The BYU Press has announced its DVD publication of thousands of documents from the archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City. Two years in production, this electronic database contains more than 400,000 images scanned in full color at high resolution.
"Libraries and researchers everywhere will find this astounding collection unparalleled and unprecedented," said John W. Welch, editor-in-chief of BYU Studies and director of publications for the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History, the principal publishers of the project under the imprint of the BYU Press.
The release includes several of the most important collections in the Church of Jesus Christ's archive. For example, the collection features 4,000 pages from the papers of Joseph Smith, founding prophet of the Church, and thousands of pages of incoming and outgoing correspondence of Brigham Young.
The earliest document in this publication dates to 1827. The full Manuscript History of the Church is made accessible here, written from 1839 through 1882. The daily Journal History of the Church is included from its beginning in 1896 up to 1923.
Also included are such collections as the diaries of apostle and scientist Orson Pratt; the records of Charles C. Rich, apostle, commander of the Nauvoo Legion and pioneer colonizer; the journals of J. Golden Kimball, and several others. In addition, this publication makes available the original organizational minutes of the Nauvoo Relief Society, the architectural drawings for the Salt Lake and Nauvoo Temples, and much, much more.
"This array of documents will be of historic interest not only to those studying the history of the Church, but also to anyone interested in the settlement of the West, Native American relationships, and religious history in America in the 19th and early 20th centuries," said Welch. "This vast collection will keep historians busy for generations to come."
The images have been scanned and processed by Church employees and Church service missionaries working in the Historical Department of the Church. High speed scanners working on multiple computer stations have been humming busily for months on end.
"This is an overwhelming publication," said Welch. "I can think of nothing else in the publishing world that compares with it in size and significance."
Brigham Young University has worked closely with Church Archives over the years in publishing historical materials in BYU Studies, the university's leading scholarly journal.
Research libraries are the main target audience for this set of 74 DVDs. "I hope that research libraries all over the world will take a close look at this unique opportunity to dramatically enhance the size of their manuscript collection without increasing their preservation or maintenance costs," says Welch.
People anywhere interested in their ancestors or the histories of Ohio, Missouri, Illinois, Utah, Arizona, California, Hawaii and many other places will want to consult these images. "This publication moves the discipline of Mormon history up to a new level of scholarly and professional research," said Welch.
Historians have waited years for the release of many of these documents. Now they are available simultaneously to all scholars on an equal basis. New technology now makes the organization and preservation of these enormous collections much more manageable, increasing the feasibility of publishing these materials for the use of libraries and researchers everywhere.
With only a few exceptions, the images are presented in their totality. Occasional sacred or confidential words or lines are covered over, much as is done in government documents released under the Freedom of Information Act. This infrequent occurrence arises only when necessary and according to consistently applied archival standards.
For further information and to place orders, please contact BYU Studies at 403 Clyde Building, ext. 2-6691, *~*http://byustudies.byu.edu*~*. The price for the two-volume set of 74 DVDs is $1,299, or $699 for the volumes individually.