Our Work In The Archives, First Quarter 2020 | Presbyterian Historical Society

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Our Work In The Archives, First Quarter 2020

April 23, 2020
What a difference a year makes. PHS Reading Room, April 2019.

On March 16 the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania issued safer-at-home orders and closed non-essential businesses because of the coronavirus outbreak. Right up until that point, your archivists were at work in our building, and we're proud to tell you about it.

In the first quarter Allison and Cecilia scanned 20,449 images, among them new content from RG 525 (PCUS Foreign Missions), including images from the Congo, China, and Iraq; from the Gayraud Wilmore papers; and from the J. Oscar McCloud papers

Celebration of communist victory, Shanghai, 1949. From RG 525, PCUS Board of World Missions photographs.

In support of In Her Own Right, a consortial project funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, we scanned and created four digital collections related to women's history: the papers of Belle Hawkes, Presbyterian mission worker in Iran; the papers of Mary Louise Blatchley of Wayne, Pennsylvania, a nineteenth-century foreign missions supporter; the Ballston Female Heathen School Society, which built schools in Syria, Iran, and Sri Lanka; and the papers of Rachel Kerr Johnson, a missionary in northwestern India. We're also pleased to share two new thematic collections in Pearl: Women's history and African American history

During the quarter we brought in 83 new collections amounting to more than 113 cubic feet of content, notable among them the personal papers of Howard Leland Rice, moderator of the 1979 UPCUSA General Assembly, a teacher of Reformed spirituality who that year met with Nicaraguan revolutionary priest Ernesto Cardenal.


Ernesto Cardenal with Howard Leland Rice, in Nicaragua, 1979. From Accession # 20-0237.

New accessions in the quarter included records of 54 congregations, amounting to 62.63 cubic feet -- these chiefly came in big shipments from the Presbytery of Western North Carolina, the Presbytery of South Dakota, and the Presbytery of West Virginia. Altogether these records represent 14 states and Puerto Rico.

Prior to the middle of March, researchers from all parts of the country, plus Brazil and China, had visited 154 times. We averaged 3.2 research visits per day over the course of the first quarter, but some days were busier than others. 

By the end of the first quarter, staff responded to more than 567 inquiries; some responses were done by staff working from home. Inquiries included requests for information from 18 mid councils and 68 congregations. You can follow along using our 2020 congregation questions map below:


We hope you and yours are safe and well, and we look forward to telling you in July about how we've adapted to the second quarter's radically altered environment -- from planting the seeds for new personal papers collections to undertaking new born-digital collecting initiatives such as the Easter 2020 sermons and worship services effort.


Your congregation or worshipping community is still welcome to contribute to our Easter During Covid-19 collection.