Thursday, May 30, 2013

Back at the Presbyterian Historical Society

I have been working at the Presbyterian Historical Society (PHS) in Philadelphia for close to twenty years.  I did research there for my doctoral dissertation and The Way of Improvement Leads Home (did I mention that it is now available in a Kindle edition?). For the last six or seven years I have been making periodic visits to conduct research for my project on Presbyterians and the American Revolution.  It is my favorite place to work.

Yesterday I was back at the PHS with Megan and Brianna doing research for a consulting project I am working on this summer related to the Elizabeth-Town, NJ Presbyterian Church and its revolutionary-era minister James Caldwell.  We spent most of the day reading eighteenth-century church records and presbytery minutes.

We did not find a lot of material about Caldwell, but sometimes research is more about removing collections from consideration than it is about making new and exciting finds.

We did wonder what it might be like to digitally map all of the dismissals from the Elizabeth-Town congregation between 1780 and 1840.  (At  least one person dismissed from the congregation claimed to be heading to the "Arkansas Territory.").  Meanwhile, Megan developed a strong affection for John McDowell, the early nineteenth-century pastor of the church.  I am not sure where this relationship will lead her.

On the ride home we had an engaging conversation about libertarianism and the funding of historic sites. It was a long day, but Megan and Brianna definitely kept me awake!  A brief stop for coffee also helped.

We are back today, working through the minutes of the Donegal (PA), New York, and Philadelphia Presbyteries.  We also hope to film episode 19 of the Virtual Office Hours.