Archival Adventures in Small Repositories

Small Repository Research Subject Guide

Wednesday, 8/29/12

Are you looking for sources on your historical research topic, but desire a fresh alternative to the well-trodden archival canon? Try a small repository!

On the Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories, we have discovered some incredible underutilized--or altogether untapped--archival resources in the Philadelphia area. In this blog post, I'll highlight a few collections that present strong research potential. The list is not meant to be exhaustive, but just points out some noteworthy resources in Philadelphia and Montgomery counties.


Women's History

Military/War History


  • Germantown Historical Society: Germantown Relief Society records, 1873-1953, 2.5 linear feet -- Records of the first US group to organize and coordinate charitable work
  • Wissahickon Valley Historical Society: Amchem Products, Inc. records, 1925-1986, 7.5 linear feet -- The founder of this company's paid off all his employees debts as their Christmas bonus in 1936
  • Eastern State Penitentiary: State Penitentiary for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania records, circa 1830-1970, 31 linear feet -- The Quakers who founded this historic prison thought they were helping inmates become penitent

Art and artists

  • Philadelphia Sketch Club: Philadelphia Sketch Club records, 1860-2012, 54 linear feet -- Records of America's oldest club for artists
  • Mummers Museum: Robert H. Finnigan costume sketches, circa 1966-1978, 2.25 linear feet -- Beautifully rendered sketches of costumes for Philadelphia's unique New Year's parade tradition
  • Old York Road Historical Society: Russell Smith family papers, 6 linear feet -- Russell Smith (1812-1896) was a landscape painter who became a prominent theater curtain painter, and his son Xanthus (1839-1929) was known for his Civil War naval battle scenes


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