The Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies opened its doors to the public in 1976, the year our nation celebrated its bicentennial birthday. The Institute has its roots in the generosity of Emily Swift Balch, 1835-1917, whose will stipulated that the family estate should be used to establish a library in the Philadelphia area if her sons died without heirs. In accordance with her wishes the library was to be named for the family whose ancestor, John Balch, arrived in America from Somerset, England, in 1658. As of January 2002, the Balch has merged with the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
While the former Balch Building at 18 S. 7th Street was sold in early October 2004, the mission and collections of the Balch have been fully integrated into HSP. Materials stemming from the Balch and Balch collections, or relevant to the ethnic and immigrant experience, can be found throughout this site.