01 November 2014

Society Saturday: Touring the Archives at LCHS

Yesterday I had the pleasure of touring the Archives at Lancaster County Historical Society, President Avenue, Lancaster. The tour was part of the American Archives Month. The Archives are normally not open to the members and the public.

The tour group was small - just me and a retired couple who had never been there before. Our guide was Heather Tennies, who is the Director of Archival Services. She is from New York but her love and appreciation of history is clearly evident. The tour began in the Library where a new photo exhibit was in the process of being hung. The exhibit was panoramic views. Various images were on the right as we walked in but the left side was several photos, which easily could have been connected, of the "new" bridge over the Susquehanna River which connects Columbia to the York County side in Wrightsville. The bridge was appropriately named the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge and the photos were dated (date on last photo) 1930 when the Bridge was opened on 30 September. (An aside: the Bridge was renamed Veterans Memorial Bridge in November of 1980 but most people here still refer to it using its original name.)

Heather led us downstairs. She pointed out some impressive statistics. The Archives - which include the Library collections - contain over two-million documents, about half of which are County records. There are over 700 manuscripts in the collection. The Manuscript collection includes records of families, organizations, and naturally President James Buchanan. Over 60,000 photos are included in the Photograph Collection. The entire building is climate controlled.

In anticipation of the tours, which were held Thursdays and Fridays during October - a few items were out on display basically downstairs. Normally the room would be where volunteers are working at various projects and there was one lady transcribing a text while we were there.

The first item on display was the record book of the Eagle Hotel in Lampeter. The book showed a page from 1914. The second was a piece from the collection of Blanche Nevin. She is the one who sculpted the "Lion in the Park" at the City's Reservoir Park and, Heather noted, she was a contemporary of Harriet Lane, the niece of President Buchanan. A song book, in German, from Trinity Lutheran Church was on display as well as an old Bride Book.

Heather then led us into the Vault. Lancaster County was formed in 1729 (another aside - Manheim Township, which incorporated in 1729 as well, was the first municipality; Lancaster City was founded the following year). The first room contained many City Records. Heather explained the City, when it was upgrading its own physical building, gave the Historical Society older records and documents for safe keeping and preservation.

The County Archives did the same, so the Historical Society's collection is, again, impressive. The next room we toured was in fact the County Archives. Here Heather also explained how a researcher upstairs in the Library goes about seeing these records. She explained that the researcher requests a specific record (indexes are available upstairs in the Library and some are even online) then a volunteer goes down to the appropriate holding area. The volunteer will pull out the record, make a photocopy, put the original back and return with the copy upstairs. If the researcher wants the copy, they are charged the copy cost (minimal cost but I did not think to ask however to make a photocopy upstairs or to print from microfilm is only 25 cents so I would suspect it be the same). If the researcher decides not to take the copy, it is inserted in the Surname Folders upstairs.

Heather then led us to the other side of the building, under the Gallery, where we saw a few items out on display before we went back up. The three of us were left to walk around the Gallery ourselves as we finished up. I did not spend much time, to be honest, in the Gallery. The antiques were interesting but it has always been the research that interests me rather than the "stuff."

The Archives Tour was a great opportunity, one that made me appreciate the staff and volunteers even more!

Society Saturday is a genealogical prompt of GeneaBloggers.
Locations listed are located in Pennsylvania (USA), unless otherwise noted in post.