Virgil Olson in 1956
Virgil as church history professor at Bethel Seminary in 1956 – Bethel University Digital Library

The estate of Virgil Olson, the Baptist historian who long served Bethel (first as a seminary professor then dean of the college) and helped write the history of the Baptist General Conference (Bethel’s sponsoring denomination), has left a $20,000 endowment to The History Center: Archives of the Baptist General Conference and Bethel University. The funds will be used to continue ongoing efforts to digitize History Center holdings. Our own Diana Magnuson, who also serves as the archivist of The History Center, explained the significance of the gift in an article from Bethel’s News service:

An endowment will afford the History Center the opportunity to embark on projects that otherwise would take years to complete in-house or piecemeal through grants…. The History Center will be able to prioritize digitization projects based on need, rather than solely on the aims of a funding organization. We will be able to outsource digitization of materials that require specialized treatment and equipment, such as oversized journals, microfilm collections, slides, reel audio tapes, audio cassette tapes, films and LP albums. These are important historical materials that are fragile and in real danger of damage beyond repair. Because of their historical importance, we also want them to be available world-wide to researchers, scholars, genealogists, and the Bethel community.

You can see collections that have already been digitized at the Bethel University Digital Library.

Learn more about Virgil Olson from our colleague G.W. Carlson’s two-part tribute, published after Virgil died this past June at age 96.

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