A dissertation is a work of endurance that, although attributed to a single scholar, is only possible because of the intellectual community around it. This is particularly true in the case of digital scholarship, where the intellectual work includes programming, design, narrative, and critical analysis.
I have had the privilege of working with an exceptional dissertation committee who have been deeply supportive of my historical and digital work. My final dissertation chair, Michael O’Malley, and initial chair, Sharon Leon, provided invaluable assistance and encouragement, helping me find a workable balance between the computational, theoretical, and narrative aspects of the dissertation. An always reliable source of encouragement and technical guidance, Fred Gibbs provided much needed feedback on the theoretical and technical aspects of the project. Finally, John Turner and Randolph Scully offered valuable feedback on the historical scholarship, keeping this work grounded in American religious history.
The history program at George Mason brings together many generous spirits and houses a graduate program that runs on mutual support and encouragement, rather than competition. I owe a particular thank you to my fellow research assistants at RRCHNM and writing group members, each of whom has helped shape my thinking and this project in productive ways, particularly Megan Brett, Amanda Morton, Celeste Sharpe, Gretchen Burgess, Amanda Regan, Jannelle Legg, Spencer Roberts, Erin Bush, and Nate Sleeter.
Additionally, thank you to my colleagues at the George Mason University Library and at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media. I owe a particular thank you to Wendy Mann, Sally Evans, and George Oberle for sharing your expertise with me on questions of data and dissertation archiving, data management, and the institutional requirements for completing a multi-modal project such as this. The staff at the Roy Rosenzweig Center gave me my first technical experiences and shaped my approach to code, software development, and collaborative scholarship. Thank you in particular to Dan Cohen, Joan Fragaszy Troyano, Patrick Murry-John, Kim Nguyen, Sheila Brennan, and Sharon Leon for your mentorship and collaboration over the years.
Thanks to the power of the internet, friendships made in person and through social media have provided invaluable support and encouragement over the years. The Experimental Humanities Lab at Iliff Theological Seminary has provided much-needed comradery and mentorship during these past two years of working independently on the dissertation. And I have been greatly encouraged in this work by members of the digital humanities community at large, both on Twitter and at conferences. I am grateful to have made so many friends along the way.
While this dissertation primarily relies on digitized records, I visited a number of Seventh-day Adventist archives over the years of the project, including the Ellen White Estate Offices in Tacoma, Maryland, Loma Linda University Archives in Loma Linda, California, and the Center for Adventist Research at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan. As I worked to orient myself to the scope and variety of the denomination’s historical materials, the archivists and staff members at these institutions provided invaluable advice and encouragement. There are numerous potential research projects in these archives, on topics including health and diet, education and religion, just waiting to be written.
Finally, all writing requires a network of support and I am not sure I would have finished this endeavor without the constant (and persistent) encouragement of friends and family.
Erin and Celeste, thank you for tackling all the unanswered questions with me and for helping me to not take any of it too seriously. The next round of cheese is on me!
Thank you to my parents for always encouraging my persistent need to ask why, for instilling in me the value of education and for providing so much support — emotional, material, and personal — along the way. Thank you also to my siblings and in-laws for the constant support, encouragement, and childcare. And to Garrett and William. Your arrival was the icing on the cake of this long journey (and provided excellent motivation for wrapping everything up.)
A dissertation is an all-consuming endeavor, and to have someone make that journey with me has been an incredible gift. Jason, you have been my constant companion and cheerleader through these past ten years of graduate work. Thank you for not letting me give up and for believing in me even when I didn’t. I promise, no more degrees. At least not for a while.
This project would not be nearly as sturdy as it is without the input of all of these readers. All remaining mistakes and miscalculations are my own.
This dissertation is dedicated to my mum, Paulina Meninga, who was the first to teach me to ask why, to get to the point, and to not stop until my arguments held water. This is for you.