Southern Chautaugua Presented to SEJ Historians During Annual Conference

The SEJ Historical Society meeting continued Tuesday morning with a prayer followed by a presentation on the Southern Chautauqua tradition at Monteagle, TN.

Ridley Wills is an author and historian of, alas, Presbyterian heritage, but he mearried Methodist and is an authority on both Chautauqua and Monteagle, TN.

Ridley Wills speaks on Monteagle Chautauqua.

SEJ Historical Society Annual Meeting Underway at Scarritt-Bennett Center in Nashville

The Southeastern Jurisdictional (SEJ) Historical Society Annual Conference is now underway in Nashville. Andy Miller, chair of our Conference Society welcomed members from many conferences, both historical societies and Commissions on Archives and History.

Andy Miller addresses Conference during Opening session.

The conference will focus on Twentieth-Century Southern Methodism and  the Popular Culture. Speakers will cover a variety of subjects as well as have round tables to discuss issues related to the role of history in our mission.

Arthur Warren opens the first session of the business meeting for the jurisdiction

More to come as we commemorate our history during this, the Tennessee Conference’s 200th Anniversary.

Tennessee Conference Historian and recently appointed Historian and Archivist, Von Unruh.

Bellevue UMC Archives Wins State Award!

The Archives of Bellevue UMC was recognized for outstanding achievement by the Society of Tennessee Archivists during their annual meeting this year. Margaret Cornell accepted the award on behalf of the church, thanking all those who worked on and supported the establishment of an archival collection at the church.

If you are considering establishing a new archives for your church and are anywhere near the Nashville area, call Bellevue and make arrangement to visit theirs. It is an excellent example of what can be done.

Published in: on November 3, 2011 at 7:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

Methodist History Rebuilt (Literally) In Lebanon TN–Part 4

The structure is up!

 

The Main structure of the Asbury-Babb House reconstruction is complete

 

 

Stone steps on one side of the home

Stone steps are on the side opposite the road, while the accessibility walkway is on the road side of the house.

 

I had a chance to visit today and the foundation is complete, the log walls are all in place, the roof is done and the shakes are complete. This was our goal for what was to be completed by this time, with the understanding that there would still be a need for work on the chimneys, flashing, (both of which needed to be done before the gables could be completed,) chinking, interior and steps.

We also hoped we would be able to install a concrete walkway for accessibility, but that was expected to take more time.

David and his team did as they usually do, they took advantage of opportunities and re-prioritized. The main goals accomplished, they worked in a bit more. The grading is done already, with some drainage to keep water seepage away from the house (part of what caused the decay of the lower logs on the original construction.) Stones steps are on one side of the house while a cement walkway goes up to the other. One chimney is in place already, which I guess will speed up the completion of the gables, though I didn’t remember to ask David. The roof looks great as well.

 

Chimney and accessibility walkway

Chimney and accessibility walkway. There is a hidden drain between the walk and the house and the ground slopes to another drain to the right (unseen in the photo.)

 

There will be grass planted soon, we hope. I understand that the church behind which the home is located is supposed to decide on the type soon. It is hard to be certain how much work can be done during the winter. I did not have time to confer with David about all of that. I do know that chinking cannot be done in cold weather, so I suppose that will need to wait until next spring.

 

Grading falls away from house

The ground falls away from the house on the side towards the shurch. As soon as a decision is made regarding the exact type of ground cover needed, it will be in place, assuming the season is still right for it.

 

I apologize for the lack of a film link at this time. I thought I was filming a complete walk around explaining what I saw, but must have done something to the camera as it came out as a 2 second film. I will try to get up there soon for some video, but except for the drainage explanation and such, most of what I explained is what is written here and you can get the same views from these pics.

Thanks again to the team that is doing this. Also to all those community volunteers (and those who traveled pretty far to help) that we have yet to officially thank. I have met some of you and know where your heart is on this.

Jim

Celebrating Archives Month! – 10 Reasons for Methodists to Save Documents and Historical Objects

October is both National and Tennessee Archives Month. I have spoken with a good number of church historians (sorry if I haven’t gotten to you; feel free to email me at archivist@tnumc.org) and encouraged them to establish records management programs and archives if they did not already have them. I have also encouraged them to use this time to make a concerted efforts to recover the church records that were in “Granny Williams'” trunk and celebrate their return. I also noted that the Conference archives will gladly take copies of such records for preservation or keep the originals, if the charge has no ability to do this.

