Our Work in the Archives, Second Quarter 2023 | Presbyterian Historical Society

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Our Work in the Archives, Second Quarter 2023

July 24, 2023

Let's take a look back at what your archivists were doing in April, May, and June!

For the quarter, we brought in 201.32 cubic feet of new records in 97 groups. These included the records of 16 active and 50 dissolved PC(USA) congregations, for 88.74 cubic feet. Among these were major shipments from the Grace Presbytery, Hudson River Presbytery, and the Presbytery of Scioto Valley.

Archivist Nick Skaggs completed processing our new RG 540, records of the Advisory Council on Church and Society. Chiefly the subject files and background readings were created by Dean Lewis during his tenure as lead for the UPCUSA's social policy formulation. The collection started out at 240 cubic feet, and was weeded and condensed to less than 200. The collection documents the UPCUSA's responses to virtually every domestic political crisis of the 1960s through the 1980s, from the U.S. embargo against Cuba, to the nationwide uprisings in the wake of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., to the Sanctuary movement.

Digital Collections Specialist Allison Davis and Archives Technician Amalia Cottrell digitized more than 19,000 images in the quarter, including records of Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church (Brooklyn, N.Y.), temporarily loaned to us from the Center for Brooklyn History. For the year to date, the team has imaged more than 33,000 pages of text and photographs, among them a 1905 history of the Presbyterian College and Theological Seminary (Coyoacán, Mexico City, Mexico).

PHS was awarded two separate grants earlier in the quarter, both of which will help our digitization efforts. In April, PHS was announced as a recipient of a 2023 National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Humanities Collections and Reference Resources (HCRR) Implementation grant. The $330,678 grant will fund the digitization of 22,500 images, newspaper clippings, and related documents from the Religious News Service Photograph Collection, and the rehousing of the entire collection of 60,000 photographs and accompanying materials. The following month, PHS was awarded a 2023 grant from the Pennsylvania Abolition Society Endowment Fund. The $1,800 grant, awarded to the Society’s African American Leaders and Congregations Collecting Initiative (AALC), will help fund the ongoing digitization of African American Presbyterian records. Since 2020, sixteen African American congregations have participated in the initiative’s offer to digitize up to 1200 pages of text at no cost.

During the joint meetings of the PHS Board and the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly, Records Manager Kyna Herzinger and Records Archivist David Staniunas drove from Louisville to Hopkinsville to rapidly appraise, pack, and ship records from the Presbytery of Western Kentucky. 

At left, material slated for recycling and for secure shredding; at right, permanent records arrive at the Presbyterian Center for shipping on to Philadelphia.

Executive Director Nancy J. Taylor, Director of Development Luci Duckson-Bramble, and David Staniunas travelled to the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex in early May. They delivered training for clerks of session and other keepers at Grace Presbytery, met friends at First Presbyterian Church (Dallas, Tex.)--and got to peek into their archives--and delivered a minute for mission about PHS at First Presbyterian Church (Fort Worth, Tex.). Immense thanks go out to our former board chair Ernie Higginbotham and current board member Joanna Kim for helping us develop our Texas connections.

Cynthia Shepard and Diana Bartelt of Hollis; Geri Taylor Brown, Barbara Thompson, and Rev. Eric Toodles of St. Albans.

In mid-May, David Staniunas drove to Queens to meet with and pick up records from three churches joining our African American Leaders and Congregations initiative: the Presbyterian Church of St. Albans, Hollis Presbyterian Church, and the First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica. Each church is receiving free digitization of about 1200 pages of their original session minutes and registers. You can listen to audio that features PHS Board member Michael Livingston from Hollis's 1982 anniversary celebration here. Anyone can help us extend our subsidized digitization by making a gift to AALC here.

In late June, Nancy J. Taylor and Luci Duckson-Bramble travelled Minnesota to co-host a presbytery-wide panel on LGBTQ inclusion in the church with Westminster Presbyterian Church (Minneapolis, Minn.). PHS Board member Tim Hoogland--relying on records from the PHS archive--presented on the life of David Sindt, a groudbreaking figure in the struggle for gay rights in the church. Nancy and Luci also led two presentations at House of Hope Presbyterian Church (St. Paul, Minn.). Thanks go out to all our Twin Cities people for their work organizing these events, especially Tim Hoogland and Westminster Presbyterian Church Pastor Tim Hart-Andersen.

Reference and Outreach Archivists Sonia Prescott and Jennifer Barr represented PHS at a meeting of the Presbytery of Donegal in May, and Sonia attended the National Black Presbyterian Caucus conference in June.

Beginning in May, we expanded our appointment calendar for a fourth day each week. From April through June we served 65 individual researchers in our reading room for a total of 179 visits. Staff did 477 retrievals for 799 items from the stacks. The month of May in particular outpaced some of our pre-pandemic levels of activity. We were pleased to welcome our 2023 research fellows, Ezer Roboam May May, Morgan Crago, and Dr. Kazimierz Bem, as well as Presbyterian Mission Agency colleague, Rev. Jermaine Ross-Allam from the Center for Repair of Historical Harms.

In June, we welcomed to the team Sade Trice, our new BKBB Archives Intern. Sade (Shar) recently graduated from the Community College of Philadelphia with an associate degree in English and an academic certificate in Creative Writing. In the fall, she will be attending Rutgers University in Camden. Previously, Shar previously held a work-study position in the archives at Holy Family University where she worked on digitization projects.

In the second quarter, staff responded to 472 remote inquiries about our collections and services, among them questions from 56 PC(USA) congregations. You can see all the congregations we've served this year by clicking here.

See all 110 PC(USA) congregations we've served in this map.

Stay tuned to learn about this summer's progress in preserving records of African American Presbyterian churches, responding to researcher inquiries, digitizing collections, and more!