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Florida Conference archives to receive permanent home at Florida Southern College

Florida Conference archives to receive permanent home at Florida Southern College

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Florida Conference archives to receive permanent home at Florida Southern College

July 21, 2006    News media contact: Tita Parham* 
800-282-8011    Orlando {0520}

NOTE: This is one of a series of articles related to news from the “Witness With Power” 2006 Florida Annual Conference Event June 1-3 in Lakeland.

An e-Review Feature
By J.A. Buchholz**

LAKELAND — Old hymnals, Bibles and records dating back to the early 1800s are just some of the many items included in the Florida Conference archives. Photo by Caryl Kelley, Photo #06-405.

LAKELAND — It’s been a long time coming, but a vote by delegates at the 2006 Florida Annual Conference Event last June approved the deal for a permanent home for the collection of items making up the conference’s archives.

Delegates approved a plan to house archival material at the Roux Library on the campus of Florida Southern College (FSC). An anonymous donor pledged $1 million to cover the costs of constructing a two-story addition to the library. It is proposed that the archives be housed on the first floor.

Mary Alice Massey, president of the conference’s board of trustees, said several plans to house the archives were developed over the years, but never materialized. She said the first can be traced to the “Claim the Flame” capital campaign launched in 1990. Its goal was to raise $6.4 million for eight projects, or priorities of the conference, including youth camp housing, maintenance and building improvements at the Life Enrichment Center (LEC) in Fruitland Park, a home for the archives and others. Massey said funds would have covered the cost of staffing and maintenance of an archives facility had they ever been raised.

Massey said one plan developed later called for building an archives center that would be connected to the existing Florida Conference Center in Lakeland. Another specified constructing a building at the LEC. Funding was again a problem in both scenarios.

When Florida Conference Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker became bishop of the conference he supported the cause for a permanent home for archives and appealed to every church in the conference to donate $100 toward the effort. “I think churches had other priorities,” Massey said.

Funding issues took a back seat when Dr. Anne B. Kerr, FSC’s 17th president, expressed an interest in having the archives at the college and the anonymous donor provided the money to make it happen.

“I’m real excited about it,” Massey said. “Right now the legal papers are being finished. We hope to break ground in the fall.”

Nell Thrift, the conference’s archivist, is also pleased with the decision. “I am delighted that Florida Southern College has invited the conference to house our archives in the new facility being built there,” she said. “It is an ideal situation, as the conference and college are so closely related. A shared facility offers advantages that a building of our own would not provide.”

LAKELAND — During the archives presentation at this year's annual conference event the ministry of churches celebrating significant anniversaries was recognized. Photo by Caryl Kelley, Photo #06-406.

Thrift said the building will house both the various archives collections of the college and the conference archives. She said the fact the college will provide the staffing, maintenance and major funding for the building is an added bonus.

“I see it as a research center that will be used by many people, including students at the college,” Thrift said. “In addition, there will be a museum area so that we can exhibit artifacts related to the Florida Conference. The visibility that our archives will have on the campus will enhance its use.”
Massey said FSC will definitely be an improvement over the commercial storage facility now housing the archives. Some archives are also being stored at the college in a small room that is not accessible to researchers.
“These do not have the climate control essential for preservation,” Thrift said. “The new building will enable us to meet the (Book of Discipline) requirement for safe storage of the records that we are charged with keeping and will make them accessible.”

Those items include information about churches that have closed, district conference records, records of conference boards and agencies, conference journals dating back to 1871, conference newspapers, files on all the churches in the conference and on many ministers, photographs of past and present ministers, personal papers of some past members of the conference and many other items, according to Thrift. She said the oldest item in the collection is the quarterly conference record of the Newnansville Methodist Episcopal Church, South, now First United Methodist Church, Alachua, from 1844.
“The Florida Conference has a rich heritage that should be shared,” Thrift said. “It is only by knowing our roots that we can understand the present and plan for the future. Churches, conference agencies and individuals will now have access to properly stored and catalogued materials that will enable them to explore the past.”

Massey has similar feelings. “People love history,” she said. “This is an important step.”


This article relates to Florida Conference Archives and the 2006 Florida Annual Conference Event.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.