Metadata Analyst Profile on Ginny Landgraf and Spotlight on Nordic Titles
by Todd Aiello/
April 07, 2023
A fundamental strength of Atla’s research tools is the applied expertise of Atla’s team of metadata editors and analysts. This team synthesizes research from a wide range of academic resources and makes decisions about the most relevant subjects to include in the records in our databases to support discovery by our community of researchers and students.
The staff has graduate degrees in theology, religious studies, history, anthropology, philosophy, literature and languages, and the social sciences. Many also index areas of personal interest or research, such as sacred music or archeology. The team indexes titles representing research in more than forty-five languages from seventy countries. Their depth of knowledge ensures that Atla’s research tools support the successful discovery of relevant research from a highly diverse range of academic sources.
This month we feature Metadata Analyst, Ginny Landgraf
Ginny grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, right outside of Cleveland. Her father worked for the public transit system, and Ginny credits him for instilling a lifelong love of trains and public transportation, the extent of which is that she has never in her life owned a car. Her mother was a double major in music and French in college, both of which greatly influenced Ginny’s interests as well. She has fond memories of running around the living room to the sounds of her mother playing Mozart on the piano, fostering her love of music, and the French books that populated the house helped Ginny develop a passion for foreign languages.
She attended Princeton University for her undergraduate studies as a self-described “math nerd” but had something of an academic crisis as she approached the completion of her degree. She realized that she wanted to study theology, recognizing that she no longer identified with the trajectory she was on as a math major. She also felt a connection with the church as a safe place to change direction. Not yet ready to begin graduate school, she participated in a student work exchange program in the United Kingdom, spending time working for a temp agency in London. She then joined the Peace Corps, which sent her to Thailand, where she learned the Thai language and how to play several Thai musical instruments. After completing her stint in the Peace Corps, she was ready to begin her graduate studies in theology. She relocated to Berkeley, California, where she earned her master’s degree in systematic theology from the Graduate Theological Union. She then earned a Ph.D. in Christian ethics from Princeton Theological Seminary.
While working on her dissertation, Ginny realized that a career in academia might not be the path for her. She focused on looking for work with libraries, where her office and language skills would be a good match. She found the library to be a setting where she could be both relaxed and productive in her work. She took a temporary job cataloging and shifting books with Princeton University Rare Books. During this time, Atla had received a grant for the Retrospective Indexing Project, which aimed to take titles that the organization had been indexing since the 1940s back to volume 1, issue 1. In 2004, Atla posted a new position for indexing for this project, and Ginny applied. With skills such as reading German in Fraktur on her résumé, she was a natural fit for the position and joined the organization. When another indexer (as our metadata analysts were called at the time) moved to another department, Ginny took over his titles, solidifying her permanent position with Atla. She celebrates 19 years with the organization in May.
Ginny’s core focus areas include Protestant theology and ethics, and biblical studies. She is also responsible for titles covering research on church history, sociology of religion, and history of religions.
Given her language skills, Ginny covers Germanic and Romance titles, along with titles in Modern Greek and Modern Hebrew. She is very excited that Atla has recently added some titles in Thai, allowing her to use her expertise in that language. She also covers Nordic languages, which she had no experience with before working with Atla, so when she was first tasked with learning Danish, she taught herself the language with a “teach yourself Danish” book that she reviewed during her daily train commute and then began using a Danish Bible for devotional reading so she could further expose herself to the way the language works. That knowledge gave her a foundation to index published research confidently. She could then apply that knowledge to learn other Nordic languages as she was tasked to index them.
When asked what role she believes Atla fills in the religion and theology space, Ginny said, “Whether we’re formally trained or not, whether we’re clergy or laypeople, there is a tendency for us to get siloed in with people who share our interests and know the same people we know. This is true in many areas of life, even in religion, where we’re supposed to be in contact with sources of self-transcendence. Instead, sometimes religion functions as a reinforcement for things we think we already know or are already proud of. Databases, if we approach their results with an inquiring mind, have the potential to alert us to scholarship that exists beyond denominational, religious, or disciplinary boundaries or our current opinions.”
Outside of her work with Atla, Ginny continues to pursue her love of music. She plays flute, keyboards, and the kaen (or khaen, khène, แคน, ແຄນ), a bamboo mouth organ from northeast Thailand and Laos. She is a lead musician in her church and also plays improvised music that she describes as “in the post-genre space between jazz, classical, rock, and folk.” She also participates in Sacred Harp singing, a kind of early American hymn-singing with distinctive harmonic tendencies originating on the American frontier of the early 19th century. She also enjoys biking, walking, exercise, genealogical research, and cats. Her current cat, Barmina, is named after the Barmen Declaration, an anti-Nazi statement from the Confessing Church in Germany in the 1930s and follows her tradition since grad school of giving all of her cats theological names. She lives near the lakefront on the South Side of Chicago.
We asked Ginny for some specific titles she would like to highlight
Svenskt Gudstjänstliv (Swedish Worship Life) focuses on liturgy and church music, both in the Church of Sweden and free churches. Ginny noted that a recent article about singing groups in free churches contained a familiar piece of music: a hymn she sings frequently in Sacred Harp singing but translated into Swedish and arranged in a chordal structure as in most modern hymnals. This journal has a particular theme for each issue. Recent themes include the liturgy of the hours, Swedish hymnody, and the theology of worship. Indexed in Atla Religion Database® (Atla RDB®).
Nordisk judaistik (Scandinavian Jewish Studies) covers Jewish life in Scandinavia and scholarship in Jewish studies from the region. The journal was suspended in the mid-2010s but has since been revived. Since its inception in the early 1980s, it has published many studies of Jewish people and institutions in the Nordic countries. Recent topics include the symbolism of mosaics in the synagogue at Sepphoris (Tzipori, Israel), overlapping identities of Jewish Swedish-speaking Finns, and different definitions of antisemitism. Indexed in Atla Religion Database, full text available in AtlaSerials® (Atlas®).
The long-running Norsk teologisk tidsskrift (Norwegian Theological Journal, which started in 1900) merged with Tidsskrift for teologi og Kirke (Journal for Theology and Church) in 2012 to become Teologisk tidsskrift. Recent topics include the discrepancy between what Church of Norway clergy are trained to do versus what they are expected to do in parishes, the historiography of Christianity and politics in the various Nordic countries in the 19th century, and a debate over the theologian Ole Hallesby’s relation with National Socialism. Indexed in Atla Religion Database.
Studia Theologica Islandica is the only theological journal published mainly in Icelandic that we know of. It contains studies of Icelandic theology, church history, hymnody, and Christian authors that are difficult to find elsewhere. Recent topics include environmental justice and ecofeminism, the legal status of religious dissenters in Iceland in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and what church work with indigenous Arctic peoples might mean in a time of postcolonial consciousness. Indexed in Atla Religion Database.
We look forward to offering future spotlights highlighting Atla’s research tools. We invite you to let us know about subjects you’d like to read about in the future.
Find more information about coverage and how to access Atla’s trusted research tools on religion and theology.
View our full title lists, updated monthly.
Read more information on how content is evaluated and how to recommend a title for inclusion in Atla’s research tools.
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