Division of Archives and Records Service

From Pews to Pixels: Weber State’s Stewart Library Digitizes New Zion Baptist Church’s Legacy

Genesie Miller
April 10, 2024

Each year, the Utah State Historical Records Advisory Board (USHRAB) awards grants to organizations throughout the state to assist with the preservation and public access of our state’s history. These grants are made possible by funding from the National Historical Records and Publications Commission, opens in a new tab at the National Archives. As we get ready for the USHRAB’s 2024 funding season, we’re going to spend the next couple weeks getting to know our current grantees projects and the work the Board does to make Utah history more accessible.

At Weber State University, Stewart Library Special Collections and University Archives collects, preserves, and provides access to unique primary sources, archives, and rare books documenting the history of WSU, and the greater Weber and Davis Counties.

What is one fun fact about your organization that the general public might not know?

Weekly Administration Meeting Minutes
from December 3, 1939

Special collections and University Archives are for everyone! Our diverse and inclusive collections cover a wide range of topics that enrich scholarly opportunities, and we welcome students, faculty, staff, community members, and researchers from all over the world to use our collections and services.

What is your project? What kinds of documents are you working with?

We are processing, rehousing, and digitizing the historic records of the New Zion Baptist Church in Ogden, Utah. The collection includes church records, photographs, baptism and membership records books, obituaries, events programs, and memorabilia from 1916 to 2020. Historically, the records show that members would come from all over Utah to attend church, with the majority of the membership coming from the Salt Lake City, Weber and Davis Counties.

Projects like this take a lot of time, labor, and care to complete. Can you tell us a little about the folks who will be working on this project? What are their roles, responsibilities, and motivations?

Throughout this project, we have used our working team in the Special Collections & University Archives (SCUA) department to achieve our completion goals. The team for this project includes six students (20 hrs. week), two full-time processors, two full-time supervisors, and two faculty members working to process, rehouse, build oversized storage boxes, create finding aids, digitize, create metadata, and upload the collection into both ArchivesSpace and Solphal.

Why did you/your organization choose these documents as your project? What makes these items special or significant?

The WSU Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) department recently obtained the physical records of the institution. New Zion has given full permission for the collection to be processed and made available online through the Stewart Library Digital Collections.

The records fall within the collecting scope of our institution as the church was once located on Wall Street and is now located on Lincoln Avenue in Ogden. The New Zion Baptist Church is a minority religion in this area, with historically only black pastors, catering to a distinctly diverse congregation.

Once this project is complete, what will your organization do with these records? Do you have any exhibits (in-person or digital), unveiling, etc. that you would like to do?

The collection’s finding aid will be available in ArchivesSpace, in the Stewart Library Digital Collections, and a Digital Exhibit down the road. There will be a complete “unveiling” event for the New Zion Baptist congregation following one of their Sunday Services.

Ushers Marching into Church on Palm Sunday, 1956

What do you hope that the general public will do with these records once they are accessible?

We feel the general public, researchers, and historians will enjoy full access to these historical records and that the past and present New Zion Baptist Church members will enjoy accessing and reading about the church’s long history. We hope people will not only use this collection for history and research purposes but also as a genealogical tool to find ancestors.

The USHRAB’s grant program is funded by a State Board Programming Grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission at the National Archives. The USHRAB assists public and private non-profits, as well as non-Federal government entities throughout the State of Utah in the preservation and use of historical records.