The resources contained in this web site represent information presented during a day-long workshop held at the May Memorial Unitarian Universalist Society (MMUUS) church, Syracuse, NY, on October 27, 2007, and at the Unitarian Church of Barneveld, Barneveld, NY, on November 10, 2007. It also served as a basis for helping our District’s History Team establish and initial a digital preservation effort in November of 2008. We hope they will provide some assistance in your own church history preservation and promotion activities.

Roger Hiemstra and the MMUUS History Committee


Table of Contents


Workshop Schedule


Opening Activity                                                                                                


Opening Presentation: Why Church History Is Important (PowerPoint slide show)


Workshop 1

Gathering, Inventorying, and Storing Historical Material

May Memorial Unitarian Church Records (Syracuse University)

Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta (Records)

MMUUS History Committee File Survey (four drawers)


Workshop 2

Why Preserve Media? (PowerPoint slide show)

Supplemental Material


Workshop 3

Paper Preservation Workshop

Is Laminating Old Paper a Good Idea?

Typical Paper/Photo Preservation Supply Needs


Workshop 4

Suggestions for an Interviewing Project at Your Church

Examples of Interview Questions

Sample of Permission Sheet for Audio Recording

Guidelines for Making Audio Recordings for History Archives


Afternoon Presentation: Portraying Church History (PowerPoint slide show)


Miscellaneous Material

History Collection Policy and Guidelines

History Committee’s Structure and Responsibility

History Committee’s Activities and Plans – 2007

Historian: An Overview

Helpful Tips for Preserving Your Precious Documents

Spiral Bindings in a Hard Cover

Care of Books, Documents, and Photographs

Sources of Help and Advice for Your Church or Synagogue Archives

Establishing and Initiating Digital Preservations Activities in Your Church

References/Future Study Options


Workshop Schedule


08:30-09:00          Registration, refreshments, and getting acquainted – Social Hall

09:00-09:15          Opening ceremony (Alexa Carter) – Social Hall

09:15-10:30          Introduction to workshop/why keeping church history is important/policy needs (Rog Hiemstra) – Social Hall

10:30-10:45          Refreshment break – Social Hall

10:45-noon           Workshop A. Gathering, inventorying, and storing historical material (George Adams) – Memorial Room

10:45-noon           Workshop B. Preserving and digitizing media (Harsey Leonard) – Teen Room

noon-12:45           Lunch – Social Hall

12:45-02:00          Workshop A. Preserving paper products (Alexa Carter) – Teen Room

12:45-02:00          Workshop B. Interviewing long term members on history recollections (Mary Louise Edwards) – Memorial Room

02:00-02:15          Refreshment break – Social Hall

02:15-03:30          Using the World Wide Web/displays/church services for portraying church history (Rog Hiemstra) – Social Hall

03:30-04:00          Wrap up and charge for back home activities – Social Hall


Opening Activity


Chalice Lighting

          May the flame of our candle help us to focus today on our self-appointed task. May we bring our full attention to the day and may our efforts be fruitful.


Responsive Reading

          Out of our occupations and preoccupations, from the homes and churches that ask of us so much, we have come here to this place.

          Let us leave our daily concerns behind for the next few hours and direct our energies to the subject at hand.

          Let us honor those who have gone before and strive to preserve their words and wisdom.

          May we learn and grow during our time together.



Miscellaneous program information

Introductions of resource people and participants


Opening Presentation

Why Church History Is Important


The purpose of the opening presentation was to set the scene for the workshop, help participants understand what to expect during the day, excite them about the possibilities, and engage them in providing their own thoughts, questions, and answers regarding the importance of church history. This was done through a PowerPoint slide show, an oral presentation, and dialogue among participants and resource people.

PowerPoint slide show


Workshop 1

Gathering, Inventorying, and Storing Historical Material


The purpose of this workshop is to provide you with some ideas on what is needed in terms of acquiring, inventorying, and storing the historical material of importance to your church. We use the experiences of May Memorial and our current History Committee as a basis for thinking about such tasks, but we recognize that each church has unique needs, problems, and requirements for maintaining historical material. We hope that this workshop can be a means for not only learning what we have done at May Memorial, but also a sharing of your unique situation. Realistically, gathering, inventorying, and storing archival material must be ongoing and it requires time, resources, and dedicated people. However, we believe that the rewards from doing it right and doing it well are immense. They also are important for helping a church (and its members) maintain a sense of self as a religious institution.


The management and storage of records of past church activities raises many questions.


1.     How will the material be acquired?

2.     What material will be saved and stored?

3.     How will it be organized?

4.     What steps are needed to preserve it?

5.     Where and how will it be stored?

6.     What retrieval and procedure for use and review of the material will be established?


We will be discussing 1, 2, 3, and 5 and considering 6 as it applies to how 1, 2, 3, and 5 are undertaken. Step 4 is covered in another workshop. During this morning workshop, we can talk about changes and additions based on your experiences and specific needs.


The material for permanent church storage comes from many sources:


1.     Material that church members from previous years set aside for storage

2.     Material from church administrative offices and from various church committees that have been accumulating for years (it is important to set up procedures to receive this material on a yearly basis – see the History Collection Policy and Guidelines in the miscellaneous section of your resource packet)

a.     Board of Directors’ Minutes

b.     Treasurer’s records

c.      Buildings and Grounds information

d.     Worship committee

e.      Social Justice committee

f.       and many more

3.     Sunday School records and curriculum plans

4.     Church bulletins and newsletters

5.     Minister’s records

a.     Sermons – written/stored digitally or by other means

b.     Letters, including acceptance and resignation

c.       Activities

6.     Scrapbooks, newspaper clippings, bulletin board material

7.     Other


Organizing An Archival Collection


How the historical material a church gathers is organized is affected by what material the church decides to keep. May Memorial, for example, has stored material in the archives at Syracuse University through a special agreement with them. A partial list of this material is attached (see Attachment A). You can see from this list the scope of the material and how it was organized. (Material kept in files at your church may have a different organizational scheme, i.e., in the case of May Memorial, not all materials go to the Syracuse University archives.)


A list of archived material from The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta is also attached (see Attachment B), so you can see the scope and organization of their material. It is interesting to see the effect of their history on what they have archived.


How your material will be organized is completely up to you – the nature of the material, the storage facilities (space) available, the time and effort you want to put into establishing and maintaining the files. However, the organizational scheme used by the Atlanta church, some of the suggestions from the May Memorial Collection Guidelines, and the Syracuse University material will give you some ideas for your own organizational efforts.


Our Current Organizational Efforts


The where and how of church record storage is dependent on the individual church situation. Judging from the files we have in our church and those stored at Syracuse University, May Memorial has been very active in storing church history over the years, with a rich collection of material going back to the church’s founding in 1838. In the 1980s there had been a very active and dedicated committee working with church history. This committee produced an excellent booklet on church history which we hold in high regard (an interactive version of this history was completed by Rog Hiemstra and is available on the web). They also were the people responsible for placing material in the Syracuse University archives (the Syracuse University attachment represents the result of many of those efforts). After the work of that committee, the files were less well managed. Material was placed in the files or in the vicinity of the files by people working on various church activities who were naturally more focused on their own activities rather than on organizing the history files – still, they felt the material was important enough that it should be saved.


When the current History Committee became active in early 2006, five full metal and two cardboard filing cabinets were found in the church furnace room, with cardboard boxes of file material piled on top of them. Other materials were found stashed away in cabinets and closets around the church building. Those metal files have been moved from the furnace room to a more suitable but cramped office location and one fire resistant metal cabinet and one extra wide metal cabinet added. All these metal cabinets are now locked and History Committee members and selected church leaders have keys or access to keys.


The material in these files includes quantities of old newsletters, Sunday School (religious education) files, and general church files. As we have been examining these files, we have discovered many gems and some things we don’t need to keep. We are now in the process of inventorying the material in these files. (A partial list of this file survey activity is also attached as a sample of these efforts – see Attachment C.) We also have fairly complete boxes of files with information about the work of two past ministers and are collecting information on recent ministers. The minister files are being reviewed and preserved in preparation for transfer to the Syracuse University archives.


