Preserving WELS history

Plans are underway to begin construction for a new WELS archives and visitor center in the lower level of the WELS Center for Mission and Ministry (CMM), Waukesha, Wis. For the first time, historical WELS documents, books, and artifacts will be stored in purpose-built space, designed to preserve and organize the synod’s history. The visitor center will feature artifacts and information about WELS history. The archives currently reside at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary (WLS), Mequon, Wis., but the collection has outgrown the space and the facility does not have the proper climate controls for preservation.

To set up, organize, and manage the archives in its new home, WELS has hired a full-time archivist. Susan Willems will start mid-June—first sorting and moving material from WLS and then organizing and maintaining the materials at the CMM. Willems will join the CMM from the University of Denver, where she currently manages archives processing. She graduated from Wisconsin Lutheran College in 2006 and received her Master of Library and Information Science from the University of Denver in 2013.

WLS Professor John P. Hartwig, who currently works with the archives, says, “We thank God for this long-awaited progress in providing a suitable space and staffing for our archives, and we ask for his blessings as we move forward.”

Willems says, “To be the first [full-time] archivist for the synod is a huge honor. It’s going to be a challenge, but it’s going to be a lot of fun to learn about our synod’s history.”

She says one of her initial goals is “raising awareness about the archives in the synod and reaching out to the different districts and individual churches to make sure that they know that the archives exist and what type of material we would like them to save that we would be collecting.”

Willems, her husband, infant daughter, and dog will be moving to the Milwaukee area in June.