Report from the California Historical Society

by Tanya Hollis & Mary Morganti

The bulk of materials relating to Peoples Temple and the events that surrounded the 1978 tragedy in Jonestown, Guyana are held by the California Historical Society (CHS) located in San Francisco. The Peoples Temple Collection currently includes seventeen different collections of material, including organizational records from Peoples Temple, personal papers of members, researchers and family, legal documents, audiotapes, and photographs.

Ongoing work to organize and create guides to all of these collections is nearing completion. Former Project Archivist Denice Stephenson completed the bulk of the work on the collections last year, and Tanya Hollis is now in the final stages of editing descriptive guides to the collections. These will be made available through the Online Archive of California (OAC), an online consortium of archival institutions in the state of California; currently, users can access the finding aid for the Moore Family Papers through the OAC website ( http://www.oac.cdlib.org). In addition, all of the collections will be cataloged and available through WorldCat, an international consortium of library holdings available online. This will enable researchers from anywhere in the world to locate the collections, and will significantly increase awareness of Peoples Temple-related materials at CHS.

The recent PBS film Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple continues to generate increased interest in the Peoples Temple Collections, and has inspired a number of smaller film projects. It has also increased the visibility of CHS and our holdings, and has led more researchers to the collections. We have had numerous requests for information from academics, film makers, family members, and former members. Recent topics of research have included: the role of music in Peoples Temple; basketball in Jonestown; and the early influence of Peoples Temple members on contemporary dance.

Mary Morganti, Director of Library & Archives, continues to welcome donations of Peoples Temple and Jonestown-related materials to broaden the scope of CHS’s holdings. Our most recent acquisition, a collection of toys handcrafted in Jonestown, was generously donated by Deborah (Evans) Harper. We encourage former Peoples Temple members, survivors of Jonestown, related family members and researchers to consider donating materials and personal collections to enhance the existing collection and provide new perspectives.

On November 17th, CHS will once again host a special afternoon for former members, relatives and friends from 12:00 to 4:30 pm in the Library.   Join us to view photographs and recent acquisitions from the Peoples Temple Collection. We will again have a listening station enabling individuals to listen to recordings from among the more than 800 cassette tapes of Peoples Temple services, meetings, and communications between the U.S. and Guyana.

CHS is located in downtown San Francisco at 678 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94105. The North Baker Research Library is open to the public Wednesday through Friday from 12:00 pm to 5:00 pm. Researchers who wish to use the Peoples Temple Collection for the first time are encouraged to email reference@calhist.org or call 415-357-1848 ext. 220 for assistance prior to their arrival.

Originally posted on July 25th, 2013.

Last modified on February 28th, 2014.
Skip to main content