ABOUT THE FIRST
Learn
& oldest autonomous Church in South Africa
Discover
THE ONLY KNOWN SET
of non-governmental records from the Dutch colonial period in the Cape
Experience
THE STORY
of a diverse community that has challenged and redefined official social boundaries since the 18th century

About us

The Outsiders Within project

The Outsiders Within project is based on a collaboration between the Lutheran Church and local academics, conservators and collection managers. The Lutheran Church precinct is located in Strand Street, central Cape Town, and is the oldest remaining group of public buildings in South Africa.

This National Heritage Site houses an archive of unique manuscripts dating back to the 1740s. The Outsiders Within team discovered 9
 documents and papers that were carefully stored but never publicly accessible, and soon realized that they contain exceptional information. For instance, among the diverse Church records is evidence that brings new insights into South Africa's history of resistance to colonial dominance.

Outsiders Within not only aims to understand the importance of this archive and its contribution to South African history, but also to make the information publicly accessible for all interested parties.

How you can be part of

Visit a landmark historical precinct in the central City, a group of surviving buildings of late 18th century Neo-Classical Cape style, and experience the genuine pleasure of exploring a functioning Church interior that has been furnished and cared for over generations. A highlight is the pulpit carved by Anton Anreith.
You represent the Church's living heritage and your history is embedded in the place and the archives. Contribute your stories, and find out about your roots and family connections.
This is a museum project with a difference - it is still living and developing. We need advice and help to maintain and enhance the collections and manage them into the future.
Interpretation and accessibility are primary objectives. Get involved in researching and developing the archive and bring ideas for future projects. So much is still unknown.
The lutheran Church welcomes visitors and is a 'best-kept-secret' wedding venue. Do you take for granted the accuracy of the hand-wound Church clock (1821) as you drive past? The Church has several unusual architectural features, including the wide span roof construction.
Crunching The Numbers
1 The buildings were completed
1000 Items in the Archive Collection
1000 Original Volumes
1000 Dedicated Congregation

Did you know


"During the Dutch colonial period, 30% of Lutherans baptisms were of first and second generation free slaves."

"By 1884 97.6% of Lutherans in South Africa were Black(Elphick & Davenport, 1997)."

"This Lutheran church established the first Children’s home in South Africa and one of the oldest public schools, both of which are still functional social institutions."

"The Lutheran church in Cape Town with it's long warehouse next door, is the last remaining unmistakable complex from the Dutch East India Company period (VOC) in the city."

"It is the oldest Lutheran Church in Africa and also the first and oldest non-State Church in South Africa."

Meet The Team

The people behind the scenes

Dr. Antonia Malan Historical Archaeologist and Academic Consultant

"The most exciting event as a researcher is to find new sources of information; the most satisfying result is to make those sources available and accessible for others to share in your excitement." Antonia Malan is a Historical Archaeologist with many years of experience as an academic and a consultant. She was Project Manager of the TEPC transcription project (a joint UCT-UWC initiative that facilitated public access to inventory documents held in the Cape-Archives).

Dr. Teun Baartman Senior Project Historian

“It is a truly amazing experience to discover a web of connections from item to item in the collection and from a small religious community to a much wider world and vice versa.”   Teun Baartman has a PhD in Historical studies from the University of Cape and worked as a contract researcher as well as academically. He speaks and reads Dutch and German and his research explored issues of status and dissent at the Cape in the 1770s. 

Sally Titlestad Spatial Historian and Heritage Management Consultant, Project Manager

“One of the most exciting things about working on this project is the daily experience of what living heritage actually means.”       Sally Titlestad is a senior independent Spatial Historian and Heritage Management Consultant and has managed a number of team projects. 

Professor Nigel Worden Outsiders Within Advisor

“By revealing the stories of outsiders within Cape colonial society, this project also gives us new insights into those who considered themselves insiders .” Professor Nigel Worden is widely known for his research work and publications on 18th Century Cape Town, its people and undertakings, and its relationship to other parts of the Dutch East India Company’s settlements. He is Head of the Department of Historical Studies, and holds the King George V Professor of History Chair at the university.

Dr Johan Fourie Outsiders Within Advisor

"These archives are much more than just a church archive; they provide us with a unique oppurtunity to study the evolution of the South African economy - our living standards, inequality and economic development - over a period of more than 200 years."   Johan Fourie is an economic historian in the Department of Economics at Stellenbosch University. His research focuses on quantifying the historical living standards of South Africans. He obtained his PhD from Utrecht University in 2012.  