One thing I found, (not surprisingly, actually) was that many folk do not see the importance, in the grand scheme of things, of keeping all that stuff. Will it help feed someone? Will it bring someone to Christ? Will it support someone’s faith as they deal with the death of a loved one or some other tragedy? Is it that important?

As someone who wrestled long and hard with the idea that a person could be called to “memory ministry,” I answer unequivocally, “Yes!” (I will cover this idea later in another piece, as I have written a more extensive document on the subject and will extract passages to make it appropriate for this forum.)

There are many reasons I give this answer, but below I have a sort of “Top 10 List. They aren’t necessarily the top reasons, but they are quick, easy to understand, and cover several areas of use of records. They come, with the exception of number 10, from the conversations I have had with church historians and staff of different kinds, secretaries, clergy, and laity, regarding this topic. I particularly like the last one, which is just a quote, but which I use frequently enough to have printed on a business card. So here they are. For Tennessee Archives Month:

“Ten Reasons Why Methodists Should Actively Pursue Keeping Records and Preserving Their History”

1.       Records and church documents are testimony. Can you imagine the Bible without the testimony of Peter and Paul through the Epistles? Our historical documents are the testimony of saints.

2.       What is not history today will be tomorrow; what is not important or unusual today, may be tomorrow.

3.       Preservation of our history is a gift to our descendants. I have seen tears of joy in the eyes of many people when they found evidence of the activities of their ancestors or the early days of their congregation.

4.       Documents may help us discern and explain the truth. In a world where our youth (and older folk as well) are bombarded by opinions about all manner of things, through all manner of media, there must be some place that they can go to see original sources, allowing them to base their opinions and beliefs on less filtered information. It is amazing how many people get incorrect ideas about Christianity and other things from the opinions of other people whom they have never met and about who they know little.

5.       Record preservation helps resolve disputes. More than once in the past few years disputes regarding past actions of the church were resolved by consultation of records. By the same token, I have seen the absence of records leave arguments unresolved and seen dissension grow.

6.       Historical documents show our relationship with the Methodist Church as a whole and the Church Universal. They also help us see our relationship with the world at large and how we both affect and are affected by it.

7.       Maintenance of church records is part of our tasks as Methodists, outlined in the Discipline and further defined by the actions of various Commissions and Committees.

8.       Maintaining our records is a good idea for very practical reasons. As of this writing, 3 times in the last 6 months, I have been asked as conference archivist to search for records that would prove changes in the structure of a congregation or support actions they have taken with distinct legal and monetary repercussions.  In none of the 3 cases had the records been deposited with the archives, so I was unsuccessful. In 2 cases we were able to find some things that helped, but in 1, there was nothing.

9.       In many cases, records maintenance is required by law. In many more cases, a well implemented records management program may save a church from severe consequences in a legal action. The presence of such a program is a defense, its absence a tool for a plaintive against the church.

10.   “Biblical faith takes history very seriously because God takes it seriously”Frederick Buechner

One last thing. I work in the secular world of archives. In the past several years I have had the pleasure of doing outreach, helping people with their own programs, and just generally working with folk regarding history on different levels. In a secular world (e.g. working for the Nashville Public library, my former employer) if someone looks at you and thanks you for your ministry, you know it makes a difference.

Jim

Tn Conf. Archivist

Jim Havron currently serves as archivist of the Tennessee Conference of the United Methodist Church. He holds a Masters in History and is a Certified Archivist, working in the public sector in addition to his work with the 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 practice focusing on religious history, oral history, and user advocacy. His primary area of historical expertise is the creation, preservation, perpetuation, dissemination, and use of information and technology, as well as religious history. 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.

Methodist History Rebuilt (Literally) In Lebanon TN–Part 3

I’m doing better. I’m posting only a week after the last visit to the house.

I visited the project site last Saturday (2 previous posts will give newcomers information on the project) and found the men hard at work as usual. David Collier, the project manager, was there, so we were able to discuss some of the ideas that various folk have had about how we could interpret the house in an educational environment that includes a wide range of historical subjects as well as audiences [Video of house here.].

David Collier shows off the new shakes (shingles) for the roof.

David Collier shows off the new shakes (shingles) for the roof.