There are other church records including old photos and slides, scrapbooks, microfilms, audio and video tapes and other media, and a few archival objects. Various History Committee members are working with the preservation of these materials.


In addition to all of this, there is, or should be, an annual influx of additional records from all activities of the church (see item 2 in the second list on page one). For example, records of annual meetings could be a partial basis for this yearly addition to the archives. Materials in the church administrative office and other activity centers should also be reviewed for material from past years which should be moved to the history files. It should be noted that physical space must always be a consideration, so figure this limitation into all your planning, inventorying, and decisions on what to keep and even solicit.


The above description of our experience with church record storage is given as an example of one church’s experience. It may provide you with some ideas of the situations, needs, and even surprises that can arise.


A clean, dry, roomy church record storage facility is ideal, but seldom achievable. Transfer to an outside facility has advantages and disadvantages. It releases storage space. Researchers can find and access the material more easily.  Once the material has been given over to the facility, you may not be able to access it as freely as you would like. 




As new communication and storage devices become available our storage capabilities could increase. May Memorial now includes its newsletter on its web site, along with audio of the sermons. The church’s PR Committee is discussing the feasibility of archiving such digital material. Church services also are recorded on DVDs for those who prefer to listen to or view such information in their own home. A question we have been asking ourselves, can or also should we store such media in our file cabinets? Such action has advantages and disadvantages. An obvious advantage is that future researchers and interested church members can revisit such information whenever it is appropriate. However, you also have to maintain a good index of what you have on the DVDs, as looking at a DVD case and perhaps a title is not the same as looking at a typed sermon. In addition, in the future will DVD players become obsolete and unavailable, such as with the difficulty today in access floppy discs or viewing microfilm?


Attachment A

Syracuse University Archives Collection of May Memorial Material

A Sample of the Material Stored There (use the web link shown below for more information)

May Memorial Unitarian Church Records

An inventory of its records at Syracuse University


Overview of the Collection


May Memorial Unitarian Church


May Memorial Unitarian Church Records

Inclusive Dates:


Bulk Dates:



5 boxes


Records of May Memorial Unitarian Church in Syracuse, NY. Collection includes letters, photographs, newsletters, printed matter, audiotapes, brochures, Order of Worship handouts, etc.




Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Library
222 Waverly Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13244-2010

Biographical History

May Memorial Unitarian Church began in 1838 in Syracuse, New York. Its founders had left the Congregational Church of New England in Boston, preferring to study the gospels for themselves and worship according to individual conscience. The church was originally named "Church of the Messiah." Members of the congregation were active in the community; their second minister, Samuel Joseph May, was a well-known abolitionist and reformer best remembered in Syracuse for his part in the escape of Jerry, a runaway slave, memorialized in the "Jerry Rescue" sculpture in downtown Syracuse’s Clinton Square. In 1885 the church moved to James Street and named their new stone building "May Memorial Church" in his honor; some time later the group voted to change their name to May Memorial Unitarian Universalist Society.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

In addition, the May Memorial Unitarian Ministerial Records, comprising the papers and records of seven ministers beginning with John Storer, covers over 100 years. The collection is only roughly organized, divided according to the tenure of each minister:

John Storer, Minister 1839-1844

Samuel Joseph May, Minister 1845-1868

Samuel R. Calthrop, Minister 1868-1911

John H. Applebee, Minister 1911-1929

Waldemar W. Argow, Minister 1930-1941

Robert E. Romig, Minister 1941-1946

Glenn O. Canfield, Minister 1946-1952

[Note: Papers and Records pertaining to two subsequent Ministers, Robert L. Zoerheide, Minister, 1952-1961, and John C. Fuller, Minister 1961-1973, were transmitted to the SU Library in the summer of 2008. A current effort is underway to digitize the papers and records of our tenth minister, Nicholas C. Cardell, Jr., for transmittal in 2009.]

Contents include letters, photographs, deeds, wills, pew rental contracts, legal papers, marriage records, clippings, articles, books, Orders of Service, Sunday School reports, and many other items.

Restrictions: There are no access restrictions on this material.

Use Restrictions: Some restrictions on reproduction.


Subject Headings - Persons

Applebee, John H.

Argow, Waldemar W.

Calthrop, Samuel R.

Canfield, Glenn O.

May, Samuel J. (Samuel Joseph), 1797-1871

Romig, Robert E.

Storer, John, Rev.

Corporate Bodies

          May Memorial Unitarian Church


Unitarian churches, History

Unitarian churches, New York (State)


          Syracuse (N.Y.), Social life and customs

Genres and Forms


Legal files




Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

May Memorial Unitarian Church Records,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Library

Acquisition Information

          Gift of May Memorial Unitarian Society, 1998.

Finding Aid Information

          Revision history: 30 Oct 2006 - converted to EAD (AMCon)

Inventory Sample

John Storer, Minister 1839-1844

Box 1, Folder 1

Two copies of letter from church members 1844

Box 1, Folder 2

Portrait of John Storer undated

Box 1, Folder 3

Text of memorial plaque undated

Box 1, Folder 4

Xerox copies of archival material gathered by J. Hoefer and I. Baros-Johnson at On. Hist. Soc., UUA and Harvard libraries



Attachment B

Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta Archival Material Stored at Emory University

A Sample of the Material Stored There (use the web link shown below for more information)




Records, 1832-2001




EXTENT: 32.5 cubic ft. (63 legal-size archives boxes; 3 legal half-size archives boxes; 11 letter-size archives boxes; 2 letter half-size archives boxes; 3 slide boxes; and 3 oversize boxes)

ACCESS: Unrestricted

REPRODUCTION: All requests subject to limitations noted in departmental policies on reproduction.

COPYRIGHT: Information on copyright (literary rights) available from repository.

CITATION: Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta Records, RG 026, Archives and Manuscripts Dept., Pitts Theology Library, Emory University

Historical Note

          The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta has its roots in two separate congregations that were established in Atlanta in the late 19th century.  In 1879 Rev. W. C. Bowman established a Universalist congregation that lasted less than a year.  The next attempt was in1893 when Rev. Q. H. Shinn succeeded in organizing a congregation that became the First Universalist Church in 1895.

          George Chaney, a northern Unitarian minister and educator who founded the Artisan's Institute, a vocational school that later became Georgia Institute of Technology, conducted the first Unitarian service for a congregation of eight on February 19, 1882.  The following year this congregation established the Church of our Father.  The church experienced growth and decline in its membership and ultimately changed its name to The Unitarian Church of Atlanta on June 9, 1904.  In 1915 the American Unitarian Association (AUA) financed construction of a church building at 669 West Peachtree Street.

          On November 14, 1918 the Unitarians merged with the Universalist congregation to form the Liberal Christian Church.  This merger is particularly noteworthy because it occurred 43 years before the national bodies of these two denominations merged.  Under the dynamic leadership of Rev. Clinton Lee Scott from 1926 to 1929, the congregation approved another name change in June 1927 and became the United Liberal Church.  The effects of the Great Depression, however, almost caused the church to close its doors in 1934 but the congregation managed to persevere until the 1940s.

          The congregation's position on race almost destroyed the church during the late forties.  In 1944, after the AUA criticized the church's policy on segregation, the congregation broke its ties with the national body.  The ultimate crisis occurred in 1948, however, when the Rev. Isaiah Jonathan Domas resigned after the congregation refused membership to Dr. Thomas Baker Jones, an African-American Unitarian who chaired the Department of Social Work at Atlanta University.  In response to this incident, the American Unitarian Ministers' Association urged its members to boycott the pastorate at the Atlanta church.  The congregation stood its ground and turned to a minister from the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) during part of this struggle.  In 1951 the American Unitarian Association resolved the crisis by selling the church building out from under the congregation.

          The AUA provided an opportunity for a fresh start by sending Rev. Glenn O. Canfield to officially reorganize the church in the spring of 1952.  A church building was purchased in 1953 and on January 20, 1954 the new United Liberal Church was officially reestablished.  During the 1950s and 1960s the congregation demonstrated a commitment to the fight for human and civil rights.  Rev. Edward A. Cahill and Rev. Eugene Pickett followed Canfield in providing the leadership the congregation needed during these tumultuous decades.  On February 21, 1965, the congregation adopted a new constitution and changed the name of the church to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta.  That same year construction began on the new church building located on Cliff Valley Way.

          The church is governed by a Board of Trustees in accordance with instructions by the congregation and the authority delegated by the congregation through the bylaws and polices.  The Board consists of eighteen members, including the president of the congregation, the chief financial officer and the two additional trustees of finance.  All of these officials are elected by the congregation.  The Executive Committee of the Board consists of the president of the congregation, vice-president of the congregation, chief financial officer of the congregation, and as ex-officio members, the senior minister and church administrator.  This committee attends to details of business that are delegated by the Board of Trustees and reports its recommendations to the Board.  The church's ministry consists of the senior minister, an associate minister and an assistant minister.


Scope and Content Note

          This collection consists of the minutes, correspondence, bulletins, brochures and publications, reports, newsletters, sermons, photographs, and other material that document the history and activities of the congregation.

          Of particular importance are the minutes of the Board of Trustees and church committees, the bylaws, and the constitutions.  The collection also contains an almost complete set of bulletins or orders of service and newsletters from 1952-1983.  The sub-series, Publications of UUCA Press, consists of everything produced by the church to announce events and issues, programs of events, and other documents that reveal the activities supported by the congregation.

          The collection also contains sermons, student notebooks, and some miscellaneous correspondence that were written by or belonged to George Chaney.   Sermons and lectures, primarily from the 1970s and early 1980s, are also included.  In addition to Chaney, the collection contains sermons or lectures delivered by Ed Cahill, Donald J. Jacobson, Robert Karnan, Delos B. McKown, Glyn Pruce, David O. Rankin, Charles Reinhardt, Carl Scovel, Todd Taylor, and Sydney Wilde-Nugent.

          The records also contain clippings and other material documenting the congregation's involvement in and support for the civil rights movement during the 1950s and 1960s.


Container Listing Headings


    Board of Trustees
    General files


Box      Folder  Description                                                                               Date

                        ADMINISTRATIVE FILES

                        Board of Trustees:

1          1                United Liberal Church Organization meeting minutes, congregation meeting, budgets          1954

1          2                United Liberal Church Board and congregation minutes                             1955-1957

1          3                Minutes                                                                               1959 May-Dec

1          4-5             Minutes                                                                               1960-1965

1          6-7             Minutes                                                                               1966-1967

2          1-2             Minutes                                                                               1968-1969

2          3-5             Minutes                                                                               1969-1970

2          6-7             Minutes                                                                               1971-1972

3          1-2             Minutes                                                                               1973-1974

3          3-5             Minutes                                                                               1975-1978

3          6-7             Minutes                                                                               1978-1979

4          1-2             Minutes                                                                               1980-1982

4          3                Minutes                                                                               1982 Feb

65        2-5             Minutes                                                                               1982 Jul-1983

64        7-8             Minutes                                                                               1987 Oct-1989 Feb

65        1                Minutes                                                                               1987 Oct-1989 Feb

64        4-6             Minutes                                                                               1989 Mar-1990 May

64        1-3             Minutes                                                                               1990 Jan-1991 Oct

63        7-8             Minutes                                                                               1991 Nov-1992

63        4-6             Minutes                                                                               1993

63        1-2             Minutes                                                                               1994

62        3                Minutes [loose material]                                                                  1994

75        1-3             Minutes                                                                               1995

75        4-6             Minutes                                                                               1997

76        1-2             Minutes                                                                               1998

76        3-4             Board Member Notebook                                                                1991-1992


Attachment C

MMUUS Archival Material Stored at the Church

A Sample of the Material Stored There


MMUUS History Committee File Survey    Rev. 1 - 8/23/06

First File on right facing Genesee Street, top drawer Page 1 of 2:


Drawer Label: Administration - Church School and Newsletter.


Folder 1: Church School Zoerhide era -- 1957 - 58 School of Religion Budget 

          Josephine Gould - Director, Church School

          RE material - 1855 -- early 1960s -- (Letters from director, announcements etc.)


Folder 2: (no Label) RE Material from 50s & RE descriptive bulletin from ‘68-‘69.


Loose papers after Folder 2 -- descriptions of RE


          1916-17 Prospectus

          1963-64 School of Religion Pamphlet

          64-65 ditto - (new church) (extra copy)

          66-67  ditto

          61-62 ditto (2 copies)

          62-63 ditto (2 copies)

          67-68 ditto - (2 copies, folded and marked for mailing))


Folder 3: “Church School Study” -- letters and reports relative to defining the RE program, probably in 1915.

          Mrs. L. Gould Chairman of Committee (may not have been director anymore?? --           later stationary listed her as Director of RE under John Fuller in 1967.)


Folder 4: “Youth Activities Council”

          1954, Children’s day program

          1961 Jefferson Club, poetry, writings by pupils? (Vietnam era writings)

          1961-1968 RE Committee Correspondence (not part of folder?)


Additional Folders:

          Monthly Trip -- RE Newsletter

          Religious Education Committee  65&66

          LRY & Mohawk Federation  65-67

          Youth Activities Council  66-67

          Religious Education Committee  66-70

          Youth Education Committee  67-69

          Sunday School Pamphlets  41 & 60-69 (not in file folder)

          Untitled folder with mote pamphlets and papers going back to 48

          Church Across the Street

          RE Council 86-87

          Lets take a Trip

          Curriculum Development -- Spoerl

MMUUS History Committee File Survey 

First File on right facing Genesee Street, top drawer Page 2 of 2:


          Craft Sunday

          Loose papers -- Report of the Task Force on Youth (envelope)

                                      Report of committee on District Representatives and Distribution of Resources  1981-82 

                                      The Mountain Highlands Camp and Conference Center --

                                                Summer 1985

                                      Ferry Beach Craft Ideas -- (envelope)

          RE Council 81-82

          RE Council 82-83

          RE Council 84-85

          RE Council 85-86

          Youth Education Committee 1966-69

          Sexuality course permission slips 1987


Notebooks:           School of RE records 1965-1968

                             School of RE records  1961-1964

                   Weekly MM Newsletters Sept 73 - July 74 (Incomplete)

Large folder -- Orders of Service (some incomplete)

          Sept. 63 - June 64 (largest collection)

          Following years thru Sept 72-June 73

Folder -- Newsletters - 68-69 (part)

Folder -- Orders of Service 9/61 - 6/63

Folder -- Newsletter Oct 69 -- June 70

Folder -- 1973 Newsletters (also some from 1961-1976)



          Weekly Newsletters MMUUS Sept 61-Dec66 (Incomplete)

          Ditto - Jan 67 - June 73 (incomplete)

          Order of Service Sept 68 - July 70

          Weekly Newsletters MMUUS Sept 2, 1974 - June 16, 1975 Complete

          Order of Service Sept 1966 - June 1968

          Programs for Sunday Morning Services in the Worship Hall Chiefly Nov 1970 - June 1973


(End of top drawer)


Workshop 2

Why Preserve Media?


The purpose of this workshop was to describe how you maintain, store, and preserve the media used to document the life and times of your church. Participants were encouraged to share their own experiences in media preservation. A PowerPoint slide show, an oral presentation, and dialogue among participants and the workshop leader were utilized.

PowerPoint slide show

Supplemental Material


When I first became involved with the History Committee I was handed a plastic bag containing an example of what I might expect to find in the files relating to visual imagery. The bag contained several boxes of slides along with print photos, and one roll of micro-film marked Roll II.


Eager to get started, I began with scanning the slides, a process that I was familiar with. The roll of micro-film was left for a later time. Once I had exhausted the first batch of slides I decided to take a look at the micro-film by unrolling the leader and viewing it on a slide sorting tray. I learned that the film had been produced in the mid 70s a time when materials were being readied to turn over to Syracuse University. The list of materials listed on the leader included scrap books dating from the early 50s. My curiosity aroused I began thinking that if I was in possession of roll II there might be a roll I, a thought that prompted me to return to the file drawers, and sure enough I found Roll I.


