Staff Improvement at the Historical Library and Archives

The Tennessee Conference historical library and archives (currently officially the archival depository) has been blessed with a change in staff that will greatly increase access to our collections. Von Unruh, past archivist and present Conference Historian, has been appointed to the position of Historian and Archivist. The position is part time as Von will also be serving as a local church pastor. The position is currently being referred to by a combined title, Tennessee Conference Historian and Archivist, although the role of conference archivist is actually a separate position appointed by the Commission on Archives and History while Rev. Unruh’s position of historian and archivist  came as a conference appointment.

The Historical Library and Archives will begin a new schedule, being opened most weekdays in the mornings through very early afternoon. The exact hours will soon be posted. (Please note: we are still short staffed and Rev. Unruh has many pastoral duties, so it is always a good idea to call first to be sure the depository is open before coming down to do research.) As always, the archives may be opened by appointment on a staff availability basis should a researcher be unable to  make the usual times. Staff restrictions also make only limited research requests to be answered from a distance.

Von brings with him an intimate knowledge of the library and archives, as well as an extensive knowledge of Methodist (in general) and Tennessee Methodist History. He is a trained historian and researcher in addition to being an elder of the church. His appointment bodes well for an increased energy in the Conference’s “ministry of memory.”

Jim Havron will remain as an archivist, although he will now be under the direction of the historian and archivist. We will also still have the services of various volunteers and our administrative assistant, Jackie McFarland.

Growing Stronger in Our Ministry

Just a note that the Tennessee Conference Commission on Archives and History, which has suffered several setbacks in recent years because of sickness, injury and death among its members, has added several new faces who have joined because of a strong passion for history in the church. Leland Carden is serving as president as we have worked to prepare budgets, address staffing needs, prepare for our role in the SEJ Historical Society Meeting that will be held in Nashville in a few weeks, and generally coordinate the work of the committee.

The CAH has also had joint meetings with the leadership of the Conference Historical Society while planning the SEJ meeting. These meetings have been productive enough that there has been talk of continuing in this format to further extend the connection between the two entities. (Of course, any official business by either group is conducted solely with the votes of the members of the group involved.)

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

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

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.

“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.

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

SINGFEST AT THE STROTHER MEETING HOUSE-Nashville

Event Announcement.  Strother is the reassembled log house that hosted the first meeting of a Methodist Conference west of the Alleghenies in 1802, Francis Asbury presiding .

SCARRITT BENNETT CENTER

1008 18th AVENUE SOUTH

NASHVILLE, TN

JOIN US!

SINGFEST AT THE MEETING HOUSE

Sunday, Sept. 20 at 4PM

A free outdoor concert on Scarritt-Bennett’s lawn at the historic Strother’s Meeting House

Bring blankets and lawn chairs and enjoy the music of:

CHOIRS: Edgehill United Methodist Church, East End United Methodist Church,

Unity Missionary Baptist Church  GROUPS: Altonettes, Joe Lee Trio, Kindling Stone and more

SONG LEADER: Marilyn Thornton, Emery United Methodist Church, Murfreesboro

PIANIST: Steve Lindsey, Edgehill United Methodist Church

There will be lots of congregational singing of familiar hymns

In the event of rain, Singfest will be held in Scarritt-Bennett Center’s Fondren Hall

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