Willie T. Summerville’s Annotated Bible Recently Restored

A photograph of Willie T. Summerville playing a piano overlays a page from the book for Corinthians, with one side showing a ripped and folded page, and the other the newly preserved page.Two years ago we finished processing the Willie T. Summerville and Summerville Family Papers, a wonderful collection illustrating the life of Willie T. Summerville (1944-2017). Summerville spent over thirty years working as a music educator, gospel musician, and choir director for Urbana’s and Champaign’s public schools and churches, and his work in all of these roles was frequently recognized for its impact on our local community. The collection includes personal writings, sound recordings, photographs, gospel workbooks and workshops, awards, and music.

Today we are excited to share that conservation work has finished on one of the highlights of the collection, a family bible owned by his wife, Valerian A. Summerville. When we received the bible as part of the collection, we knew immediately it was special. Willie T. Summerville had densely annotated its pages with notes, providing a unique insight into his personal thoughts and reflections on his religion, which as a gospel musician, influenced much of his work. Unfortunately, the bible was covered in sticky duct tape, the binding was falling apart, and many pages were folded and chipped, making it too fragile to allow public access. Now, thanks to the wonderful work of our friends in conservation, especially Jody Waitzman, it has been restored and preserved for anyone who would like to learn more about Summerville and his impact on gospel music, music education, and the Urbana-Champaign community. In the image above, you can see the original condition of an example page on the left, and the newly restored page on the right.

We would like to especially thank Shandra Summerville, Willie T. Summerville’s daughter, for working with us on behalf of her family to gift the archives this special collection, and Jody Waitzman and Quinn Morgan Ferris, for their work conserving this bible. Those interested in learning more about Summerville and his work in Urbana-Champaign, can locate the finding aid for the collection here.

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