The main roof was on the second section of the house and preparations being made to add the cedar shakes that will

Roofing continues on the Asbury-Babb House near Lebanon, TN

cover the entire roof. Said shakes had arrived a day or so before and David explained their construction to me, also pointing out the areas where the logs were different because the old ones had rotted away and the new ones had to be done in as close to original manner as possible (a major delay in the reconstruction.) [Video here.]

The spaces between logs will be filled with a mixture that includes clay and straw.

He also explained the “chinking” process by which

we will fill the spaces between the logs.

We are currently looking for a good, relatively nearby, source of clay of the type that would have been available to the original builders.

As always, my “video” footage was just simply the clicking of the switch to let the camera run while I looked, we talked, (okay, mostly I talked, unless David was educating me as to the process,) and therefore the sound is not well balanced nor are any of the niceties one expects with edited footage present. At least David was aware enough to occasionally ask if I was filming and then point me at something. I think David will have a very good presentation style when the time comes to do educational programs for the process (note: I am volunteering him, but have not asked him) that will accompany Linda Collier’s (his wife and curator of the A-B House) presentations on the history of the home.

For those of you who are a bit more worried about the quality of the images, never fear. There are much better footage and images out there, and they will be presented at a later date.

The home site is not ready for unauthorized visitors. Bethlehem Church, however, does not consider visitors unauthorized. Please drop by and visit them for worship. They are located at 2102 Lebanon Road (US HWY 70) at the corner of Bethlehem Rd. (Map.) their number is 615-449-3234

Methodist History Rebuilt (Literally) In Lebanon TN–Part 2

First, I apologize for the delay in this second installment on the process and progress of the reconstruction of the Asbury-Babb House in Lebanon, TN. Shortly after my last visit I had several major personal issues that required my undivided attention. I am sure that all who are interested in this project would be willing to cut me a bit of slack, so I will not go into the details at this time.

I was quite pleased at the progress made by on the house when I visited on 16 July, nearly a month ago. The second story was up on the two-story side, the rafters fully in place and roofing underway on the other side.

2-story portion of house

Two-Story Portion of Asbury Babb House Before Roofing

1 story portion of house

Single-Story Portion of Asbury-Babb House With Roofing Underway

If one did not know that this was a reconstruction of a historic building, one might think that it was just a standard construction project, although not as elaborate as others in the area.

men working on roof

The Reassembly Team Working on Roof of Asbury-Babb House

Roofing was underway on the single-story while I was there, and most of the logs and other sundry materials were cleared away as they had already been incorporated back into the house.

The Area Beyond the Trees is a Private Residence. The Clear Area in the Fore-Ground is the Churchyard, Once Covered With Logs

Although modern tools were used for many parts of the work, and many neighbors and business folk have gladly lent their equipment, time and talent to this project, it was fascinating to watch the parts of the work done in a more traditional style. One of our primary workers (I apologize for letting his name slip my mind at the moment, but hopefully it will come back to me to replace this notation before too many have read this) gave me a rundown on some of the tools that were used and also on some of our log expert’s other old tools.

The rundown included showing how specific tools were used to cut and shape the logs and rafters for

Demonstration of Tools From Era of Asbury-Babb House. Hopefully the House Will be Used for a Variety of Education Techniques and Subjects

specific purposes, (techniques used to prepare the logs that had to be replaced,) as well as a demonstration of the used of a specific adz used to make wooden bowls (video here.) Although this last was not of use in the building of the home per se, it foreshadows  future demonstrations for school children, tourists, visitors, or other interested parties.

I was also shown some of the reproduction work being done to replace damaged attributes of the original house, including “beads” in the rafters. The intention is to restore the house as closely as possible to “original” state, while not losing sight of the fact that it represents the history of the following 200 years as well. (Video showing discussion of both, here.)

Detail of Interior of Asbury-Babb House Showing "Bead" Work During Reconstruction

The work proceeds well, as I said, and I have been informed that the team has received input from restoration people working at the Hermitage, Home of President Andrew Jackson, into a way to produce and apply the shakes for the roof. Chinking, internal work, and a variety of details remain to be taken care of, but the heavy lifting is mostly out of the way. Although it will be awhile yet before things have progressed to the point of doing tours again, not to mention coordinating with other institutions to provide an educational experience regarding Tennessee, Lebanon, Methodist, or general frontier history, as a trained public historian I can say I am pleased with how much progress has been made in the heat, not to mention the other, more severe weather we endured earlier in the year.