Eagerly unrolling the leader of roll I, I discovered to my delight and amazement that the roll contained professionally produced photos of a scrapbook kept by Dudley Phelps covering a period from September 1838 thru July 1873, a period that covered the entire ministry of Samuel J. May. Following are a few sample pages copied from that film.


Harsey Leonard  



Workshop 3

Paper Preservation Workshop

Assessing Paper Condition


Much of the paper made from the 1850s forward has been made from wood pulp and various additives. Unfortunately, wood pulp contains lignin which is highly acidic, and it tends to migrate out into the rest of the product over time creating acidic paper. The result is a product that begins to lose its flexibility and become brittle and eventually unusable.


·        Deterioration causes - acid, adhesives, heat, humidity, light, moisture, plastics, pollutants, pests, and rust (usually from paper clips or staples)

o   Removing paper clips and staples

o   Seldom possible to remove adhesive materials

·        Acid testing with pH Testing Pen (yellow/brown vs. purple colors) is an option, but because they dry out quickly you also can assume that all material older than 15 or 20 years is acidic and not use this step if don’t want to bother with the Testing Pens. If you do want to use them, remember these points:

o   Use your judgment on what to test

o   Spot testing is the most likely scenario in terms of your time


Improving/Protecting Paper


·        Neutralizing acidic paper with Bookkeeper Deacidification aerosol spray or Bookkeeper Deacidification pump bottle spray – this latter option is the “greener” choice and the bottles can be purchased in bulk and provide a better yield (see information in your resource booklet on supply costs.

·        You should be cautioned that the Bookkeeper material contains Magnesium Oxide, so use gloves and newspaper backing to protect tables or other furniture as you are spraying.

·        Here are the steps for using the deacidification spray:

o   Lightly spray on both sides and dry by placing on acid free paper (don’t dry it by placing it on newspaper) – one lights spray typically neutralizes the paper

o   Spot retesting with pH pen can be used if you desire

·        Use covered paper clips for reattaching sets, but use acid free paper in between each sheet as protectors – another option would be to place each sheet in individual acid free folders but that may not be practical given your time, space, and cost limitations

·        If absolutely necessary, use acid-free attach tape (something like archival Filmoplast P document repair tape or an equivalent that is noted as acid-free for rips or other problems

·        For delicate, fragile, or ancient paper, also separate with acid free paper dividers

·        Place most items in an acid free folder (use your judgment on how many items per folder)


Working with Newspaper Articles


Unfortunately, newspapers are made of highly acidic newsprint, a low-cost, low-quality, and non-archival paper product. It deteriorates much more quickly than other paper, typically yellowing and/or crumbling with age. There are several options for its protection:


·        Option one: Deacidify with the spray only if it is not brittle and not older than 15 or 20 years as deacidification spray can darken newsprint and it won’t improve brittleness – do take care in not making it too moist (handling old newspaper material typically is difficult)

·        Option two: Photocopy the article onto acid-free paper (note that most photocopy/printer paper  these days is alkaline, but be sure you know that it is acid-free

·        Option three: Digitization (digital photographs or optical scanning) may be the best choice for key items, but you need the expertise, equipment, and database storage for the resulting digital images

·        For options one and two, store the finished product in acid free folders and interleave with the acid-free paper


Working with Photos


The same rules which apply for long-term storage of paper documents generally apply to photos, except the deacidification spray should never be used.

·        Use polypropylene or mylar sleeves for smaller photos

·        Use a polypropylene or mylar roll for larger photos, cut to size, and seal with archival quality (3M 568) attach tape, such as a double-sided tape if available – remember to leave about a ¼ inch between the tape and the item being sealed

·        Photos also can be stored in individual acid-free folders if the polypropylene or mylar is not available


Identifying and Recording Information


·        Use acid-free strip pressure labels on folder labeling strips

·        Use a simple and logical numbering system by ministerial era, organization, activity, etc. for identifying the folders

·        Be as descriptive as possible or necessary

o   Record the information for inventorying purposes

o   Remember that what you record becomes a finding aid for others

o   You may wish to record information in a database

·        Hand printing the descriptive information on each label makes the most sense, but remember to be LEGIBLE




·        Develop a good overall inventory and description for a database and as finding aid information

·        Develop a procedure for compiling/sorting/identifying sermons, newsletters, etc.

·        Develop a protocol for deciding what to keep, what to discard, and what needs to automatically be sent to the History Committee by church volunteers leaders and paid staff

·        Develop a long-term strategy on electronic preservation



Is Laminating Old Paper a Good Idea?



When ANTIQUES ROADSHOW visited Hot Springs, Arkansas, a man named Scott stopped by with a framed letter dated March 5, 1847. A woman in Dover, Arkansas, had written it to her husband while he was a soldier in the Mexican-American War. The letter had faded and turned brown, as might be expected of any well-preserved paper over 150 years old, except for one obvious exception: it was laminated in plastic.


This fact raised the question: Is lamination a safe and effective way to protect old paper documents, such as letters, prints and maps, from deterioration? To answer the question, we spoke with Roy Perkinson, head of paper conservation in the Paper Conservation Laboratory at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts.


Perkinson, who has been fighting the decay of paper for 35 years, explained that lamination was fashionable as a preservation method throughout the 1960s and 1970s. It was seen as a way of providing an impenetrable seal around paper, protecting it from marauders such as mold and bugs, the acids in air pollution, and the dirt and grease that often travel on human fingers. Those who tried lamination, though, quickly discovered its deficiencies. Many of the plastics that were used — and which are still sold on the consumer market — are not inert, meaning that they will react with the paper they're meant to preserve, thereby damaging it.


Chris Lane, a ROADSHOW appraiser and co-owner of the Philadelphia Print Shop, argues that lamination breaks one of the cardinal rules of paper preservation. "Nothing should be done with old paper that is not easily reversible," Chris says. "That's the bottom line for any kind of conservation or restoration of old paper." Instead, Chris slides fragile maps and prints into plastic envelopes. "It's called encapsulation, and it's gotten more and more popular. The other thing that's nice is that it kind of clings to the paper and gives it added strength so you can handle it and bend it and turn it over. There's an even pull on the paper. It's really protected."


The Library of Congress pioneered the use of plastic envelopes, which is a solution Perkinson likes. "Today the good news is that there are supply houses that actually sell Mylar envelopes for the protection of archival documents," he says. Mylar is the brand name of a plastic that is inert — unlike most of the harmful plastic sleeves typically sold at drugstores.


But what of using lamination for an old letter that literally crumbles apart when it's handled? Once again, Perkinson is reluctant to laminate such old documents. For such degraded documents the long-accepted prescription, which dates back well into the 19th century, is called silking. It consists of pressing a fine layer of transparent silk over a document to give it strength. But it has gone out of fashion gradually over the past few decades because it too poses problems. "A colleague of mine at the Library of Congress showed me a volume of George Washington letters that had been silked many decades ago and they were working to get the silking off," Perkinson says. "The paper had stains from the silk or the metallic plates used."


When he is asked to conserve seriously deteriorating paper, Perkinson will place strips of Japanese tissue paper behind the paper's cracks and tears to hold it together. And if a document is literally crumbling, he places an entire sheet of the Japanese tissue behind it.


Perkinson often finds himself countering the common assumption that old documents and prints need extreme measures of any sort, much less plastic lamination, to preserve them. "There are fine documents made of fine rag fiber paper, made from cotton or linen fibers, that were commonly used back to the late Middle Ages, that hold up very well," he says. "Machine wood pulp paper made since the 1860s deteriorates much faster than the older paper."


Apart from the innate desire to take care of them, the other reason to tread lightly on your family's historic documents is to preserve their value on the market should you decide to sell them. Lamination damages value. "Knowledgeable collectors would be astonished if an important 18th-century document ended up being turned into a place mat," Perkinson says.


The conservator's parting advice to those who have old paper is to always seek out an expert. "It's a little bit like figuring out what medicine to take when you're not feeling well," says Perkinson. "You should go to someone who might be able to give some advice and guidance."


