New Testament Abstracts, 1956-84, now online for the first time

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Image from the first issue of NTA, 1956-7

Contributing unique content to the global library of online information is an ongoing activity and priority of the Boston College Libraries. So, when Dean Thomas D. Stegman, S.J., of the School of Theology and Ministry (STM), proposed a collaboration to digitize and make openly available roughly 30 years of New Testament Abstracts (NTA) content, University Librarian Tom Wall was pleased to confirm the partnership.

New Testament Abstracts (NTA) has been a premier scholarly publication for study of the New Testament and related fields for more than 60 years. Originally a product of the Weston Jesuit School of Theology (WJST), the publication moved with the WJST to Boston College in 2008, upon the founding of the University’s School of Theology and Ministry (STM). Since then, the BC Libraries have benefited greatly from this partnership, particularly the Theology and Ministry Library (TML), which is the annual recipient of hundreds of donated books and journal titles courtesy of NTA.

Image from the title page of the first issue of NTA, 1956-7

While online access to NTA content from 1985 onward is available via EBSCO Publishing, thanks to an arrangement between NTA and the American Theological Library Association (Atla), content from NTA’s earliest years, 1956 through 1984, had only been in print. Professor Christopher Matthews, the editor of NTA, originally suggested making the earliest NTA content available online. The Libraries worked with Professor Matthews and Dean Stegman to ensure that, like all other Library-generated online resources, the end product would be available as a public domain resource in keeping with the spirit of the University’s commitment to social justice.

The project also afforded an opportunity to partner with St. John’s Seminary (SJS) because the print copies of NTA selected for digitization from the TML’s bound journal collection were the Seminary’s property. To secure permission, the TML’s Head Librarian, Steve Dalton, reached out to the Academic Dean at St. John’s, Dr. Paul Metilly, who received the inquiry with keen interest. After discussing the proposal with the Seminary’s Interim Rector Rev. Stephen Salocks, also a New Testament scholar, Dean Metilly passed along the good news that the project could proceed.

With the volumes identified, metadata checked and the copyrights cleared for open access availability, the Libraries’ Digital Repositories Services Team started their work. Owing to our participation in the Boston Library Consortium/Open Content Alliance Initiative, materials are sent to the Internet Archive scanning center at the BPL for digitization in a process that includes imaging content, making the full-text searchable via optical character recognition (OCR), and capturing/converting metadata. Content is then uploaded to the HathiTrust, placing them in the context of a larger corpus and profferring the benefits of digital preservation. Availability of titles via these two major online “libraries”, HathiTrust and the Internet Archive, ensures wide discoverability and access. 

The BC Libraries have maintained a robust program of digitization and digital preservation for over ten years, with a particular focus on creating public domain content and making those materials openly and widely available. The NTA project fit nicely into an existing workflow for digitizing content that is sent off-site; collections that do not leave campus are handled in our on-site digitization labs. The Libraries prioritize materials not otherwise available online that support BC research and the University’s academic agenda, or that capture the heritage and Catholic mission of Boston College.

All of the Libraries’ NTA resources, including the print, online and the EBSCO database, are represented in the BC Libraries Catalog; linked therein is access to the newly-digitized earlier years in the HathiTrust Digital Library. There is also a new collection in the Internet Archive. Users should be aware that the full text searching and access offers a quite different experience than the more structured Atla database.  

Particular citations can be checked efficiently from the main record in Hathi Trust. Combining multiple topic terms in a search will produce results for entire NTA issues rather than the works reviewed (as in the EBSCO database), so you should consult indices for general search terms. We hope researchers will find these new resources fruitful.

Reflecting on the project, Dean Stegman had this to say: “New Testament Abstracts has been an essential resource for biblical scholars since its inception in 1956. It’s part of the legacy of Weston College, Weston Jesuit School of Theology, and now Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. I’m delighted that the first thirty volumes are now available in digital format. BC Libraries have rendered a real service to the academy by making this valuable resource more accessible.”

Kimberly Kowal

Associate University Librarian for Digital Initiatives, Boston College Libraries

Stephen Dalton

Head Librarian, Theology and Ministry Library