“We are trying to build up extensive records which will be of value to a future historian...
“It is highly important that the factual material be placed in our files in such a way that there can be no substantial distortion...
“We want to keep enlarging on this idea for the sake of the full length history to come...”
— Bill W, 1957
The idea for organizing an historical collection of the Fellowship’s records came from A.A. co-founder Bill W. in the early 1950s. Bill was becoming increasingly concerned that “the history of Alcoholics Anonymous is still veiled in the deep fog.” Knowing that the office correspondence was loosely maintained in the drawers at the General Headquarters, he set out to arrange our historical records.
He personally recorded oldtimers’ recollections in the Akron/Cleveland area; he sent out boxes of blank tapes to others, encouraging them to record their recollections. Bill’s far-reaching vision outlined an archival message that is still sound today. As he said: “Every one of the new and unexpected developments (in A.A.) has, lying just underneath, an enormous amount of dramatic incident and experience—stories galore.… It isn’t hard to prepare a fact sheet of what happened—that is, dates when people came in, groups started and so forth. The hard thing to lay hold of is the atmosphere of the whole proceedings and anecdotal material that will make the early experience alive.”
After many decades of tireless organizing and arranging, the G.S.O. Archives room was opened with a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony in November 1975.
Since then, the G.S.O. archivists and the trustees serving on the Archives Committee of the General Service Board have encouraged the importance of archival service, which is vital to the survival of the Fellowship. As a result of that work, today almost all areas have set up archival collections, and there is a significant growth at the district level.
Historical records help us to sift through our day-to-day experience in recovery and reach back for the shared experience from the past. As we sort out the myth from the facts, we ensure that our original message of recovery, unity and service remains the same in a changing, growing, expanding Fellowship that constantly renews itself.