A Primary Team Member Takes a Break in the Heat

I hope to visit the site again very soon, and give further updates. I am starting a new job (besides my unpaid lay-ministry of historical and communication work) that will change my schedule somewhat, but I hope it will increase rather than decrease my ability to visit, and maybe I will be able to better connect those who wish to learn about Methodist and Lebanon history with the completed project. In the meantime, to those businessmen and women, neighbors, and folk from a distance who have just heard about the project and offered their good wishes, we want you to know that we do appreciate your contributions. We will extend more formal thanks as the project comes to a close (we do have a contact list, never fear,) but the team has informed me that they are grateful and could not have gotten this far without you. Just the same, the project is not finished, so keep it, the team, and the rest of us in your thoughts and prayers.

We welcome your comments. Please note that comments are filtered only to keep the site free of spam. For that reason, there could be a small interlude before a comment is posted as it is checked for authenticity. Content is not filtered, unless it is of a nature that falls under the obviously unjustified personal attack category. We reserve the right to remove words traditionally accepted as profanity, and will note that this has been done.

Jim

Tn Conf. Archivist

Jim Havron currently serves as archivist of the Tennessee Conference of the United Methodist Church, and posts this blog from that point of view.  A trained professional historian, he holds a Masters in History and is a Certified Archivist, working in the public and academic sector in addition to his work with the church. His education and experience is in history with additional focus on public history, archives and museums, and with practice focusing on religious history, oral history, and user advocacy. His primary area of historical expertise is the creation, preservation, perpetuation, dissemination, and use of information and technology, as well as religious history. 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.

Methodist History Rebuilt (Literally) In Lebanon TN

The Asbury-Babb House

The Asbury-Babb House as it looked in late Dec. 2003

The Asbury-Babb house, long associated with the last known place where Francis Asbury, the senior bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church, formally preached is rapidly rising again in Lebanon, TN. (Well, rapidly is a relative term, as much of the work on this historic log home must be done by hand, and the hands of specially trained and qualified people at that. Still, it is progressing much more rapidly than has been possible until recently.) The log home was the owned by the prominent Babb family and was used by circuit-riding preachers when they came by. Asbury stayed there when he presided over the Tennessee Annual Conference shortly before his death. He was headed for other conferences when he died, but never reached them. He was ill during the Tennessee Conference, held at Bethlehem Methodist Episcopal Church (currently Bethlehem UMC, located directly in front of the present site of the home.) Some circuit riders reported that he preached and confirmed from the upstairs window of the home. Accounts vary a bit, but it is known that he stayed in the home during the conference and was taken there while ill. It was from there that he departed the last annual conference he ever attended.

The Babb home was moved from its original site a few hundred yards up the hill behind the church to its present location in the 1970s. Recognizing its historical significance to the history of both the church and the area (Methodism played an important role in the settling of the West, the Babbs were prominent in the area, and the home had unusual, if not unique, architectural features) the Tennessee Conference made it a historic site and transferred the management of the property to the Conference Commission of Archives and History (CAH).
The CAH administered it as a museum, where artifacts were displayed and history was interpreted to visitors by a volunteer curator/docent. Because the building had been occupied until the 1950s, it had some modern features. Electricity had been added and it was also used on occasion as a meeting place. Unfortunately, the building deteriorated during lean budget times. Experts were consulted regarding the historical value and preservation needs of the structure as far back as 2004, but it was not until fairly recently that the funds were found to restore the building.

The manner of the restoration was the subject of much discussion, as history professionals know often occurs in such cases. The decision finally agreed upon was to disassemble the home, marking and saving the logs, treating the materials, and then reassembling them with an eye to trying to be as true to the original design as possible. It was known upfront that compromises would have to be made, but as the home was not in its “original” state at the time of the dis-assembly, and indeed had not been for over a century, this was not, in the end, a big issue. Once the structure is completely reassembled, it may be a part not only of the interpretation of the early frontier life, but of the changing nature of the region, the church, and even of the process by which we choose to preserve and present history. It has the potential to be a great asset to the church and the community.

Michael Gavin, log structure specialist

Michael Gavin, log structure specialist, evaluating structure in 2004.

Michael Gavin, characteristics of house

Michael Gavin, log structure specialist, speaks of characteristics of house in 2004.

