01 Mar The Mary Baker Eddy Library: A Valuable Resource for the Researcher
by Helen Mathis
The Mary Baker Eddy Library (originally The Mary Baker Eddy Library for the Betterment of Humanity) opened its doors to Christian Scientists, scholars, and the press in 2002. It is a treasure trove for any researcher looking for primary material on Eddy and the history of the Christian Science movement. The Library also develops programs for the public. Of significance to researchers, the Library awards annual short-term research fellowships designed to support original contributions to scholarship.*
- The Mary Baker Eddy Collection — including the Mary Baker Eddy and Calvin Frye Diary collection.
- The Library Special Collection — including the Georgine Milmine collection.
- The Organizational Records of The First Church of Christ, Scientist which also includes The Christian Science Publishing Society.
Some specific examples of material found at the Mary Baker Eddy Library and on the website include:
- The Mary Baker Eddy Papers (all documents related to Mary Baker Eddy) annotated, digitized, and searchable online. The project began with early documents from 1872 and is now complete up to 1886. It will ultimately include all her poems, sermons, and thousands of letters.
- 100+ topical articles on the history of Christian Science published primarily over the past 10 years by the Library’s own research team. These articles are organized in the following categories:
- Women of History: Untold stories of women with connections to Christian Science
- Ask a Researcher: Answers to questions the Library researchers have received
- From the Collections: Stories and behind the scenes information from the Library archives
- From the Papers: Articles spotlighting Eddy’s correspondence and manuscripts
- There are loads of wonderful podcasts available on the Library website. Many of these include interviews with scholars whose published works are found in the Annotated Bibliography.
- A searchable online scrapbook collection. You can also read through the facsimiles in the Library.
- An extensive photo collection of all the pictures taken by the many amateur photographer members of Mary Baker Eddy’s staff while she was alive. You can also read some of the staff diaries.
- There are around 800 reminiscences available for perusal and purchase.
- The Library will also provide information to help authenticate (or not) the variety of writings and documents in circulation attributed to Mary Baker Eddy and early Christian Scientists.
One of the difficulties facing the Christian Science Board of Directors that possibly postponed the opening of the Church archives for public viewing until 2002 was addressing a question that arose since the time of Eddy’s passing: was it better to bring to light Eddy’s human struggles or focus on her mature achievements that grew out of her experience? As one biographer of Eddy explains:
“Her letters reveal her moments of loneliness—the inevitable loneliness of the pioneer—her longing for the normal family ties she never had after childhood and adolescence, even her occasional sadness. All of these characteristics were part of the same woman who, through a growing sense of spiritual dominion, was able to lead a global religious movement. They only demonstrate that she was a fully human being” (Nenneman, Persistent Pilgrim, 1997, xii).
Perhaps Eddy’s own statement reveals what it took to achieve that more mature development: “Millions may know that I am the Founder of Christian Science. I alone know what that means” (Eddy, Miscellany, 249).
The Mary Baker Eddy Library’s presence and resources allow the public a fuller, deeper, and more balanced picture of Eddy and her movement than had been presented before its opening. It is for this reason that the compilers of this Annotated Bibliography, in reading and annotating the past 150 years of literature on Christian Science, have come to greatly appreciate the work of the Library. Because of its openness, and accessibility these past 21 years, we have noticed a shift in the character and quality of scholarly research, and we anticipate the development of yet another level of scholarship as more scholars make use of its archives.
If you decide to visit the Library’s research room, it is open Monday – Thursday, 11am – 3pm, appointments not required. But if you want to see anything specific, or visit outside of normal operating hours, be sure to schedule an appointment via email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 617-450-7218.