Our Work in the Archives: First Quarter 2024 | Presbyterian Historical Society

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Our Work in the Archives: First Quarter 2024

May 8, 2024
Eunice Blanchard Poethig at the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Presbytery of Western New York Leader Training, circa 1990. Pearl ID: islandora:356168 [RG 545, Box 40, Folder 10]
The first quarter of 2024 flew by! Here’s an update on the impressive work the PHS archives staff have been doing so far this year.

Our 52 in-person researchers spent 88 days in the reading room and visited from 12 different states as well as Japan, South Korea, and France.  Several researchers focused on the history of various foreign mission fields (China, Korea, Gabon, and Persia/Iran), and we assisted staff from the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. as they prepare for the organization’s 75th anniversary next year. PHS staff retrieved 425 collection items for researchers and made 1,706 photocopies. 

Staff responded to 658 reference questions, on broad historical topics (90), genealogy (82), congregational history (78), and mission history (74). In addition to the 341 inquiries made by the general public, we received questions from 90 PC(USA) congregations. 88 students and professors, 48 institutions (including 9 seminaries or Presbyterian-affiliated organizations), 37 PC(USA) ministers or church members, and 27 PC(USA) synods and presbyteries. See all the PC(USA) congregations we've served so far this year on this map

Staff fielded 303 service requests, including 85 attestations, 45 digitization requests, 37 transcript and education verifications, and 22 Genealogy Record Search and Biographical Research requests.

The digitization team scanned 11,588 images, including 3,311 images for the NEH-funded Religious News Service Digitization Project, growing the Religious News Service Photograph Digital Collection by an additional 2,577 new records.

New York students boycott schools, February 3, 1964. RNS-RG1_PC-30564

We are grateful to our African American Leaders and Congregations Initiative (AALC) donors for supporting the digitization of select records of Lombard Central Presbyterian Church (Philadelphia, Pa.), Second Presbyterian Church (West Chester, Pa.), Goodwill Presbyterian Church (Mayesville, S.C.), and Edisto Presbyterian Church (Edisto Island, S.C.). An additional grant from the Pennsylvania Abolition Society funded digitization of church records of two Philadelphia churches: Berean Presbyterian Church and Reeve Memorial Presbyterian Church.

The More Light Presbyterians (MLP) Records arrived at PHS in March; the long-awaited transfer from Rutgers University, and the latest addition to the Pam Byers Memorial Collection. These 40 cubic feet of records document the first 30 years of the organization, from 1974 to 2003, and include works by Janie Spahr, Chris Glaser, Michael Adee, and others. The records also document MLP’s presence at General Assemblies, including the protest at Long Beach in 2000, and intimate reflections on LGBTQ inclusion and exclusion in the PC(USA). 

Processing Archivist Nick Skaggs finished work on the Poethig family papers (RG 545). This 46 cubic foot collection chiefly covers Richard Poethig's work in the field of urban and industrial mission, Eunice and Richard Poethig’s work as missionaries in the Philippines, and other professional and personal endeavors of the Poethig family. The materials are primarily in English with several items in Chinese, German, Finnish, Japanese, Korean, Tagalog, and Thai.  

Records waiting to be added to the PHS collections. March 2024.

Cataloging and Metadata Librarian Elaine Shilstut and Archives Technician Maura Weil cataloged 383 new monograph and serial titles, which are now findable in WorldCat

Records Archivist David Staniunas brought in and accessioned 97.51 cubic feet of records in 67 groups, among them 28.23 cubic feet from 14 active and 19 dissolved PC(USA) congregations. 

In February, David travelled to South Carolina to attend a celebration of the lives of Franklin Colclough and Carnell Hampton. He attended worship at Goodwill Presbyterian Church (Mayesville, S.C.), brought records from Goodwill for imaging and deposit back to Philadelphia, and the night before the event took an oral history with Richard Dozier of Columbia, S.C. 

In March, David went to Texas at the invitation of the Presbyterian Historical Society of the Southwest (PHSSW), meeting at First Presbyterian Church (Galveston, Tex.). On the way to Galveston, he spent time in Houston gathering records from the Presbytery of New Covenant, and training clerks of session in an event set up by our COGA liaison Lynn Hargrove. Alongside PHSSW he took an oral history with Perryn Rice of Lake Highlands Presbyterian Church (Dallas, Tex.).

Also in March, Reference and Outreach Archivists Jenny Barr and Sonia Prescott visited Professor Nick Molnar’s Community College of Philadelphia Global History from 1500 class to provide an overview of the PHS, archives, and primary source research.

Finally, on March 21, we debuted a traveling exhibition, Assyrians from Persia (Iran) to the United States, 1887-1923: Assyrian Education, American Missionaries, and the Search for a Home alongside a lecture event featuring Fordham Professor Hooman Estelami, Assyrians from Persia (Iran) to the United States, 1887-1923.

We are looking forward to sharing exciting updates with you this summer, including on our exciting new Lilly Endowment Inc.-funded project to develop a traveling exhibit of photographs from the Religious News Service Collection.