News Articles

SBC archivist honored by American archivists’ society

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Bill Sumners, director of the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives, received the top award in the field of religious archives during the Society of American Archivists’ Aug. 14-21 annual meeting in New Orleans.

Sumners has directed the Nashville-based SBHLA since 1988 and was joint archivist for the Baptist Sunday School Board (now LifeWay Christian Resources) and the former SBC Historical Commission from 1983-88. Previously, he had worked as a field researcher, research associate, assistant curator, library director and assistant archivist.

Gregory Wills, professor of church history at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and chairman of the SBHLA advisory board, said, “This recognition by his fellow archivists reminds Southern Baptists that Bill has served us well, collecting and preserving our remarkable history and making it readily accessible to all Southern Baptists. Under Bill’s leadership, he and his staff have built a truly extraordinary collection of Baptist materials in a state-of-the-art facility. Bill is most deserving of this high honor.”

The archivists’ honor is named the Sister M. Claude Lane Memorial Award for the first professionally trained archivist at the Catholic Archives of Texas, who worked at the Austin archives from 1960 until her death in 1974.

The award to Sumners notes “recognition of distinguished service in the advancement of religious archives.”

The late Lynn May, executive director of the Historical Commission from 1971-95, received the award in 1978.

Criteria for the award, according to the archivists’ organization, include:

“Involvement and work in the Religious Archives Section of the Society of American Archivists.”

“Contributions to archival literature that relates to religious archives.”

“Participation and leadership in religious archives organizations.”

“Evidence of leadership in a specific religious archives.”

Among Sumners’ achievements at the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives are a 30 percent expansion of the collection of monographs, serials and archival holdings; the securing of personal papers of prominent Baptist leaders, missionaries, pastors and evangelists; and an electronic catalog for the library and archives’ holdings.

Sumners developed and published “Documenting the Spirit,” a program for congregational involvement in identifying and preserving historical events and landmarks in the life and fellowship of the church. Articles by Sumners have been published in various publications promoting the gathering, preserving and utilizing of archival/historical resources, and he has spoken to professional groups and conducted workshops on archival techniques and church history and archives.

He has been a member of the Society of American Archivists since 1976 and is a member of the Academy of Certified Archivists. He also has been associated with the Society of Alabama Archivists, Tennessee Archivists, Society of Georgia Archivists and the Southern Baptist Library Association, serving as the latter organization’s vice president in 2004.

Sumners holds the B.A. degree from Samford University and the M.A. degree in history/archives from the University of Texas at Arlington.

    About the Author

  • Staff