Researching missionary photography in Cadbury Research Library

Boys playing outside a Church Missionary Society (CMS) school in West Africa, from the CMS archive in the Cadbury Research Library

As part of the Undergraduate Research Scholarship Scheme, Charlotte McKnight has been working with Simone Laqua-O’Donnell and Ivana Frlan (Cadbury Research Library) on a project entitled ‘Missionary photography and its multiple meanings: The Church Mission Society and its Medical Mission.’ 

Charlotte has been working to identify photography of children in missions - particularly the children of missionaries - and medical photographs in the Church Missionary Society Archive which is held at the Cadbury Research Library. Here, she reflects on her experience so far:


I have found the research to be incredibly interesting. I was worried when I first started that I would be constantly searching through the online archive and writing down accession numbers for Simone to later look through and research herself - not that I haven’t found that an interesting process in itself. However, from day one Simone encouraged me to research whatever I have found exciting, and would like to look into further for myself. I considered this to be a wonderful opportunity, and I have found this has really enabled me to make the most out of the archive.

So far, it seems that photographs of children in missions that took place in West Africa are abundant, with a wealth of source material available. Photographs of the children of missionaries, however, have so far proved harder to come by, but hopefully as the weeks progress the archives should eventually present some to us! It always seems to be a case of rooting through the archive looking for one thing, that you stumble across something else that proves to be very important and exciting for our research. This I have found to be both a challenging and rewarding aspect of my research scholarship.

I have learnt a huge amount of information in a very short space of time. Not only have I already acquired great knowledge about the Church Missionary Society, but I also learnt what kind of work was involved in being a researcher. Most importantly I have discovered how to make the most out of the archive, and found my independent research skills improved greatly which I know will be hugely beneficial when it comes to researching and writing my dissertation.

I am enjoying the Undergraduate Research Scholarship immensely, and I am very grateful to Simone and Ivana for giving me the time and opportunity to work and learn with them. The Undergraduate Research Scholarship is a brilliant opportunity that I am very fortunate to have had, and would highly recommend it to fellow undergraduate students.


More information

For updates on the Undergraduate Researchers, see the Twitter account for the CAL UG Research Scholarship scheme, @CAL_UGRS. Questions about the scheme should be directed to Jenny Palmer J.L.Palmer@bham.ac.uk