Jason B. Kauffman of Durham, North Carolina, has been named full-time director of archives and records management for the denomination’s Executive Board (EB) staff, effective July 1, 2016. He will be responsible for planning and overseeing the relocation of the denomination’s archive collections from Goshen (Indiana) College to the Elkhart office of Mennonite Church USA.
Kauffman’s ongoing responsibilities will include acquiring, preserving, organizing and making accessible archival
materials in various formats — paper, audiovisual, photographic, digital, electronic, artifacts, etc.; responding to researcher requests; and serving as a consultant to Mennonite Church USA agencies, conferences, congregations and organizations on matters of record retention, preservation and access.
“I’m very pleased that Jason is available for this role,” says Ervin Stutzman, executive director for Mennonite Church USA. “He brings the necessary intellectual acumen and a strong background in church history and archival work, as well as a deep commitment to the church.”
Kauffman earned a Ph.D. in Latin American history from the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill; a Master of Arts in Latin American history from the University of New Mexico; and a Bachelor of Arts in history from Goshen College. Most recently he has been a visiting assistant professor in history at Florida International University in Miami and a teaching assistant in history at UNC – Chapel Hill. He has served as a public history intern at the Carolina Digital Library and Archives in Chapel Hill and an archival assistant at the Political Archive of the Center for Southwest Research in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He brings proficiency in both Spanish and Portuguese to his new role as well.
“The main thing that attracted me to the position was the opportunity to use my background in history to serve the mission of Mennonite Church USA and preserve the history of a denomination that I care about,” Kauffman says. “One of my goals is to make history more visible within the denomination and to show how an understanding of the past can inform our collective understanding of (and decisions about) current issues that our denomination faces.”
“One of the things I’m most looking forward to is the opportunity to develop relationships with denominational leadership and constituents to find out how the Archives can best serve the denomination and its institutions and ministries across the U.S.,” he notes. “I also have a keen interest in documenting and preserving the voices of people and groups within the Mennonite Church that are currently underrepresented in the Archives. As the main entity responsible for the preservation and dissemination of Mennonite Church USA history, I think it’s vital for the Archives to capture the diversity that exists within the denomination.”
Kauffman is married to Lisa (Graber) Kauffman, and they have two young children. They are members of Chapel Hill Mennonite Fellowship.
Parts of the Mennonite Church USA Archives also are stored at the Mennonite Library and Archives at Bethel College in North Newton, Kansas; John D. Thiesen, a Bethel College employee, serves as archivist there. Elizabeth Wittrig has been serving as the primary Archives staff person at the Goshen location since the departure of former Archives Director Colleen McFarland in May 2015.
Goshen Archives to relocate
EB leaders have decided to move the bulk of the denominational archives from Newcomer Center on the Goshen College campus to the Elkhart office of Mennonite Church USA.
“This will require considerable administrative attention and logistical execution, but I believe it will be well worth the effort in the long run,” says Stutzman. He anticipates having a grand opening for the new archives by early 2017, under the guidance of Kauffman in his new role.
Stutzman notes that he consulted with the parties most affected by the decision to relocate and named contributing factors:
- A large undeveloped section of the Elkhart office (originally designed for office expansion) is available for the Archives with minimal renovation.
- The Elkhart office building has better climate control than the current location does.
- A donor couple has agreed to fund the purchase of high-density mobile shelving for the new location, which will allow for efficient use of the space.
- The EB will save the cost of the monthly rental fee to Goshen College.
- The Archives will be located in the same facility as several churchwide agencies and organizations, allowing for greater collaboration between the denominational archivist and the administrators who produce the institutional documents to be archived.
- The Archives will be located adjacent to the campus of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, providing better access to seminary students who wish to research denominational documents.
He adds that EB leaders and Goshen College leaders will continue to collaborate, assuring that archival researchers will have easy access to materials in both locations. Volunteers who have worked on historical materials in Goshen may continue to do so.