From July 13 to 15, 1988, an unusual assortment of people met on the premises of the Billy Graham Center on the Wheaton College campus, Wheaton, Illinois, to discuss an unusual problem. The people included executives of evangelical Protestant agencies, archivists, researchers, librarians, ministers, and teachers. They met to discuss evangelical archives: what is being preserved, what should be preserved, how it should be preserved, and how these documents can be made more useful to evangelicals and the general community. The group was unusual because typically archivists only talk to other archivists about questions such as these. The Evangelical Archives Conference was an attempt to involve the creators and users, as well as the curators, of materials in the process of finding solutions to problems. The problem was unusual because little has been done about preserving evangelical records, especially those of nondenominational agencies, and almost nothing has been done about coordinating what efforts there are.
So for three sizzling July days, twenty-eight people from diverse backgrounds met and worked together. The conference was funded as part of a larger grant given by the Lilly Foundation to Wheaton College's Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals for the purpose of examining evangelicals and volunteerism. The staff of the Archives of the Billy Graham Center planned the meeting and invited the participants, endeavoring to include as diverse a range of evangelical traditions and archival experiences as possible. Before the meeting, all the participants had been divided into four smaller interest groups. Each group was to think about, discuss, and develop approaches to four interrelated aspects of the problem of evangelical archives: what should be the minimum standards for starting and maintaining an archives; what kind of cooperation is necessary between archives and archives and between archives and users; what is a possible nation-wide plan for collecting the records of the evangelical movement; and how can greater support and understanding for archives be developed within the evangelical movement.
Each group had received through the mail readings and worksheets to help them start thinking about their topic and the leader of each group was charged with the responsibility of putting the members of the group in touch with each other and starting their interaction. During the conference itself, each group prepared a preliminary draft of a paper addressing the problems of its particular topic and suggesting an agenda for action. These drafts were later presented to all the conference attendees by the group leaders for questions, comments, changes, and other reactions. Each group leader then wrote the final draft of his or her group's paper. The bulk of this booklet consists of the final reports of the four groups.
These reports are not meant to be permanent wisdom carved on stone. Rather, they represent a cluster of starting points for addressing real problems. It is the hope of the conference participants that there will be a continuing interaction between creators, users, and curators of archives in which the contents of these booklets will play a part. If, by suggesting ways problems can be addressed, we can help people begin to come to grips with these problems, then the conference and this booklet will have served its purpose.
In addition to the papers produced by the small groups, there was another result of the meeting. An ad hoc group was formed of people who wanted to work together on various projects aimed at preserving and making available for use documents of the evangelical movement. This most definitely was not intended as a group just for archivists. Like the conference, it is intended as a means of bringing together anyone, of any background, who can contribute time and effort to insuring that these bits of evangelical heritage are available for study, inspiration and warning. Appendix III contains the current agenda of the evangelical documentation projects committee. Membership is open to all. Any interested person should write to: