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Archive Wordle

One of the challenges in archiving is that people often think that an archive is the place where things go to be lost. By sharing the content with people who can appreciate the content, we can form new relationships. Relationships are the medium in which Jesus is shared.

Bucket of cassette tapes

Bucket of cassette tapes, recently delivered to Hugh's office, waiting to be digitized.

After many years in attics, basements, or jungle homes – tapes and reel-to-reels can become fragile and deteriorate.

This summer I have been recruiting and managing a team of volunteers to help me in the task of digitizing materials from the Language Development efforts in the Americas Area over the last 70 years. We have Cassette Tapes, Reel to Reels, Books, Photographs, VHS, Beta-tapes.

Most of my team is under the age of 18 and over the age of 65.

Archive Team

Left: Al and Gilbert scanning some books.
Right: George recently joined our team. George is 88 years old.

Archive Team

Columbia Reunion and the archive team at work

Colombia Reunion

This 4th of July there was a reunion of about 150 people who, grew up or worked in Colombia when SIL worked in Colombia. Tirzah, one of the teenagers helping me this summer, put together several photo-albums of photos from SIL’s work in Colombia. We asked people to identify people and events in the photos. Tirzah is following up, by interviewing several people who said that they could tell us more about the people and the stories in the photos.


Many of the materials we are digitizing were created for speakers of indigenous languages in the Americas. These often include readers or primers, educational books and health and hygiene books. By digitizing them we can put them into PDFs and then people from all over the Americas can have access to the content of our archives via the internet, not just people in Dallas, Texas.



We are also digitizing a lot of the audio recordings which were made in the Americas in the last 70 years. This means working with Reel-to-Reel machines and with Cassette Tapes.

To digitize these recordings I play a tape and record it through my language documentation recorders, which I got last summer from some generous friends in Illinois.

Three boxes of materials

Three boxes of materials

Part of the challenge of working with archived materials is getting people to realize how they can use, and interact with the materials. We want people to have access to the materials.

Everyone at the reunion loved looking at old photos of people they knew. The Americas Area has produced over 13,000 works since SIL started working in the Americas’ in 1934. We’ve only just begun.

The Colombia collection alone has over 2000 photos.