The Lutheran Archives Center at Philadelphia is the Northeast Regional Archives (Region 7) for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). It is a part of an ELCA network of nine regional archives and a national level (churchwide) archives. Our service area is limited to Eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Upstate New York, Metropolitan New York City, and New England. We carry on the work of our predecessors in the first Lutheran Church organization in America, the Evangelical Lutheran Ministerium of Pennsylvania and Adjacent States, founded on August 15, 1748, by Henry Melchior Muhlenberg. The archives was recognized as a part of the church organization in 1792.
The Archives has been housed on the campus of the Philadelphia Seminary since 1889 and is located in the undercroft of the Brossman Learning Center. The Archives includes a reference library with workspace for researchers and a large storage vault with compact shelving.
ACCESS AND FEES
The Lutheran Archives Center is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 1 to 4 p.m. by appointment. Other times may be arranged when necessary if contact is made well in advance.
The fee for on-site research is $10.00 per day. Photocopies under staff supervision are available at prevailing rates. We also offer research services at $35.00 per hour. We generally limit searches to three hours and require that sufficient information be available to create a high probability of a successful search.
WHEN A CONGREGATION CLOSES
The Synod Archivist assists in and is responsible for the transfer of archival materials from closed congregations to the Lutheran Archives Center. Consequently, the closing congregation will want to be in close communication with the Synod Archivist in terms of the preparation and packaging of its materials for delivery to the Archives Center, as well the payment of the fees required for the processing and perpetual care of the parish archives at the Center.
Click here to download a brochure detailing what LACAP does when a congregation closes.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE LUTHERAN ARCHIVES CENTER AT PHILADELPHIA
The Lutheran Archives Center at Philadelphia was organized in 1979 as a partnership between the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia and all but one of the synods of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s Region 7. It is a separately incorporated non-profit whose mission is to document and preserve the history of Lutheranism in the Northeast, serve as a repository of historic records for its partners, offer archival, educational and interpretive services, and provide a central source of collection inventories for the synods, congregations and agencies of Region 7of the ELCA.
An archives serves as the memory of an organization. This requires an array of activities, such as gathering records, knowing the structure of the organization and origin and transmission of the material. Records must be processed by removing duplicates and unimportant items, placing the records in acid free folders and boxes, microfilming or digitizing them, and then indexing the records so that they can be easily accessed.
Prior to LACAP’s formation, the Philadelphia Seminary provided archival services to the constituent synods largely free of charge. A visionary seminary president, Raymond Bost, realized this was not sustainable, and worked with Walter Harrison, the Administrator of the Germantown Lutheran Home, Helmut Lehman, the seminary librarian, Theodore Bachmann, Clarence Lee and others to establish this corporation. LACAP has served as a model for other regional archive centers in the ELCA.
Since its inception, LACAP has had only one Curator, John Peterson, who will be retiring in June 2019. John has been part time for all of these years, but has overseen the expansion of the collection. LACAP houses the oldest records of Lutherans in North America, including the journals of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, which were recently restored. We have also been involved in the production of a new biography of the first Lutheran ordained in North America, Justus Falckner.
The last decade has been a period of particular growth for LACAP. The construction of the Brossman Center provided dedicated archival space in its undercroft. Since 2008, many congregations have closed and sent their records to us.
The Sutter Memorial Archives collection includes the records of the second oldest Lutheran organization, the New York Ministerium, its successors and relatives, including the Steimle Synod.
On October 15, 2005, the Archives moved from the basement of the Krauth Memorial Library to the “Undercroft” of the new Brossman Center. It was an enormous undertaking for such a small non-profit organization. To help in the transition the Rev. Dr. Kim-Eric Williams, a longtime member of the Board, was brought on staff part-time. It took two and one half years to move everything, organize the new Peterson Reference Library, paint the facility, and bring out many treasures for the walls. At last on April 29, 2008, the new Archives Center was ready to be dedicated. Prayers of thanksgiving were many for having a suitable facility at long last. The generosity of many friends was remembered, especially Dr. Ivan and Thelma Hess, whose major gift made possible a very practical and space-saving movable system of electronic shelving. The next month, a very welcome addition to the Library, a computer center was dedicated in memory of Pastor Anna Kalandova.
The enlarged space also made it possible for us to reach out to two partner organizations in need of archival space, the Diocese of the Episcopal Church and the Swedish Colonial Society. The Episcopal Archivist joined John Peterson in the new office and found a home in the west end of the Archives. The Swedish Colonial Society began with one shelving system but expanded to three with the acquisition of the Craig Collection of genealogical records. Both of these groups provided rental contributions to the budget of the Archives.
Perhaps the greatest challenge to the Archives was the restoration of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg's journals. Given a $93,000 matching grant by the National Parks Service’s “Save America’s Treasures” the many loyal people in the Northeast raised slightly more than that required and the entire collection was restored for posterity at a cost of just over $200,000. The campaign began in 2009 and concluded in 2011 in time for the celebration of the Tercentenary of Muhlenberg's birth. At this time, the Rev. George Handley retired as President of the Archives after guiding its destiny for so many years with good humor and sage advice. A new chapter began when the Rev. Dr. Frank Watson of New Jersey became the new President of the Board.
The first challenge was to host the national conference of the Lutheran Historical Conference in October 2012. The conference was a grand event with historians from all over the country able to see our new Archives, hear stimulating lectures and have a bus tour of historic sites.
In the fall of 2013 the Metropolitan New York Synod became the sixth synod affiliated with LACAP. This now includes the Sutter Memorial Archives, formerly located at Wagner College in Staten Island. The addition of the Sutter Memorial Archives of the Metropolitan New York Synod means that LACAP provides services to all the synods of Region 7, as well as Lutheran Children and Family Services, the Lankenau School, Germantown Home and the Swedish Colonial Society.
With an additional synod, rental income and generous supporters, the financial condition improved even as synods were unable to increase their support. Seminary graduate James Ziebell was hired part-time to respond to research inquiries.
After hosting the Augustana Valedictory Celebration at Trinity in Lansdale, PA in 2016 the Augustana Institute became an affiliated partner of the Archives Center. They brought along with them a new Augustana Museum on the 3rd floor of the Brossman Center. This museum includes displays from the old New Sweden colony from the Swedish Colonial Society and 19th and 20th century items from the Archives' own collections.
The LACAP collection continues to grow with additions from the closing of congregations and the personal papers from such luminaries as Henry Horn and John H. Reumann. We are privileged to have one of the finest Lutheran history collections in the country.
LACAP is funded by in kind contributions from United Lutheran Seminary, contributions from the partner synods, bequests, fees for services, and income from the endowment for the preservation of congregational and other records. In the near future, we look forward to increased hours of operation and making our collection more available to the public.
Click here to read more about the history of LACAP.