Know Your Archives, Part V: Methodist Heaven

Continuing our series on our archival experiences, I'm pleased to guest post the following from Christopher Jones, who blogs at Juvenile Instructor and is a graduate student at William and Mary. I, too, researched at the United Methodist Archives, for 2 weeks in 1999; they arranged some very nice housing there in a nearby apartment building, and Drew is close enough to New York City for some fun side trips as well!

By Christopher Jones

In the summer of 2008, I spent a week at the United Methodist Archives and History Center, located on the idyllic campus of Drew University in Madison, New Jersey. Perhaps providentially for a poor graduate student researching Methodism, the archives are located just down the road from my in-laws in Summit, NJ, which saved me the cost of having to find a place to stay, but I’ve heard from others that the Xavier Center invites individuals doing research at Drew to stay there for relatively cheap (about $40/night). I ate each day at the student center at Drew, which had a pretty good selection of decent (but not great) food for a reasonable price (John Turner’s not lying about the quality of the lunch at the LDS cafeteria).

The reading room is small, but quiet, and the collections at the UMAHC are rich. The Francis Asbury collection and Garrettson family collection (including Catherine Garrettson’s fascinating dream journal), along with a host of diaries penned by itinerant preachers in antebellum America received most of my attention, but there is a large collection of documents dealing with 20th century themes and issues that are waiting to be mined by interested researchers (and which were utilized by Morris Davis for his important book on The Methodist Unification). They have an especially rich collection of source material (both personal papers and institutional records) dealing with missionary efforts in India and China during the early 1900s, for those interested in international issues. And what they don’t have in document form, they have on microfilm. Plus, they had a mourner’s bench from an early 19th century camp meeting on display in the atrium outside the reading room, which for a religious history geek like myself, was an added bonus.

What made the trip to NJ especially worthwhile and valuable, though, was the staff. Chris Anderson leads a team of Methodist librarians that went above and beyond in ensuring my short stay was productive. In addition to having requested materials on hand awaiting my arrival each morning, the staff also suggested other sources that might be helpful to my research on Methodism and Mormonism (and they were right). When I left, Chris Anderson offered to send photocopies of any sources I may have forgotten to check out while there (an offer I luckily didn’t have to take him up on). For a young student making his first research trip outside of his local archives, it was a wonderful experience.


Anonymous said…
I am loving this series! Great work everyone.
Randall said…
Christopher: Very interesting about the Methodist archives. I was at the Drew Library way back in 1998 when I was looking at grad school there.

The Asbury College Library and Archives is another "Methodist Heaven." My research there was incredibly fruitful.

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