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From Traditional to Alternative – Religious Movements Unique to America

Posted on by David Sean Azzolina

The core of the newly purchased Religions of America database is the J. Gordon Melton collection, now housed at UCSB.  Melton, a major scholar in American religious culture, collected material on religion that most libraries would usually ignore. Ephemera concerned new religious movements that were often difficult to locate with the usual channels that libraries would have access to. Some examples of these would be wiccan, new age, occult and other groups that would be often considered to be subcultures. But he also included groups that are more mainstream such as Adventists, Christian Scientists, and Baptist. Through his Institute for the Study of American Religion the kinds of ephemera he collected were also varied. Rare periodicals were included, as well as posters and internal documents. It will of interest scholars across many departments.

Several other collections make up the database.  These include Utah and the Mormons, based on materials from the Western Americana Collection at Yale University.  It includes periodicals, doctrinal, and controversial works that are pro- and anti-Mormon as well as contemporary works relating to the Latter-Day Saints.  Material from the Shaker Collection at the Library of Congress is included.  Furthermore, publications relating to the Christian Identity movement sourced from The Hall-Hoag Collection of Dissenting and Extremist Printed Propaganda are available.  This material is closely related to material from the Hall-Hoag collection relating to political extremism and hate literature in the Political Extremism and Radicalism database.

Obviously, scholars in religion will find much to mine here but those in history, anthropology, sociology, and political science will as well.

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