New center houses conference archives



e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service
      
 

New center houses conference archives

By Erik J. Alsgaard | March 27, 2009 {0990}

LAKELAND, Fla. — The archives of the Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church have a new home with the dedication of the Sarah D. and L. Kirk McKay Jr. Archives Center late last month.

The Sarah D. and L. Kirk McKay Jr. Archives Center on the Florida Southern College campus is the permanent home of the Florida Conference archives. Photo #09-1127. For longer description see photo gallery.

The 10,000-square foot building is housed on the campus of Florida Southern College in Lakeland, a school with deep roots and lasting connections to Florida Methodism.

Named for the first female president of the college’s trustees and a member of College Heights United Methodist Church in Lakeland, the McKay Archives Center will house five archives, including the historical records of the Florida Conference. 

Florida Southern College President Dr. Anne Kerr leads the dedication ceremony. Photo #09-1128. For longer description see photo gallery.

“A strategic partnership between the conference and the college to house our individual archival collections in a spectacular facility provided the perfect platform to secure the necessary funding to achieve our shared dream of an archives center with a dedicated archivist to manage all collections,” said Florida Southern College President Dr. Anne Kerr during the dedication ceremony.

Kerr referenced Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, in which he describes the “one body” having many members.

“To me, the McKay Archives Center is a concrete example of many members of one body, for many have partnered with us to create this state-of-the-art archives center,” Kerr said.

In addition to the Florida Conference archives, the center will house the Governor Lawton M. Chiles Jr. Center for Florida History, the Florida Citrus Archives and the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame, and Florida Southern College’s archival collection, including materials associated with the relationship between the college and architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who designed many buildings on the college’s Lakeland campus.

Sarah McKay greets more than 200 guests attending the dedication of the Sarah D. and L. Kirk McKay Jr. Archives Center. Photo #09-1129. For longer description see photo gallery.

“Together these collections tell a comprehensive story of the spiritual, academic, cultural, social, and economic history and development of the state of Florida,” Kerr said.

McKay — who contributed more than $1 million toward the $3.5 million project — said during the dedication that she was delighted the center opened during the tenure of Florida Conference Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker, whom she called a student of history.

“This represents our heritage,” McKay said. “I have believed earnestly that this campus would be the place for this center. We have finally come to that point in time.”

Members voted to entrust the conference’s archival collection to the college during the 2006 Florida Annual Conference Event, Whitaker said in his remarks. Grants were also given to name the collection the Ruth K. and Charles T. Thrift Jr. Florida United Methodist Heritage Center and the area connecting the college’s Roux Library with the McKay Archives Center the R. Ira Barnett Plaza.

Florida Conference Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker thanks Florida Southern College and Sarah McKay for their efforts in providing a home for the Florida Conference archives. Photo #09-1130. For longer description see photo gallery.

“Let United Methodists throughout Florida recognize that you came to our rescue,” Whitaker said. “We United Methodists say ‘thank you’ to Dr. Sarah D. McKay and Florida Southern.”

Whitaker noted the long and close relationship between the college and the conference, saying it was appropriate to remember that history as an archival building was being dedicated.

The college began in 1882 as a school of the conference. Over the years, it became a seminary and a high school, moving several times. In 1887, the school moved to Leesburg from Orlando where it became known as Florida Conference College. In 1922, the school moved to Lakeland and in 1935 was renamed Florida Southern College.

“Today marks the culmination of a long-held dream of so many of us who are gathered here,” Kerr said. “For years, the Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church desired to create an archive to house its significant collection of historic documents and artifacts. Years of prayerful planning and careful considerations for the most appropriate site for this collection and an initial campaign to raise funds for this project provided the groundwork for this dream.” 

Old hymnals, Bibles and records dating back to the early 1800s are among the many items included in the Florida Conference archives. File Photo by Caryl Kelley. Photo #06-405. Originally accompanied e-Review Florida UMNS #0520/July 21, 2006.

The conference’s archival collection includes conference journals dating back to 1871, conference newspapers, files on each church and many of the clergy, photographs of past and present ministers, personal papers of conference members, information about churches that have closed and many other items, according to Nell Thrift, conference archivist.

The oldest item in the collection, Thrift said, is the quarterly conference record of the Newnansville Methodist Episcopal Church, South, now First United Methodist Church, Alachua, from 1844.

News media contact: Tita Parham, 800-282-8011, tparham@flumc.org, Orlando

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Alsgaard is director of communications for the Florida Conference.




Contact Us

The Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church

450 Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue
Lakeland, FL 33815

(863) 688-5563 or toll free (800) 282-8011