization project by the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives.
About 8,000 articles on 66,000 pages were scanned and then indexed by Google Search to serve as a valuable source of information on Baptist history.
To access the files, visit www.sbhla.org and click on Collections to find Baptist Press Releases 1948-1995 at the bottom of the list. The archives can be searched by year and issue date or by specific terms, and stories also can be obtained through a general Google search. Articles starting in 1996 are accessible in the archives at bpnews.net.
“The partnership in this project between Baptist Press and the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives has been a home run for Baptist Press readers and for historical researchers,” Will Hall, executive editor of Baptist Press, said.
“Until now, the material that was digitized was available only in hard copy, and searching through the collection of articles was laboriously time-intensive,” Hall said. “Today, it is a relative snap to find information that helps describe in rich texture an important time frame in the history of Southern Baptists and their ministries.
“Bill Sumners, director of the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives, largely was the force behind the project, from proposing the idea to supervising the two phases. I couldn’t be happier with the results of his labor,” Hall said.
Sumners recounted that the SBHLA staff began exploring the possibility of placing the older Baptist Press releases online about two years ago.
“Our experience had told us that Baptist Press stories are an outstanding source for documenting events, meetings and people in Southern Baptist life. Researchers can now make any word searches through the BP stories,” Sumners said, voicing appreciation for “the support and cooperation of Dr. [Morris H.] Chapman [president of the SBC Executive Committee] and Will Hall in making this cooperative project an overwhelming success.”
Baptist Press began in 1946 as the Southern Baptist Press Association issued by the Sunday School Board’s Department of Survey, Statistics and Information. The Executive Committee assumed responsibility for Baptist Press in 1947, and the news service is supported by Cooperative Program funds.
Though news releases were sporadic in the early days of Baptist Press, by the 1960s releases were issued in packets of about five stories. By the mid-’90s, Baptist Press gained a presence on the Internet and now attracts millions of readers each month through its website as well as through partnering media outlets like Townhall.com. Baptist Press also has a sizeable reach in print providing material for 40 state Baptist newspapers with a combined circulation of about 1 million readers. But another 60 “syndicators” — Christian and secular — add hundreds of thousands more who read Baptist Press news and feature articles.
Articles cover Southern Baptist events, institutions, people, and in later years, issues in the broader public square that pertain to evangelicals.
In addition to free individual e-mail subscriptions, Baptist Press provides newsfeed services that allow an easy display of headlines, updated automatically with each new edition, on any website. About 9,000 church websites carry BPNews.net headlines today. Baptist Press also publishes a weekly Spanish edition, BP en Español, and a sports edition, available at bpsports.net with its own headline sportsfeed function that is carried on about 1,600 websites.
Operating from a central bureau in Nashville, Tenn., Baptist Press works with four partnering bureaus at the International Mission Board, North American Mission Board, LifeWay Christian Resources and the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s Washington office. A large network of contributing writers, photographers and editorial providers help complete the work of the news service.
Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.