Bridwell Library to house World Methodist Museum collections

SMU (DALLAS) – The historical and theologically-significant collections of the World Methodist Museum are moving to Bridwell Library, part of the SMU Libraries system and located in the Perkins School of Theology, where public exhibits and opportunities for study will ensure the long-term integrity and accessibility of this important resource.

Museum collections tell the story of Methodism, which began in England with brothers John and Charles Wesley meeting as a small student group at Oxford University in the early 18th century before their mission work carried their beliefs to the American colonies and beyond. Portraits of the early founders are included in the collections, as well as rare books and manuscripts, letters and the traveling pulpit of John Wesley.

Part of the collections focus on the work of Charles Wesley, who wrote more than 9,000 hymns and poems over his lifetime, including such interdenominational favorites as “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” and “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.”

“We are very proud to assume the responsibility for these collections, which tell the very human stories behind the faith and vision of the Wesley brothers and illuminate the impact they have had on Christianity,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “We are committed to providing the stewardship and continuity that this resource demands.”  

The collections, housed at the World Methodist Museum in Lake Junaluska, NC, until its closure in February, will be transferred to SMU in May, with plans for a celebratory opening exhibition and related events by the end of 2022. The location in Dallas will benefit not only SMU theology students, but provide an easily accessible location in the center of the country for visitors.

Craig Hill, dean of SMU’s Perkins School of Theology, said the acquisition will enhance Bridwell’s standing as a global center for students of Wesley and the world Methodist traditions. “We appreciate the great trust that the museum has placed in us by giving the collection to Bridwell Library,” he said. “Wesley Studies has always been a strong point of Perkins, and this gift creates new and undreamed-of prospects for its future.”

Libraries are at the heart of every great institution, and SMU Libraries incorporate a system of seven libraries, including Bridwell Library, that build multidisciplinary partnerships across the University and community. The award of the World Methodist Museum collections is believed to be the largest single acquisition of materials by Bridwell Library in its 70-year history. 

“We are honored to be chosen as the sole recipient of the entire World Methodist Museum collections,” said Holly Jeffcoat, dean of SMU Libraries. “The collections will significantly enhance our holdings in Methodistica and Wesleyana such that Bridwell Library will be one of the most important destinations for church historical research certainly in North America, and perhaps even worldwide. Once on site, we will prioritize the organization of collections, digitization of hundreds of archival letters and documents by and about early Methodist leadership, and curation of a wide-ranging variety of cultural artifacts.  It is a tremendous addition and will be a game-changer in so many ways.”

Find more about the acquisition of the collections here.