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 From Our Archives

Preserving Gems From Our Past

Preserving Gems From Our Past

JEHOVAH’S people have a very rich spiritual heritage. The fascinating record of that heritage can be gleaned not only from publications but also from photographs, letters, personal accounts, and artifacts related to our worship, our preaching work, and our history. But of what benefit is it to preserve such material and delve into our past? Well, family heads in ancient Israel were to make known to their sons the laws and wonderful acts of Jehovah so that they might “set their confidence in God himself.”​—Ps. 78:1-7.

Archival research has long played a role in the outworking of Jehovah’s purpose. When opposers tried to stop work on the temple in Jerusalem, for instance, an official search of records in the archives at the Median capital of Ecbatana brought to light a document issued by King Cyrus authorizing such construction. (Ezra 6:1-4, 12) Thus, the temple was rebuilt in harmony with God’s will. Archival sources were also used by the Gospel writer Luke, who “traced all things from the start with accuracy.”​—Luke 1:1-4.

The Governing Body is keenly interested in our theocratic history. In commenting on the need to preserve, document, and pass on our  spiritual heritage, one member of the Governing Body said, “To know where we are going, we have to know where we have come from.” To that end, Writing Archives was recently set up at world headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, and is under the direction of the Writing Committee.

OUR “FAMILY ALBUM” AND “HEIRLOOMS”

With time, the past recedes, and most of us likely wish we had kept a more complete personal family record. In Writing Archives, diligent work is now under way to preserve and document our rich and growing legacy. Photographs carefully held in the Archives could be considered part of our “family album.” Our early publications, thrilling first-person accounts, and priceless memorabilia are also among the gems held in the Archives. Such items are “heirlooms” that enlighten us about our theocratic heritage and help us to look forward with confidence to the future of our spiritual family.

We invite you to look into Writing Archives through the new feature “From Our Archives.” It will appear periodically in the study edition of The Watchtower. In a coming issue, for example, we plan to publish an illustrated account designed to answer these questions: What was a Dawn Mobile? By whom was it used? When was it in use, and for what purpose?

Like a family album of memories, the Archives collection tells us much about us and our spiritual forebears​—about the faith and courage of those who have gone before us, about the joys and challenges of serving our loving heavenly Father, and about God’s guidance and unfailing support of his people. (Deut. 33:27) We are confident that Jehovah will bless ongoing efforts to preserve our spiritual history so that we are ever more united and strengthened to carry out his will.

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A Closer Look

During the preparation of Christian literature, DVDs, and other Bible-based material, our writers, artists, researchers, and others draw on archival resources. Writing Archives therefore takes great care and practical steps to gather and preserve a wide range of historical materials from such sources as branch offices, Bethel departments, congregations, individuals, and secular institutions. Consider the following overview of this work:

Acquisition and Analysis: Unique items are continually being added to the Archives collection. Many of these are kindly donated or are loaned by individuals whose families have decades-long records of faithful service to Jehovah. Analyzing and comparing such material helps to increase our understanding of our history and of those who lived through it.

Cataloging: The Writing Archives collection is made up of thousands of items, some more than a century old. They come in different shapes, sizes, and formats and must be carefully cataloged for future use.

Restoration and Preservation: Fragile books and artifacts are repaired and preserved using professional restoration methods. Documents, photographs, news clippings, films, and recordings are digitized. They can therefore be accessed electronically to avoid handling original documents or other items of historical value.

Storage and Retrieval: Archival materials are stored in an orderly and secure way to prevent loss and to protect them against damage from light and moisture. A database is being developed as an aid in research and retrieval of these precious gems from our past.

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1. Poster for the “Photo-Drama of Creation.” 2. Subscription register. 3. Sound car. 4. Cover of the April 15, 1912, Watch Tower. 5. J. F. Rutherford’s prison notice. 6. WBBR microphone. 7. Phonograph. 8. Carrying case for books. 9. Personal notes. 10. Telegram to J. F. Rutherford.