The following resources may be helpful for more information on preserving your old paper documents, prints, or maps:


Northeast Document Conservation Center

Andover, Massachusetts

phone (978) 470-1010


Long, J. S., & Long, R. W. (2000). Caring for your family treasures. By Jane S. and Richard W. Long. New York: Harry N. Abrams.



Typical Paper/Photo Preservation Supply Needs


Gaylord Brothers1

Acid-free bond paper

Acid-free file folders

Archival record storage cartons and covers

Book jacket cover attach tape (acid-free) or archival Filmoplast P document repair tape

Bookkeeper Deacidification Aerosol Spray Can

Gloves (to protect hands while spraying and to protect paper when handling)

Ph Testing Pen

Pigma Fade Resistant (acid-free) Marker Pen

Plastic covered paper clips

Polypropylene or Mylar photo sleeves (varying sizes)

Polypropylene or Mylar rolls of plastic (clear) for covering larger photos


Staple puller


Conservation Resources International2

This is a source to obtain pump spray bottles and large size (38 oz. refill bottles) bottles for Bookkeeper deacidification material


A Note

Archival supplies are not inexpensive, but it is important to make sure you have acid-free and archival conservation quality products. Bookkeeper deacidification aerosol or pump spray is very expensive, so common sense must be used in determining what paper products must be treated versus what would be nice to be treated, but may not be as critical as other products.


1 There are various archival supply sources. We have found Gaylord to be reasonable, fast in their delivery, and willing to work with churches in terms of their tax free status and in giving discounts. Gaylord Brothers, PO Box 4901, Syracuse, NY 13221-4901. Phone number for ordering and obtaining a catalogue: 1-800-448-6160. Their customer service numbers is 1-800-634-6307.

2 Conservation Resources International, 1-800-634-6932. Online at They will work with churches in terms of their tax free status.



Workshop 4

Suggestions for an Interviewing Project at Your Church




·        To preserve oral histories and personal memories of the church

·        To obtain personal insights and perspectives on what has taken place in the life of the church

·        To help in obtaining an overall picture of various church-related events, experiences, and activities


Identifying Individuals to Be Interviewed


·        Identify long-time members and friends and approach them about being interviewed for this project. (Although they may be surprised that anyone is interested in their memories, we have found that they enjoy the process.)

·        Ask these individuals, as well as church leaders, for other suggestions (e.g., people who may be shut-in or may no longer be attending)

·        Prioritize the list, with those who are elderly or ill to be interviewed first

·        Once the high-priority people have been recorded, open it up to the entire congregation. Different people will remember different things (or will remember them differently), and people may come forward whom you were not aware of or had forgotten.


Interview Questions


·        Develop a list of questions to serve as guidelines for the recording sessions so that there will be some consistency across interviewers and interviewees.

·        We ask questions about the individual’s own history as a UU and early memories of attending church or religious education, as well as memories of important events in the history of the church, such as constructing and moving to a new church building (see our sample questions).

·        If you are going to record someone who is hard-of-hearing or who processes information slowly, give him/her the questions to look over while you are getting the recorder ready. You can then guide the individual through the questions.

·        Ask each individual to sign permission or release form before being recorded. If a person who is interviewed does not want his/her voice to be used or wants to place some other restriction on the use of that recording, this information can be specified on the form. Our form is included in this packet as an example.


The Equipment and Recordings


·        Why digital? We advise making digital audio recordings (rather than audio or video cassette tapes) because they are better for long-term preservation and storage. This is the current technology, and digital recordings can quite easily and quickly be duplicated and stored in several forms, e.g., on 2-3 computers, on multiple compact disks (CDs), portable hard drives, etc. In addition, digital recordings do not degrade over time as do audio and video cassette tapes.

·        If you have the capability, there are instances when digital video recordings may be preferable to audio recordings. However, such equipment is generally more expensive, and video files take up more computer storage space. In addition, a video camera is more intrusive and may be more intimidating to some interviewees than a small audio recording device.

·        If you already have recordings made on tapes, we recommend that you have the information transferred to CDs or DVDs or some type of digital storage. (If no one in your congregation has the equipment and expertise to do this, it can be done professionally.)

·        As technology changes, someone (e.g., the church historian or some member of the history committee) will need to make sure that all of the recordings are transferred to whatever the new technology may be.

·        As appropriate, consider transferring some of the recorded information to the World Wide Web (e.g., a church web page, via a podcast, as archived documents, etc.) so that it can be accessed for research or informational display purposes. However, remember to seek signed approval from any interviewees (or a family member if the interviewee is deceased) to have their information shared in this manner.


Enlisting and Training Interviewers


·        For individuals who may not be used to manipulating cell phones, PDAs, or other digital devices, digital recorders can be intimidating. In addition, the buttons are small and have multiple functions.

·        For these reasons, it is important to spend time reading the instructions, becoming familiar with the recording device, and practicing/role playing with friends or family members.

·        After you are familiar with and have interviewed with a digital recorder we recommend training potential interviewers, facilitating their practicing with you or another person, and making sure they are comfortable interviewing others about church history and personal recollections.


Selecting a Location for the Interview


·        Some people may find it most convenient to meet with you before or after church, while others will prefer to be interviewed at home. The main requirement is that the location is relatively quiet and comfortable and as free of outside distractions, traffic noise, background noise, and foot traffic as possible.

·        It works best if you sit fairly close to the person you are interviewing, with the recorder between the two of you. The quality of the recording will be better if it is placed on a soft surface, such as a padded chair or a folded towel. (The recorder may be so sensitive that it picks up noise if you are holding or handling it. In addition, the person being interviewed is more likely to feel comfortable and to forget about the recorder if it is not being held.)

·        Sometimes two people (e.g., a couple) want to be interviewed together, particularly if one hears better or is more able than the other. This can work out very well, as long as the two people are not talking at the same time.


Preservation of Interviews


·        A major purpose of conducting these interviews is to preserve oral histories and personal memories of the church. Therefore, it is advisable to download each file as soon as possible after the recording session so that it does not get overlooked and to save each interview in multiple locations, for example, on 2-3 CDs, to be stored in different locations, and on at least one computer hard drive.

·        After ensuring that the information is stored in multiple locations, the file can then be deleted from the recorder, freeing up memory for another interview.


References for Future Study


·        Bill Sumners. The Way We Were: Documenting Church Life Through Oral History. 2004. The Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives. Web site:

·        Judith Moyer. Step-by-Step Guide to Oral History. 1993, Revised, 1999. Web site:

·        Irene Boston. Oral History Interview Projects: Guidelines & Recording Tips. 2007. IBTS. Web site:



Examples of Interview Questions


Early Years – Childhood, Family, Early Church Experiences


·        Please begin by saying who you are and where and when you were born.


·        Tell me about your family background. Where did your family come from?


·        Where did you attend church when you were a child, if at all?


·        What are your first memories of church life? Describe a typical Sunday at church when you were young.


·        Did you attend "Sunday school? If so, what was that like (e.g., activities/ projects)?


History as a Unitarian/Universalist


·        Were you brought up as a Unitarian or Universalist?


·        If not, what brought you to the UU church?


·        What brought you to this particular church?


·        How old were you when you started coming to this church?


·        Who was the minister at that time?


·        What do you most remember about him/her?


Memorable Ministers/Lay Leaders/Important Events


·        Tell me about the other ministers and also lay leaders that you remember.


·        What were some memorable events in the life of the church in your early years here: Religious Education, social events, things related to a minister, particular problems or challenges, social action activities, etc.?


·        Were you here when the current church was built?


·        Please tell me about that; what kinds of things stand out in your memory?


Involvement in Church Activities and Organizations


·        What leadership positions have you held in the church?


·        In what sorts of church-related activities and organizations have you been involved?


·        Why are you a Unitarian-Universalist?


·        What makes the UU religion different from others?


·        In your experience, what have been the significant events – good and bad – in the life and history of this church?


·        How do you feel the church has changed in the years you have been here?


·        What are your hopes for the future of this church?





