|Archives Acquires Church and Alcohol Studies Collection
February 5, 1999
Records of the North Conway Institute Deposited with the Archives
A documentary resource that explores the churches' historical involvement with alcohol issues has been deposited in the Archives of the Episcopal Church. The archives of the North Conway Institute provides evidence of the role that ecumenical groups played in educating and shaping the church and society's attitude toward alcoholism from the 1950s to the present.
In receiving the archives, Director of Archives Mark Duffy noted that, "The North Conway Institute has been an active force in promoting education and public policy reform in the area of alcoholism and substance abuse. The ministry of public advocacy has a long, grassroots history in the Episcopal Church. NCI is an overlooked part of that story because it operated outside the structures in order to create new networks across faith communities. It has exercised leadership in changing attitudes towards the treatment of those with diseases rooted in the violation of social norms. The principal value of the NCI archive is that it documents the historical contribution of Church-based approaches to the public discussion of alcoholism and its effects. The NCI collection connects to and compliments related documentation in the Archives on the Church's evolving role in the treatment and understanding of addiction." Duffy noted that, "From its base in New Hampshire and under the passionate leadership of David Works, the NCI cultivated an ecumenical network which did not retreat from bringing this discomforting issue to the attention of local and national Christian bodies."
The NCI archive also contains the personal papers of the Reverend David A. Works, an Episcopal priest and founder of NCI. Works, himself a recovering alcoholic, served as rector at Christ Church in North Conway, New Hampshire from 1948 to 1960. In 1951 Works helped organize a statewide seminar in New Hampshire to educate clergy about alcohol and alcoholism. This was the earliest conference of its kind in the United States and the beginning of what would become the focus of Works' life.
The collection documents his work over the next several decades as a consultant for federal, state and church agencies. In 1955 Works was appointed chairman of the U.S. Government Commission on Alcoholism among American Indians. This was the first action concerning alcoholism taken by the federal government after Prohibition. During the 1970s Works served as chairman for numerous committees including the National Council of Churches Task Force on Alcohol and Drug Problems, a U.S. Department of Transportation study on drunk driving programs, the Conference for Religious Leaders of the National Safety Council and the Massachusetts Drug Rehabilitation Advisory Board.
The NCI archive includes correspondence and published material which show how the Episcopal church has dealt with alcohol since the 1950s. The evolving attitudes and actions of the church can be traced through the collection's compilation of public statements, published reports and private letters. The archive also contains more than 800 alcohol related pamphlets dating from the 1940s to 1980s and several hundred speech transcripts including each year of the NCI summer conference, the 28th International Congress on Alcohol and Alcoholism, government hearings, sermons and academic conferences. Many of these printed items are small press publications with limited distribution that form part of an evolving conversation of the attitudes towards and treatment of alcoholism.
Researchers will find files kept by NCI on specific denominations, states, businesses and government organizations that NCI worked with and how these groups handled alcohol- related issues. The collection contains an extensive correspondence section as well as administrative records of NCI and all reports and brochures published by the Institute.
Available are a description of the collection, a history of the NCI, electronic full text version of several NCI publications, and pointers to other information resources on alcoholism. The collection is undergoing processing with a grant from the North Conway Institute. A full inventory of the holdings and other digital resources from the collection are planned for the future. Access to the NCI collection is now open.