Disaster Planning and Action for Your Historical Collections

In Tennessee and adjoining states, in general, and in the Nashville area in particular, we have just suffered major flooding and loss of property. We should first remember that we have had loss of life as well, and the bottom line on the property is that it is just “stuff.” Even if it is irreplaceable, it is still just stuff. Nothing is more valuable than the lives, so pray for those who have lost loved ones.

I still opened this post with the property issue because I have had some contacts from church folk who want to know what to do about their damaged records and historical items. Here is a preliminary list of responses to some questions.

  • Unfortunately, in some cases there will be little that I can do to help. In others, I will send (and have sent) basic preservation information or offer advice. I will be meeting with a couple of folks regarding their collections later in the week. I am willing to help as much as I can if time allows, but I do work full time and have other responsibilities as well. If you are trained in such things and able to help, please let me know. If you are in need of help, contact me via e-mail, archivist@tnumc.org.
  • If you can’t reach me, try to reach a trained archivist, curator, or conservationist immediately!!!! Time is vital! Chances are I will send you to someone with more training than I have anyway. I have had or conducted workshops and seminars, passed my conservation and preservation section on my certification exam, and have some practical experience, so I can help. If you can find someone better at it than me or I can direct you to a better authority, that will be in everyone’s best interest. Those who work day-to-day with this are the best. I consult them when I can myself, so I suspect you will wish to as well.
  • There are copies of suggested disaster plans and recovery methods used by the UMC available. I will try to get them to whomever needs them.
  • If you are a member of another denomination or confession, I will happily help if help if I can, but I also will try to put you in touch with your structure. They may know of resources available to you of which I am unaware. They will certainly know better than I what is the biggest priority in your collection based upon types of records kept, what is most valuable to your practices, and where there may be other copies.
  • Remember that anything that has been submerged or exposed to flood water should be treated as toxic!!!! Gloves, protective clothing, clean-up well afterward. Tetanus shots are in order if there are any scratches or open wounds, no matter how small the injury or contact.
  • COW-MMM, Clouds of Witnesses-Memory Ministry and Missions, will be refining its “Basket or Bag” training to help people prepare for personal disaster by learning to prioritize and prepare what records and documents one most needs to take along in an emergency and how to prepare to minimize damage to the rest. It will be available again soon. There will be more on this as we develop a larger staff, but if you know of someone in need of this, please contact me. (Basket or bag refers to getting things down to what will fit in a large handbag or a basket that can be carried in one hand. We work on that, steps than can be taken to help preserve other items or the history they represent, and developing a mindset that helps us let go of the rest. I say “us” because I’ve been there.)
  • I have spoken with a colleague who is an archivist for a large church connection and with whom I have worked on other projects in the past. We hope to work out plans for special workshops or training for local churches on disaster planning and recovery. The idea will be to pool resources, hopefully including experts from different fields and professionals from different confessions who work at multiple levels of organization (local church, diocese, convention, denomination, historical society, etc.) We are archivists and historians, so records and historical collections are our focus, but we may work out ways to present this in a larger context of disaster planning and recovery for life in general. More to come.
  • The Society of Tennessee Archivists has potential resources that may be accessed as well. There are professional conservators among our membership.

Stay tuned for updates. Email if you need to.

Jim

Jim Havron, MA, CA

Archivist- TN Conf. UMC

Service Reduction at Tennessee Conference Archives

Lack of parking has created an access issue for Archives and Library staff, most all of whom have full-time jobs apart from their work at the archives. The time spent in extra travel, coupled with the inability to access the archives for transfer of supplies and collection material, has caused us to have to greatly reduce the amount of service we can provide potential patrons.

We regret to say that, although there will still be times when we can make appointments to allow patrons to access the collections, the majority of the time research will have to be handled by our very limited reference service staff. (At present, this consists of a single volunteer with full-time employment elsewhere and a family.)  The same is true of processing that needs to be done to collections. We will continue to take in records and other documents that are appropriate as long as we can provide appropriate preservation and conservation, but it may be some time before these collections are made available to the public.

We hope the day will come soon that we can remedy this situation, but in the meantime, we ask your patience.

Feel free to contact the Conference Archivist, Jim Havron, with any questions at archivist@tnumc.org

Jim Havron CA, MA

Some Methodist Documents Stolen From Drew Recovered!

Some of a number of letters written by John and Charles Wesley that were stolen from the Methodist archives at Drew University have been recovered. The letters, along with other documents of historical and intrinsic value, were found in the room of a student who had worked with the Library/Archives as part of a work study program. Further examination of the collection showed more documents missing, but the speed in which these were recovered gives hope that the others will also be found and returned.

