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Archives and Special Collections: Overview

At Meadville Lombard, archiving is a form of justice making work. From preservation to digitization, we work to make the richness and diversity of Unitarian Universalism's history freely and easily available to anyone who seeks it. We have been collecting history for over 175 years and hold material from students and scholars, laity and ministers, and congregations and organizations around the world. As the only exclusively UU archive, we take seriously the trust our community has placed in us to preserve our shared history.

Our Collection

Meadville Lombard has over 400 physical and digital archival collections, with topics ranging from Puritanism to Paganism and everything in between. Our emphasis is liberal religion in the west, 20th century Unitarian Universalism, and communities underserved and excluded by traditional archives. We are particularly proud of our UUA Congregational Records, which tell the story of every Unitarian, Universalist, and Unitarian Universalist congregation from the 1920s to the 1990s.

Using the Archives

Archives are meant to be used! Barring few exceptions due to donor requests, all of our collections are unrestricted access and open to researchers. In addition, all of our digitized material is freely accessible. Anyone in need of information or material in the Meadville Lombard Library and Archives will have access to them. 

  • To use any of our Physical Archive Collections, click here.
  • To use any of our Digital Archive Collections, click here.
  • To use the UUA Congregation Records, click here.

Special Collections

A Unitarian Universalist archive involves more than simply collecting UU materials; it means applying our UU values and principles to how the archive functions. One way we do that is through our Special Collections. Our special collections are gatherings of unique archival materials produced by a specific community traditionally excluded from the archival record.  Special collections are a vital part of the Meadville Lombard Archives and Special Collections because they empower communities underserved by archives to preserve and make accessible their history. 

Where else can you find the Meadville Lombard Archives and Special Collections?

As part of our mission to increase the accessibility of our collection, we work with many partners to increase the discoverability and accessibility of our digital archives. 

CARLI Digital Collections - CARLI Digital Collections (illinois.edu)- CARLI Digital Collections is a repository for digital content created by member libraries, or purchased by CARLI for use by its members. CARLI Digital collections provides access to myriad special collections, containing over 2.4 TB of data including images, printed and manuscript materials, sound recordings, and the Saskia Art Images and Sanborn Maps of Illinois collections.

Digital Public Library of America (dp.la)- The Digital Public Library of America amplifies the value of libraries and cultural organizations as Americans’ most trusted sources of shared knowledge. DPLA does this by collaborating with partners to accelerate innovative tools and ideas that empower and equip libraries to make information more accessible. They work with a national network of partners make millions of materials from libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural institutions across the country available to all in a one-stop discovery experience.

American Theological Library Association Digital Library- The Atla Digital Library brings together in a singular, searchable platform digitized collections from libraries, religious institutions, and other organizations worldwide who collect and preserve texts, records, maps, photographs, recordings, and other materials. The items found in the Atla Digital Library are of importance to those with an interest in researching, studying, teaching, and otherwise searching for historical and archival content in religion and theology.

Collections on JSTOR- JSTOR’s continuously expanding Open Community Collections feature freely accessible primary source materials in a wide variety of subjects contributed by libraries, museums, and archives

Illinois Digital Archives Illinois Digital Archives (idaillinois.org)- The Illinois Digital Archives (IDA) was created in 2000, as a repository for the digital collections of the Illinois State Library as well as other libraries and cultural institutions in the State of Illinois.

Ask an Archivist

If you have any questions about the Meadville Lombard Archives and Special Collections, just ask!

We can help with...

  • Scheduling an archive visit
  • Accessing archival materials
  • Using our digital archive tools
  • Answering reference questions
  • Scanning selections of documents
  • Donating archival material to Meadville Lombard
  • Creating archives at your local congregation

Researching UU Individuals and Organizations?

Not sure where to start with your UU-centric research question? We can help! Our Researching UU Individuals and Organizations guide will direct you to useful reference material, digital resources, books, and archival documents, both at MLTS and at other libraries and archives, to help you research Unitarian, Universalist, and Unitarian Universalist history.