When "small" means anything but
One of our volunteers, Bryan Shinehouse, recently completed an inventory of our Society Small collection (#22B). Now, perhaps you’re thinking “Society Small”? How is that even a collection title? Well, at HSP it’s actually a very important title, and we have several others that are similar: Society photograph collection (#V59), Society Print collection (#V89), Society Miscellaneous collection (#425), to name just a few. What these collections have in common is that they are HSP's artificial collections---they are made up of a variety of donations of individual and small groups of items that were culled together by HSP staff members over the years. At some point in the distant past, staff began referring to these collections as the “Society” collections (maybe to distinguish them from HSP’s other large artificial collections from different creators?), and the name stuck. Almost all of the “Society” collections are cataloged to the item level in our card catalog, but with the help of staff and volunteers, we’ve had chance to make a few basic inventories available online. When the discussion arose as to what to call them in theses inventories, we decided to stick with the colloquial title because they are just so prevalent in-house. So as a patron at HSP, you will find cards from and may hear talk of the “Society Print collection”, but not the “Historical Society of Pennsylvania print collection” (it’s full, official, DACS-compliant title.)
But back to the Society Small collection, the title of which has nothing to with size…sort of. Rather than referring to the number of boxes or the actual linear footage of the collection, “small” refers to the materials within.
In sticking with the artificial collections-theme, this collection is generally made up of individual donations of small groups of materials, but some of the collections were removed from our large Society autograph collection (#22A). The groups range from a few documents to several folders of papers, and are arranged alphabetically by individual, family, creator, or subject. While the types of papers with each small collection vary, the collection contains correspondence, legal documents, drawings, news clippings, photographs and printed material, as well as Photostats, photocopies and typescripts of original manuscripts. The documents below are from Box 41, which contains papers from various members of the Wharton family, as well as a few folders of papers from Bishop William White.
HSP no longer adds material to the Society Small collection. And though, as a whole, the collection may seem to be little more than a miscellaneous assortment of stuff, many of the documents within are unique and can't be found anywhere else in our collections.
The finding aid for the Society small collection is available both online and on paper in HSP's library.