Report on the Peoples Temple Collection at the California Historical Society

The Peoples Temple Collection at the California Historical Society comprises over 20 collections of diverse archival materials, including organizational records; government documents; official and personal correspondence; newspapers and other publications; research materials; photographs; film and video tapes; audio recordings; and three-dimensional artifacts. Thanks to the generous donations of journalists, scholars, former Peoples Temple members, families, and friends, the collection has grown considerably since 1983 – when the California and Guyana courts first deposited the Peoples Temple Records at CHS – and continues to grow, providing the most comprehensive archival record of the organization, from its origins in Indiana to the aftermath of the deaths of November 18, 1978.

Over the past decade, former CHS archivist Tanya Hollis, associate archivist Denice Stephenson, and others have worked tirelessly to process the bulk of the materials that make up the Peoples Temple Collection at CHS, enhancing public access to the collections, while ensuring their long-term preservation and care. Beginning in January 2011, archivist Marie Silva and volunteer Frances Wratten Kaplan have published finding aids on the Online Archive of California (http://www.oac.cdlib.org/) for the following collections: Peoples Temple Records (MS 3800), Photographs from the Peoples Temple Records (MSP 3800), Peoples Temple Ephemera and Publications (MS 4124), and Peoples Temple Miscellany (MS 4126). Now, researchers and others can search the guides to these collections virtually, from anywhere in the world.

The new OAC finding aid for Peoples Temple photographs is here. The finding aid for Peoples Temple ephemera and publications is here. The finding aid for Peoples Temple miscellany is here.

Marie Silva will continue to publish finding aids for Peoples Temple collections on the Online Archive of California, as part of an institutional effort to support free and open access to materials that document the history of Peoples Temple.

CHS staff continues to work on recent additions to the Peoples Temple Collection, including a substantial 2010 donation of files, photographs, film, video tapes, and audio recordings, most of which were created or maintained by the Peoples Temple Publications Department. Although the collection remains unprocessed, 37 audio recordings in legacy formats have been transferred to compact discs and MP3 files for identification, preservation, and eventual access. Fifty-two film reels and video tapes, many of which were made in Jonestown, still need to be evaluated for preservation and transferred to modern media for viewing.

CHS gratefully received new donations of Peoples Temple-related materials in 2011. Among these are poignant letters from Peoples Temple members Nancy and Ron Sines, which have been processed and integrated into the members’ and families’ papers series in MS 4126. CHS would like to thank Barbara and Paul Sines for this generous gift.

Mary Morganti, Director of Library & Archives, continues to welcome donations of Peoples Temple-related materials that enhance the breadth and scope of the existing collection. If you wish to discuss a possible donation to the Peoples Temple Collection at CHS, please contact her at mmorganti@calhist.org or (415) 357-1848, ext. 242.

All are welcome to visit CHS and view the Peoples Temple Collection. Located at 678 Mission Street, San Francisco, California, 94105, the North Baker Research Library is open to the public from 12 noon to 5:00 p.m., Wednesday through Friday. Appointments are not required, but new researchers are encouraged to contact the reference desk at reference@calhist.org or 415-357-1848, ext. 220, for assistance prior to their arrival. Descriptive guides to the collections may also be searched on the Online Archive of California (http://www.oac.cdlib.org/) and WorldCat (http://www.worldcat.org/).

Originally posted on July 25th, 2013.

Last modified on November 15th, 2013.
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