Judi New is getting comfortable in her new position as leader of the Commission on Archives and History for the Florida Conference.
She sees the role more as an important caretaker than a job. After all, she is caring for the church’s heirlooms and artifacts, some that date back to the late 1700s.
|Mobile communion kit used by a circuit rider.|
There is a mobile communion kit used by a circuit rider, and people rush to see the antique hymnals when they visit the Archives and History Heritage Center on the campus of Florida Southern College.
New, who attended Duke Divinity School, suceeds Nell Thrift, who held the position for 23 years before retiring.
“She knows all the names and places,” New said. “I try to soak it in. The wonderful things I am enjoying this summer, it has been such a gift.”
New called her predecessor a marvel; now it is her turn to carry the torch and preserve Methodist history and traditions. Requests of the Heritage Center can include a church’s history of pastors or a particular artifact.
“It’s so great,” she said. “Every day is different. We get different requests from all over. Folks are looking for different information related to their churches.”
New said she’s been spending time in the vault, getting to know the treasures she is responsible for keeping safe and organized.
“There are so many wonderful artifacts and pictures and sermons and things like that down in the vault,” New said.
“The building was finished in 2009, and it is a gorgeous facility. We share it with the Florida Southern archives and the Florida Citrus archives. It is filled with incredible history.”
New, who was born and raised in Lakeland, said Thrift still comes in during the week, and she continues to pick Thrift’s brain for all the wonderful details of the artifacts she now oversees.
|Archivist Judy New|
“I had no idea how in-depth this facility is until I took the job,” New said.
There is also an archivist from Florida Southern College who New said has been a great help in getting her up and running in her new job.
“There are amazing pictures, which are really fun, stories and history of wonderful pastors, some who were my pastors and camp pictures from Warren Willis camp, where I was a counselor as a kid.”
There is even a Mickey Mouse ears hat that once belonged to Bishop Earl Hunt, Jr. Unfortunately, she said, she doesn’t yet know the story behind it.
“A key piece that is one of our most valuable is a diary by Circuit Rider Boring, whose family is in Lakeland,” New said. “They gifted it to us, and it is housed in the museum and is in really great condition.”
About the Commission on Archives and History
Its mission is to promote and care for the historical interests of the United Methodist Church in the Florida Conference.
It operates the Ruth K. and Charles T. Thrift, Jr., Florida United Methodist Heritage Center, which houses the archives of the conference — the historical records and materials relating to the history of the Florida Conference and its antecedents.
|Sarah D. and L. Kirk McKay, Jr., Archives Center, home of the Florida Conference Archives.|
The archives are kept in the Sarah D. and L. Kirk McKay, Jr., Archives Center located on the campus of Florida Southern College in Lakeland.
The Heritage Center is named for Dr. Charles T. Thrift, Jr., president of Florida Southern College, 1957-1976, and author of the first history of the conference, and his wife.
The commission also encourages local congregations to preserve their historical materials and offers guidance in doing so. Help is available for local church historians.
Additionally, anyone with an interest in the heritage of Methodism in Florida is invited to join the Conference Historical Society. Its purpose is to promote interest in the study and preservation of the history of the Florida Conference and its antecedents.
The society holds an annual dinner or luncheon featuring a noted speaker on some aspect of Florida Methodist history.
—Yvette C. Hammett is a freelance writer based in Valrico.