The Gift of Presence
For nearly two weeks, those of us in the Saint Paul Area Synod have been blessed by the presence of ou[...]
"Ask the Archivist" is a new series by Paul Daniels, archivist for ELCA Region 3. In his work, Daniels helps congregations preserve their history, maintain records, and celebrate their legacy. In "Ask the Archivist", Daniels answers frequently asked questions about archiving. He works out of Luther Seminary in St. Paul and may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am often asked what a good congregational archives needs to include and what it doesn’t, particularly given space issues and volunteer commitments in most churches.
This is an important question and one that usually carries a bit of panic in the questioner’s voice, especially if the person is the new archivist for the congregation and is faced with piles of old material stored in inadequate spaces.
Thankfully, there are some straightforward approaches to help the person, or ideally, the small heritage committee, get started on the work of building a useful church archives. I tend to advise congregations in terms of “must save, may save, and no need to save” when it comes to the initial sorting of records for retention or destruction.
First, here is a short of list of items most needed in the church archives, the “must saves”:
Second, a list of “may saves” includes those items that contain important story-telling value for the life of the congregation:
Third, the “no save” list includes items that take up considerable amounts of storage space:
Please note: this is a general list and only a starting point for building a congregational archives. I’ll be happy to advise congregations in much more detail by email, phone, online materials, and onsite visits.
ELCA Region 3 Archives and Luther Seminary Archives