Transforming the Marston Memorial Historical Center

The Marston Memorial Historical Center is temporarily closed for visitors. The redesign project that we have been planning and talking about for years is in process. The space is now empty. The library’s thousands of books have been boxed up, the artifacts from the museum have been inventoried and put into storage, and the Light and Life Hour display is awaiting its new home.

It is exciting to think that the vision for a replica 1910 chapel will be realized – the extended Zahniser family has made this possible and the chapel will be named in memory of the five Zahniser preacher brothers. The library will be expanded, enabling us to add several hundred books to the shelves, and windows will be added to enhance the space. The studio will be a great location not only to view and reminisce about the Light and Life Hour radio ministry, but also to capture visitor’s stories about “growing up Free Methodist” or how the church has ministered to them personally.

We can imagine individuals standing at B.T. Roberts’ pulpit desk and using an electronic device to read one of his letters or sermons, or to view photos. The same can be done at a pulpit used by John Wesley Redfield and Bishop Paul N. Ellis, or at the desk of Bishop Wilson T. Hogue or Bishop Marston. There will be opportunities to listen to a radio broadcast, Free Spirit music, Light and Life Hour singers – so many possibilities.

It was a major undertaking to inventory, pack up, and clear out every item from the Historical Center space. It caused me to reflect on persons who donated items, on stories of missionaries, and ministries in the church’s past. Often I found myself thinking of the careful, hard work that former director Fran Haslam put into setting this space up so wonderfully. I have been in this position for about 20 years, and I continue to appreciate the work of Fran, Evelyn Mottweiler, Bishop Marston, and others who have worked with this valuable collection. The systems and finding aids they set in place help us in our work daily. From these records, the staff has been able to create electronic inventories and additional finding aids that speed up our work considerably.

The walls, lighting, and windows should all be in place by the end of September, but it will take us awhile to re-shelve books, furnish the chapel with old pews, work on display ideas, and more. When you are in this area, please stop in and see how the project is progressing.

Right now, we have limited access to all resources, but we still hope to answer your inquiries. Feel free to contact us by email, phone or letter. Julianne, Kyle, and I are happy to help you in any way that we can. Please visit our website fmcusa.org/historical and view the increasing digital resources.

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