The Catholic Historical Research Center (CHRC) of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was created in 1989 by His Eminence Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua to collect, preserve, and make available to the public the historical sources illuminating the growth of Catholicism in the United States. CHRC’s collection includes records that document the history of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia as well as the collections of the American Catholic Historical Society of Philadelphia, the oldest Catholic historical society in the country. Previously located at the Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary, the archive recently moved to a new location in Northeast Philadelphia, with state of the art climate control, record storage, and ample research facilities.
CHRC collects printed materials, manuscript collections, and audiovisual materials relating to the history of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. These materials include the records of numerous Archdiocesan offices, the official correspondence of the bishops and archbishops of Philadelphia up to the present, as well as records from the 41st International Eucharistic Congress held in Philadelphia in 1976 and Pope John Paul II’s visit in October 1979. Archdiocesan records also include the sacramental registers of those parishes located within the present Archdiocese since their founding.
CHRC also houses the collections of the American Catholic Historical Society of Philadelphia, as well as some records from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. ACHS records include printed, visual, and ephemeral materials that document institutions, associations, societies, religious orders, and parishes located within the Archdiocese as well as those of other dioceses located in the Mid-Atlantic region. The ACHS collection also includes 19th and 20th-century Catholic newspapers, journals, and pamphlets published throughout the United States, as well as the manuscripts of prominent Catholic clergy and laity. Other published materials in the collection include catechisms, devotional works, liturgical books, and sacred music. Among the recent notable additions to the collection are the archives of Saint Katherine Drexel.
CHRC’s image collection contains photographs and other visual materials documenting Catholic clergy, laity, and institutions of the Archdiocese. Two notable collections include the Packard and Butler lithograph collection as well as the Robert and Theresa Halvey Photograph Collection. The latter collection includes 100,000 photographs (including negatives) that Robert Halvey took for the Catholic Standard & Times, the official Archdiocesan newspaper, from 1935 to 1999 as well as photographs for Catholic institutions that Halvey took as a freelance photographer.
In order to support study of the collections, CHRC maintains a library with both reference and research materials, including Archdiocesan and National Catholic directories, Philadelphia City directories, and encyclopedias. Secondary sources include scholarship relating to the history of Catholicism in the United States as well as social and cultural histories of the various ethnic groups that shaped the American Catholic Church.