The Orphans’ Court of Philadelphia County has approved the merger of The Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies with The Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP).
The marriage of the two organizations will create one of the largest independent research libraries in the United States. The Historical Society is renowned for its documentation of the nation’s founding and early development. Only the Library of Congress holds more. The Balch Institute, in turn, is unparalleled in its documentation of many ethnic and immigrant communities, that have helped build the United States over the last century-and-a quarter. The combined holdings will cover the span of the nation’s history and give rich perspectives on the country’s development and diversity. “This is a historic event that will have a positive impact on our collections, programs, staff, finances, and the historical community at large,” said Collin F. McNeil, Chair of the Board of Councilors of the Historical Society.
“HSP and the Balch share a common mission to document and interpret the American experience, and we do so with complementary collections,” Bruce Aronow, Chairman of the Balch Board of Trustees noted. “By merging, we will not only preserve the strengths of both institutions, but enhance them as well.”
“We are excited by the opportunities we will have to reinvent our institutions’ educational activities, building on the strengths of established Balch programs, while introducing new content and drawing on the power of emerging technologies,” said HSP President David Moltke-Hansen, who will serve as the chief executive of the combined organization.
“This is good news for everyone who cares about the future of history in the United States,” Balch President John Tenhula observed. He is leaving the Balch after 10 years as CEO. The governing board will be made up of representatives from both institutions.
In April 2001, the Executive Committees of the Boards of Directors of the two institutions agreed to explore the issues, options, and steps essential to forming a strategic alliance that would result in increased services to the historical community and expanded public access to the combined collections , as well as opportunities for new public programs and community outreach. Negotiations continued through the fall of 2001, when the boards of both organizations approved a formal merger and began synchronizing operations. The library and archival collections of both institutions are in the process of being physically united in the Society’s renovated facilities at 13th and Locust Streets. The combined venture is expected to be fully operational by fall 2002.
Founded in 1824, the Historical Society has 2,300 members. More than 10,000 people visit its research collection annually, with an additional 1,000-plus attending programs and more than 60,000 using its web site. The Society’s holdings include 15 million manuscripts, 500,000 printed volumes, and 300,000 graphics.
The Society has a base operating budget of $2.2 million, an endowment of $18 million and a staff of more than 40. In 1999, the Society completed the first half of a three-phase, $16 million renovation and expansion of its 1910 building. In 1998, the Society’s leadership voted to concentrate on HSP’s role as a special collections library and to transfer custody of its museum collections to appropriate institutions. The Society anticipates completion of the transfer of most of the 10,000 items from its art and artifacts collection to the Atwater Kent Museum, as approved by the Orphans’ Court in 1999.
Founded in 1971, the Balch Institute was initially conceived as a special collections library focused on ethnic and immigration materials. Soon afterward it extended its mission to document, interpret and present the ethnic and immigrant experience in the United States by adding education and museum divisions.
With more than four million manuscripts, 60,000 printed volumes, 12,000 graphics, and 5,000 objects, the Balch significantly documents the experience of ethnic and immigrant communities in the Greater Philadelphia region and throughout the Mid-Atlantic States. The Institute currently has 14 full-time and 15 part-time employees, a base budget of $1.1 million, and an endowment of $8.5 million. It draws between 20,000 and 30,000 individuals to its exhibitions and programs each year and averages 12,000 visits per month to its web site. Through a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the Balch provides the state’s 501 school districts with online curricula on how to teach tolerance and diversity, using Pennsylvania’s history.
The Historical Society of PEnnsylvania
1300 Locust St.
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Phone: 215-732-6200 Ext. 246
Fax: 215-732-2680 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Visit the website at http://www.hsp.org
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