Mission Photos

by A. Scott Moreau and Mike O’Rear

Websites that offer quality images of mission-related activities.

One of the significant advantages of the Internet is that it is not limited to textual information. It is ready-made for storing and sharing media files of all kinds, and thus gives us the opportunity to look for pictures. While the process is still relatively new for mission agencies, collections of missions photographs are beginning to make their appearance. From archives of important history to contemporary postings by missionaries, the web makes it possible to post, view and print quality images of missions-related activities. Since the number of images posted for short-term trips alone could overwhelm all of us, we have decided to focus on sources that are more historically and organizationally important rather than on the more personal sites of individual missionaries. We have set the page up with our links at mislinks.org/topics/photos.htm;1 since this is a visual tool, you will do much better exploring the various links for photos that interest you than by simply reading the article.

Denominational missions have a vested interest in developing and maintaining photographic archives to document their people and stories, and the web is a wonderful resource in making those archives available. There are two major approaches: collections of historical significance (founders, first churches, historic meetings) and collections of contemporary events, people or projects. We will discuss the most helpful of the denominational archives we found in each category.

The Christian and Missionary Alliance National Archives Photos (cmalliance.org/whoweare/archives/photos.jsp) offers more than sixty images of important C&MA leaders (A.B. Simpson, Aiden Wilson Tozer; C&MA presidents from 1897 on), locations (the Gospel Tabernacle Church, Missionary Training Institute) and miscellaneous other images (from the Boxer Rebellion to the Vietnam War).

The Mennonite Church USA Archives in North Newton
(http://raven.bethelks.edu/services/mla/images/) appears to offer twenty collections of images; however, most of the links are broken. Even so, the Miscellaneous Scanned Photos page (http://raven.bethelks.edu/
) has more than one thousand photos with brief descriptions of each. They were scanned to fulfill researchers’ individual requests, so the page is organized by order of scanning rather than topic or theme. Use the “ctrl-F” keys to search within the page for photos of particular interest. The Mennonite Historical Library at Goshen College (http://goshen.edu/mhl/Images) offers a thumbnail page of twenty-four images; you can see larger images by clicking on the thumbnails.

The Salvation Army Collectables site (sacollectables.com) has a wonderful set of collections of important Salvation Army people, buildings, bands, posters, prints, etc. They include William (sacollectables.com/gal_
; twenty-two images) and Catherine (sacollectables.com/
; eight images) Booth, and the Booth family (sacollectables.com/gal_booth_family.html; nine images).

The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod has a World Mission Image Gallery (lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=1006) with hundreds of photos of contemporary missions work in four major categories: (1) international work, (2) national work, (3) ministry to the Armed Forces and (4) missionary orientation. The international work category has twenty-four collections starting from 2001 which focus on LCMS short-term missions projects and international events.

The Southern Baptist Convention: International Mission Board Photo Gallery (imb.org/main/downloads/photos.asp) provides links to eight separate galleries ranging from Lottie Moon (http://ime.imb.org/lottiemoon/gallery.asp; twenty-three images) to Moldova (http:/imb.org/main/downloads/page.asp?
; sixteen images), with the bulk of the focus on contemporary images. There are instructions for downloading for personal use.

The United Methodist Church: General Board of Global Ministries (http://gbgm-umc.org) offers access to several collections with thousands of contemporary images. Their general photo gallery (http://gbgm-umc.org/photogallery/) is searchable by subject. You can click on the “Missions” link (http://gbgm-umc.org/photogallery/results.cfm?
) and see 895 images in 101 pages on missions from around the world or use the pull-down menu to choose a topic. Choosing “missionaries” (http://gbgm-umc.org/photogallery/
), for example, brings you to 386 images in forty-three pages. Under the “More Tools & Links” section, clicking on the UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief; http://gbgm-umc.org/umcor/photos.cfm) link brings you to the not-for-profit global humanitarian aid organization of the United Methodist Church photo gallery. This gallery is arranged alphabetically with thousands of photos available in low, medium and high-definition on subjects from Afghanistan to Zambian food relief.

Archival resources are usually focused on items of historical significance to the organization doing the archiving. Typically, you will find high-quality primary source materials (letters, diaries, original documents, photos, recordings, etc.). They vary in what materials they make publicly available on the web.

The Billy Graham Center Archives (http://wheaton.edu/bgc/archives/
) houses the collection for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and documents focused on North American Evangelical Protestant history, including the work of evangelists and missionaries. The “exhibits” page (http://wheaton.edu/bgc/archives/exhibits.html) lists eight exhibits and numerous single pages of materials. “Images of Colonial Africa” (http://wheaton.edu/bgc/archives/exhibits/collins/
), features “the black and white photographs taken or gathered by Laura Collins, a missionary in Africa taken probably before 1914 and mostly in what are now Kenya and Cameroon.” At the bottom of the exhibits page you can link to the exhibits vault (http://wheaton.edu/bgc/archives/bulletin/vault.htm), which lists over one hundred collections exhibited since 1996.

