The Wisconsin Conference Commission on Archives and History recently received word that the Albert and Mary Rhoades Museum and Charitable Foundation will continue its $20,000 annual support for the Sanford Archives Center in perpetuity.This is exciting news for our Conference, and especially for Archives, which is overseeing the establishment and operation of the Sanford Center in our Conference Center building in Sun Prairie.This generous grant ensures that the Center and its work will continue on for the benefit of future generations.

The Revs. Charles and Lourinda Sanford were both members of the Wisconsin Annual Conference for many years. Lourinda was one of the earliest women to hold full clergy rights in the Conference and together they were one of the first clergy couples to serve in our Conference. Their estate provided for the establishment of the Rhoades Foundation to continue fostering the Sanfords’ deep interests in history, education, and United Methodism.

In 2011, the Commission on Archives and History received a very generous grant of $50,000 and a commitment of $20,000 annual support for the following six years from the Rhoades Foundation. This was given to help establish an archival center in the Conference Center building. The Sanford Center houses the archives and artifacts from Charles and Lourinda Sanford’s home and life. But the center also aims to broaden this focus and collect personal archives, records, and oral histories from United Methodist clergy across Wisconsin. We aim to honor the memory of the Sanfords with a growing, thriving archival center that will collect materials from clergy, lay members, and United Methodist churches in Wisconsin. These records will serve to tell and inform us about our past and also our future. Eventually we will mount displays in the Sanford Center space that can be visited by those who come to our Conference Center. And the archival collections of clergy and catalog of oral histories gathered will be available for researchers and historians. 

The Sanford Center is currently in the process of collection development—gathering oral histories and personal archival collections from other Wisconsin clergy and prominent lay members of our Conference. The initial focus is on the first women who became members of our Conference and their experiences. The Wisconsin Conference of The United Methodist Church has been in the forefront of the early involvement of women in United Methodism. We will work to tell this important part of our history. We will then broaden our focus on United Methodist clergy in Wisconsin in general, with perhaps a focus on ethnic diversity. Generational changes will be also be a focus as we collect oral histories of clergy at different stages in their journey, and with pastors that came to United Methodism from our predecessor denominations.

Once the collection development work progresses, we plan to have an opening for the Center and items from our collection on display. Also, researchers will be able to hear the oral histories and the important stories about the past recorded therein. They will be able to consult the documents and records collected from the ministries of clergy and lay people from our Conference. This material will help tell the story of United Methodism in Wisconsin.  And this can tell a wider historical story as well, as we look at the intersection of religion and culture in Wisconsin and the role that Methodism has played in that history. How have some of the major issues of the day been dealt with by clergy and the local church in Wisconsin and what role did United Methodists play in this process? By collecting memories, documents, sermons, and more from the past about the key issues that faced our society and our Conference through the decades, we gain an insight into our shared history. By recording oral histories, we are gaining a unique historical record that would otherwise not be available. And by ensuring that these key materials about our past are collected and saved, we are contributing to the future materials historians will have to understand our history. The Sanford Center can become a key contributor to this process.

We are deeply grateful to the Sanfords and the Rhoades Foundation for making this initiative possible and continuing to fund it. We welcome the participation of those across the Conference in this project. We are always looking for ideas and suggestions as to other people to contact for oral histories and other materials and records. Clergy and lay people are included. If you have ideas, please contact us. If you are interested in getting involved and helping with our Center, please contact our Conference Archivist Lynn Lubkeman in the Archives at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Watch for more information about our progress and opening in the future. And celebrate this wonderful gift to our Conference as well as the opportunity it presents to help preserve important history for all of us.