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 Philadelphia and Montgomery counties.

 

 

4/18/12
Author: Celia Caust-Ellenbogen

Who was Henry Vanderslice? To learn more about the Berks County surveyor, sheriff, and Revolutionary War wagonmaster, you could read a published transcription of his 1777-1778 diary. Or you could head to the Historical Society of Trappe, Collegeville, Perkiomen Valley to view his recently discovered 1777-1780 diary!

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4/11/12
Author: Michael Gubicza

The sport of rowing in Philadelphia has a long and venerable history. The gentlemen of our city would take to the water to compete for distinction and bragging rights. With the damming of the Schuylkill River, which was completed in 1821, the sport grew in size and structure in ways that these genteel men could not have imagined.

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4/4/12
Author: Celia Caust-Ellenbogen

This blog post is a tribute to all the list-makers and note-takers, the compulsive diarists and scrapbookers, the newspaper-clippers and document-abstracters whose profligate personal papers fill the shelves of historical societies everywhere. This is a tribute to Edwin C. Jellett. Among his papers at the Germantown Historical Society is the following 1893 document: "How I kept House on $2.37 per week, or an experience of 68 days at experimental Housekeeping, by Edwin C. Jellett."

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3/28/12
Author: Celia Caust-Ellenbogen

Our survey rate varies somewhat depending on the archives, but the Swedish Museum took a lot longer than most. Not that we minded -- the Swedish Museum is a great place to spend a day, or three! But it taught us a few lessons about what factors lead to a slower rate of surveying. As it turns out, a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing...

Topics: Ethnic history
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3/21/12
Author: Michael Gubicza

The Mummers Parade has been a cultural institution for Philadelphians since 1901. The tradition itself dates back even further, to the late 17th century. It started as a way of ushering in the New Year with masquerades and noise making, and has grown to an organized parade of elaborate costumes, dancing, and live music. The Mummers of today number over 20,000, and the parade attendees number over 125,000. 

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3/14/12
Author: Celia Caust-Ellenbogen

If you read my blog post about Old York Road Historical Society, you already know that the "small" in "Small Repositories Project" is somewhat variable. The Historical Society of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania is even bigger than Old York Road! Usually in these blog posts I focus on one particular collection or story, but there are so many extraordinary collections at MontCo, I was loath to choose just one. Here is a small sampling of a few of my favorites:

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3/7/12
Author: Celia Caust-Ellenbogen

Bridesburg is a small neighborhood in northeastern Philadelphia, but it's a well-documented one thanks to the prolific efforts of photographer William H. Sliker and his son Charles. In the first decades of the 20th century, the Slikers traveled on a regular circuit through northeast Philadelphia. They advertised their services to local residents, who rushed to have their pictures taken while the photographers were in town. Then, the Slikers brought the negatives home to their Bridesburg studio to be developed.

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2/29/12
Author: Celia Caust-Ellenbogen

It didn't take us long, working on the "Small Repository Project," to realize that there are small repositories and there are small repositories. The Old York Road Historical Society, comparatively speaking, is not such a small repository. On one hand, they do fit our profile for a small repository: no full-time, professionally-trained archivist on-staff; annual operating budget under our cut-off; primary purpose dedicated to history.

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2/22/12
Author: Celia Caust-Ellenbogen

Housekeeper. Society wife. Globe-trotting collector of museum artifacts. Meet Mary Ann [Reed] Ryerss [Brawn], who was instrumental in the founding of the Ryerss Museum and Library in Northeast Philadelphia.

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2/15/12
Author: Michael Gubicza

You may have heard of the famous talking television horse, Mr. Ed, but have you ever heard of the war veteran horse named Old Baldy? 

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