Archival Adventures in Small Repositories

More Resources for Researchers: Subject Guide and Newspapers

Monday, 9/16/13

Within the past few months, Celia and I created two resources that we hope will assist researchers in locating archival collections that may be of use to them. Available now on HCI-PSAR's website, the Small Repositories Subject Guide and Newspaper listing are meant to provide succinct information about archival collections and materials held at many of the repositories that have participated in our project.

Finding aids to all small repository archival collections surveyed for our project are available at our finding aids website, hosted by the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries. The website, which includes finding aids to collections held at many of the large and small archival institutions in the Philadelphia area, is a great resource that allows for multi-faceted searching.

However, we thought that a more curated resource that would allow researchers to browse collections of potential interest would also prove very useful. Thus, we created a subject guide to highlight some of the more prominent archival collections that researchers can access at small repositories.

The topics, or subjects, currently included in the guide are: Arts and Culture; Business and Industry; Community and Social Services; Family and Personal Papers; Genealogy; Nature, Technology, and Medicine; Planning, Development, and Preservation; Politics and Governance; Race, Class, and Gender; Recreation and Travel; Wars and Military Service; and Women's History. Most of the topics are subdivided into sub-topics. For instance, Arts and Culture is subdivided into Visual Arts; Music and the performing arts; and Horticulture and landscape.

Each topic includes summary descriptions of several collections that document the topic in some way with links to full finding aids and repositories' websites. For example, below are a few collections listed under Business and Industry:

Railroads

Philadelphia, Germantown and Norristown Rail Road Company records, 1831-1981 (GHS.25)
Germantown Historical Society
80 linear feet
The Philadelphia, Germantown and Norristown Rail Road Company, one of the first railroads in the Philadelphia area, was incorporated in 1831 and liquidated in the late 1970s. The PG&N became part of the Reading Railroad system under lease in 1869 and became the Reading's primary entrance for passenger trains into Philadelphia. The Philadelphia, Germantown, and Norristown Rail Road Company records, 1831-1981, include executive business records, financial records, and stock records. There are also materials relating to property and depots owned by PG&N, and records from subsidiary and other rail companies.

Roberts Family Collection, 1677-1998 (LMHS.08)
Lower Merion Historical Society
6 linear feet
John Roberts was among the first settlers of Merion, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania in 1683. His descendants included civic leaders, a physician, a president of the Pennsylvania Railroad and a state senator; the businesses his family started included a model dairy farm and the Pencoyd Iron Works. The Roberts Family Collection, 1677-1998, includes indentures and deeds, maps, tax receipts, wills, correspondence, photograph albums and a daguerreotype, genealogical research, and diaries. The highlight of this collection is a series of private letter books of George Brooke Roberts (president of the Pennsylvania Railroad), 1833-1897.

Newspapers and media

Labyrinth records, 1983-1995 (JJW.SC.0010)
John J. Wilcox Jr. LGBT Archives of Philadelphia
5 linear feet
Labyrinth was a feminist newspaper published from 1984 to 2000. The Labyrinth records, 1983-1995, are comprised of administrative records, financial records, and correspondence.

Designed to facilitate and encourage research at small repositories, the subject guide is not comprehensive but should reveal the depth and breadth of resources available at small repositories. Collections and links to their full finding aids are being added on an ongoing basis, so check back frequently!

Since newspapers are published materials (as opposed to manuscripts), they are technically outside the scope of our project. Thus, during our site visits, we don't survey or catalog them in any detail. However, because newspapers are such a useful research tool for local historians, we've decided to host on our website a summary (non-comprehensive) centralized listing of local newspapers held by small repositories. The titles that are included are only local newspapers with a run of at least 5 years. Links to respositories' websites are provided so that researchers can contact the organizations directly for more information about the newspapers that are listed.

More newspapers will be added to this list on an ongoing basis as the our project continues. So, like with the subject guide, make sure to check back often!

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