PHS Will Develop RNS Exhibit | Presbyterian Historical Society

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PHS Will Develop RNS Exhibit

April 4, 2024

PHS Will Develop RNS Exhibit With Support from Lilly Endowment Grant

The Presbyterian Historical Society (PHS) will use a $94,750 grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to develop a traveling exhibit of photographs from its Religious News Service Collection.  

The planning grant will fund the design and fabrication of an exhibit prototype that explores how the Religious News Service covered the interplay of religion, domestic politics, and foreign affairs from 1936 to 1983.  

PHS is home to over 60,000 photographs of the Religious News Service Collection. Founded in 1934, the news service was an independent, nonprofit affiliate of the National Conference of Christians and Jews. From the start, it was dedicated to providing fair, balanced, nonsectarian news about religion to the secular and religious press. In 1993, the service was acquired by the United Methodist Reporter and continued to operate as an independent news agency. In 1994, Newhouse News Service, a major publisher of daily newspapers and magazines, purchased the service and changed its name to Religion News Service (RNS). RNS continues today as a non-profit news organization operated by the Religion News Foundation.

New York City students boycott schools. February 3, 1964. [Islandora:353847]

The Religious News Service Collection reflects a diverse array of faith traditions and community experiences in the United States and around the world. Spanning nearly 50 years, the collection offers insights into the interplay between religion and politics and documents pivotal historic events, including the global efforts to rebuild after World War II, the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, and demonstrations and conflicts over abortion, nuclear proliferation, presidential elections, and the conflict in Northern Ireland.  

The grant supporting this PHS project was made to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) and is part of Lilly Endowment’s Religion and Cultural Institutions Initiative, a national effort to support projects that help museums, historical associations and other cultural institutions strengthen the public understanding of religion. 

Lilly Endowment planning grant funds will enable PHS to engage with exhibit designers, exhibit interpreters, educators, and historical and journalism advisors, including from RNS, to develop the exhibit prototype that will be displayed at the RNS 90th anniversary event, to be held in September 2024. 

In 2023, the National Endowment for the Humanities awarded PHS a Humanities Collections and Reference Resources Implementation grant to digitize 22,500 images, newspaper clippings, and related documents from the Religious News Service Collection. These images—which will be added to Pearl Digital Collections through 2025—will help guide exhibit designers through the project. 

PHS hopes the prototype exhibit can serve as a template to develop larger traveling exhibits that will tell the story of religion news reporting in the 20th century.  Images and documents from the Religious News Service Collection will be used to develop the exhibits that will be displayed across the country at large museums and smaller academic institutions, churches, and other religious centers across faith communities in furtherance of the original mission of the news service: to increase understanding, appreciation, and fellowship across religions and the secular world. 

Learn more about the Religious News Service Photograph Collection.