The MHSI Report to Conference 2017
On behalf of the Methodist Historical Society of Ireland, we would like to thank the Connexion for its continued support. This last year has been another busy twelve months when we have continued to build on the achievements outlined in last year’s report.
Since the Society transferred in 2003 to its present purpose-built premises at Edgehill College, by kind invitation of the Board of Governors, the vision of having a historical library of Methodism and a Connexional archive at the heart of the university area in Belfast has been more than realised. The Society continues to add to its priceless collection of early Methodist books, pamphlets and manuscripts by the purchase and gifts of the most recent volumes of Methodist scholarship.
By far the largest change in the role of the Society has been the extent to which it has become the custodian of the Connexional archives. The Society is grateful to individuals, circuits and others who have entrusted historical material to its care. As documents and historical items are received they are carefully assessed, catalogued and housed in acid-free storage. The most important accession has been the transfer of the major holdings of the Dublin archive created under the leadership of the Rev Dudley Cooney, together with Steven Smyrl who also meticulously catalogued the collection.
As the result of the generosity of several charities and gifts from members we were able to replace the archive’s faulty environmental control unit at a cost of £8,500 so that the most vulnerable manuscripts are once again stored in optimum conditions.
The Society’s website is constantly being updated and helps to raise its profile. As a result, enquiries from around the world have greatly increased so that, for example, the listing of the latest Society Bulletin received 2,281 ‘hits’ within nine months.
The Annual Lecture in October by Dr Fergus O’Ferrall on ‘Methodists in Ireland: Political Identities and Changing Contexts’ drew a large audience and was received with much appreciation.
Membership of the Society has steadily grown and during the year reached a total of 400 personal and 30 institutional members, almost double that of ten years ago.
We were delighted that in May the Newry Circuit agreed to host the annual pilgrimage with great warmth of hospitality in what is one of the most historic circuits in Irish Methodism.
The Society is grateful to the team of volunteers, now numbering six, who staff the archives each week. We were glad to welcome Rev Dr Edmund Mawhinney to the team during the year.