Pearl Digital Archives: 2018 Highlights
Many of the exciting new initiatives the Presbyterian Historical Society launched in 2018 are reflected in Pearl, the Society's home for digitized and born-digital collections. Pearl provides researchers online access to a rapidly growing repository of images, publications, audio, and video content. In 2018, 2,400 items were added.
Oral history content is one of the PHS initiatives that picked up digital steam in 2018. Staff traveled across the country to interview prominent Presbyterians and collect stories that fill gaps in the holdings of the national archives of the PC(USA). Recent interviewees include Robert E. Wilson, vice-moderator of the 217th PC(USA) General Assembly; Jerry Andrews, a Presbyterian minister who was an organizer and moderator of conservative Presbyterian groups; Barbara Wheeler, Presbyterian theological educator and advocate for ordination and marriage equality; and Jack Haberer, moderator of the PC(USA) Theological Task Force on Peace, Unity, and Purity and an organizer of the Presbyterian Coalition. A new Oral Histories Collection was launched this year to provide better access to this content and to enable users to view synchronized audio and text transcripts of interviews, as well as download copies of interview transcripts.
In March, PHS migrated its web archives into Pearl to provide better access to the websites the Society captures and collectes through Archive-It. PHS originally launched the web archives in 2013 to collect national, synod, presbytery, and related ecumenical web sites. This year it expanded the initiative to include web sites and social media of current Presbyterian missionaries and LGBTQIA+ advocates.
In May, staff visited Puerto Rico as part of PHS's first collecting and outreach trip to the island. This was the beginning of an effort to collect, digitize, and provide access to the history of church work in Puerto Rico via the new Presbyterians in Puerto Rico collection. The digital collection currently includes over 500 images, videos, and audio recordings documenting life in Puerto Rico from 1899 to the 1980s.
In October, PHS announced the Pam Byers Memorial Collecting Initiative to collect, preserve, and share the records and oral histories related to the movement to enable ordination and marriage rites for LGBTQIA+ Presbyterians. The LGBTQIA+ history digital collection was launched to provide access to Presbyterian national agency records, personal papers, photographs, websites, and oral histories--some mentioned above--from across the theological spectrum.
As 2018 quickly comes to an end, PHS staff is especially excited about launching an NEH-funded pilot project to digitize select images from the Religious News Service Photograph collection. In 2019, the Society will add approximately 500 new images documenting historical events from the 1940s through the 1980s to the current Religion News Service collection in Pearl.
As you can see, read, and hear, the Society has added great new digital collections in 2018. Oral histories, web archives, materials from LGBTQIA+ history--these are just some of the new item types that can be explored via Pearl from anywhere in the world. As the national archives of the PC(USA) rolls out new collecting initiatives in 2019, look for even more items that document Presbyterianism and its intersection with other faith traditions and social movements.