Archival work is essential part of the historical process. If you have benefited from reading good history, you should be thankful for the unsung heroes who collect, catalog, and make available old documents and letters for future generations.
For 20th-century evangelicalism, Billy Graham stands at the center. So it is noteworthy when more archival collections become open, now that he has gone on to glory.
Today the Billy Graham Center Archives at Wheaton College announced that on March 19, 2018, they will open two new collections that had been embargoed by Graham and the BGEA until his death.
Those who donate their papers to an archive have agreements on how the materials may be used. With these two collections, Graham did not want researchers to access them while he was still living. And even though these two collections have been opened, some of the documents within them have further restrictions. For example, documents that are less than 30 years old are closed to users. (That means that a letter from, say, 1965, would be open, as it is over 30 years old, whereas a letter from 1990 will remain closed until January 1, 2021.) A couple of the folders have a restriction that closes access until 75 years after the youngest document in the folder. This essentially guarantees that the material, presumably sensitive in nature, will not be made public during the correspondent’s lifetime.
The complete statement from Wheaton archivist Robert Shuster is below:
The Billy Graham Center Archives at Wheaton College will open two new collections on the ministry of Rev. Billy Graham and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) on March 19. The collections are being opened to the public in accordance with the wishes of Graham, who died February 21, and the BGEA.
“These collections are a treasure house for anyone interested in Rev. Graham, American evangelicalism, or global Christianity, among many other possible subjects,” says archivist Bob Shuster. “People will benefit from Rev. Graham’s generosity in making them available for many years to come.”
Collection 580 – Records of the BGEA: Montreat Office, 1940-1948, 1950-2012 includes letters, sermons, reports, memoranda, transcripts, clippings, manuscripts, and other materials maintained at the Montreat, North Carolina office of the BGEA. Montreat was Graham’s personal office and administrative base for his ministry. Topics covered in the records include Graham’s management of the worldwide activities of BGEA; the planning and conducting of his evangelistic campaigns; his involvement in the work of other Christian institutions; numerous interviews; and articles by and about him that appeared in print and electronic media for decades. This collection also includes some files from Rev. Graham’s pre-BGEA ministry with Youth for Christ and The Village Church (now The Village Church/Western Springs Baptist Church) of Western Springs, Illinois. Complete information about the collection is available here.
Collection 685 – Records of the BGEA: Montreat Office – VIP Notebooks, 1946-2015 consists of digital copies of letters, photos, notes on phone conversations, programs, and other documents kept at the BGEA Montreat office in notebooks labeled VIP.
Most of these notebooks document Graham’s personal relationship with every US president from Harry S. Truman to Barack Obama. One notebook relates mostly to Pope John II; two others document contacts with various world leaders. Complete information on this collection is available here.
The documents in both collections are closed until they are 30 years old; some documents have additional restrictions.
The Billy Graham Center Archives is a department of Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. It collects, preserves and makes available materials about North American parachurch evangelism. For more information, visit the Archives’ website or its Facebook page.