Frequently Asked Questions

What is the PCA Historical Center?
The Historical Center of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) is the official archive of the PCA and thus our first duty is to collect and preserve the records of this denomination. But we also house the records of four other biblically-conservative Presbyterian denominations, as well as the manuscript collections of over sixty-five individuals related to these four Churches. From this foundation of collections, we see our larger task as one of preserving the story of the conservative Presbyterian movement of the 20th and 21st centuries. See our Collection Index for more details.

What types of materials does the PCA Historical Center collect?
All types of materials relevant to the history of conservative Presbyterian churches, at local, presbytery and denominational levels. These materials range across all format types: paper, audio and video tape productions, photographs, and even electronic format materials.

Do you want donations of more items? What sort of materials are you looking for?
Yes, we are always looking to add to our collections. For one, we are always pleased to receive additions to existing collections, and we are particularly anxious to add new collections which will help us to better document the story of the conservative Presbyterian movement of the 20th and 21st centuries.

When are you going to put all of these documents on the web?
Figures are difficult to calculate, but we estimate that there are over 1.5 million documents housed here in the Historical Center. It simply is beyond our means to digitize the entire collection and post electronic forms of all of these documents. We are working to post representative samples of documents within each of the collections. As always, researchers are encouraged to write and request copies of needed materials.

Are photocopies of documents available?
Yes, you may order photocopies of most documents. The items that are typically under restriction are Session Minutes and Presbytery Minutes, as well as a small percentage of a few other collections. When you contact the Historical Center's staff to place an order for photocopies, the first thing we will do is to confirm the availability of those materials, exactly how many pages will be included in your order, and the total price of that order. Our current fee for photocopies is 25 cents per single-sided, 8.5" x 11" page. Most photographs may also be copied, either in electronic form or as prints. Please contact the Center's staff for quotes on specific photographs.

Is this site searchable?
Yes, a search engine is provided as a part of this site. The link to the search engine is found at the top of each page within the site. We are currently using an engine provided by www.atomz.com, and it seems to work quite well for us.
Several tips on searching for items within the site:
1. Put phrases within quotation marks, in order to limit the search. This will produce more accurate results.
2. Try using alternate words or phrases if a search hits a deadend.
3. Don't hesitate to contact us directly! We welcome your calls and emails. There are many materials housed here which will not show up on the web site, either because they haven't been entered yet, or because the finding aid doesn't provide a detailed list of all items.
4. Often overlooked, your web browser probably has a feature which will allow you to search a specific page for a word or phrase. Under edit, click "Find(on this page)" [or use Control + F]. The popup box will then allow you to enter a search word or phrase and will produce each occurence within that page.

What is a "finding aid"?
A finding aid is basically an index. When a collection is processed, an index is prepared for that collection, providing summary information about the contents of each folder within a box. Most folders contain more than one document, and so the description entered for that folder may be fairly general. As time permits, we are working to deepen the level of description for our finding aids.

Why isn't each and every document described in the finding aid?
Again, it is a matter of time and money. Archives normally only provide "item level description" for the most rare and valuable of collections. Otherwise, most collections receive "folder level" description. We are working to deepen the level of description for our collections, and some of the more recently processed collections reflect that. Compare for instance the level of description in the B.I. Anderson Papers or the Hildreth Green Mau Papers with the older processing work of the Papers of Peter Stam, Jr. or the Franklin S. Dryness Papers.

What are the bracketed entries in the finding aids, and what is meant by "leaves"?
Brackets are used to indicate comments by the processor of the papers--the one who prepared the finding aid. Frequently the bracketed comment will refer to the number of pages found in the folder, and the term "leaves" is often used to designate how many pieces of paper are that folder. We use the term "leaves" because some pages may be single-sided, some double-sided, and the documents may also be present in various shapes and forms (envelopes, news clippings, printed sheets, handwritten, etc). The term "leaves" is meant to cover all of these types of paper.