Questions in the Process: Papers Beyond the Personal

This post is one in a series about the Lavinia Scott papers processing completed by Processing Manager Meghan Glasbrenner.

Archival collections, broadly speaking, usually fall into one of two categories: organizational records, meaning those of a corporate or organized body, and personal papers, meaning the records were created or kept by an individual or pair of individuals. The Lavinia Scott papers (C0506) fall into this second category. With materials such as personal and professional correspondence, spanning nearly 100 years and including such notable figures as Chief Albert Lutuli (also spelled Luthuli) and Dr. Edgar Brookes, and 45 personal individual daily diaries (1920-1997), the materials in Lavinia’s collection provide an example of a truly well-documented and richly complex life of service.

But that doesn’t mean everything in the collection reflects Lavinia Scott exclusively. Lavinia was a collector, so she often became the custodian for family history and the history of the organizations and groups she served for the majority of her life. With the collection now fully processed and open for research, the following examples highlight just a few of the potentially unexpected pieces that expand its scope and contents beyond the boundaries of Lavinia Scott’s personal biography.

South Africa’s Fight Against Apartheid

Lavinia Scott spent nearly 40 years living and teaching in present-day KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa and the materials in the collection cover much of her personal and professional work fighting against the government’s restrictive Apartheid policies. However, the collection also includes numerous items that provide a glimpse into the first-hand experiences, and local news coverage, of this lengthy fight in South Africa by South Africans. These range from clippings and full text editions of South African newspapers, including both English and Zulu language editions, to first-hand reports and testimonies from those living and working in the community.

      Imvo Zabantsundu clipping, June 1947

Translated in English as “African Opinion” Imvo Zabantsundu was the first Black owned and controlled newspaper in South Africa. This clipping is just one example of the numerous South African newspaper clippings saved by Lavinia over the years. Other titles include The Natal Mercury and Ilanga lase Natal.

      ANC News Briefing, March 1988

This image of the cover of an ANC News Briefing published by the African National Congress is an example of the collection’s numerous full text publications, including these locally printed news sources, that document the active fight against Apartheid starting as early as the 1950s.

History of South Africa’s Mission Schools

The over 30 years (1936-1969) that Lavinia spent as principal of Inanda Seminary are well-covered in the collection. These materials include correspondence, both formal and informal, student publications, school magazines, annual reports, and extensive coverage of the centennial celebration. However, the coverage of the history and evolution of South Africa’s mission schools extends beyond Lavinia’s direct involvement as she kept in frequent contact with the personnel at these schools well beyond her time as principal. The collection also provides a glimpse at the experiences of the students themselves, both during their time attending the schools and well into their adult lives, as Lavinia remained in sometimes regular contact with these former students over the years.

Personal letter sent to Lavinia, April 1967

This is an example of one of the many letters Lavinia received from former students providing updates on their personal and professional lives after graduating from Inanda Seminary. This letter shows the continued support that both Lavinia and the staff of the mission schools offered to former students as they pursued additional educational opportunities.

Inanda update from Lucky Zulu, December 1989

This portion of a letter from Lucky Zulu, then Acting Principal of Inanda Seminary, is an example of Lavinia’s continued communications with administration and staff that would continue throughout her life. These provide first-hand accounts of the evolution of the school and the challenges they faced in the latter half of the 20th century.

Federal Theological Seminary report, circa 1975

The collection contains numerous materials related to South Africa’s other mission schools, including Adam’s College and The Federal Theological Seminary. The above report, written by Dr. Robert Bryant, detailing the government’s 1974 expropriation order against the school, is one of several available in the collection.

Writings and Reflections

Lavinia’s personal story and perspective is well-documented throughout the materials, but the collection also includes a significant amount of writings by others that capture their own unique experiences. These range from other missionaries and fellow educators, including many other women, most notably Agnes Wood whose writings and correspondence fill a significant portion of the collection, to profiles written by South African families and former Inanda Seminary students.

Agnes Wood memoir manuscript excerpt, 1984

Like Lavinia, Agnes Wood spent the majority of her life working in South Africa. In addition to extensive personal correspondence between Lavinia and Agnes, the collection also includes numerous manuscript copies of personal reflections and stories written by Agnes detailing her experiences and personal relationships during these years.

Reflection by unnamed South African woman

This personal reflection, written by an unnamed South African woman, is one of the collection’s many such writings detailing personal experiences both with the American Board’s missionaries and in attending the mission schools, particularly Inanda Seminary.

Souvenir Postcards

Having lived almost half of her life outside of the United States, it shouldn’t be surprising that Lavinia was someone who enjoyed travel. While the collection includes the expected artifacts and mementos from South Africa, it also includes a surprisingly large number of souvenir postcards from destinations as varied as Casablanca, Morocco and Lancaster, Pennsylvania. These postcards range in date from as early as the 1930s until as late as the 1980s. The two examples below illustrate the wide variety of postcard styles and locations collected by Lavinia over the years:

Color illustration of The Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota

A group of Yeoman Warders (also known as Beefeaters) at the Tower of London, circa 1930s, as evidenced by the King George VI insignia visible on the uniforms.

These are just some of the unexpected pieces found within the Lavinia Scott paper’s 33 linear feet of material, which covers circa 1860s-1998. I am very excited to say that the collection is now open for research, with the full finding aid available online.

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