Peter Nockles writes:
The Manchester Wesley Research Centre (MWRC) was established in 2002 to promote research on the life and work of John and Charles Wesley, their contemporaries in the 18th-century Evangelical Revival, their historical and theological antecedents, and contemporary scholarship within the Wesleyan and Evangelical tradition. The Centre is a partnership between the Nazarene Theological College, Didsbury, the University of Manchester Library, the University of Manchester’s Department of Religions & Theology, Cliff College, and the Asbury Theological Seminary in the US. The current Head of the School of Arts, Languages & Cultures, Professor Jeremy Gregory, has been an active participant, supporter and friend of the MWRC.
The object of the collaboration has been to develop a centre for research in Evangelical Studies which has an international as well as national profile. In particular, a key function of the Centre from the start has been to highlight the resources of the Methodist Archives in the John Rylands Library and to promote the scholarly use thereof among the international academic community.
It was for this reason that I recently spent time at Asbury University and the MWRC partner institution of the Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Kentucky. During my visit, I was privileged to hold conversations with key faculty members, librarians, archivists and leading Wesley scholars who have visited us in recent years, notably Professor Kenneth Collins, Professor Howard Snyder and Brian Yeich (the latter in 2010 made a fact-finding visit to Rylands to explore how our strategic planning processes). Asbury University’s Special Collections contains a ‘Wesley and Friends Collaborative Research Center’.
I was also given tours of the special collections and demonstrations of state-of-the-art digital processes at both library institutions. Digitised materials in the ATS Special Collections can be found at Asbury’s ePlace website.
My visit was part of a longer lecture tour in which I gave keynote public lectures at the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee, and at St Louis University (SLU), St Louis, Missouri, where I gave the annual Henri DeLubac Lecture. At SLU I had conversations with Professor Kevin Mongrain, Director of the Newman Institute at Pittsburgh and Director of the Newman Archive digitisation project. I was also a participant in a two-day ‘Receptions of Newman’ Symposium at University of the South, Sewanee. While at SLU, I also met with the Head of Special Collections and a highlight was finding out about the work of SLU’s Center for Digital Theology. The Center aims to create multimedia and electronic products that support research and teaching in Theological Studies. Its most recent project has been T-PEN, an open source tool for digital transcription.