posted July 12, 2004

Archives and Institute to Relocate

The Joint Archives of Holland and the A.C. Van Raalte Institute at Hope College will relocate in the fall, sharing new quarters in a move designed to enhance their accessibility and historical research.

The two programs expect to be moved into the college's Henri and Eleonore Theil Research Center, located at 9 E. 10th St., by early October. The Joint Archives of Holland is currently housed on the ground level of the Van Wylen Library on College Avenue at 10th Street, and the A.C. Van Raalte Institute is based in the 100 East building on Eighth Street.

While they have been pleased with their current locations, the directors of both the archives and the institute are enthusiastic about the new space, and about the increased opportunities they will have to work together.

"Our current home in the library is outstanding and has served well since the Joint Archives opened, but we're excited about what the Theil Research Center is going to make possible," said Geoffrey Reynolds, director of the Joint Archives of Holland, which contains materials about Hope and Western Theological Seminary, in addition to preserving information concerning other aspects of local history. "Having the Joint Archives and Van Raalte Institute and their resources together should benefit community researchers, Hope students and Hope faculty as they conduct primary research in local history as well as Dutch-American history in general."

The scholars involved with the Van Raalte Institute are themselves active in research at the archives. Dr. Jacob E. Nyenhuis, the institute's director, sees multiple benefits in housing the two programs together.

"The members of the Van Raalte Institute use the archives as a vital part of our research efforts because they contain many of the records essential for the kind of research that we carry on," he said. "At the same time, our research interests reinforce the work of the archives and our publications help demonstrate the importance of preserving records and other materials for use by historians and other scholars as they explore where we came from, who we are and what our heritage is."

"Having us in a single facility will engender the kinds of conversations and scholarship that will deepen and enrich the understanding of the history of the college and of the community as we carry on our work collaboratively," Nyenhuis said.

The building is being named for Eleonore Theil and the late Henri Theil, in honor of an estate gift they have made to the college. They had also established, in 1981, the Willard Wichers Fund for Faculty Development at Hope in honor of Willard C. Wichers, a longtime friend whose lifelong commitment to preserving area history included founding the Netherlands Museum, forerunner of the Holland Museum and the museum's archives. Wichers died in 1991.

Henri Theil, who died in August of 2000 at age 75, was an economist and modern pioneer of econometrics, the statistical analysis of relationships in economics. Widely published, he held teaching appointments at institutions including the Netherlands School of Economics in Rotterdam (now Erasmus University), the University of Chicago and the University of Florida, from which he retired in 1994. He received an honorary degree from Hope in 1985. Eleonore Theil, his widow, continues to live in St. Augustine, Fla.

The new building has two levels. A receptionist's desk and a reading room with four tables for researchers will be located on the upper level, as will the offices of the staffs of both the archives and the institute, and a library conference room for the staff. The lower level will house the collections in two rooms – with an inert gas fire suppression system just as in the current space – and will also have space for processing materials.

The building, which the college purchased from Fifth Third Bank in 2002, has been serving as temporary quarters for the department of psychology since the department moved out of the Peale Science Center two years ago for Peale's renovation and the construction of the new science center. With the science center project nearing completion, psychology is relocating this month to its permanent quarters. Renovation of the Theil building for use by the archives and institute is expected to begin by early August.

The Joint Archives of Holland opened in the Van Wylen Library on Oct. 3, 1988. The space on the lower level was designed for the archives, which at the time housed the collections of the college, seminary and Holland Historical Trust. Significant additions have included the records of Dr. Robert H. Schuller, who is the founding pastor of the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, Calif., and a 1947 Hope graduate, and of former U.S. Congressman Guy Vander Jagt, who is a 1953 Hope graduate; the archives also now assists other area organizations with their materials. The Holland Historical Trust moved its materials to the Holland Museum in January of 2003.

In addition to Reynolds, the staff includes a secretary and student assistants as well as several volunteers. Hope students also work with the archives on original research, including a major oral history project conducted each summer.Following the move, the space currently used by the archives will continue to house the Rare Book Collection of the college's library.

The A.C. Van Raalte Institute was established in January of 1994 and is fully supported through gifts to the college's endowment by Peter H. and Heidi Huizenga of Oak Brook, Ill., J.C. and Laura Huizenga of Grand Rapids, Ginger (Huizenga) and James L. Jurries of Holland, and Suzanne (Huizenga) and Herman Kanis of Holland; and their mother, the late Elizabeth Huizenga. Originally housed in Van Zoeren Hall, the institute moved to 100 E. Eighth St. in March of 1996. Dr. Elton J. Bruins served as founding director until July of 2002, when he was succeeded by Nyenhuis.

The institute has a part-time staff of 13, including Nyenhuis, two research professors, four senior research fellows, an editorial assistant/office manager, three translators and two student research assistants.

The bibliography of publications by the staff since 1994 runs eight pages, and includes the books "Albertus and Christina: The Van Raalte Family, Home and Roots," by Bruins and Karen G. Schakel, et al; "Albertus C. Van Raalte: Dutch Leader and American Patriot," by Dr. Jeanne M. Jacobson and Bruins, with former archives director Larry Wagenaar; "A Dream Fulfilled: The Van Raalte Sculpture in Centennial Park," by Nyenhuis and Jacobson; "Centennial History of the Fourteenth Street Christian Reformed Church," by Nyenhuis; "Dutch Chicago: A History of the Hollanders in the Windy City," by Dr. Robert P. Swierenga; and "Myth and the Creative Process: Michael Ayrton and the Myth of Daedalus, the Maze Maker," by Nyenhuis.