Even before the merger with the Balch Institute, the Historical Society had significant holdings related to ethnic and immigrant history, particularly regarding African Americans, Germans, and Native Americans in Pennsylvania. These materials are now joined with those of the Balch Institute, which set out to document all ethnic groups in the United States.
As part of the New Immigrants Initiative, an ongoing Balch Institute project, HSP plans to expand its documentation of Arab, African, Latino, Southeast Asian, and Korean immigrant communities in the greater Philadelphia area.
Ethnic history materials at the Historical Society include:
- hundreds of ethnic newspapers and other serials in hardcopy or on microfilm
- records and publications of ethnically based fraternal organizations, service agencies, cultural projects, media organs, and religious congregations
- immigrant families’ letters, diaries, photographs, and scrapbooks
- ethnically based businesses’ financial records, correspondence, and advertising
- literature, art, and music of many different ethnic and immigrant communities
- advocacy groups’ legal, civic, and organizational records
- published materials such as biographies, travel accounts, phrasebooks, political pamphlets, government reports, and family histories
- research files from scholars studying specific communities
- analyses of U.S. society and culture focusing on ethnicity, migration, racism and race relations, cultural transformation, and transnational identities
- photographs, prints, and drawings documenting many ethnic groups
- posters and broadsides that present ethnic images and stereotypes
- published and unpublished materials regarding ethnic persecution and resistance.