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.

Inventors

Women's History

Military/War History

Charity/Philanthropy

  • 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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