Moving Beyond the Volume
Date: November 23, 2010
At first, Ellen White’s writings were available in books, tracts and periodical articles. A new book with Ellen White’s letters and manuscripts up through 1849 is soon to be published. For years now her published works have been in an electronic CD format. Two Ellen White writings apps already exist for iPhones. And since the entire world is on the Internet, the newest method of distributing her writings to the world church makes all of her published writings in the languages in which they are published available online.
The Ellen G. White Estate was formed in 1915 as a result of Ellen White’s will. Since that time the organization has been dedicated to translating and distributing her materials. One of the more recent manifestations of this mission has been the cooperation with the General Conference in the formation of the Connecting with Jesus project through an action of the General Conference in session in 2005. The goal was to make 10 of Ellen White’s well-known works available to all church members and to encourage the study of her writings.
The ten “Connecting With Jesus” books include Education, Ministry of Healing, Steps to Christ, the five-volume Conflict of the Ages series, Counsels for the Church and Counsels on Stewardship. The books have been made available by the millions in major world languages including English, Spanish, French, Russian and Chinese.
At the 2010 General Conference Session in Atlanta, the White Estate presented a digital version of the Connecting with Jesus books that includes major foreign languages. Over the next year the goal is to include all of the Ellen White books that are available in the many languages in which they have been published. The website, still in a beta (test) state, makes the digital files available in a multitude of ways: PDF, text-searchable books, and some are even in Mp3 format.
The digitization of Ellen White’s works is made possible by the joint efforts of the Ellen G. White Estate and its branch office at Andrews University’s Center for Adventist Research (CAR), and through the generous support of donors. Both organizations are in the process of digitizing their works: the Ellen G. White Estate is digitizing their collection of Heritage materials and the Center for Adventist Research is digitizing most of their books, papers, sound recordings and photographs. Since the Center for Adventist Research has many of Ellen White’s books in foreign languages and is active with digitizing Adventist materials it was the natural place to do the digitization.
The digitization process begins in a medium-size room at the Center for Adventist Research office, under the direction of Merlin Burt, director of the Center. There, the foreign-language copies of White’s writings are scanned, page-by-page, and turned into a digital image. The digital images are then refined and assembled into a single “book.” The PDF of this “book” is sent to the White Estate, where the PDF is then scanned with optical character recognition. This makes it possible to search each book for keywords, and get thousands of results instantly. For example, the keyword “Isaiah” brings up 9,000 results from the works already online. The digital files are then uploaded onto the new website, www.egwwritings.whiteestate.org.
The Connecting with Jesus mission doesn’t stop there, however. Daryl Thompson, director of the Ellen G. White Estate, says that this digitization is part of a larger effort to completely redesign the website of the Ellen G. White Estate and make it as user-friendly as possible. The goal of the Estate is to make each one of Ellen White’s writings previously printed in another language available online. According to Thompson, 50 languages will cover 99% of the Seventh-day Adventist population, and various groups have expressed interest in minor-language translations as well.
Several modules (sections of a website) will eventually be centralized on the updated Ellen G. White Estate website. Thompson envisions the new website eventually resembling Google, with accounts and information sharing. Burt anticipates that the digitization of all of Ellen White’s foreign-language published writings will be finished sometime next year.
And when they are finished, the entire world can access them “without any kind of hindrance except the need of a computer,” says General Conference president Ted Wilson. “It will be a wonderful way in which young people especially and others will have access to these writings which are so important to every facet of life—from health to family life to understanding our relationship with God. The online format is going to enhance the sharing of these incredible and profound writings which I believe are inspired by God.”