Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories

The Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR) is a project of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Its goal is to make better known and more accessible the largely hidden archival collections of the many small, primarily volunteer-run historical organizations in the Philadelphia region, such as local historical societies, historic sites, and small museums with archival collections.

Private, non-profit organizations with a history-based mission that do not employ a full-time, professionally trained archivist and that have archival collections that are available to the public are eligible for inclusion in the project. It is estimated that there are hundreds of such small archival repositories in the Philadelphia region, holding thousands of individual collections documenting a wide range of topics and geographic areas.

Project staff identify all small archival repositories in the region, survey and assess their archival collections, and create summary finding aids to these collections. The finding aids are made publicly accessible in an online searchable database developed by the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries (PACSCL). In this single online location researchers can search collections held at a wide range of Philadelphia-area archival repositories, from the smallest all-volunteer organizations to the largest professional institutions.

Project staff also serve as a resource for area small repositories, providing them with information on their collections as well as advice on issues of archival management and collections stewardship.

HCI-PSAR is a multi-phase project that began in 2011. During Phase I (July 2011 to September 2012), project staff visited 47 small repositories in Philadelphia and Montgomery counties and surveyed and assessed 541 individual archival collections totaling more than 4,600 linear feet of materials. Finding aids to these collections are currently available on the PACSCL finding aid website. There is also an interactive map showing locations of the repositories visited.

Phase II began in October 2012 and will conclude in the fall 2014. It focuses on the three remaining Philadelphia-area counties—Bucks, Chester, and Delaware—as well as any un-surveyed repositories in Philadelphia and Montgomery counties. Through March 31, 2014, 972 collections in 108 repositories had been surveyed, totaling over 11,800 linear feet of materials. HSP anticipates that well over 1,000 collections in some 125-130 repositories will have been surveyed by the end of Phase II in October 2014.

Project staff highlight interesting repositories visited and important collections uncovered on the project's Archival Adventures in Small Repositories blog, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.