By Jessica Brodie
The contents of the World Methodist Council Museum will head to Texas.
That’s the word from the council in its April “First Friday Letter,” which stated the Bridwell Library, Perkins School of Theology and SMU Libraries at Southern Methodist University in Dallas will receive the contents “in entirety.”
Earlier this year, the council announced it had closed the museum, which had been housed at the nearby Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center. Established in 1956, the museum has one of the largest collections of artifacts from the early days of Methodism. But between denominational budget cuts over the last 10-15 years and an overall decrease in funds, the museum had been struggling.
A museum archive committee was formed to assist with the valuing and recommending of placement of museum items. Now the council has determined that placement.
“The Archival Committee carefully reviewed all the proposals that were received from institutions and individuals, and after prayerful discernment, chose Bridwell Library as it will allow the World Methodist Council Museum collection to continue,” the council’s statement reads.
The statement includes a comment from Robert J. Williams, retired General Secretary of the United Methodist Church General Commission on Archives and History, who said he is “relieved and excited” the collection will remain intact at Bridwell.
“All who care about this collection can be confident that its future impact for faithful ministry in the Wesleyan tradition is assured,” he said.
Dr. Phillip Stone, South Carolina conference archivist and archivist for Wofford College, said much the same.
“Although I’m sad to see the collection leave the Southeast, I’m glad that the collection will remain intact,” Stone said. “I trust that the staff at Bridwell Library will take good care of it, because they have the resources to care for it professionally and responsibly. It’s a natural fit.”
In addition to Williams, other Archival Committee members included the CEO and General Secretary of the Council, Bishop Ivan Abrahams; recently Retired General Secretary of the UMC General Commission on Archives and History Alfred T. Day; council headquarters coordinator Jackie Bolden; and other experts as needed throughout the process.
“The long history of the World Methodist Museum and its collections is distinctly vital to the church, and it is important to maintain that historical continuity,” said Anthony J. Elia, director and J.S. Bridwell Foundation Endowed Librarian. “We are honored to be chosen as the recipient of the WMCM’s collections and will continue to oversee and curate these items with the highest quality and standards. In this stewardship, we are also committed to expanding public engagement in a major U.S. city like Dallas with as broad a public as possible that reflects the global nature and endeavors of the worldwide church.”
By Jessica Brodie