Our Work In The Archives, Fourth Quarter 2022 | Presbyterian Historical Society

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Our Work In The Archives, Fourth Quarter 2022

January 31, 2023

Your archives workers had a productive end of the year in 2022! Let's learn more about how PHS staff served our constituents.

We had 61 research visits in the quarter from 14 different U.S. states as well as Canada, Japan, and South Korea. We did 245 retrievals from our collection, providing access to more than 380 boxes, books, microfilm reels, and other items. 

Combining in-person researchers and remote users, staff responded to 441 inquiries about our holdings. Many of the questions concerned genealogy, minister and missionary biographical information, baptismal and marriage records, and our records management services for Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) entities. Among topics of note, we hosted a repeat visitor, Ira Dworkin, who’s writing on Henry Highland Garnet and New York’s Shiloh Presbyterian Church, and we hosted a researcher looking into Presbyterian attitudes toward aging. 

Henry Highland Garnet, undated. [Pearl ID: islandora:7098].

For the year, we fielded 2,081 reference questions, including 596 inquiries from PC(USA) national agencies, ministers, mid councils, or other bodies. These included 266 questions from 218 PC(USA) congregations. You can see that geographic spread in this map:

In the fourth quarter, we brought in 65 groups of records for 98.77 cubic feet. The vast majority were the original records of 14 active and 24 dissolved congregations, for more than 65 cubic feet. The single largest group was from Eastminster Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh--part of our journey there in late September involved bringing back records.

Overall in 2022 we added 208 groups of records from historic and active congregations, for 314.82 cubic feet. That accounts for 53% of all new incoming collections. Fuelled by our collection development work, we brought in an abnormally large 73 groups of personal papers for 112.38 feet, about a third more than an ordinary year. 

For the year, we completed six new records groups of 86.75 feet, out of unprocessed groups that originally took up more than 100 feet of space, easing digitization and handling by researchers. At the tail end of the year, Processing Archivist Nick Skaggs completed the personal papers of Jim and Melva Costen. The records of Jim, moderator of the UPCUSA upon reunion with the PCUS, and Melva, scholar of Black worship and music, are a significant addition to our African American Leaders and Congregations collecting initiative (AALC).  

Pamphlet advertising James (Jim) Costen's candidacy for moderator of the 194th General Assembly. [Pearl ID: islandora:300321].

We continue to image the original records of historically Black Presbyterian churches at no cost, as part of AALC. During the quarter, we completed imaging for Oak Grove Presbyterian Church (Amelia, Va.), a congregation organized in 1881 with support of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. Board of Missions for Freedmen. African American churches are still encouraged to send records in for imaging. Over the course of 2022, via AALC, we imaged four other churches’ records at no cost: Westminster Presbyterian Church (Los Angeles, Calif.), Capital Presbyterian Church (Harrisburg, Pa.), Siloam-Hope Presbyterian Church (Elizabeth, N.J.), and St. John's Presbyterian Church (Detroit, Mich.). Email David Staniunas with more questions.


The first 25 pages of the session minutes of the Westminter Presbyterian Church (Los Angeles, Calif.). Pearl ID: islandora:280940

Overall in the fourth quarter Amalia Cottrell, Ky Evans, and Allison Davis scanned and quality-controlled more than 9,600 pages of text and images; for the year the digitization team imaged more than 68,000 pages, completing jobs for 25 PC(USA) congregations in total.

PHS staff remotely visited the presbyteries of St. Augustine and Whitewater Valley, and the Synod of Lakes and Prairies in the third quarter. For the year, we made 26 appearances at 21 presbyteries and synods, spreading the word about new kinds of work at PHS.

Our executive director, Nancy Taylor, and our director of development, Luci Duckson-Bramble, visited Atlanta in November, where, among other things, they helped introduce Dr. William Yoo at a presentation on his book What Kind of Christianity?.

Thanks to all of our users inside and outside the PC(USA), who rely on us and in turn support our work. Stay tuned for news of our work in the first quarter of 2023!