The details of the story may be found here.

Society of Tennessee Archivists Newsletter for Winter, 2010

The newest newsletter is not yet on the STA Website, but until then, check it out (here.)

You may also check out their site at http//:www.tennesseearchivists.org.

Published in: on March 4, 2010 at 9:27 am  Leave a Comment  

Where are You as Far as Keeping the Faith?

During the past year I have had both struggles and blessings when it comes to the way I have been able to approach and execute my job as Archivist for the Tennessee Conference. The biggest items in each of these categories center around the attitudes that local churches take towards their own role in keeping the evidence of their heritage of faith and the importance of that heritage to the churches.

In the blessings category, I rarely have a week go by that I do not receive a request from some church (granted, not always a Methodist one) for advice regarding the proper way to record and preserve their history, on methods for presenting the history of the church, or for suggestions on how to stir interest in that history. When members of some churches tell me that such things are not really that important, that churches rarely do or should spend resources in trying to preserve their history in a professional manner because they are not filled with history professionals, I am supported by the fact that for every one lay or clergy person who tells me such things I have requests for help from about two. Amen!

In the struggle category are not only those who suggest that professional and informed methods are a waste of resources rather than a ministry of the church, but those who are frustrated by the absence of records regarding their churches to be found in the Conference archives. They do not understand that the records that we have are what are given to us and that we do not have a staff to actively record the information on each church so that it will be here at some future date. If the church does not choose to keep it, and furthermore to give copies to the Conference, we do not have it, unless it has fallen into our laps by chance. That means that when, 40 years from now, one of the churches that does not now think much of the importance of keeping its records celebrates its bicentennial, we will not be able to fill in the gaps in their records for them.

Properly, the records of the various districts and the Tennessee Annual Conference no longer in active use but deemed to have historical value (hopefully through the criteria set forth in a good records plan such as that suggested by the General Conference) should come to us. We also should be available to take records that a local church cannot care for or to take copies they may wish to deposit with us for safekeeping. We are quite willing to do all of this. We are also supposed to receive the records of closed churches in the Conference. We do, however, rely upon the local churches and districts to provide us with their records. The Discipline gives the Annual Conference Commission on Archives and History the responsibility and authority to set up records management for the actual records of the Conference.

I would like to bring attention to a change in the wording of the Discipline over the last couple of editions regarding the role of the Local Church Historian. In the past, it was just suggested that the church have one and his or her duties were vaguely defined. In the most recent editions of it is still not mandatory for a church to have this position filled, but in the event it is, the duties are well spelled out. The Historian has “custodial” authority over historical records and objects. This is a specific, professional and legal term. I urge local churches to take their duty to preserve the faith seriously, and church historians to do all they can to exercise their authority in a faithful manner. This is not only their call and duty in a moral and ethical sense, but quite possibly in a legal one as well.

Keep the Faith.

Jim

Tn Conf. Archivist

Jim Havron is a Certified Archivist and  currently serves as archivist of the Tennessee Conference of the United Methodist Church. The opinions expressed, however, are his own, unless otherwise stated. His education and experience is in history with additional focus on public history, archives and museums, religious history, oral history, user advocacy and where the craft of history meets technology. His primary historical research expertise is the history of communication and information theory and practice. He can be reached at archivist@tnumc.org. He also blogs at other sites (his own and as guest or designated blogger,) under both his own name and pseudonyms.

One More STA Related Honor; This One From Georgia (of all things.)

At the present time, there is not a blog for the Society of Tennessee Archivists (STA), so, as some of our historians and the Tennessee Conference Archives itself (I’m not sure about Memphis and Holston. I need to check, since they pretty much cover the rest of TN) are members, I will use this forum to let them know news that I hope to eventually post and link to on the STA blog (when it exists.)

In that tone, and as an addition to the previous post on awards given at the annual meeting of the Society of Tennessee Archivists, I would like to report that I recently found out that STA member Dr. Ellen Garrison was named a Fellow of the Society of Georgia Archivists (SGA). Dr. G is a history professor at Middle Tennessee University, Certified Archivist Fellow of the Society of American Archivists, and former Methodist (if I remember correctly,) among many other things. The list includes being thesis advisor to yours truly when I attended MTSU, so she is at least partly responsible for your reading this blog post as I otherwise would not likely be in the position to post it. (It is, of course, up to you whether that is a good thing or not.)  Her past with SGA is extensive, and I am assured that she considers such recognition by her colleagues to be a great honor, as well she should. I offer her congratulations from the TN Conference Archives and on behalf of STA, knowing that members of the organization and any others who might know Dr. Garrison will likewise extend their best wishes if this posts enlightens them on something of which they were unaware.

