Get to Know PHS | Presbyterian Historical Society

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Get to Know PHS

January 17, 2023

Organized in 1852, the Presbyterian Historical Society is the oldest denominational archives in the United States and serves as the national archives for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and its predecessor denominations.  

How We Serve the PC(USA)

PHS collects records of historic value from congregations and mid councils, national agencies within the denomination, and from individuals and families who served the church.   

Did you know…

We have over 40,000 cubic feet of records in our facility? That’s an entire Philadelphia city block! These records are stored in a climate-controlled environment to ensure long-term preservation. Included in these records are the personal papers of significant Presbyterians like Eugene Carson Blake, Katie Cannon, Gayraud Wilmore, and Gilbert Tennent.

PHS is home to the records of Katie Geneva Cannon and Eugene Carson Blake. [Pearl ID: 171115 and Pearl ID: 7285]

We have records from missionaries who served around the world. PHS collections have diaries, correspondence, photographs, and more from missionaries who served in places like Korea, the Congo, and Puerto Rico. 

Our digital archive, Pearl, has over 17,000 photographs, videos, letters, and oral histories. 

We have over 250,000 published titles that reflect Presbyterian history in America. 

PHS is home to the records of ecumenical organizations including the Federal and National Council of Churches, the American Sunday School Union, Religious News Service, and the Church World Service. 

The PHS collections are housed in a climate-controlled facility and cared for by a team of archivists. 

What We Collect

Many of the historic documents in our holdings have been donated by individuals and families who lived the history in those records, or by their descendants. PHS is committed to building an inclusive archive by confronting the gaps in our collecting and storytelling practices and diversifying the scope of our collections through intentional collecting practices.

How We Sustain our Mission 

PHS is part of the Office of the General Assembly, an agency in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A). We’re grateful to receive over two thirds of our funding through per capita.

About one third of our funding comes from generous individuals and institutions who believe in our mission. They show their support by making annual financial donations to the Presbyterian Historical Society.

Donations provide essential support for the programs and services that are core to our mission. They help us acquire new collections, maintain our climate-controlled facility, digitize records, and ensure our staff can continue to provide access to Presbyterian history for years to come.

Click here to get to know PHS collections, services, staff, and more. Click here to learn how you can support the work of the Presbyterian Historical Society. And click here to receive our monthly e-newsletter.