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Q&A: Commission on Archives & History

 

INTERVIEW WITH ROBERT J. WILLIAMS, TOP EXECUTIVE

Note: This interview was part of a 2012 series conducted by United Methodist News Service offering information to help readers better understand how the church works. UMNS asked the top executives of each agency to answer five questions about their agency's role in the church.

What is your agency’s primary mission? How do you accomplish this in the most effective manner?

Robert J. Williams

The primary mission is to attend to all the historical interests of the denomination and to collect and process historical materials related to all aspects of the international work of The United Methodist Church. We accomplish this with a small, well-trained staff, with increased use of the latest preservation techniques and with the board of 24 directors meeting only once a year.

The agency provides the historical perspective for all the areas of focus. The Commission on Archives and History has created a scholarship to help educate a person of color in archival studies and does excellent leadership training for conference archivists. Much of our excitement comes when a previously unknown collection of materials is turned over to us, such as 1,000 letters from Bishop Gilbert Haven, prominent 19th century abolitionist and holiness leader.

Name at least one exciting thing in which your agency has been involved. How does it relate to the Four Areas of Focus?

The agency provides the historical perspective for all the areas of focus. The Commission on Archives and History has created a scholarship to help educate a person of color in archival studies and does excellent leadership training for conference archivists. Much of our excitement comes when a previously unknown collection of materials is turned over to us, such as 1,000 letters from Bishop Gilbert Haven, prominent 19th century abolitionist and holiness leader.

How does the average United Methodist pastor or member benefit from your agency’s work? Social advocacy? Curriculum? Scholarships? Please give a concrete example, ideally quoting a testimonial from someone outside of your agency.

We service researchers from local churches, annual conferences and the academic community from all over the world. There is rarely a book written on Methodist history that doesn’t include acknowledgments of help provided by Archives and History staff. The general secretary supports and maintains contact with various historical organizations. We field both phone calls and emails on a daily basis from local United Methodists searching for ancestors who were involved in the ordained ministry or the mission work of the church. We are able to give them information about those ancestors.

Learn more: Website of the Commission on Archives and History.