The Cooperative Digital Resources Initiative (CDRI) of the American Theological Library Association and Association of Theological Schools (http://atla.com/digitalresources/) is a collection of “digital images of woodcuts, photographs, slides, papyri, coins, maps, postcards, manuscripts, lithographs, sermons, shape-note tune books and various forms of Christian art, architecture and iconography.” It is a combined database of thousands of documents and images, with many of historical significance in missions. For example, the Maps & Charts Documenting the Expansion of Christianity collection (http://atla.com/digitalresources/#yale) has three hundred maps used through history to document missions and church expansion; the Missionaries Appointed by the ABCFM (http://atla.com/digitalresources/#andoverfour) has eighty-two pictures of ABCFM missionaries; and the Missionary Postcards collection (http://atla.com/digitalresources/#yalefour) offers 362 postcards “documenting missionary work, primarily in Africa, with a few from Asia and Oceania.”

MUNDUS Gallery (www.mundus.ac.uk/gallery.html) offers a fraction of the images from the collections of Edinburgh University Library, the Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World, the Angus Library, Regent’s Park College, Oxford and the Library of the School of Oriental and African Studies. You can view the images by source, geographic location or subject. For example, the source collection for the Council for World Mission/London Missionary Society (www.mundus.ac.uk/
) has eighteen photos, the geographic collection of Africa (www.mundus.ac.uk/gallery/gallery_africa.html) has seventeen photos and the subject collection Portraits (www.mundus.ac.uk/gallery/gallery_portrait.html) has nineteen photos.

The Rev. Claude L. Pickens, Jr. Collection on Muslims in China (http://hcl.harvard.edu/libraries/harvard-yenching/collections/pickens/) offers “1,000 photos of Muslims and Christian missionaries working among them in Western China in the 1920s and 1930s” together with several hundred books, pamphlets, broadsides, etc., in several languages. You can view the photo album at http://pds.lib.harvard.edu/pds/view/2588125?n=1; it will let you print a single page or the entire album in Acrobat format.

Our blue ribbon for mission photographic websites goes to the University of Southern California Internet Mission Photography Archive (http://library.usc.edu/uhtbin/catstat.pl/impa), where more than “13,000 photographs record missionary endeavors and experiences between 1850 and World War II.” Our link brings you to the main search page. A search on the term “mission” yields 7,352 hits, showing the size of the collection. You can view pictures by contributing institution, country or key term. Each photo gives complete information, including linked topics, countries and sources. To see the full-size photo, click on the “view” button and then on the photo itself in the page that comes up. As you browse the thumbnails, you can mark individual items for a print capture feature that provides you the full record information for the marked images that you can browse, print or email to yourself without the accompanying photographs (which you can print separately).

Although expensive for the individual user, several professional sites offer relevant photographs. The most useful for our purposes is Corbis, which allows searches of the images on their site through their search page (http://pro.corbis.com/search/searchFrame.aspx). A search for the term “missionary OR missionaries” yields 983 images. You can narrow these by the following categories: commercial, editorial, historical, art, news and entertainment. Likewise, a search on “Africa and Christianity” yields 830 images in similar categories. You must join Corbis to get pricing for each photo. While other professional sites (e.g., Fotosearch.com and Photos.com) are likewise searchable, the photos offered under terms such as “mission,” “missions” and “Christian missions” are generally mission churches, and they have very few results on searches for missionary or missionaries.

Typically, when someone wants to find an image on the web of a particular person, it is to the search engines—and especially their image search features—that he or she would first turn. It is helpful to remember, however, that search engines do not typically sort clip art graphics used on a page from photos of the actual item being searched. A helpful site to use as a launching pad in image searching is Fagan Finder’s Image Search Page (http://faganfinder.com/img/), which links to dozens of image search pages organized by the types of images. Here, we will mention some of the features of the better-known search engines.

Ask.com (http://ask.com/?tool=img) makes helpful suggestions as you type based on key words in their image database. For example, by typing in “missio” it suggests as possible terms: mission statement, mission statements, missionary, mission, mission impossible, missionaries, mission statements purpose, missionary work, missions and mission impossible 3. We chose “missionary work” from the list, which returned 825 images. On the left column, you are given the opportunity to narrow or expand your search by additional topics in the database. This is an extremely helpful feature. A search for Eric Liddell yields 186 images, many of them relevant. However, a narrowing of the search on the left column to “photographs of Eric Liddell” yields zero images, even though there are numerous photographs among the 186 images previously found. You can also restrict the results to large images, by type of file or color vs. black and white.

Google also has an image search page (http://images.google.com/) on which you can discriminate images by size. For example, a search for Raymond Lull returns 16,200 images of all sizes, but only 168 large images (if you plan on using an image for any printing or presentation, it is wise to start with a large image to prevent distortion). Of course, Lull lived long before there were photographs. A more recent missionary is Liddell, for which we find 20,700 images of all sizes and 245 large images; however, most of them are not Liddell himself! In this case, the best images are medium size (536 of them), including many photographs. One word of warning: a search of images for the term “missionary” yields 678,000 images of all sizes, and many of the top ranked are images of the “missionary position.” You might want to set Google’s preferences to “strict search” mode. In addition, general terms like “missionary” will pull in recent news images, so the number of images found and their relevance will be different from one day to the next.

