During the 2017 fall semester, I was privileged to intern at the Fredericksburg United Methodist Church (FUMC). The church has a small archives department. There are several volunteers and an overwhelming amount of “artifacts” to be archived. As a matter of fact, there are over 90 boxes and counting. FUMC uses the museum software, PastPerfect. I started by reviewing and correcting the information saved to PastPerfect by previous interns. After I did that, I started on box three. The task was daunting (scanning and saving) but educational. I learned a great deal about the history of the Methodist Church. I learned even more about the history of the Methodist Church in Virginia.
The most interesting documents I came across were court documents from the very early 20th century. The documents recorded the attempts of the FUMC to receive monetary reimbursement for damages the church sustained during the Civil War. Legally, the church, which served as a hospital, could receive reimbursement as they did not “claim” to side with the Union or Confederacy. As a matter of fact, both wounded Confederate and Union soldiers received care at the make-shift hospital. Unfortunately, the church lost the court battle and never received government funds to make repairs.
FUMC was one of the first churches to integrate African Americans into its parish. As I scanned letters from the bishop to the pastor, I learned that even within the houses of God, people can be hateful and angry.
After 120 hours, I was proud to have made it through box six. I spoke to the archive members recently and shared what I learned and my recommendations for future interns and the archives in general.