Contributed by Carol Smith
Christ Church, Philadelphia has recently completed a two-year grant with The Pew Charitable Trusts that has provided greater access to the Church’s historic records, conservation of 18th century records, stabilization of the environment for our archives space, and work on the Church’s 20th century history.
Nearly 100 years of Vestry minutes (1717-1815) were scanned by the Regional Scanning Center and placed online along with a transcription of each entry. The minutes are searchable by names or key words across one volume or all three. Additionally the Church’s baptism, marriage, and burial records, originally searchable only through the early years of the 19th century, are now searchable through 1900. Pew rent records from
1778-1785 are also available. Pew rents provide us with names of those who worshipped regularly at Christ Church over the years and allow us to capture more information about the Congregation. A searchable pew chart from the mid-eighteenth century is also posted on this site to allow researchers to get a sense of where pews were located and which parishioners sat in neighboring pews. This new site can be accessed through the Church’s main website by clicking on the link below the panel, Explore Our History.
More of the Church’s artifact and archival holdings are on display as well, as the funding enabled the purchase of new exhibit cases for both the Church and the adjacent Neighborhood House, the Church’s parish center. Neighborhood House also serves as a vibrant new theater space providing new audiences for our exhibits.
Funding also provided for the conservation of 17 volumes of the Church’s 18th century records at the Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts. These included Vestry Minutes, Baptismal, Marriage & Burial Registers, Wardens’ Accounts, and a manuscript Psalm Book. Among the most significant, but rarely seen improvements afforded by this grant was the installation of water monitors and a separate HVAC system for the archives to ensure the long term preservation of the Church’s archives.
More in-depth processing of the Church’s twentieth century archives took place (amidst the moves for the installation of the new HVAC system) and an oral history program was begun. Interviews with former clergy and staff members of the Church and Christ Church Preservation Trust, vestry members, and parishioners are underway as well as training of volunteers to continue the program took place. The stories that have emerged enlarge our understanding of life at Christ Church in the second half of the 20th century and we are looking forward to gathering as many different stories as we can.