Get to Know PHS: Who We Serve | Presbyterian Historical Society

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Get to Know PHS: Who We Serve

February 15, 2023
PHS Archivist Nick Skaggs processes records from an office in the PC(USA).

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. As record keepers of the denomination, PHS helps Presbyterians and the general public preserve and explore their histories. 

Record-keepers of the PC(USA)

PHS serves the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. by collecting records of historic value from congregations, mid councils, and national agencies. As part of the Office of the General Assembly, we assist the Stated Clerk in fulfilling their record-keeping responsibilities for all General Assembly entities.  

What are records of historic value and how do we collect and preserve them?

PC(USA) offices, churches, and mid councils create records every day. Some of these records are transactional, created as part of the organization’s routine business, and can be destroyed when they’re no longer of use. Other records document the deliberations, vision, and work of the church in the world. These are worth perpetual preservation. The Presbyterian Historical Society collects these records of historic value and preserves them in secure on-site and online facilities.  

While these records of historic value might look different for every office or body, PHS staff are trained and available to help make decisions about what records should make their way to the archives.

Learn more about our record keeping services and visit our records retention schedule:

Serving Presbyterians and the public

Accessing records of value

Once records make their way to PHS for preservation, PHS staff make sure these valuable documents are organized and stored so they can be easily accessed. Why might a Presbyterian need to reference a document? Among many reasons, records may need to be accessed for legal purposes, to retrieve vital information from a church’s minutes or registers, or to confirm how an office organized and fulfilled its mission. 

Sharing a history of Presbyterians in America 

Once records of permanent and historic value are preserved in perpetuity at PHS, the information contained in the documents can accessed for free by Presbyterians and public researchers who visit the archives, or through a paid digitization service. Presbyterians and researchers might turn to a set of records to reveal a truth about an institution, to uncover a legacy hidden from history, or to investigate how Presbyterians impacted communities around the world. 

Learn more about the services offered by the Presbyterian Historical Society:

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.