Picsearch (http://picsearch.com) was developed with a “family friendly” orientation. They have over two billion images in their database. A search of missions yields 221,330 results; world missions 2,254 results; and William Carey 1,602 results. A search on Eric Liddell yields only 236 images; however, they were far more relevant than the same Google search. Their directory (http://picsearch.com/image-dir.html) was not very helpful in finding better images than the search function.
(Windows) Live Search (http://search.live.com/images) returns all the results on one continuously flowing page. When you roll the mouse over an image, it increases in size, gives you details about the image and lets you choose to add it to a “scratch pad.” The scratch pad feature holds images in the right side of the page, and you can choose the most relevant images while still looking at the total found set. In fact, you can choose new terms and the scratch pad remains intact. The search on Eric Liddell yields 161 images, including thirty-five large images, most of which are of the right person. You can choose the size of each thumbnail so that as many as ten will show up in a single row. Before the first use of the scratchpad, Live Search offers suggestions of other searches that might be of parallel interest, in this case, Hudson Taylor.

Finally, Yahoo image search (http://images.search.yahoo.com) finds 272 images of Liddell, although the large images are mostly incorrect. One helpful feature from Yahoo, like Ask.com, is that they offer an “also try” feature that gives additional suggestions based on your original search (when relevant).

The Baptist Press Photo Search (http://baptistpress.org/BPPhoto Search.asp?) lets you search their archive from 1996 to the present for contemporary photos. The search function does not tell you how many images are found, although you can scroll through page by page (ten images per page). With every image they provide a handy download link.

The Church Mission Society (CMS-UK) Home Site Photo Gallery (http://cms-uk.org/Community/Photos/CMSFlickr/tabid/
) offers pictures taken between 2000 and 2007 and posted on Flickr. The archive (http:/flickr.com/photos/mission/archives/) lets you choose by date taken or date uploaded onto Flickr. The Norwegian Missionary Society Archives (http://mhs.no/arkiv/category_44.shtml) has almost five thousand photos which you can search or browse as a whole (http://nmsfoto.nms.no/fotoweb/).

The SAMNA (South Asian Native Missionary Association) Photo Gallery Directory page (http://sanma.org/photogallery.htm/) gives you access to seven small galleries of contemporary photos ranging from Bible printing to missionary training and support.

Serving in Mission’s (SIM) Picture of the Week Archive (http://sim.org/pow.php) has over one hundred pictures dating from 2004 to the present. Most of them are shots of people from various cultures around the world.

Finally, we turn to resources that help us understand the photographs. There are several articles and other resources we found that show us how missionaries and agencies have used and continue to use photography as part of their work.

The Bibliography of Photo-albums and Materials related to the History of Photography in China and Tibet before 1949 (http://http://gatheringmountains.net/Photoweb/photobib.html) has 334 annotated entries, several of which deal with missionary photography. Some of the entries have links to selected images from the entry. “Images of Africa: Missionary Photography in the Nineteenth Century: An Introduction” is an Acrobat version of a paper written by Jack Thompson for the Centre for African Studies in 2003 in which he explores missionary use (and misuse) of photography in advancing the causes of mission.

“Mission Photography: Yesterday’s Publicity-Today’s History” (http://rspas.anu.edu.au/pah/missionaryhistory/papers/edwards.pdf) was originally presented at the second Australian National University missionary history conference (2006) in which Thompson explores the background for his making of a film of missionary work at Ernabella mission (Australia) in 1963 to show why preserving missionary pictures is crucial for developing better understandings of missionary history.

The Network for Strategic Missions offers nine articles under the topic of “Photography” (http://strategicnetwork.org/index.php?loc=kb&view=b&fto=2107&sf=Y). Project Canterbury (http://anglicanhistory.org/) is a “free online archive of out-of-print Anglican texts and related modern documents,” including numerous photos and books of historical interest.

Finally, Yale University Divinity School Library hosts several helpful exhibits and publications (http://library.yale.edu/div/exhibits.html) from articles to PowerPoint presentations. Perhaps the most unique is the “Communications from the Field: Missionary Postcards from Africa” (http://library.yale.edu/div/MissionaryPostcards.doc), a Word document with discussion of the postcards as well as the images.

Without a doubt, the availability of such items will continue to grow as major universities and companies digitize collections and post them online. The day when you will be able to find any existing picture of significant missions people, places or events is not far off. As you come across image repositories or other collections we have not noted here, let us know and we will add them to our growing list.

1. All URLs are assumed to begin with http://www. unless otherwise noted.


A. Scott Moreau is editor of EMQ and a professor in the Intercultural Studies department at Wheaton College Graduate School (Wheaton, Ill.). His email address is A.S.Moreau@wheaton.edu, and the Wheaton Missions Department web address is www.wheaton.edu/intr.

Mike O’Rear is the president of Global Mapping International (Colorado Springs, Colo.), which is dedicated to providing access to information for church and mission leaders, especially in the Two-thirds World. His email address is mike@gmi.org, and the GMI web address is www.gmi.org.

Copyright © 2008 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.

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