Jim

Tn Conf. Archivist

 

Jim Havron currently serves as archivist of the Tennessee Conference of the United Methodist Church. The opinions expressed, however, are his own, unless otherwise stated. His education and experience is in history with additional focus on public history, archives and museums, and with research and practice focusing on religious history, oral history, user advocacy and where the craft of history meets technology. He can be reached at archivist@tnumc.org. He also blogs at other sites (his own and as guest or designated blogger,) under both his own name and pseudonyms.

 

Society of Tennessee Archivists Gives Awards to Students and Professionals

The Society of Tennessee Archivists (STA) had its annual meeting and workshops this year from November 11-13, 2009. This year two awards were given to students in the form of scholarships to allow them to attend the meeting and three members received special recognition for their work in the archives field.

The recipients of the student scholarships were Natalie Goodwin of Middle Tennessee State University and Sarah C. Shippy Copeland (second time winner) from the University of Tennessee (Knoxville.) We should celebrate the interest of these young folk as at the recent SEJ history workshop weekend one topic of conversation and prayer concern was the need for younger folks to provide new blood to the practice of history and related fields.

There were also three recipients of the John H. Thweatt Award for the advancement of archives and archival issues. This year’s recipients were Gordon Belt (whose Posterity Project blog is both in our blog roll and has provided links to this blog,) Suzette Raney of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Bicentennial Library, and Mary Helms, of that same institution. Congratulations to them all.

Two other scholarships, the Mary C. Barnes Award and the Sam B. Smith Award were not awarded this year. The first is usually given in memory Mary Catherine Barnes, an archivist who worked for the Tennessee State Library and Archives and the Metropolitan Archives of Nashville & Davidson County. (We supply no link to the award as we have been advised that the qualifications are under revision.) Her concern to further her archival education and training was the inspiration for the scholarship. The last award is a privately funded scholarship offered in honor of Dr. Sam B. Smith, former State Librarian and Archivist, professor of history, member of various boards and commissions promoting history in the United Methodist Church, and mentor and ongoing inspiration to undergraduate and former undergraduate history students. It is a new scholarship for undergraduates who wish to explore the  archives profession as a possible career goal, and its criteria may change from year to year. Although there was originally a recipient this year, she withdrew her name when she discovered she would be unable to attend as required by the criteria of 2009. There will be a scholarship or award offered for another history event in its place as the funders wish to honor Dr. Smith and his impact on their lives.

The Tennessee Conference Archives as well as some of our church archivists and historians are members of STA. Until November 13, I had the honor to serve as vice-president/president elect of that body. I now have the honor to serve as president. There are at least three archivists of religious institutions among its officers and board members, so our unique points of view are added to those of our secular brothers and sisters in the profession.

 

Jim

Tn Conf. Archivist

 

Jim Havron currently serves as archivist of the Tennessee Conference of the United Methodist Church. The opinions expressed, however, are his own, unless otherwise stated. His education and experience is in history with additional focus on public history, archives and museums, and with research and practice focusing on religious history, oral history, user advocacy and where the craft of history meets technology. He can be reached at archivist@tnumc.org. He also blogs at other sites (his own and as guest or designated blogger,) under both his own name and pseudonyms.

“Doing” Oral History & Comments on SEJ Oral History Workshop

I found that the workshop I did on oral history at the SEJ Preservation weekend seemed to be well received. Either that or we have some very courteous folk who pretended to enjoy it. I wish to assume the former.

I was particularly pleased that some folk seemed to take to heart my belief that oral history is not just a means of recording people’s memories of the past, (as in recording a 90 year old man’s memories of being 10 years old,) but also a means of documenting the present for future generations, (as in recording a 10 year old boy’s thoughts on what it is like to be 10 years old; than trying to preserve it for 80 years.) This approach deals with part of why historians of some schools of thought do not accept oral history as legitimate evidence. (I will cover the value of oral history as evidence at another time, either here or some other place to which I will provide a link.)

