Developing an Archives

The idea of developing permanent collections did not receive attention until 1932, however, when the Eighth General Assembly authorized the General Secretary “to collect from every section of the country all available historic material relating to the rise and development of our denomination.” This occurred two years before the U. S. Congress passed an act establishing the National Archives of the United States.

The files of general secretary E. J. Fleming and his successors show that they frequently solicited historical materials. Fleming also promoted the work of Maury Redford, professor at Trevecca College, as Redford assembled the materials upon which he based his later history, The Rise of the Church of the Nazarene. Redford was also supported by the Tennessee District, which in 1934 appointed him District Historian and Archivist. His materials became the core around which the Trevecca College Archives developed.

At the general church archives in Kansas City, a collection of miscellaneous materials grew slowly. Historian Timothy L. Smith found them woefully inadequate to support the research necessary for writing a major denominational history when he began work in the 1950s on Called Unto Holiness. In the course of Smith’s project, a broader working collection of documents was developed, many discovered and donated by the historian himself.

But for years the fundamental problem remained: there was not an active archives program nor a full-time archives to develop one until 1979, when Steven D. Cooley was hired. Cooley developed new accessioning and inventory systems for the archives, established priorities, and actively solicited materials.

Fortunately, the Nazarene Archives is located in a city with an active archives community and a local professional society whose active membership includes staff from a presidential library (Truman Presidential Library), a regional branch of the National Archives, the Missouri and Kansas State Historical Societies, and numerous college and university manuscript collections. Among those who advised the early development of our program were Ralph Havener of the University of Missouri archives; Alan Perry of the National Archives, who later organized the Virgin Islands Territorial Archives; and Gordon Hendrickson, now head of the Iowa State Archives.