The PCA Historical Center is blessed today with the accession of about seven volumes of a periodical titled The Church at Home and Abroad. This was a PCUSA journal covering both home and foreign missions, and the issues received cover all but four years of the 1887-1898 run of this journal.
But why is the PCA Historical Center gathering old PCUSA publications?
The most direct way of answering that question is to give you an overview of the holdings here at the PCA Historical Center, which can be broken down into four basic groups:
I. Organizational Records – Records of the PCA and its agencies, plus the records of five other conservative Presbyterian denominations. To list these:
- Presbyterian Church in America [1973-ongoing]
- Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod [1965-1982]
- Evangelical Presbyterian Church [1961-1065], formerly the Bible Presbyterian Church, Columbus Synod [1956-1961]
- Bible Presbyterian Church, 1938-1956
- Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod [1833-1965]
- Covenant Presbytery [1971-1984]
II. Manuscript Collections – The papers of over one hundred forty people connected with the above denominations. These collections typically include correspondence, published and unpublished writings, as well as materials representative of each person’s involvement with the Church.
III. Congregational Histories – Published and unpublished history materials for over 700 local churches, most of which are affiliated with the PCA.
IV. The Research Library – At present this is a modest library, with a goal of collecting titles in all aspects of American Presbyterianism. The purpose of this library is to provide the larger context or setting for the archival collections housed here at the Historical Center. Library holdings currently total about 5000 volumes, and work is underway to better manage these holdings, by building a database or “online public access catalog” (OPAC for short). As we continue to build the research library as an aspect of our larger Collection, we have more resources with which to serve our patrons, and it is here where these issues of The Church at Home and Abroad fit in to the larger scheme of things.
Archives don’t just preserve materials. If all an archives did was to house materials away such that no one ever utilized them, what would be the point of that? Physical control or acquisition of documents and then their preservation in a closely monitored environment—these are just the first steps in the work of any archives. The real work or purpose of an archives is to then make that material accessible to the public. Intellectual control of those same documents involves knowing what you have on the shelves and being able to provide patrons with access to that material. This is where the Internet has been such a helpful tool for archives, in publicizing their holdings. Finding aids, or indexes, are prepared for each collection as it is processed, and these finding aids are then posted to the Historical Center’s web site.
In a similar way, the Center’s research library needed a convenient management tool, and an online public access catalog was the obvious way to accomplish this goal. Most OPAC software is expensive, but I was able to locate an open source, free software which seems to have the needed features. Since February of this year, I’ve slowly been building the database for the OPAC, and now have over 1250 entries, or about 25% of the research library’s current holdings. For a sneak peak at the OPAC, click here. As an added bonus on the OPAC web page, note too that there are links at the bottom of the page for indexes to various 19th- and 20th-century periodicals. It’s unlikely that I will compile a similar index for The Church at Home and Abroad, but it is, nonetheless, a blessing to have this added resource available for all who use the Historical Center.