Vol 19, Issue 13

The Bahá’í National Archives: Preserving Our Spiritual Heritage

The International Archives was the first building Shoghi Effendi planned to be built on the Arc in Haifa, Israel. He even mandated that every Hazíratu’l-Quds should have an archives, and said, “The importance of the institution of Bahá’í Archives is not due only to the many teaching facilities it procures, but is essentially to be found in the vast amount of historical data and information it offers both to the present-day administrators of the Cause, and to the Bahá’í historians of the future. Future generations of believers will be surely in a better position that we are to truly and adequately appreciate the many advantages and facilities which the institution of the Archives offers to individual believers and also the community at large.  (from a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada, September 25, 1936)

 The Archives at the Bahá’í National Center in Wilmette, IL preserves relics, documents, and stories relevant to the Faith in many mediums. The Archives serves as our spiritual connection between the past, the present, and into the future as the faith continues to flourish across the globe. It fulfills our desire to be closer to our higher selves though the connection to relics from our past.

The Archives at the National Center are located in the basement of the House of Worship and needs to be relocated to another facility in order to ensure the long-term preservation of the Holy Writings, historical documents, and artifacts that comprise our archival heritage, and to improve access to these materials. 

The current systems for security, fire suppression and climate control that protect our archives in the ground floor of the House of Worship were of high quality when they were installed, but are now in need of an update. In addition, the current storage facilities in the House of Worship, where the archives have been located since the 1940s, are far too small for our growing collections of records, documents, artifacts, audio-visual materials and works of art, and areas to receive visitors and researchers are cramped. An improved space to house these artifacts ensures the preservation of our spiritual heritage for centuries to come. 

Recent months have seen further advancements in the project for the National Bahá’í Archives facility. A building owned by the National Spiritual Assembly is being renovated as the new location for the Archives. Among the many improvements are climate control, fire suppression, and other technical systems in the building that will be the best available for an archives, and engineered for sustainability and efficiency. The building’s storage system will consist of custom-designed mobile compact shelving units to maximize efficiency, safety and convenience. These are expected to hold all the archives that are currently stored in our current quarters in the House of Worship, as well as materials we are currently paying storing offsite.

The costs for this undertaking are significant. The fund for this project stands at $290,086 and the overall costs are $2.5M. To participate in the preservation of the spiritual legacy that will inspire learning, unity, and connection to our past for generations to come, you can contribute to the US Bahá'í Archives Renovation Fund using the Online Contribution System.

Image001proposed rendering for the new archives building