PHS Staff Profile: Jenny Barr | Presbyterian Historical Society

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PHS Staff Profile: Jenny Barr

July 19, 2023
Jenny Barr with BKBB Intern Marcus Baldwin, 2019.

What is your role at PHS? What do you do from day-to-day?

I am a Reference and Outreach Archivist at PHS. A big part of my role in outreach is working with classes from the Community College of Philadelphia. We began working with CCP back in 2017, when students taking 19th Century US History came here to research primary sources in the collection. Since then, through our Building Knowledge, Breaking Barriers project, we’ve worked with students in religious studies, global history, African American history, Japanese history, architecture, social/political philosophy, fiction writing, and poetry. With a little creativity and consultation with instructors, the PHS archives can support an incredibly wide range of subjects. 

I work with instructors to identify documents in our collections that illustrate the themes and topics of their courses. I help facilitate class visits, and work with students as they grapple with unfamiliar language and formats. And I work with student interns from CCP on projects customized to their academic interests and professional goals. 

How does your work support the mission of PHS?

Our work with CCP is a great example of how we use our collections and our professional knowledge to positively impact our Philadelphia community. Students learn that historical collections like ours are available to them, not just for their current research projects, but to support them as members of the community. We introduce interns to the wonderful world of archives and special collection libraries and give them a sense of what the day-to-day job involves. My hope is that some of the folks who spend time at PHS will fall in love with the work they do here and choose to pursue careers as librarians, archivists, or historians. 

Why do you love working at PHS?

I love that my job provides such variety. It’s perfect for someone with a short attention span! Seeing students respond to the collections here is a great reminder of how lucky I am to work with such interesting material. Also, I get to use a magnifying glass at work, and I find that very cool.

What do you find most inspiring about PHS?

I am inspired by the creativity and drive that my colleagues bring to the work they do. From collecting initiatives like the African American Leaders and Congregations Collecting Initiative and the Pam Byers Memorial Collection, to the project to digitize 22,500 images from the Religious News Service Photograph Collection, there’s a ton of great work going on at PHS.  

Please share an interesting/fun fact about yourself.

Not exactly about me… my grandfather was friends with Dr. Seuss. One of the characters in the 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins is named after him (the badly behaved Grand Duke Wilfred).