Postdoctoral Fellowship Advances Special Collections Research

by University Relations

Azusa Pacific’s University Libraries welcomed Josiah Chappell, Ph.D., as a postdoctoral fellow on March 1, 2016. Facilitated by Robert Duke, Ph.D., dean of the School of Theology and professor in the Department of Biblical and Religious Studies, the 10-month agreement is the first fellowship by the Scholars Initiative, the research arm of the Museum of the Bible. The fellowship allows Chappell to comprehensively research, document, and catalog items in APU’s rare Special Collections.

The twofold objective of the fellowship involves complementary research projects that benefit APU and the Museum of the Bible, an organization dedicated to engaging people with the Bible through research, education, and a permanent museum. Chappell works under the supervision of Ken Otto, MLIS, associate professor in University Libraries and Special Collections librarian. Primarily, Chappell helps identify and generate descriptions of APU’s Special Collections holdings with relevance to the biblical text, particularly in the Leaf Collection, which contains more than 400 leaves. He also focuses on identifying possible connections between items owned by APU and those in the Museum Collection, one of the world’s larger collections of rare artifacts. Within the first weeks in his role, Chappell was able to trace the provenance of an early manuscript leaf, discovering its date, its scribe, and the monastery location. This academic detective work promises to make important connections among the antiquities at Azusa Pacific and several other institutions.

As part of the fellowship, Chappell also studies Cairo Genizah manuscripts in the Museum Collection. In keeping with one of the main goals—to pair students with established scholars in the research process—philosophy major Isaac McAllister ’16 partners with Chappell to study these manuscripts, gaining firsthand research experience. The research and resulting documentation from this fellowship will significantly advance the discoverability of items in the Leaf Collection, affording APU faculty and students, as well as the greater academy, more complete information and greater access to these rare primary source materials.

Originally published in the Fall '16 issue of APU Life. Download the PDF or view all issues.