During the weekend several attendees asked if I would provide them with my PowerPoint presentation, access to tutorials I have done or am doing, and be available to answer questions regarding oral history, particularly as it applies to the church. The answer in each case was, of course, “yes.” Since others have asked similar questions, including readers of this blog, I will try to use this as a forum for some such material; or at least to provide a pathway to such material I may produce or have produced. The blog will also be a good place for me to provide links to other, more experienced sources than myself.

I hope that some of you with ideas on oral history and its many uses (or lack thereof) will comment here, or will seek to become a part of the Tennessee Methodist History Ning social network (http://tnumchistorians.ning.com) and start or add to forums. It is for “members” only and membership must be authorized, but this is mostly a formality just to make it possible to assertively suggest that those who abuse the network find another place to do their business. You may request an invitation. If the main page does not give you the option to join, feel free to e-mail me at archivist@tnumc.org.

Jim

Tn Conf. Archivist

 

Jim Havron currently serves as archivist of the Tennessee Conference of the United Methodist Church. The opinions expressed, however, are his own, unless otherwise stated. His education and experience is in history with additional focus on public history, archives and museums, and with research and practice focusing on religious history, oral history, user advocacy and where the craft of history meets technology. He can be reached at archivist@tnumc.org. He also blogs at other sites (his own and as guest or designated blogger,) under both his own name and pseudonyms.

Back From SEJ History Preservation Workshop

I just returned from the biannual SEJ History Preservation Workshop where I presented a workshop on doing oral history that focused on how one does a project, how one preserves older histories, and various uses for such projects/histories. There were also workshops on dealing with electronic records, basic conservation and writing a church history. I think the economy (plus a couple of landslides on some of the main routes to Lake Junaluska) reduced the number of attendees this year, but we still had good programs. I was very impressed with clossing worship. It focused on remembrance and particularly created an impact on my wife.

I was unable to attend the meeting of the SEJ Commission on Archives and History due to a commitment I was unable to escape. We were not able to obtain a replacement, so the Tennessee Conference was not represented at that meeting. I did, however, get a summary of part of the meeting and a promise of notes on the rest; all of which I will post here when I have them.

Please remember:

Although I have to “okay” a comment to for it to appear on this blog, I only filter them for spam or inappropriate (as in vulgar, not disagreeing with my point of view) comments. I welcome input. I do request that if you disagree with my point of view on something that you document your reasons whenever possible.

 

Also remember that, although this blog is not “official” in that it is not run by the church or on a church site, I established it to be a forum in my capacity as Conference Archivist and therefore avoid, whenever possible, publishing personal views that are excessively controversial. There are other places where I do this and will often provide links to such places so people who read this blog may have a chance to jump right into the discussion. (Note: Everything I have put out on the Internet and elsewhere is not under my own name. I have been known to publish pseudonymously.)

Jim

Tn Conf. Archivist

 

Jim Havron currently serves as archivist of the Tennessee Conference of the United Methodist Church. The opinions expressed, however, are his own, unless otherwise stated. His education and experience is in history with additional focus on public history, archives and museums, and with research and practice focusing on religious history, oral history, user advocacy and where the craft of history meets technology. He can be reached at archivist@tnumc.org. He also blogs at other sites (his own and as guest or designated blogger,) under both his own name and pseudonyms.

 

Event- Keeping the Faith: Family History Research in Nashville’s Religious Archives

The form for this is here.

If you don’t have time to get the form in, email Jim at archivist@tnumc.org by the deadline and he will call the organizer and get you on the list.
Keeping the Faith: Family History Research in Nashville’s Religious Archives
Saturday, November 7, 2009, 9:30 am – 4:00 pm
Bellevue YMCA
The cost is only $5.00 and includes a boxed lunch. Speakers include McGarvey Ice (Disciples of Christ Historical Society); Taffey Hall (Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives); Greg Poole (Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee); Jim Havron (Tennessee Methodist Conference Archives); Jim Hoobler (Downtown Presbyterian Church); Carol Hansen (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Family History Center); Mary A.E. Dickerson (African American Records); and Annette Ratkin (Jewish Federation Library and Archives). To register, complete the lower portion of the informational flyer and mail, along with $5.00 for lunch, to Taffey Hall / SBHLA / 901 Commerce Street, #400 / Nashville, TN 37203. Registration deadline is October 23.

Jim

Update:  Google Map link to YMCA, which is at 8101 HWY 100, Nashville (Bellevue) 37221:

http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=bellevue+ymca+nashville+tn&ie=UTF8&hq=bellevue+ymca&hnear=Nashville,+TN&ll=36.04667,-86.953869&spn=0.048925,0.076475&z=14&iwloc=A

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