Thank you for taking the time to get to know our collection.


céad míle fáilte.  


Madainn mhath. Is mise Raibeart Bochanan. ‘S e tidsear a th’ annam.
My name is Robert Buchanan. There is teaching inside me. 

My family is actually from the Gael, which stretches from Ireland, through
Scotland, to the coast of Norway. The power of oral traditions led me to develop this collection. Oral traditions preserve our history, both ancient and recent. More importantly, oral histories passed down through generations teach our children how to become happy, productive, and respected adults. This should include young rugby players (and the preservation of the sport's history), too.

For over 40 years, I worked as an educator in multicultural studies, researched the origins of rugby, and acquired more than 7,500 primary source artifacts. Long before that, at the age of three, my great aunt, Christie, declared me to be the "dark one" of my generation -- a distinction connected to the "Selkie" folklore tradition of Ireland and Scotland. She predicted that I would have a strong sense of intuition and connection to nature, and that I would become a leader of my extended family, if I followed the traditions of our culture.

Through building the National Sports Heritage Collectionand preserving both material and oral traditions, we hope to inspire all people to reconnect with, and reclaim, their people's history in sports and society.

Our location is significant in American rugby history.

Located to the south of our collection is Beloit College. In 1860, their students played in the first recorded mass football match in Wisconsin. Their rules of play were not recorded, and pre-dates the formation of rugby and soccer as American sports. What we do know, is that two students fractured their collarbones, which means tackling was involved.

Through decades of research, we discovered that rugby was first played in 1880 at the University of Wisconsin, in Madison. In the modern era, Vic Hilarov, the first President of USA Rugby, led the return of rugby to the UW campus in 1962. The rugger who scored the first try for the UW, Donal Walsh, was also the first chairman of the U.S. Rugby Laws Committee. He created our nation’s approach for training referees. After earning five caps with England, Brian Wightman, the UW’s first international player-coach, went on to enjoy a distinguished career in education, rugby and the Olympics in Fiji.

Finally, east of our collection is St. John’s Military Academy. Beginning in the 1890’s, St. John’s was marketed to students and their parents for more than 50 years as "The American Rugby School." In reality, many schools had been opening throughout the United States throughout the late 1800’s, basing their model on the philosophy of England's Dr. Thomas Arnold.


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In parallel to forming this collection, we helped form a nonprofit, Madison United Rugby, earning tax-exempt status through our mission of supporting education, health, and community services. Gifts are tax deductible for donors.

We currently encompass 10 rugby clubs for females and males; more clubs will continue to be added. Rugby is played at the elementary (flag rugby), middle school, high school, and university levels. We also have four adult clubs: women, men, gay-friendly, and old boys.

MUR’s first goal was to purchase a permanent location for rugby. We invested over $1 million to not only develop two of the finest rugby pitches in the U.S., but to also build Bakken Park which includes two top level soccer pitches and a Kids’ Dream Park playground area for use by local schools and the community. Furthermore, our rugby facilities are handicap accessible.


Whether you are a collector, curator, historian or simply curious, we would love to host you for a visit and some story sharing at our museum in Madison, Wisconsin.

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With honor and appreciation,

Robert M. Buchanan, Curator

National Sports Heritage Collection


The National Heritage Sports Collection is made possible by a team of volunteer professionals from around the world: 

Wisconsin Rugby Club alumnus Robert Buchanan, Bob Jafferis, Greg Zukowski and Terry Godfrey enjoy the Rugby World Cup.

Wisconsin Rugby Club alumnus Robert Buchanan, Bob Jafferis, Greg Zukowski and Terry Godfrey enjoy the Rugby World Cup.


Key Research advisors


The NSHC Research Advisors include:


  • Jenn Johnson


  • Andrea Clark





With support and guidance from:



  • Stephen Berg

  • Matthew And Mary Jane Oakes

  • chris helm

  • James borth

  • Sue Hilgemann



  • John Nauright  

  • Brian Vizard 




The collection carries the memory of many contributors:

  • John Sinclair

  • John Sandner




  • Mark Bingham

  • Sgt. Major William Pitcher