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Collection 422 Papers of Laura Neva Collins

Identifier: CN 422

Scope and Contents

Glass negatives, negatives, and photographs relating to the ministry of Laura Neva Collins, missionary to Kenya with Africa Inland Mission from 1907-1952. Shots include missionaries, Africans, indigenous artifacts, church architecture, etc., relating to mission work in Africa.

This collection originally consisted of ninety-seven black and white glass negatives of missionary activities in Africa before 1914. There are two series of glass negatives. The first series may have taken by Laura Collins and are of AIM work in and around Kinyona, Kijabe, and a few other areas. There is one picture from Uganda and one from the then Belgian Congo (now Zaire). She might have used these negatives to prepare magic lantern slides which she used during her first furlough to illustrate talks she gave to church congregations that supported AIM's work with prayer and money.

The second set of glass negatives are of Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A. (PCUSA) mission work in the Cameroon, then a German colony. It is unknown by the Archives staff whether these negatives belonged to Collins and were used by her to prepare additional slides as part of her presentation or if the two sets of glass negatives were boxed together at some point after Collins death. None of the negatives appear to be original negatives, but rather copy negatives taken from other photographs or negatives. Most of the images in series I were pinned to some kind of board and sometimes (for negatives 5, 11, 19, 28, 30) there are a few handwritten notes on one side which were also photographed. Almost all the images in series II were shot against the same background, but a different background than that used in series 1.

The negatives in the first series were almost certainly taken between 1907 and 1914 ( a few have more definite dates) and depict the Kikuyu people and aspects of Kenya's society, customs, economics, geography, and tribal groups, as well as its growing Christian church, the missionary community, church architecture, Theodore Roosevelt's visit to Kijabe in 1906, and Collins herself. The negatives in the second series show similar scenes of the PCUSA mission work among the Bulu or Bulu-speaking people in Cameroon. These negatives date between ca. 1899 (negatives 39-42 are of chief Moondo (or Mvondo) Ntimbau, who died in that year) and 1903 (negative 35 is of Charles Warren McCleary, who died in 1903).

According to a list of ninety-seven negatives which came with the two sets, seven of the original glass negatives were missing from the sets received by the Archives. Of the remaining ninety glass negatives, six (two of which were apparently purchased commercial shots not directly related to missions) were in such broken condition that they could not be copied and were discarded. The eighty-four remaining negatives, some of which had been received broken but which could be duplicated, were copied and the copy negatives and photographs are also a part of this collection. The negatives and photographs were numbered and captioned in two series, perhaps by Collins. As mentioned above, series I is of AIM's work in Kenya, with one negative from Uganda and one from the Belgian Congo. Series II is of the PCUSA work in Cameroon. See the Location Record for Slides (Lantern) for a list of the captions.

Folder 21 in box 19 of Collection 81 (Africa Inland Mission) contains Collins' personnel file, with more information on her life and ministry, although nothing directly about her first term and these negatives. More information about the Presbyterian work in Cameroon about the time of the photographs in series II can be found in the pamphlet, The Beloved: An Iowa Boy in the Field of Africa/ Charles Warren McCleary: His Life, Letters and Work, edited by John Frederick Hinkhouse and privately printed in 1909.


  • Created: 1899-1914

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.

Biographical or Historical Information

Laura Neva Collins was born in Greenfield, Illinois, on October 20, 1878, the daughter of Lorenzo and Emma Collins. At twelve years of age she committed her life to Christ. Collins attended Moody Bible Institute for a year and then joined Africa Inland Mission. In 1907, she sailed for Mombasa in the then British colony of Kenya. She was part of a large party of new missionaries escorted by Mr. and Mrs. Lee Downing. The party arrived on December 4th. On her first term, she spent about a year in Kijabe, Kenya, and then went to the newly opened mission station at Kinyona, where she remained until late 1913 or early 1914, when she returned to the United States on furlough. While at Kinyona she taught and engaged in evangelistic work among the Kikuyu people, a tribe that she continued to work with throughout all of her service in Kenya. For most of her time at Kinyona, her AIM co-workers were Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Raynor. She returned to the United States with many glass negatives which she or someone had taken of AIM's work, mainly but not exclusively at Kinyona.

She returned to Kenya in 1915. According to her obituary in the AIM's journal, Inland Africa, "She was a teacher for a time at Rift Valley Academy and has worked at the Githumu Station, but the greater part of her time was spent at Naivasha [station] where she labored among the plantation people." These were Kikuyu tribes people who had been brought to the area around Naivasha by the European settlers to work on their tea and coffee plantations. She worked as a Bible teacher and personal evangelist. Her last furlough to the United states was apparently in 1928. Laura Collins died in Africa on June 21, 1952.


4 Negative Files

4 Photograph Files

97 Slides

Language of Materials


Accruals and Additions

The glass negatives in this collection were purchased from James Jennings in July, 1979. Production of the negatives and photographs were made possible through a grant from the Ericksen/Te Beest Memorial Fund in 1989.

Accession 79-85 December 11, 1990

Janyce H. Nasgowitz

T. Pokela

Revised October 23, 1992

Robert Shuster

Collection 442 Papers of Laura Neva Collins
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Repository Details

Part of the Evangelism & Missions Archives Repository

501 College Avenue
Wheaton IL 60187 US