As a member, past member, or friend of May Memorial Unitarian Universalist Society, I hereby agree to be interviewed and audio recorded by the History Committee as part of their effort to preserve personal recollections of important events in the history of the church. Further, I give permission for all or part of the interview, either in spoken or written form, to be used by the History Committee for instructional or informational purposes, for example, on the church website, in written descriptions, or in historical displays.



Date:  _____________________



Name (printed):  ______________________________________________________



 Signature:  __________________________________________________________



Address:  ____________________________________________________________



Phone number:  _____________________   e-mail: ____________________________



Alternatively, you may use my information and voice as noted above, but I do not want my name used in reporting/reproducing my interview:


Name (printed):  ______________________________________________________



 Signature:  __________________________________________________________





Name of Interviewer (printed): ____________________________________________ 



Signature of Interviewer: _________________________________________________



Guidelines for Making Audio Recordings for History Archives


[NOTE: This is a set of guidelines we use at May Memorial Unitarian Universalist Society. You will need to adapt it to your church setting and the type of digital recorder you are using. Our main point is presenting these materials is to encourage you to develop procedures, forms, and permission forms specific to your church setting and utilize them in training people to do the interviewing, so there is consistency in the way the interviewing is carried out and in the kind of information that you gather through your oral history efforts.]


Thank you for your interest in participating in this project with the MMUUS History Committee. It is our hope to have many personal recollections of historical events of May Memorial, as recounted by long-time members and friends. Our plan is to use digital technology for the new recordings so that they can be easily stored on computers and excerpted for our website. As more people become involved with this project, it will be important to keep track of who has been interviewed. So, for now, please keep Roger Hiemstra and Mary Louise Edwards informed so that they can keep the master list of interviewees up to date. 


Permission Form


Explain the permission form to the person you are going to record, and make sure that it is signed by you and by him/her. If the individual wants additional restrictions placed on the use of the recording, s/he should specify that on the form.


Interview Questions


The history committee has developed a set of questions to help structure the interviews and to elicit certain types of information. These are just guidelines; refer to them as needed, but don’t feel that you have to get through all of the questions. If the person you are interviewing has a lot to say about a particular issue or event, let him/her talk about that. It works best to let the interviewee do most of the talking, with you asking questions as needed and following up on things that are said. Think of yourself as a human recorder. At the beginning of the session, give your name and the date, and ask the interviewee to also give his/her name as a recording id.


Using the DS-2 Olympus Digital Voice Recorder


This is a summary; the booklet that is in the bag with the recorder has much more detail. (Page numbers in this summary refer to the booklet.)


The recorder has five “folders,” A-E.

Press the FOLDER button on the side of the recorder to choose a folder.

Each time you use the recorder, it’s a good idea to use one folder for all your files (i.e., recorded sessions).

The display will show the name of the folder, as well as the current file number and the total number of recorded files in that folder, for example, 04/06, FOLDER C.

When you press the RECORD button, a new file will automatically be started in the same folder.

When you return the recorder, leave a note with it telling who you recorded and the location of the files pertaining to your interview.


Batteries – The recorder takes 2 AAA batteries. Check the batteries before the session, and remove them right after you finish the recording.

There should be new batteries in the bag, if needed.


Settings – The settings should be correct as they are; they don’t have to be changed.

The VCVA feature should be left off.

Stereo SP (2 hours) and Stereo High Quality or HQ (65 minutes) both give acceptable recordings. The Stereo SP is preferable because it allows a longer interview.



The number of sessions that can be stored on the digital recorder varies with the recording settings used, the length of the sessions, etc. To be on the safe side, we want to download them often and erase the files. If the recorder beeps, that means that it is about to run out of memory and that it will stop. In that case the recording session may have to be cut short.


Microphone - 

The internal microphone should already be set on “conference” (rather than “dictation”) in order to also record the voice of the interviewer (p. 22). Make sure that the recorder is within a few feet of the person being interviewed and is pointed toward him/her. Both of you should “speak up.” The recorder should be placed on a soft surface, such as a padded chair. There is a small folded towel for this purpose in the bag. Don’t hold the recorder in your hand while recording, as that causes extraneous noise.


Recording -

Before the interview, make sure that the batteries are fully charged and that the settings are correct; push the HOLD button forward so that the settings will not accidentally get changed as you are transporting the recorder.


When you are ready to begin the interview, release the HOLD button on the side of the recorder (by sliding it back toward you).

Press the record (REC) button. If the red light comes on, you are recording.

To pause briefly during the recording, press the REC button.

To resume recording, press REC again.

Do not press the STOP button in the middle of a recording. If that is done, the recorder will automatically start a new folder when REC is again pressed.


Press STOP to end the session.

To hear what you have recorded, press REW to get the beginning of the file, then press start.

If you press REC again, a new file will be started.


If the recorder beeps, this is a warning that the memory is full, and the recorder will stop very soon. (This is why it’s important to download the interviews to a computer so that the files can be erased.)


When you are through recording, either:

A:  Remove the batteries and return the recorder to the MMUUS office or directly to Roger Hiemstra or Mary Louise Edwards. Leave a note with the recorder telling who you interviewed and the location of the file (for example, Folder C, files 06 and 07, and 08). It would be a good idea to also let one of us know by phone or email.


B:  This choice requires that you have the DSS Player software installed on your computer. (The CD needed to install the software is in the bag with the recorder.)

-         Download the audio file to your computer, and give it the name of the person you have recorded.

-         Send the audio file as an email attachment to Rog Hiemstra.

-         If you have the capability, burn two CDs of the session, label them with the name of the interviewee and the date, and leave them at MMUUS with the recorder for the History Committee.

-         ERASE the audio files from the recorder. (See the directions on pp. 31 & 32 of the gray instruction book.)


If you have your own digital recorder, use the suggested questions to structure your interviews, and send your audio files to Rog Hiemstra and M.L. Edwards with the name of the person interviewed, the date of the recording, and any other pertinent information (such as specific topics covered in depth in the interview). Please remember to have the permission form signed and to leave it at MMUUS for the History Committee.



Afternoon Presentation

Portraying Church History


The purpose of the afternoon presentation was to talk about the media and public relations, portraying history to others in various ways, using the Internet to portray history, the importance of converting material to digital formats, and the value of networking. This was done through a PowerPoint slide show, an oral presentation, and dialogue among participants and resource people.

PowerPoint slide show



Miscellaneous Material


The purpose of this final section is to provide a variety of material, information, and resources related to the various topics covered in the workshop. It is our hope that what is contained in this website will be of value as you carry out your own church history preservation and portrayal activities.

MMUUS History Committee



October 17, 2007

—Work in Progress—


[NOTE: Much of the information in these guidelines is specific to May Memorial and the committee’s work with our History Collection. However, as it is a document that we have been working with for a while and we believe in its value as a means for guiding the development of a history collection, we wanted to share it in this workshop as a possible template for others to use as they think through the development of a similar document. May Memorial UU History Committee]




The purpose of collecting historical material (paper, media, electronic forms, and artifacts) is to document the life of May Memorial Unitarian Universalist Society (MMUUS). This includes the following:

·        Activities of ministers, directors of religious education, and music directors

·        Activities of elected and appointed church leaders

·        Information from and about church members

·        Activities pertaining to the church building and surrounding environment

·        Our role within the community, district, and denomination

All such material of enduring value, when no longer in current use by ministerial staff, church leaders, and church members, shall be transferred to the church archives.




Archive Collection


The MMUUS archival collection consists of paper, media, and artifacts related to the purpose statement. The bulk of these materials are in two locations. The first location is at the Syracuse University Archives where material is stored as per a July 7, 1995 agreement (see /suagreement.pdf). Selected papers, photographs, scrapbooks, and mementos pertaining to the initial years of the church and ministerial eras from Rev. John Storer through Rev. Glenn Canfield currently are there (see /suarchives.html).


