During the past year, the San Diego State University division of Special Collections and University archives has finalized the finding aid to its Peoples Temple Collection and made it available on its website. We are pleased to announce the availability of these new webpages and hope that having a description of the collection and a list of its contents available online will be another way to share documentation of Peoples Temple with the community at large and enable scholars to learn about the collection before coming in to read the documents or hear the tapes.
Of particular note is an online index to the names that appear in the transcripts of audiotapes that were recorded by Peoples Temple from the 1950s through November 1978. This online index will allow researchers to search for an individual’s name and see which tape the name was mentioned on, and then come to the archives and read that particular transcript or listen to the audiotape. The content of these tapes and transcripts includes sermons delivered by Jim Jones, conversations between Jones and his followers or various public figures, and Jonestown meetings that discussed Peoples Temple ideologies as well as issues within the settlement. The creation of the index to personal names is an ongoing process as more audiotapes are transcribed, so the web-based index will be periodically updated. Names of persons mentioned on the tapes who actually lived in Jonestown are noted in italic.
The San Diego State University Peoples Temple Collection consists of 38 boxes of archival material which span the years 1972-1990. The collection contains an extensive array of audiotapes (including transcripts and summaries), copies of declassified FBI documents, newspaper articles and ephemera related to the Peoples Temple Christian Church and the Peoples Temple Agricultural Settlement at Jonestown, Guyana. This collection was donated to the SDSU library by Dr. Rebecca Moore and Fielding McGehee III in 2003 and 2004, and will be updated as more documents and transcripts become available or are created.
The collection can be accessed in person in the reading room of Special Collections and University Archives at San Diego State University. It is always free to use the collection, and the reading room is open to everyone regardless of whether or not they are affiliated with the university. Further information may also be obtained by contacting Special Collections and University Archives at (619) 594-6791.
(Leah F. Rosenblum is the Librarian for Special Collections and University Archives at San Diego State University Library. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)