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Van Raalte’s Faithful Chronicler
Dr. Bruins reports

It has been a joy this past year, having been relieved of administrative work as director, to be able to devote myself to my research projects. My major project was, and continues to be, annotating the ninety-five letters written by Dr. Albertus C. Van Raalte, founder of Holland and the Holland Academy, to Dr. Philip Phelps Jr., the first president of Hope College.

The letters are dated from 1857 to 1875 and contain a wealth of information about the early years of Hope College, the Reformed Church in America, and life in Holland, Michigan. Annotation is time consuming, but I hope to finish the first draft this academic year. I continue to search for documents to add to my Van Raalte files. This past year I inventoried at least one hundred more so that my files now contain over 1,850 copies of documents written by Van Raalte or relating to him. Nella Kennedy, a translator at the Institute, devotes the majority of her time to translating the documents in Dutch.

Dr. Nyenhuis, Director of the Van Raalte Institute, has given me the responsibility of overseeing the Institute’s translation projects, which includes Nella’s work and that of Simone Kennedy and the Buursmas. Simone Kennedy and William and Althea Buursma are translating articles on Holland’s history found in De Grondwet, an early Holland (Michigan) newspaper—articles found by Dr. Swierenga while doing research for his history of Holland. Of particular interest are the records of the public debate on membership in the Masonic Order, a controversy that convulsed the Holland community in the 1870s and 1880s. This newspaper also has numerous articles on Holland’s shipping industry, which the Institute is having translated as they will be valuable for Geoffrey Reynolds, Director of the Joint Archives, in his writing a maritime history of Holland. Simone Kennedy moved last May to the Netherlands for an extended stay. She will resume her work as soon as she and her family are settled, communicating with us by e-mail.

Dr. William Kennedy continues the very labor intensive work of editing and annotating the minutes of the Classis of Holland 1858 to 1876. We hope in time to publish his work to make it readily available to others. The minutes for these years are valuable to a basic understanding of the religious history of the Holland Colony and of the Dutch colonies in Illinois and Wisconsin in the mid-nineteenth century. Among the many minor projects I am involved in on a day-to-day basis is the continual addition of newspaper clippings to the files of the Institute for in-house research. Both the Holland Sentinel and the Grand Rapids Press often publish articles related to Holland history or local history. In addition, I have assisted others in their historical research—Rev. Michael de Vries and Dr. Harry Boonstra for their history of the Pillar Christian Reformed Church from its founding in 1847 to 1897 and Dr. James Kennedy and Dr. Carol Simon for their religious history of Hope College.

It is a pleasure to be a part of the Van Raalte Institute, which will celebrate its tenth anniversary January 2004.