In scenes played out all over Britain, men, women, and children sat in darkened church halls mesmerised by missionary photographs projected on white walls or make-shift screens. Before the average British citizen could see pictures from all over the world on a mobile phone or a home computer, these kinds of presentations were the closest most of them would ever come to seeing other parts of the world. Their conceptions of far-off places were shaped in large part by these slide shows given by missionaries trying to enlist the support of congregations at home.
The Centre for the Study of World Christianity has thousands of these images in its collection of material relating to the history of world Christianity and the missionary movement. Documenting the spread of Christianity outside of the West has been a major part of the Centre’s work since Andrew Walls founded it in 1982. After working as an archivist for more than fourteen years, the Centre’s archives were an important part of my decision to study here. One of the first things I did after I arrived was meet with the Centre’s archivist, Kirsty Stewart, to discuss material relevant to my project. Continue reading