The Church

Community History
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The Lutheran Church in Cape Town was constructed between 1764 and 1774, first as a simple but large warehouse because the Lutherans were neither allowed to have a 'Church' building nor to practice their religion. Nevertheless, the Church Council was constituted and operated underground while making continual requests for permission to worship openly. In 1779 permission to worship openly was finally granted, but with the following constraints on the insistence of the Dutch Reformed Church (the DRC was the only denomination previously sanctioned by the VOC):

  • The first minister was chosen by the DRC because of his acquiescent personality
  • 'Dutch' building form and interior layout
  • No altar (a severe constraint for Lutherans)
  • Services had to start later in the day than in the DRC church
  • No baptism of girls in a family
  • No baptism of slaves
  • Women must remain members of the DRC (most had registered with the DRC before1780)
  • Marriage partners had to prove that both were 'registered' Lutherans (but women were not allowed to change from DRC to Lutheran)
  • No power to collect money for, or take care of, their 'own' poor
  • VOC top positions reserved for DRC men
  • Lutheran men could not hold political office in the VOC.

 


Despite these constraints, the Lutherans emerged as a diverse community consistently engaging across the established hierarchy and social boundaries, taking care of their members and fighting for their rights under an oppressive political and economic system.

The Building Complex
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The building and the land of the Lutheran Church in Strand Street was donated to the community as a 'permanent place of worship' by Martin Melck and his wife Maria Margaretha Hop in 1774. It has the largest roof span of any known vernacular building in South Africa. The span is over 21 meters and the vaulted ceiling is similar to those in Lutheran churches in the Netherlands, Germany and Batavia (Jakarta, Indonesia).

A vestry was later added at the back of the main Church, and the pulpit and other decoration was carved by Anton Anreith. The pipe organ was apparently the largest in the Cape at the time of its installation. The pulpit was placed in the middle of the Church, because the layout had to match Dutch Reformed Church custom.

The Swan embedded in the plaster façade and carved in various places in the Church is the symbol of Luther. It is connected to a statement of John Huss (1370-1415), whose name literally means "Goose" in the Bohemian language and who was an important religious figure whose teachings strongly influenced Martin Luther and the Reformation. Before being excommunicated and burned, he said: “You are now going to burn a goose, but in a century you will have a swan which you can neither roast nor boil”.

A parsonage was built in 1782 (Martin Melck House), which was declared a National Monument in 1936 and is still the last remaining 'dakkamer house' in Cape Town. Six years after the Martin Melck House was constructed, a sexton's house was built on the other side of the Church (the Netherlands Consulate since the 1950s). Both were constructed with buttress walls between the buildings to support the Church. There is a beautiful spiral staircase built in one buttress, leading to the catwalk that runs below the windows in the roof structure.

The tower of the Church incorporates the organ loft and bells and a four-faced clock (installed in 1821). Winding the clock involves pulling weights up two storeys in height every second day. The cast iron railings were added when the tower was built, and were some of the first in Cape Town.

The rear portion of the block, now Church offices and the Freeworld Design Centre, housed a school in the late 19th century. This became West End Primary and then Prestwich Primary School after new premises were built on the old Lutheran burial ground in Prestwich Street, Green Point in 1910.

A detailed analysis of the Church buildings was completed by Stuart Hermansen of HB Architects in 2011 and has been reviewed by the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA). Some architectural history questions still remain unanswered. The Lutheran Church Complex was provisionally protected as a National Heritage Site on 1 March 2013.

 

Conservation & Restoration
conservation-restoration

The Church Complex has been systematically maintained for the past 250 years and necessary repairs were undertaken at the highest professional standards. Most notable was the restoration of the Strand Street façade, the vestry, and the roof timbers by Gabriël Fagan Architects in the 1980s. Concepts around heritage conservation management have changed in recent years, and preventive maintenance planning has become the focus of professional practice.

The Church appointed a professional team to make a thorough assessment and draw up an integrated plan for the conservation management of all aspects of the site and its collection. Legal obligations are combined with best practice standards, and technical specifications are set out for the maintenance and repair of all aspects of the buildings, site and collection.

