Leveraging Content and Design to Make History Accessible
Heritage organizations are typically well known for their vast repositories of data, and the Philadelphia-based Presbyterian Historical Society (PHS) is no exception. The organization serves as the national archive for the Presbyterian Church and possesses 500 years’ worth of published and archived digital material — including more than 250,000 titles and over 30,000 cubic feet of official records, personal papers, and artifacts — in addition to a wide range of online services offered to church members, scholars, and the general public. When PHS approached Eastern Standard for assistance with a new website that would make the organization more appealing to new and younger audiences and a better defined system for organizing and displaying their voluminous content collection, the partnership was a natural fit. We had undertaken similar projects with Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library and the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University , among others, and our team was well equipped and well versed in cataloguing vast volumes of records, documents, and data.
In addition to creating a visually compelling design, one of the keys to the success of this project was the creation of a searchable database of finding aids (search guides), essentially mini roadmaps for visitors in search of particular archived documents. We also migrated PHS’s comprehensive website archive, a curated collection of Presbyterian related sites preserved in partnership with the Archive-It program. Finally, we incorporated the organization’s robust and active blog, tagged by author and related keywords to allow for easy searching and related reading.