View Finding Aids from Hidden Collections and other Processing Projects



The student processors for PACSCL's second Hidden Collections project have completed processing for PACSCL's second Hidden Collections grant and the final finding aids are being uploaded to the PACSCL finding aids site. You can follow project progress at the project's website and blog

In early 2013, PACSCL was awarded $249,794 through the Council for Library and Information Resources (CLIR) Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives Program to process 46 high research value collections.  The collections total 1,539 linear feet from 16 area institutions and document the Greater Philadelphia region’s development as an industrial, commercial, and cultural center during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. 

The project will be based at the University of Pennsylvania Library, which also serves as administrative agent, and will build on the regional finding aids database created in an earlier Hidden Collections project, increasing its value to researchers. Christiana Dobrzynski Grippe, who worked on the first project,  will manage the current project. 

Explains David McKnight, director of the Rare Book and Manuscripts Library at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the principal investigators on the project: “The PACSCL Hidden Collections project focuses tightly on historical collections that document the development of Greater Philadelphia -- Philadelphia, its adjacent counties, and its web of connections in the Delaware and Lehigh Valleys -- as one of the country's preeminent industrial, commercial and cultural centers during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.”  The collections range from manufacturing and transportation to education and from social services to the arts, but have in common a focus on a single metropolitan area, and together show the complexity and interconnections of life in the region. 

As examples of the interconnectedness of collections in the Philadelphia area, the children educated by the Philadelphia Hebrew Sunday School (Temple University) or the Philadelphia Catholic Schools (Philadelphia Archdiocesan Historical Research Center) came from families of immigrants who worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Sun Shipbuilding Company (Independence Seaport Museum), or in the textile industry (Philadelphia University). Outside of work, these immigrants formed organizations to preserve their culture and identity, such as the German Society of Pennsylvania, and when they lost their jobs, they turned for assistance to volunteer organizations like Emergency Aid of Pennsylvania (Historical Society of Pennsylvania). Business leaders who ran the shipping, railroad and other industries also provided the leadership and funding that underpinned the preservation of historical memory as well as the arts and culture sectors of the city, from internationally known institutions such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art, to neighborhood groups, such as the Germantown Theatre Guild.

Reflecting these connections, scholars working on Philadelphia-area topics often discover that their research leads them into unexpected collections and institutions as they track the lives of complex individuals with multiple interests and associations.  

“Understanding the history of a city's people requires knowing how people worked and played, how they taught their children and cared for their poor and sick, and how they formed associations and found ways of working together to address common problems.  The PACSCL project targets important historical documentation from across the life of the Greater Philadelphia region as a means of filling in gaps in the mosaic of its history,” adds Margery Sly, Director of Special Collections at Temple University Libraries and the project’s other co-director.   

The collections in this project will complement many others already available in Philadelphia-area institutions, and in combination with them, enable scholars to form a richer understanding of the city, the region, and its people. 

Finding aids for the newly-processed collections will be added to the PACSCL finding aids database hosted by the University of Pennsylvania Library. This database holds information on collections from the previous processing project as well as collections processed by a similar initiative, the Hidden Collections from Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories based at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, itself a PACSCL member. As University of Kentucky professor Jane Calvert explained about the Logan papers, processed in the first phase of this project, for her work on a critical edition of the works of John Dickinson, "Just scanning the new finding aid, I see whole categories of documents I didn't know existed. And now it will take me days rather than months to find what I need. I am so grateful for this development!" Calvert also looks forward to finding materials relevant to her work in three additional collections at the Library Company of Philadelphia and one at the University of Delaware that will be processed in the new initiative.

The finding aids database can be accessed at .

Work on the project will begin in fall 2013 and will be chronicled on the project blog, which also provides a record of the first Hidden Collections project: 

Institutions participating in the project include:

The Abraham Lincoln Foundation of the Union League of Philadelphia

Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia

Bryn Mawr College

College of Physicians of Philadelphia

Drexel University

German Society of Pennsylvania

Germantown Historical Society

Historical Society of Pennsylvania

Independence Seaport Museum

Lehigh University

Library Company of Philadelphia

Philadelphia Archdiocesan Historical Research Center

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Philadelphia University

Temple University

University of Delaware

University of Pennsylvania (host institution, no collections)

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has generously funded the CLIR Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives Program since 2008. CLIR is an independent, nonprofit organization that forges strategies to enhance research, teaching, and learning environments in collaboration with libraries, cultural institutions, and communities of higher learning.

Further information:

Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries

University of Pennsylvania Library

Council on Library and Information Resources


About the first Hidden Collections Project (completed 2012): 

View the project website:  

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In the spring of 2012, PACSCL completed its $500,000 Hidden Collections processing iniative, headquartered at the University of Pennsylvania Library and funded by a grant from the Council of Library and Information Resources.

The 27 month project built on the consortial survey initiative, processing 140 collections identified as having high research value from 24 member libraries. Employing recent trends in archival thinking and technologies, such as minimal processing, consortial efforts, and the Archivists’ Toolkit, the Hidden Collections in the Philadelphia Area Project has developed a model for reducing backlog and making collections accessible at both large and small institutions by creating common approaches, standards and training materials. This project resulted in a centralized Encoded Archival Description (EAD) repository to be housed at the University of Pennsylvania (in process and up for viewing at ) and is a significant contribution toward achieving PACSCL’s goal of providing a single access point for all of the region’s research collections, which provide insights into the country’s political, economic, social, religious and cultural experiences and Philadelphia’s role in shaping America and its citizens.

The project employed graduate students, trained in "boot camps" developed by the project, to provide processing for many of these collections, exposing them to primary sources that may shape their future research projects and strengthen their archival skills.

The finding aids database continues to grow after completion of the project, as PACSCL members add new collections. PACSCL's database is also hosting finding aids created by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Intiative for Pennsylvania's Small Archival Repositories, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.  

Related link:


2013-07-15pressrelease.pdf150 KB
Student Processor_2013 July.pdf190.12 KB