Wheaton College’s Billy Graham Center Archives Continuing to Preserve Evangelical History

Image: Billy Graham Center Archives

Few visitors to the Wheaton College campus in Illinois—whether potential students and their families, attendees at college-sponsored events, or the general public—realize that the campus houses a storehouse of evangelical history at the Billy Graham Center Archives.

Named after pioneering 20th-century evangelist, Billy Graham, the BGC Archives was founded as a resource to pastors and evangelists, offering a glimpse into the development of evangelism methods and the figures who practiced them in North America from the mid-19th-century to the present.

Although the BGC Archives is open to the public and welcomes unexpected visitors, it remains one of Wheaton’s best-kept secrets.

If the staff of the Billy Graham Center Archives are used to hearing one response from visitors, Wheaton students, and even faculty, it’s this one: “I had no idea this was here!”

While the staff of the BGC Archives thrive on collecting and preserving pieces of evangelical history, the best parts of the job is introducing visitors to treasures from the archives vault—Corrie ten Boom’s baptismal certificate, Billy Sunday’s obituaries, Chuck Colson’s correspondence, or Kathryn Kuhlman’s photo albums are just a sampling of the unique items available to use at the BGC Archives.

During the recent GC2 Summit at the Billy Graham Center, pastor Rick Warren toured the BGC Archive and leafed through missionary martyr Jim Elliot’s journal from 1949 that contains his famous quote: “He is no fool who gives what cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

Since the Billy Graham Center opened in 1980, the BGC Archives has served evangelists, pastors, scholars, and the general public by providing access to one-of-a kind research materials documenting the history of North American, nondenominational evangelism and global missions efforts.

Every year, researchers travel from around the globe to study evangelists like Billy Graham or to mine the records of organizations like Youth for Christ or Prison Fellowship.

What makes the BGC Archives unique is its focus on collecting records that have traditionally been overlooked by other research libraries.

While church denominations collect their own records, many nondenominational and parachurch organizations simply do not have the resources to preserve their history, let alone make it available to outside researchers.

Often, these records are lost or destroyed, and with them invaluable pieces of American evangelical history. The BGC Archives exists to preserve those materials that might otherwise fall through the documentary cracks. After more than40 years of collecting, the BGC Archives now holds records documenting a broad range of missions and evangelism efforts.

Organizations like the Lausanne Movement and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship are perennially popular. More recently, we have witnessed renewed interest in role of American evangelicals in 20th-century global missions.

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Source: Christianity Today