This was my June column in the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate
While we always welcome visitors to the conference archives at Wofford, many researchers have come to expect to be able to do at least some of their archival research online.
At Wofford, we are working to make more of the primary source materials available online, but some of that work will take a very long time. At the moment, most of the conference journals are available here: https://digitalcommons.wofford.edu/methodistjournals/. These can be a very useful source for learning about the conference, about clergy, and about local church statistics.
Another popular resource has been the clergy biographical and pictorial directories. Many churches like to have portraits of their former ministers in a place of honor in the church. When I first worked in the archives, often we would have to photocopy the pictures from one of the clergy directories, and then those could be converted to a photo print. Some years back, we decided to digitize the photos, and local churches can download a high resolution image. Some of the images are still pretty small. The full directories are here: https://digitalcommons.wofford.edu/methodistdirectories/. The photos are linked from the Methodist archives web page: https://www.wofford.edu/academics/library/archives-special-collections/south-carolina-united-methodist-collection.
Other church agencies have developed online resources for individuals who want to conduct research from home. The United Methodist General Commission on Archives and History is responsible for the general church agency records, but they also strive to promote Methodist history at the national and international levels. They have a number of articles that researchers might find interesting. These are located at: http://gcah.org/history. These articles might be good resources for Sunday school classes learning about Methodist history. Also, the bishop’s ordination chain is a great resource if clergy are curious as to how they connect back to the founding generation of American Methodism. Old issues of the journal Methodist History are available on the site as well.
Other materials on American Methodism are available in the Internet Archive, located here: https://archive.org/details/americanmethodism. These materials can be read online or downloaded for later reference.
If you are interested in learning more about our roots in British Methodism, the online Dictionary of Methodism in Britain and Ireland might be just the source you’re looking for. It is freely available online at : https://dmbi.online/. And, just as the United States has a Historical Society of the United Methodist Church, the British Methodist Conference has a Wesley Historical Society. Their website is http://www.wesleyhistoricalsociety.org.uk/.
Archives are constantly trying to make more historical materials available for researchers. Some of this involves making digital copies of older materials – and cataloging them or transcribing them so that the information in them is actually available to researchers. Some of the work involves collecting today’s records. All of it can be labor-intensive and time consuming. In the end, it all helps us share our story better, and helping make those connections between the past and present is always worth the effort.