Archival Adventures in Small Repositories

The goal of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's "Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories" (HCI-PSAR) is to make better known and more accessible the important but often hidden archival collections held by the many small, primarily volunteer-run historical organizations in the Philadelphia area. The project is funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This blog will document the adventures and experiences of Project Surveyors as they visit historical societies, museums, historic sites, and other small archival repositories in the five-county Philadelphia area.

 

 

8/1/12
Author: Celia Caust-Ellenbogen

Imagine a private home bigger than the White House. Now imagine it outfitted with machine guns trained on proletariat-uprisers, and now trained on Nazi art thieves. Now imagine it transformed into laboratories... If you're having trouble picturing all that, visit the Springfield Township Historical Society to see their extensive collection on Whitemarsh Hall!

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7/25/12
Author: Celia Caust-Ellenbogen

A lot has changed in 225 years, but some things have stayed the same. When the squat building nestled in a corner of the St. James' Episcopal Church cemetery was built in 1788, it was a schoolhouse for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. Today, it is still a space dedicated to teaching--but now, as the St. James' Community History Center, the focus is history.

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7/18/12
Author: Celia Caust-Ellenbogen

Philadelphia Sketch Club, America's oldest continuously-operating club for artists, was founded in 1860. That means 150 years of accumulated art, artifacts, and archival materials!

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7/11/12
Author: Michael Gubicza

Before our visit to the Eastern State Penitentiary I was a little nervous about entering the imposing building. What would it be like locked inside? It turns out, quite pleasant. The folks there have done amazing work restoring the site, and their archives are quite unique.

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7/4/12
Author: Celia Caust-Ellenbogen

Globe-trotting cultural ambassadors to South America. Documentary filmmakers. Founders of the Philamigos Institute of Learning in Philadelphia. Meet James A. Caulfield, artist and gay veteran of WWII, and his partner, Cuban-born linguist and University of Pennsylvania professor Dr. Rafael A. Suarez.

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6/27/12
Author: Celia Caust-Ellenbogen

Have you ever been driving on the Schuylkill Expressway (I-76) and gotten stuck in traffic at the Conshohocken Curve? If you live in or near Philadelphia, the answer is probably yes. If you live in or near Philadelphia and are above the age of 40, I'll ask the same question a different way: Have you ever gotten stuck in traffic around the Lee Tire Curve? The bend in the highway used to be nicknamed after the old Lee Tire Factory, a landmark until the factory closed in 1980 and the building was re-purposed for office space. To learn more about the history of the Lee Tire & Rubber Company, get off the highway and drive to the Conshohocken Historical Society!

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6/20/12
Author: Celia Caust-Ellenbogen

I don't know about you, but I was pretty excited when the National Archives launched the 1940 Census website a few months ago. Census records are an amazing research tool, especially for genealogy. If only the census happened more frequently than just once per decade! Luckily, savvy researchers know a trick: one of the best ways to learn about those census-free years is from tax records. If you happen to be researching Lower Pottsgrove township in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, and want to fill in the gaps around the newly-released 1940 census, you're in luck--head over to the Lower Pottsgrove Historical Society and check out the Wilson D. Puhl tax collection records, 1934-1942!

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6/13/12
Author: Michael Gubicza

 

The history of firefighting in Philadelphia began with an all volunteer fire company in 1736, The Union Fire Company, which was formed by Benjamin Franklin. Along with many other volunteer companies throughout the city these men fought the fires of Philadelphia for over 100 years. In 1870 the city passed an ordinance creating the professional fire department which still exists today.

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6/6/12
Author: Celia Caust-Ellenbogen

The 103rd Engineer Battalion of the Pennsylvania National Guard--nicknamed the "Dandy First"--is the oldest continuously-serving military unit in Pennsylvania, and one of fewer than ten organizations whose lineage goes back to before 1747 (as verified by the Center for Military History). Did you know that a museum dedicated to the lineage of this storied regiment is housed in the old armory building on the campus of Drexel University? I certainly had no idea until I was sent to survey their archival collection. I felt like I was the "Dandy First" person to visit!

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5/30/12
Author: Celia Caust-Ellenbogen

There was a group in the town of Lim'rick,

Who collected papers most historic.

We surveyed their archives,

They showed us a great time;

Their set of school records is my fav. pick!

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