The plan for the collection (objects and archives) was undertaken by the Outsiders Within team. Measured drawings of all of the buildings and structures on site will be undertaken by Rennie Scurr Adendorff Architects. Technical specifications will be established in consultation with Moira Serritslev, conservation architect for the Church. Heritage Indicators and guidelines, development constraints and recommendations for the removal of intrusive fabric, will be drawn up to guide interventions in the future.

The Archive Project

Project Background & Team
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In 2011, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Strand Street (ELC) appointed consultants to undertake a heritage evaluation of their property for the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA). During that process, the history of the Church and its community was further uncovered and the Outsiders Within team discovered an archive with documents and papers that had not been publicly opened ever before, some dating back to the 1740s.

                                                     

 

Given the extraordinary history of the Lutheran Church and its resistance to Dutch East India Company (VOC) oppression, and the fact that this is the only known archive of unofficial records from the VOC period, it became most important to find out the value of this archive for understanding our multicultural society’s history.

Project Stages
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First

The Outsiders Within project started in May 2012 with the support of the National Heritage Council, and its initial focus was the evaluation of all findings and development of a resource from which to deepen our understanding of the Cape’s multicultural society and history by:

 

  • Creating a concise inventory of all items in the church archive
  • Physically ordering and organizing the archive according to categories and sub-categories
  • Building a database to guide and support care and access to the records
  • Connecting with all interested parties and experts of various fields such as historians, conservators or curators
  • Organising kick-off workshops with stakeholders to present and explore the range of records and assets as well as their significance to Cape history

Writing a funding proposal to the Netherlands Embassy and visiting the Netherlands to meet 19 diverse organizations in the heritage sector.

 

Next

 

Funding from the Royal Netherlands Government was granted in April 2013. The Outsiders Within team was tasked with developing a comprehensive plan to preserve the ELC heritage assets, explore the meaning of Lutheran heritage, and to manage and organize access to the archive. The process included:

Development and implementation of a management plan on how to handle the records as well as on how to provide and control access to the archive Training of members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church and the broader community to work in and with the archive Engagement with researchers, collectors, tourists and other interested parties Extension of the database of the archive to track requests for access and actual usage of the materials Workshops with members of the Lutheran Church community and other interested parties on conservation materials and archiving Workshop with congregants and representatives from other local institutions on the use of a database in managing care and maintenance Establishing digitization standards and testing these standards in practice Empowerment of the Church to take responsibility for the long-term care of the archive in cooperation with other institutions Establishment of a Heritage Committee to report to ELC Council

Project Findings
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Preliminary research into a few of the archival records dating between 1780 and 1795 has demonstrated the importance of the documents.

Despite all constraints imposed by the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC), such as no baptism of girls in a family, no baptism of slaves and no marriages with the exception of both being registered Lutherans, the manuscripts reveal a picture of active and inclusive expansion of the Lutheran congregation:

 

  • 529 recorded baptisms: 394 males and 135 females
  • 105 slave and freed slave baptisms (19% of all baptisms)
  • 55 of the mothers of children being baptised were freed slaves, 58 were first-generation descendants of freed slaves and 29 were second-generation
  • 30% of the recorded marriages were of freed slave women to Lutheran men

 

The Lutherans were a diverse community, consistently challenging defined social boundaries, taking care of their members and fighting for their rights within oppressive legislative, economic, and social constraints.

The Outsiders Within team and the Church has worked hard on sharing this information and finding the means for making it accessible so that further research can be done with your help.

Contact us now and let us experience living heritage together!

 

Get Involved

Receive information
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The Archive is not currently open to the public, and is in the process of being conserved. The Church is sympathetic to the need for people to access information about family histories and will endeavor to assist you during this period. Professional Researchers appointed by the Church are able to search for specific information required for legal processes.  There are costs involved in accessing information.

Please email your request and you will be guided through the process by the team. Academic research requests can be directed to: contact@outsiderswithin.co.za or to admin@elchurch.co.za. Family research requests should be directed to: family@outsiderswithin.co.za.

1. Sign up for Newsletters and Family Histories
2. Receive information or simply get in contact with us: contact@outsiderswithin.co.za
3. Get to know more about your family’s history
4. Social Media: Facebook | RSS | evtl. Twitter / GooglePlus
5. Blog

Participate
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How you can participate?

We appreciate all kinds of support and participation, as there is still a long way to go. No matter if you are living in Cape Town or abroad, if you have long-term experience or just an interesting idea – we are happy to get in contact with you.

