By Emily Lim
Archival materials from the United Methodist Children’s Home (UCMH), whose main campus is at Columbia Drive, Decatur, will be preserved at Emory University’s Pitts Theology Library in a partnership with Kennesaw State University.
One of the oldest and largest private child welfare providers in Georgia, the UCMH was established in 1871 to care for children orphaned during the Civil War. At its maximum capacity in the late 1960s, according to the UCMH’s Director of Communications Deborah Hakes, the children’s home housed 150 children.
The historical materials were moved, according to Hakes, because the home lacked the resources to properly preserve them; they were previously stored in a closet.
“Emory University is the repository for the United Methodist Church’s North Georgia Conference administrative records,” explained Hakes in an email to the Wheel as to why Emory was chosen for the archival project. “Thus Emory was a natural fit for the historical materials.”
Students at Kennesaw State University conducted interviews with Children’s Home alumni, and these records will be kept at the Pitts Theology Library, Hakes told the Wheel.
Alumnus of the UMCH Kathy Powell, who lived at the children’s home for ten years, is hopeful that the collection at the Pitts Theology Library will inform the public on the past of the children’s home.
According to Powell, the archive will feature many records, documents, photos, portraits, press releases, sign posts and other items. Recordings of oral histories and transcribed interviews will also be available.
“I have a strong attachment to the children’s home,” Powell said in an email to the Wheel. “It is my hope that once the library has the many physical items [it] will tell the story of a home through the generations [so] that the alumni, former staff or the general public will have an opportunity to see this collection.”
Powell stressed the educational value of the archives. “The collections of the children’s home is just as important as the information in the genealogy libraries,” Powell said.
An active participant in the UMCH’s Alumni Association, former resident and employee of the children’s home Debora Burger is glad for the archival project.
“I’m glad to see the information being housed and preserved not only for alumni, but also for people in the community who are interested in the home’s history,” Burger said.
According to Hakes, the project will be useful for members of the community who wish to understand the history of child welfare and advocacy in the Georgia region.
“The collection is a treasure trove for those interested in history, storytelling, photography or in child welfare issues,” Hakes said.
Although the UMCH has ceased to be an orphanage, it still initiates service programs in Georgia. According to Hakes, the UCMH is still actively involved in, but not limited to: foster care placement; strengthening and preserving families; and providing housing and support to families at risk of homelessness.
– By Emily Lim, Staff Writer
This article was corrected at 1 p.m on Friday, Oct. 31 to reflect a change in the name of active participant in the UMCH’s Alumni Association and former resident and employee of the children’s home Debora Burger, whose name was incorrectly spelt in the original version of this article.