The Presbyterian Historical Society serves as the repository for materials created by councils and agencies of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the antecedents of those councils and agencies, and related and ecumenical organizations; and for the personal papers of prominent Presbyterians. The creating body or its legal successor retains ownership of the records, with the exception of organization records and personal paper collections, which are legally owned by the society. The society created the following restrictions on public access to records in collaboration with the entities retaining ownership of those records.
The following records are open for research and may be photocopied unless, in the judgment of the reference staff, they are too fragile:
- Published materials
- Processed personal papers and organization records, unless specifically designated as restricted on the finding aid
- Processed official records of Presbyterian Church mid councils and congregations more than fifty years old
- Processed official records of Presbyterian Church national agencies more than twenty years old
- Official denomination records at the national level less than twenty years old
- Official denomination records at the congregation, presbytery, and synod level less than fifty years old
Restricted records are available to researchers only with the written permission of a representative of the body that owns the records. Contact names are available from the reference staff. It is the researcher's responsibility to obtain permission to use restricted records. Microfilm copies of these records are likewise restricted. When microfilm is available, it will be used rather than the original for preservation reasons.
The following records are not available to researchers:
- Microfilm master negatives
- Recommendation forms, in-service job evaluations, educational records, and medical and psychological forms found in the personnel files of living persons
- Unpublished Permanent Judicial Commission (PJC) case briefs less than fifty years old from the date the decision is certified by the PJC