  •  

          …   Assist us with the digitalization process

    …   Be part of the physical conservation and construction of conservation material (such as boxes)

    …   Become our new Marketing & Social Media intern

    …   Assist us with networking and funding

     

    We are looking very much forward to getting in contact with you!

Donate
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Together with you, we are the promoters of our heritage and have received the importance legacy and task to be joint custodians to preserve our church buildings, furnishings and the archive.

All donations towards this will be most gratefully received by the congregation:

Evangelical Lutheran Church t/a ELC Heritage Fund
First National Bank
Branch code: 201409
Account number: 624 235 617 46
Swift Code: FIRNZAJJ

Please use your name as a reference, and stipulate if you wish for your donation to applied to a specific area of Heritage Work. Email these details to accounts@elchurch.co.za

 

Gallery

Here is all the magic that was captured by a lens!

  • ALL
  • The Archive Project page 1
  • The Archive Project page 2
  • The Archive Project page 3
  • The Church
  • The Church page 1
  • The Church page 2
  • The Church page 3
  • The Archive Project
  • Blogs
  • The Team
Felix
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Felix
Dr. Antonia Malan, OW Consultant
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Dr. Antonia Malan, OW Consultant
Sally Titlestad, OW Project Manager
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Sally Titlestad, OW Project Manager
Prof. Nigel Worden, OW Advisor
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Prof. Nigel Worden, OW Advisor
Dr. Teun Baartman, OW Historian
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Dr. Teun Baartman, OW Historian
Dr Johan Fourie, OW Consultant
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Dr Johan Fourie, OW Consultant
Chruch Council Workshop 4
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Chruch Council Workshop 4
Chruch Council Workshop 3
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Chruch Council Workshop 3
Chruch Council Workshop 2
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Chruch Council Workshop 2
Chruch Council Workshop 1
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Chruch Council Workshop 1
Archief Jaarboek vir Suid Afrikaanse Geskiedenis (Vol 1, PartII)
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An original copy of Hoge’s 1938 "Archief Jaarboek vir Suid Afrikaanse Geskiedenis (Vol 1, PartII): Die Geskiedenis van die Lutherse Kerk aan die Kaap.” donated to the Archive by Teun. This book was written about the Lutheran community with no access to the Archive at all.

Archief Jaarboek vir Suid Afrikaanse Geskiedenis (Vol 1, PartII)
Council meeting
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Pastor Schwär, Jeroen Martens, Sally Titlestad, Dudley Malgas (Chair of Council), Teun Baartman

Council meeting
Pastor Schwär and Jeroen Martens
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Pastor Schwär and Jeroen Martens
Cultural Attache to the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
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Team meeting with Jeroen-Louis Martens, Cultural Attache to the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, May 2014

Cultural Attache to the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
Graffiti on gallery benches
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Graffiti on the furniture where the school children sat 

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Graffiti on gallery benches
Standing surety for freed slaves
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Standing surety for the freeing of slaves, for illegitimate and adopted children and for others in need

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Standing surety for freed slaves
Correspondence with leaders of the Lutheran Church in Batavia
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Correspondence with leaders of the Lutheran Church in Batavia, dating back to the early 1740s

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Correspondence with leaders of the Lutheran Church in Batavia
Church Council minutes and financial records
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Church Council minutes and financial records reveal the decisions of the leaders and the undertakings of the congregation

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Church Council minutes and financial records
Record of assistance to needy
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Archive Volumes recording assistance to those in need

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Record of assistance to needy
Seating plan for Church congregation
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A number of architectural drawings, including layout of seating plans

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Seating plan for Church congregation
Record of relative status
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Records of status, early seating plans can give an idea of the layout and status of persons in the congregation

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Record of relative status
Pastor Gohl and his wife
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Photographs of the Pastors, formally and informally taken. This image is of Pastor Gohl and his wife who served the Church during the 19th century

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Pastor Gohl and his wife
Tobias Rönnenkamp
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Portraits (oil on canvas) of Influential early leaders, this portrait is of Tobias Ronnenkamp (VOC Official at the time)

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Tobias Rönnenkamp
Pulpit and brass arch on podium
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Pulpit and brass arch on podium
Fire damage to clock tower 1
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Top of Steeple with Fire Damage to the beams

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Fire damage to clock tower 1
Inside the Archive strong-room - after
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After the first process of inventory and ordering the volumes

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Inside the Archive strong-room - after
Inside the Archive strong-room - before
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Before the project began in 2012