The second location is Room 8, lower level of our current building. The majority of this material is in seven filing cabinets, with supplemental material in other containers near these cabinets. Additional smaller amounts of material is located in the church office, minister’s office, DRE’s office, choir loft, Memorial Room, loft above the Social Hall, southwest storage room in the lower level hallway, RE supply room, and various members’ homes. Most of this additional material is undocumented and efforts are being made to move it to Room 8.


Finally, a small but increasing amount of historical material is being digitized and stored on hard disks, memory sticks, CDs, DVDs, and the World Wide Web. Efforts are being made to continue this digitization effort for purposes of duplicating existing historical information, providing a long term storage and preservation alternative, and facilitating access. In addition, the History Committee needs to be cognizant of constantly changing technology and be prepared to migrate any digital material to newer formats as they become available.


History Committee


The MMUUS History Committee consists of a chair, vice chair, recorder, and various members. A treasurer may be selected if appropriate.


The chair is selected by committee members and, if agreeing to serve, approved by the Board of Trustees during July or August of each year. Co-chairs, if appropriate, may be chosen. A chair (or co-chair) will serve no more than four years in a row and at least two years must lapse before a prior chair (or co-chair) can again assume the position. The purpose in periodically rotating the chair position is to infuse new ideas and constantly grow new leaders committed to maintaining the history collection and preservation activities.


The vice chair, chosen from among committee members, substitutes for the chair as necessary and appropriate. The recorder, chosen from among committee members, provides minutes of committee meetings. Committee meetings are held at least four times each year.


The committee’s responsibilities include the following:


1.     Establish, monitor, and revise, as appropriate, collection policies and procedures.

2.     Carry out ongoing collection, preservation, and storage activities.

3.     Encourage participation in history committee activities among church members.

4.     Continually portray church history through periodic displays, WWW information, newsletter articles, group presentation, and church service contributions.


The History Committee chair is the focal point for historical collection, preservation activities, and making the collection available to others. Specific duties include the following:


1.     Ensuring the physical and intellectual integrity of the historical collection.

2.     Carry out paper and media preservation activities as appropriate and needed.

3.     Facilitating and encouraging committee members and volunteers in carrying out the History Committee’s work, including seeking funds as needed.

4.     Conducting periodic committee meetings and evaluation efforts as appropriate.

5.     Representing the History Committee at Program Council meetings.

6.     Facilitating the development of appropriate informational material for the church newsletter, web page, annual report, etc.

7.     Work with the Minister and Director of Religious Education in promoting church history as appropriate.


Collection Policy


What Should Be Included In the Archives?


1.     Primary papers, sermons, reports, documents, electronic media, and correspondence of historical relevance developed by the Minister, Director of Religious Education, Church President, and Board of Trustees Secretary. Include hard copies of electronic files and relevant emails as appropriate.

2.     Annual budget information, financial statements, records of expenditures, relevant meeting minutes, and other material of historic relevance, including hard copies of electronic files and relevant emails as appropriate (church Treasurer’s responsibility).

3.     Planning documents program reports, meeting agenda, meeting minutes, and correspondence of historical relevance developed by each church committee. Include hard copies of electronic files and relevant emails as appropriate.

4.     Annual meeting reports, orders of service, newsletters (hard copies), and other office-related material of historical relevance, including hard copies of electronic files and relevant emails as appropriate (office administrator’s responsibility).

5.     Other material not covered above: Membership records, dedications, marriage and memorial service records, records of church groups, photographs, newspaper clippings, media recordings, and planning materials pertaining to building revisions. It shall be the History Committee’s responsibility to arrange for these various materials. In addition, arrangements will be made with those responsible for the church web page to archive important web material.

6.     Oral histories as gathered through interviews with church members and leaders. This information should be gathered by digital oral and/or video recordings.


Note: A system for addressing storage, preservation, and access of current operating records needs to be developed and implemented.


What Should Be Sent to Syracuse University?


Selected material pertaining to each minister’s pastorate at MMUUS since Rev. Canfield should be stored at the Syracuse University Archives as it is preserved and prepared. See /suarchives.html for a model of the type of past material sent to the university.


How Should the Collection Be Organized?


Initially a simple accession process should be used to identify what we already have through a simple numbering system and a log sheet for each separate filing cabinet and known separate container (box, bag, folder, etc.). Maintain the ordering system currently in place. Numbers that correspond with the numbering system should be placed on each item. When this system is completed, digitize the information to facilitate identification, retrieval, and locating duplicate material. Create a process for removal of any item, identifying its new or temporary location, and for adding material to the current collection.


When is identified and numbered, begin the process of reorganization, elimination of unneeded duplicates, and renumbering. Two or more members of the History Committee should participate in this reorganization effort. The ultimate goal is to create a finder’s aid to facilitate research and retrieval. Eventually such information will be added to a web page.


Maintaining the Archives


An ongoing History Committee should be maintained. In addition, funding appropriate for preservation and maintenance should be available through the annual church budget, fund-raising efforts, and outside grants. It may be necessary to develop a sub-group within the History Committee whose responsibility is securing adequate funding.


A system needs to be developed for acquiring new material at the end of each church year. This will mean working with the various individuals mentioned above regarding what should be included in the archives.




April 1, 2006

[The Description of the History Committee’s Structure and Responsibility

Used in the Church’s Operating Manual]


Purpose: The History Committee works to oversee the identification, gathering, preservation, and protection of information, material, and artifacts pertinent to the history of May Memorial.


Committee Structure: The structure and operation of the committee shall be governed by the following:

1.     The History Committee shall consist of five to seven people, all of whom are MMUUS members in good standing or who have made an annual pledge of record.

2.     The church archivist will be considered an additional member of the committee and serve as its chair for organizational and reporting purposes.

3.     Each committee member will serve a minimum of two years, unless an early resignation is requested, and may serve an unlimited number of years after that time period.

4.     Robert’s Rules of Order will be followed in the conduct of committee meetings. For voting purposes, a quorum will consist of at least four people.

5.     A vice chair and recorder will be elected by majority vote, with the length of term open-ended based on personal preference.


General Responsibilities: The responsibilities of the History Committee and church archivist shall include the following:

1.     Develop a record management policy for systematically gathering information related to the “ongoing” history of MMUUS.

a.     Develop and maintain a written record management policy, preservation plan, mission statement, long term strategy, and corresponding implementation guidelines.

b.     Determine the various locations where church archival materials are stored.

c.      To the extent possible, consolidate such material into one location.

d.     Determine the location of past photographs, slides, and other visual material related to church activities, leadership, ministers, and parishioners.

e.      To the extent possible, identify the names of all people shown in such visual material.

f.       Create a corresponding organizational system of information pertaining to the above points.

g.     Create an index or catalog that details what the church has of historical value and where it is located.

h.     Implement appropriate procedures pertaining to the above points.

2.     Gather new archival and historical information about May Memorial from approximately 1990 forward, as well as seeking prior information not already contained within our archival collections.

a.     Seek historical information from current and past church members.

b.     Find or photocopy newspaper clippings and other similar information pertaining to church activities and individuals utilizing the Syracuse University “Newspaper Archive Elite” database, as well as from other sources.

c.      Create scrap books or other means for storing and displaying such information.

3.     Select and prepare those informational resources, records, and artifacts appropriate for submission to the Syracuse University Archives pertaining to the following ministerial eras:

·        Rev. Dr. Robert Lee Zoerheide

·        Rev. John Channing Fuller

·        Rev. Dr. Nicholas C. Cardell, Jr.

·        Rev. Dr. Elizabeth May Strong

·        Rev. Scott E. Taylor

·        The many interim and associate ministers during our history.

a.     Submit such material to the university in a timely fashion.

b.     Seek outside funding to continue the preservation and submission of materials in an ongoing manner.

4.     Preserve archival material remaining at May Memorial in accordance with recommended archival preservation procedures.

a.     Acquire appropriate storage facilities and resources, including monitoring the storage space for fire control, climatic conditions, and damage recovery needs

b.     Carry out necessary preservation activities.

c.      Record appropriate identification information in a database and create necessary labels for individual items.

d.     Sort information by various domains determined to be appropriate for MMUUS.

e.      Initiate long term preservation activities as appropriate, such as optical scanning, digital photography, and Web page and other storage techniques.

