Get to Know PHS: Public Services | Presbyterian Historical Society

You are here

Get to Know PHS: Public Services

April 28, 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. One of the ways PHS shares the story of the American Presbyterian and Reformed experience is by providing access to records in our collections.

Our Public Services Team is Here to Help

PHS exists to collect, preserve, and share the story of the American Presbyterian and Reformed experience with Presbyterians, the scholarly community, and the public. Part of our commitment to this mission is serving as a bridge between individuals and the past—and a big part of this work is done by our Public Services department.

We understand that not everyone can book a trip to Philadelphia to research in our reading room. And, sometimes you need assistance navigating our extensive collections. To make Presbyterian history more accessible, PHS offers a number of services to individuals seeking information from records in our holdings.

Reference Services

When you’re conducting research in our reading room or online, our reference staff will help you identify relevant collection materials, retrieve requested items from the PHS archives, and answer any questions you may have. People interested in exploring Presbyterian history through the PHS collections can submit a Reference Inquiry using our online form, email the reference desk, or give us a call.

Sonia Prescott, Reference and Outreach Archivist (right) works with a researcher.

What do people research in the PHS Collections?

People visit the PHS collections—in person and online—for a variety of reasons. Whether you have a general inquiry about Presbyterian history, are researching your family’s history through our genealogy services, seeking biographical information on a Presbyterian minister or missionary, or utilizing our attestation service—our staff and resources make research a breeze.

Click here to learn more about our Reference services.

Our Online Reference Tools

Do you think PHS has the information you need, but aren’t ready to contact the Public Services team? Our online reference tools can help you explore our collections without having to visit or contact PHS.

Our electronic catalog, Calvin, contains descriptions of over 75,000 books, periodicals, and archival collections housed at PHS. Click here to explore Calvin.

Sheppard is another online tool where researchers can find information on the unique records housed in our collections. These records include documents created by offices of the PC(USA), personal papers of prominent Presbyterians, and registers and session minutes of congregations around the country. You can access Sheppard here.

Some of our collections have been arranged and thoroughly described by our team of professional archivists. These “processed” collections include guides with descriptive summaries,  biographical notes, collection overviews, collection inventories, and more. Click here to access over 540 archival guides.

Click here to get to know how PHS serves congregations and mid councils. Click here to learn how you can support the work of the Presbyterian Historical Society. And click here to receive our monthly e-newsletter.