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Personal and Family Papers

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. The society’s collection of personal papers reflects the lives of individuals who provided a unique service to the church--with an emphasis on mission and ecumenical work. 

Materials we accept

Documentation of people’s work and ministry can take any form. Among the genres and formats of personal and family papers that we accept are:

  • correspondence
  • diaries and journals
  • sermons and essays
  • photographs and slides
  • scrapbooks 
  • motion pictures
  • audio and video recordings

The PHS Collecting Policy provides a detailed description of our collecting scope. 

Highly desired archival materials  

The Presbyterian Historical Society 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. To this end, the society is particularly interested in collecting stories from groups traditionally under-represented and marginalized within the Church, such as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color), Latinx/Hispanic, Korean, and LGBTQIA+ Presbyterian communities and individuals.  

Of particular interest are:

  • Papers and records documenting Black, Latinx/Hispanic, Native, and Korean leaders and congregations and members of diaspora communities in the United States. 
  • Papers and records documenting the movement for full LGBTQIA+ inclusion in the PC(USA) and its predecessor denominations. 
  • 20th-century mission coworkers’ papers and records covering Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. 
  • Papers and records of individuals, families, and grassroots Presbyterian organizations at work on immigration advocacy, environmental justice, and racial and social justice issues, including peacemaking and defense of our unhoused neighbors.

Guidelines for potential and current donors

If you or a friend or family member has created or is in possession of material that matches some of the criteria above, consider donating it to PHS. Contact us at [email protected] and include the following information:

  1. Tell us a little about the context of the records’ creation and the life and ministry of the individual/family who made the records.
  2. Provide a brief description of the material itself, outlining the genres/formats included, the approximate date ranges, and the approximate size/extent of the physical collection.

We will then work with you to select records of permanent value from the whole group and provide guidance on preparing the content for shipping. 

Personal papers are donated through a deed of gift to the society, and the society retains ownership of the materials, subject to any provisions stipulated in the deed of gift.

Please note that the society cannot provide a monetary appraisal of your donation.