5.     Disseminate information about and encourage the use of May Memorial archives and other historical material.

a.     Share information about History Committee activities and decisions with the BOT.

b.     Provide information about our archives to the congregation through occasional history displays and newsletter articles.

c.      Encourage MMUUS members and friends to write about aspects of church history for the Web page, newsletter, newspapers, people interested in joining the church, professional journals, etc.

d.     Disseminate information to churches, seminaries, universities, and other organizations about the MMUUS historical material and their relevance for enhancing Unitarian Universalism via subsequent research (theses, dissertations, publications, etc.).

6.     Create and maintain a church web page link related to our historical information.

a.     Incorporate finding aids and information summaries pertaining to the historical information at Syracuse University and MMUUS into a new link on the church Web page.

b.     Include various research suggestions pertaining to such historical material.

7.     Enhance our institution’s Samuel J. May heritage.

a.     Restore, mount, and maintain the Samuel J. May memorial marble tablet as a part of the May Memorial church property.

b.     Identify and add additional material and information related to Reverend May to the May Memorial Web page.

c.      Encourage members and friends of MMUUS to write and/or speak about our Samuel J. May heritage as a means of enhancing an appreciation of the church and its rich heritage pertaining to Unitarian Universalism.

8.     Gather information about May Memorial from current and past church members.

a.     Interview such individuals regarding their knowledge of church history and record this information.

b.     Digitize the information obtained, create printed documents for storage, add summaries to the new history Web page link, and develop appropriate “stories” for use by church members, church leaders, and RE teachers.

c.      Seek from such people photographs, newspaper articles, reports, church activity mementos, and other memorabilia of historical relevance.



History Committee’s Activities and Plans – 2007

[A Document Developed by the History Committee to Guide Their 2007 Activities]


Committee Members: George Adams, June Card, Alexa Carter, Mary Louise Edwards, Roger Hiemstra (chair), Harsey Leonard, and Verah Johnson – Note: We are always looking for additional committee members and for volunteers to help us with many of the activities noted below.


Many activities have taken place since the current history committee was formed in 2006. An ongoing portrayal of many related activities can be found at (a) /archives2005-2006.html and at (b) /archives2007.html. Some highlights are shown below:


1. New York State Convention of Universalists (NYSCU) Grants - Two one-year NYSCU proposals for funding to assist with our preservation activities were approved, one in 2006 and one in 2007. These grants have enabled us to better preserve material stored at MMUUS and carry out other activities noted elsewhere.


2. Preservations Activities – We have many historical materials stored in Room 8 of the basement. We are carrying out related inventorying, organizational, paper preservation, media preservation, oral history, and digitization actions.


3. Web Page Efforts – A web page on Sam May (/sjmay.html) has been completed, as well as many other related web material already on the church web page or on an alternative web page (/ministers.html and /church-buildings.html. For example, an unpublished biography on Sam May is slowly being digitized and added to the web (we need volunteer typists). See /galpin-may.html.


4. Improving Awareness – We have carried out a number of activities to enhance awareness of MMUUS’ interesting history, such as a regular newsletter column, periodic Social Hall displays, the repairing and mounting the Sam May marble tablet on our outside SW wall (/repairedtablet.pdf), the past ministers’ photos in the Memorial Room, etc. (/dedicationprogram.pdf), and occasional presentations within the St. Lawrence District regarding MMUUS’ history.


5. Several future activities are planned or underway –


·        Continued preservation and web page development efforts - Volunteers are always welcome to assist with these efforts.


·        Permanent history display case - A lockable, enclosed display case will be mounted so periodic displays of historical material and memorabilia can be shown.


·        Preservation workshop - Members of the History Committee will conduct two one-day workshops on preservation, promotion, and display of historical material to interested church members and leaders (at MMUUS on October 27 and the Schenectady UU church on November 10).


·        Digitizing historical material - We are scanning, digitally photographing, converting audio tapes, slides, VHS tapes, etc. to digital material for long term storage and/or the Web.


Contact Rog Hiemstra, Chair, History Committee: 315.637.3527 or for more information. Consider joining our History Committee and/or volunteering for any of these activities. We can always use more help.



Spiral Bindings in a Hard Cover – Page Three

Care of Books, Documents, and Photographs – Page Four

Sources of Help and Advice for Your Church or Synagogue Archives

Establishing and Initiating Digital Preservations Activities in Your Church



References/Future Study Options


Converting Material to Digital Formats

·        Converting audio tapes to a digital format. Web site:

·        Converting slides, film, etc. with a scanner. Web site:

·        Converting video tapes to a digital format. Web site:,2704,1902901,00.asp


Interesting Church Web Sites

·        Old Pine Street Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia has a good site, including a podcast on their history. Web site:

·        The Smithfield United Church of Christ (Pittsburgh) has an interesting way of showing stained glass windows. Web site:


MMUUS Web Site Links

·        A booklet on the dedication of the May Memorial Church, October 20, 1885. Web site: /maychurch.html

·        A brief tribute to all of the May Memorial church buildings. Web site: /churchtribute.pdf

·        A brief tribute to Samuel May. Web site: /maytribute.pdf

·        A memorial book in tribute to Sam May published after his death. Web site: /inmemorialsjm.html

·        A portrayal of the MMUUS church history through 1988. Web site: /stranger.html

·        A supplemental handout for the above Service related to the history of the MMUUS buildings. Web site: /buildinghistory.pdf

·        An unpublished biography on the boyhood of Samuel Calthrop, our third minister, written by his daughter, Edith Bump. 1939. Web site: /SamCalthropBoyhoodStory.html

·        Funeral and memorial service proceedings for Samuel Joseph May.

·        Hanging the Sam May Marble Tablet. Web site: /tablethanging.pdf

·        Headstones for Samuel and Lucretia May. Web site: /may-headstone.html

·        Information on the construction of our current building. Web site: /churchbuilding.pdf

·        Information on the MMUUS archival collection’s research possibilities. Web site: /mmuusresearch.pdf

·        Marvelous History Corner articles. Web site: /newsletters.html

·        Memories wall dedication service, August 12, 2007. Web site. Web site: /dedicationprogram.pdf

·        MMUUS-Syracuse University repository agreement. Web site: /suagreement.pdf

·        Recollections of Samuel Calthrop written by one of his former students. Web site: /recollections.html

·        Sam May Marble Tablet dedication service. Web site:

·        Samuel Calthrop family headstones’ photos. Web site: /calthropfamily.html

·        Some of the history material on our church web page. Web site: /history.html

·        The current archives/historical preservation actitivies – 2005-2006. Web site: /archives2005-2006.html

·        The current archives/historical preservation activities – 2007. Web site: /archives2007.html

·        The first 100 years of MMUUS: A Backward Glance O’er Traveled Roads. Web site: /backwardglance.html

·        The order of service for the above Sunday Service. Web site: /aug12oos.pdf

·        The rights and condition of women. A sermon, preached in Syracuse, Nov., 1845, by Samuel J. May (also known famously as Tract #1).

·        The Samuel Joseph May web page. Web site: /sjmay.html

·        The stained glass windows at the former May Memorial James Street church. Web site: /windows.html

·        The story of the “Jerry Rescue,” that involved Samuel May. Web site:

·        W. Freeman Galpin. God’s Chore Boy (an unpublished biography of Samuel May). 1947. Web site: /galpin-may.html

·        Walking Down Memory Lane – slides for an MMUUS Sunday Service, August 12, 2007. Web site: /churchbuildings.pdf


Miscellaneous Material

·        Bill Sumners. Church Archives: Getting Started. 2004. Web Site:

·        Bill Sumners. The Way We Were: Documenting Church Life Through Oral History. 2004. The Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives. Web site:

·        Irene Boston. Oral History Interview Projects: Guidelines & Recording Tips. 2007. IBTS. Web site:

·        Judith Moyer. Step-by-Step Guide to Oral History. 1993, Revised, 1999. Web site:

·        Walter Henry. Resources for Conservation Professionals. 2007. Web site:



Rog Hiemstra

November, 2008 (updated October, 2014)