The Story of The United Methodist Museum of Arkansas
In the late 1800s, there was a growing interest in preserving historical materials and artifacts of Arkansas Methodism. In 1886, the first history of Arkansas Methodism by Reverend Horace Jewell was published. Other histories followed by these authors: James Anderson, 1935; Walter N. Vernon, 1976; W.D. Lester, 1979 (an African-American history); and Nancy Britton, 2000.
In 1968, it became a mandate by the General Conference that each conference have a commission on archives and history as part of the Ministry of Memory. In 1994, the Historical Society of Arkansas United Methodism was founded, and out of that society two other entities were born that same year: the United Methodist Archives, and the museum (then called the United Methodist Museum of Arkansas or UMMA). In May of 1994, UMMA opened at its first location, Quapaw Quarter United Methodist in Little Rock. A formal dedication was held in February 2001 at that location, but in October 2003, the museum had to vacate as Quapaw needed space for a new arts ministry. In 2005, the museum reopened at its second location in Asbury United Methodist Church in Batesville and remained there until 2009 when the church was leased to another congregation. Artifacts were again stored while there was a search for the third location. In March 2011 a lease was signed by trustees of the Arkansas Conference with First United Methodist in Little Rock for the museum space. Renamed The United Methodist Museum of the Arkansas Conference (UMMAC), the museum reopened in Dec. 2011 at First United Methodist Church, and was formally dedicated by Bishop Charles N. Crutchfield on Jan. 14, 2012. Funding for the establishment of UMMAC at FUMCLR was made possible by a generous grant from The United Methodist Foundation of Arkansas.
Why the name change at the third location? In 2006, the Arkansas Conference had reorganized the historical divisions of the Conference into three separate groupings, with one overseeing body — one large umbrella was the History Commissioner for the Conference who oversaw these three now separate entities: (1) the museum, (2) the Historical Society, (3) the archives. The Conference also began funding these three separate divisions in 2006. No longer an entity of the Historical Society but of the Arkansas Conference, the museum was renamed The United Methodist Museum of the Arkansas Conference (UMMAC) in 2011 to reflect that reorganization and the state-wide emphasis of the collection housed in the museum.