The Religious Materials & Architecture Project

A study of Holland’s religious artifacts & churches


Dutch-American scholars, theologians, and local historians have thoroughly studied and debated the religious events and interfaith conflicts that have occurred in Holland, Michigan since its establishment in 1848. However, scholarship on the City of Churches seldom includes research on church architecture, sacred music, instruments, or religious artifacts/materials. Due to the breadth of available materials, this project may be approached from multiple disciplines, including art, art history, english, history, musicology, and theology. Thus, the description is intentionally vague. Robert Swierenga, author of Holland Michigan: From Dutch Colony to Dynamic City, provides a succinct history of Holland’s houses of worship. While contributors are encouraged to discover their own research interests, potential projects and digital components are provided below.

Potential Inquires
Topic // Research Question // Research Problem

I am approaching my research on an early RCA or CRC hymnal from Hope College’s Rare Book Collection from the discipline of material cultural studiesbecause I want to evaluate how its provenance, material composition, and the individual histories of its owners/users influenced its appearance, functionality, and identity so that my readers may better understand the hymnal’s value and significance as a material object.

I am studying Holland’s historic pipe organs and pianos, as well as researching the music performed on the instruments, because I want to examine how musical performances served as mediums for preserving, progressing, and or challenging the city’s social and religious practices in order that my readers may better understand how music may have constructed Holland’s cultural identity.

I am researching the architecture of Dimnent Chapel because I want to assess the structural and symbolical elements of the sanctuary, with a specific focus on the aesthetics and functionality of its two pipe organs, in order to help my audience better understand the space.

Suggested Digital Components

Students may produce a documentary to disseminate their scholarly research to the general public. This film may showcase local church architecture, highlight significant religious items and artifacts, or sacred music played on historic organs and pianos.

Online Curated Exhibit
Students may design an online curated exhibit of religious artifacts and items, such as books or communion sets. They may showcase their exhibit on a variety of online platforms, such as WordPress or Omeka. Students will have to get permission to photograph and display the items online.

Students may create a series of podcasts or vodcasts that examines the RCA/CRC’s evolving acceptance of music and instruments. This digital project will have a significant performative component. Mellon scholars and or organ/piano performance majors will play traditional hymns and contemporary worship songs on the keyboards of Holland’s historic organs and pianos. The recorded performances will support the students’ argument.


Dr. Anne Heath
Dr. Heath is an Associate Professor of Art History. Her area of specialization is Gothic architecture. Her work examines the role of Gothic architecture in creating spaces for worship, political power, and social identity to play out among participants and audiences. During the 2011-2012 academic year, she taught an advanced course in which her students examined rare books from Hope College’s collection.

Dr. Julia Randel
Dr. Randel is an Associate Professor and Department Chair of the Music Department. She teaches courses in music history and world music, including Music Literature before 1700, History and Literature of the Symphony, History and Literature of Opera, and the Seminar in Music. Her research centers on European music of the 19th and 20th centuries, in particular the intersections of music with dance, literature, and drama.



H05-1560. Physical Plant. Records, 1985-2013. Joint Archives of Holland, Hope College, Holland, MI.

H88-0322. Development and Alumni Engagement. Records, 1862-2011. Joint Archives of Holland, Hope College, Holland, MI.

H88-0356. Religious Life Committee. Records, 1957-[ongoing] (incomplete). Joint Archives of Holland, Hope College, Holland, MI.

H88-0393. Dimnent Memorial Chapel. Papers, 1920-[ongoing]. Joint Archives of Holland, Hope College, Holland, MI.

W93-1237.6. Mulder Chapel Organ. Records, 1989-1995. Joint Archives of Holland, Hope College, Holland, MI.

W95-1198. Michigan, Holland. Sixth Reformed Church (1916-1995). Joint Archives of Holland, Hope College, Holland, MI.
Records, 1916-1995.

*The Joint Archives maintains the archival collections for several local RCA/CRC churches

Rare Books

The Psalms and hymns : with the Catechism, Confession of faith and Liturgy of the Reformed Dutch Church in North America / selected at the request of the General Synod by John H. Livingston.

*Contact Kelly Jacobsma for additional rare book materials. The Holland Museum also holds a collection of rare books, which includes hymnals


Blume, Friedrich. Protestant Church Music: A History. New York: W.W. Norton, 1974.

Haeussler, Armin. The Story of Our Hymns; the Handbook to the Hymnal of the Evangelical and Reformed Church. Saint Louis: Published by the Authority of the General Synod of the Evangelical and Reformed Church by Eden Pub. House, 1952.

Hoor, Joan Mary. The Transition from Psalmody to Hymnody in the Christian Reformed Church. 1976. (Dissertation)

Kilde, Jeanne Halgren. When Church Became Theatre: The Transformation of Evangelical Architecture and Worship in Nineteenth-century America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Ogasapian, John. Church Music in America, 1620-2000. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2007.

Price, Jay M. Temples for a Modern God: Religious Architecture in Postwar America. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Tripold, David M. Sing to the Lord a New Song: Choirs in the Worship and Culture of the Dutch Reformed Church in America, 1785-1860. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Pub., 2012.

Vischer, Lukas. Christian Worship in Reformed Churches past and Present. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 2003.

Methodology & Theory
  • Analysis of form
  • Critical Theory
  • Historiography
  • Iconography
  • Material Studies
  • Musical Analysis
  • Musicology
  • Performance studies
  • Philology
  • Source and Manuscript Studies
  • Theology