The Asbury-Babb restoration process has been long. Besides financial issues, there have been the inevitable delays in the different phases of the project caused by bureaucracy as decisions were made through various formal processes. (The CAH is, after all, a commission of the church; full disclosure, I am a member) as well as those attributable to weather, the health of the contractor, and the fact that volunteers were being used for much of the unskilled work. Local people and businesses contributed work, equipment, or gave discounted rates for a variety of things, which helped get the job done, but such processes take time to arrange and often require adjusting the work to fit the schedule of the contributor.

All that being said, the walls are rising and the rafters will soon be in place. We anticipate the frame, minus the chinking, roof, and some details, will be completed by the fall. I went to Lebanon to see the progress today (28 June 2010) and was astounded at the progress made. I hope to visit more often and post updates here.

Log home specialist hand-shapes logs

Mark, a log home specialist, hand-shapes logs during re-assembly

Re-assembly1

Re-assembly of Asbury-Babb House moving right along

David Collier has been the CAH’s project manager for this, at least officially. His wife, Linda, is the curator of the home, as well as a member of the Tennessee Conference Historical Society and the CAH (it is she that has been baking the brownies for the Historical Society luncheon at Annual Conference, I understand) and so they are pretty much a team. Two for the price of one. They have sought out, or been sought out by, a myriad of volunteers and experts over the past couple of years. After we have a chance to get “thank yous” to those folks, we will have to record the story of the house for posterity. Larry Marshall is presently the chair of the CAH, although the project predates his tenure.

In the meantime, if you have any comments on the project, please let us know. Several proposals have been made regarding the home and its use both for the benefit of the church and the community in the coming years.
Check back for updates.

[Unedited video of trip on Youtube, here. Quality poor, but gives some idea of where things are- Jim]

Jim

Alert! Some Damage in Tennessee Conference Archives!

Since the initial check of the archives in the early days of the flooding in Nashville, TN, there has been some damage. The archive is located on the second story of a multi-story building, so it was not suspected to sustain any further damage.

After speaking to a member of the church in whose building the repository is located, I realized that leaks had developed in the building. He told me that there had been leaking in an upstairs floor where there is an exercise room and he thought someone had said there were leaks elsewhere in the building. I hastened to the repository, opened the door, and realized that not only had moisture gotten into the room, but the AC had been turned off as well. The musty smell and the high temperature were unmistakable. Carpet on both sides of a set of shelves was wet. Some supplies were on the floor and had been pushed against the shelves, serving as siphons for the water. I turned the air back on, and proceeded to do what I could.

My disaster plan called for me contacting the landlord (church) to have their people made aware of the damage. I am working on this, but my contact numbers have not worked. The damage that has been done that requires immediate attention is all work I can do myself, so that part is not really an issue. I have stabilized the damaged portion of the collection. A wet-vac (kept on site) got what water was possible to suck up, and we’ve put down some absorbent material (kept on site) to take up more. I have a fan (kept on site) going and the documents that are damp are drying. We do not have a dehumidifier (missed that one for on site, but have 2 listed as available in the plan,) but I will obtain one within a day. The space is small enough that a residential unit should work. (Particularly if the air remains on.)

Fortunately the damage is not extensive. One item will need pressing. There are several items that have curled up in the humidity that will have to be dealt with, but that should not be an issue. Several older volumes were stored in containers that were themselves ruined, but the moisture had failed to reach more than the outside bindings of the volumes. Some papers were damp on the edges, as were some bound volumes, but they are drying nicely. A few published papers were fairly badly damaged, but we have other copies. No sign of mold, warping, or damage to writing on any of those items. Several cartons of supplies that were on the floor were ruined. Only a small handful of unique documents have been damaged at all, and they seem to be salvageable. (I moved an oil painting that had been left on the floor by someone away from the area into storage just two weeks ago, thank God.)

There is still work to do. The disaster plan mostly worked as it was supposed to, and salvage operations have gone well. Communication fell through with people not connected to the archives or under its control, though. The next stage will be to discuss with the appropriate people what needs to be done to repair more extensive damage in the form of wet carpet that might produce mold. We also need to discover why the archivist was not called when the occupants and owners of the building became aware that there were leaks and see that we get something in place to keep that from happening again. The books and documents will have to be removed from those shelves where the leak was and the shelves moved to be sure we are dry and mold free. Of course, the leak itself will need repair. We will once again have to discuss the need for leaving environmental controls in place. An evaluation of the incident will be submitted to the Commission on Archives and History as soon as possible.

We were lucky. Or blessed.

Jim Havron, C.A.

Archivist

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

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.