Museum intern’s find leads to Pearle McCain exhibit proposal

Pearle McCain, shown in a 1929 photo here during her service in China, and later, below, during her years in Japan, was an Arkansas native and Methodist missionary who retired in Little Rock. PHOTOS COURTESY LINDA BAKER, UMMAC

Pearle McCain, shown in a 1929 photo here during her service in China, and later, below, during her years in Japan, was an Arkansas native and Methodist missionary who retired in Little Rock.
PHOTOS COURTESY LINDA BAKER, UMMAC

By Candace Barron
Special Contributor

Late in 2015, the board of the United Methodist Museum of the Arkansas Conference (UMMAC) decided to make some changes with the goals of revitalizing the organization and helping it meet the stated goals of educating and preserving historical items for generations to come. One of the ideas was to hire an intern in conjunction with the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. The UMMAC board asked Dr. Charles Romney, director of the UALR graduate program for history, to recommend several students that he thought would work well with our organization. They selected Jason Littleton for the internship.

Littleton, working closely with Dr. Paul Brown and curator Linda Baker, was able to successfully integrate the new “Past Perfect” computer program into the museum, which will allow sharing of historical finds across the spectrum of researchers, students, historians and the public. During this process, he came across an important find: the work of Dr. Pearle McCain, an early 20th century missionary to China. The find includes an oral history interview with McCain. This discovery benefits both the museum, as it is the basis for an exhibit proposal developed by Littleton, and Littleton’s education, as his master’s thesis project will be based on the discovery of the materials and development of the proposed exhibit.

McCain, a native of Arkansas, was educated at Scarritt College, Columbia University and Union Theological Seminary. She arrived in China in 1929, where she remained until 1942, when World War II forced her to return to the United States. She returned to China in 1946, only to be forced out by the Communist government in 1949.

In 1951, McCain was sent to Japan, where she taught for 20 years. The oral history includes discussions of her work in Peking, Shanghai and Sungkiang. She comments on her educational work, the Japanese invasion, personal relationships, travel, local customs, seminary work and the effect of World War II on China. She also shares views of the Communist government, departure from China, college teaching in Japan and a return visit to Japan and Shanghai in 1980.

Thanks to this internship and the work Littleton carried out, an important piece of Arkansas history will be preserved and expanded for generations to come.

Pearle McCain

Pearle McCain

Though the proposed exhibit on McCain has yet to be added to the museum calendar, UMMAC currently has a collection of Pearle McCain artifacts on display.

UMMAC also has a new photography exhibit beginning on Sept. 6, as reported in last month’s issue of the Arkansas United Methodist. It features photographs of old United Methodist church buildings across the state.

The museum is open for informal drop-in visits on Tuesdays from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., or other times by advance appointment. Guided tours are also available by appointment. For information about a particular exhibit or to book a tour, call Linda Baker, UMMAC curator, at 501-680-1089.

The Rev. Dr. Barron, pastor of Gardner Memorial and Amboy UMCs in North Little Rock, chairs the board of UMMAC.