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Inside the Archive strong-room - before
Fire damage to clock tower 2
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Damage inside the steeple, from a fire that threatened the Church in 1952

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Fire damage to clock tower 2
Wooden staircase 2
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Wooden staircase 2
Stained glass window
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Stained glass window
Graphic typography 2
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Graphic typography 2
Graphic typography 1
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Graphic typography 1
Iron money chest 1
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Iron money chest 1
Iron money chest 2
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Iron money chest 2
Embroidery on velvet
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Embroidery on velvet
Wax seal used for important documents
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Wax seal used for important documents
Wood carving 1 (Lion)
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Wood carving 1 (Lion)
Steeple
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Steeple
Motto above Church door: Proverbs 9:10
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Motto above Church door: Proverbs 9:10
Plaster swan above Church door
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Plaster swan above Church door
Clock mechanism 1
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Clock mechanism 1
Wood carving 3 (Hercules)
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Wood carving 3 (Hercules)
Wood carving 2 (Hercules)
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Wood carving 2 (Hercules)
Wooden staircase 3
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Wooden staircase 3
Clock mechanism 2
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Clock mechanism 2
Clock face
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Clock face
Bell ringing
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Bell ringing
Bell and hammer
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Bell and hammer
Cast iron work
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Cast iron work
Rear of church with door to vestry
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Rear of church with door to vestry
Arched passage through buttresses
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Arched passage through buttresses
Wooden staircase 4
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Wooden staircase 4
Lectern with swan 2
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Lectern with swan 2
Wood carving 4 (Putti)
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Wood carving 4 (Putti)
Memorial tablet 2
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Memorial tablet 2
18/19th century wall clock
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18/19th century wall clock
The Angel on top of the Memorium
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The Angel on top of the Memorium
Organ loft
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Organ loft
Memorial tablet
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Memorial tablet
Wooden staircase 1
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Wooden staircase 1
Crest 2
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Crest 2
Crest 1
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Crest 1
Book 4
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Book 4
Old padlock
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Old padlock
Keys
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Keys
Book 3
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Book 3
Bible spine
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Bible spine
Sketches for wood carvings
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Sketches for wood carvings
Book 2
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Book 2
Title page
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Title page
Preamble
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Preamble
Signatures of Lutherans
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Signatures of Lutherans
Book 1
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Book 1
Swan on lectern
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Swan on lectern
The workings of the clock
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The workings of the clock
The Staircase - To date
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The Staircase - To date
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View of the Arched Roof
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The Organ
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The Organ
Historic picture of The Church
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Historic picture of The Church

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A Volunteer's Thoughts on Conservation Cleaning

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Imagine a tingling down the spine as every brush stroke removes debris particles from books that are more than 100 years old. Then think of the information contained in those books! The tingling turns into a shiver of delight when able to ‘decode’ information and realize the information hidden in the Old Dutch records.

The Conservation Workshop on 13 September 2014 was an experience that I will cherish. Our team was able to clean twelve volumes that morning, including one of the oldest in the archives. Under the watchful eye of Deiter and Keith, we learned the process, from a thorough washing of our hands, followed by white cotton gloves, setting up a workspace with blotting paper, then finally opening one of the special, acid-free boxes and cautiously lifting out the volume. Armed with a chemical free brush, we finally got the go-ahead to begin.

It was exciting, yet very humbling, to clean a book.  Although my volume of church membership records only began in 1843, I could not help wondering about the church secretary. Was the secretary male or female? How old? How long had the secretary been a member? How did anyone maintain such beautiful and artistic handwriting while copying names?  And, in Dutch!

With nudging from project manager Sally, I finally managed to stop trying to read, and focused on the process of cleaning.  With steady brush strokes from bottom to top, the pile of debris particles grew. We learned that the upward brush stroke helps determine how ‘dirty’ a book is. We also learned how to turn pages- not as simple as it sounds- and to clean along the bindings.  My list of do’s and don’ts grew as the cleaning progressed. 

Ultimately, I came to page 734 and the end of the book.   This is not the end of my work with the ELC archives.  My next challenge is to assimilate what I learned and transfer that knowledge to others in the ELC congregation so that they too can experience the wonder of our heritage.

My thanks go out to Sally, Dieter and Keith—and to the Netherlands for recognizing the wealth of information in the ELC archive and so generously donating funding for its conservation.

 

 

 

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