We're committed to helping you preserve your church's history.

The Congregational Library & Archives is committed to helping churches engage in effective records management through our Church Stewardship Initiative, a program of virtual webinars and in-person workshops designed to help churches develop their own stewardship programs.

We have long recognized the desire among churches to better understand how to steward their records and maintain the history, memories, and mission of their church communities. Through this initiative, we hope to empower church communities to steward their own records far into the future.



Taking the First Step in Archiving Your Church's Records

Recorded: October 13, 2022

Zachary and Billy provide a brief introduction to organizing church records, summarize the basics of an active records management program, and offer some options for their long-term preservation at repositories like the Congregational Library & Archives.

Archival Storage 101

Recorded: February 22, 2023

Zachary and Billy take a deep dive into the confusing world of acid-free containers, spatulas, and clamshells to give you best practices and practical alternatives for solving a wide variety of storage problems in your church's archive.

Demystifying Archivist Speak

Recorded: May 24, 2023

Zachary and Billy work to demystify "archivist speak," giving you a unique look into an archivist’s world and equipping you with the knowledge and language necessary to best communicate the work of church stewardship.

What's in a Collection?

Recorded: September 20, 2023

Zachary and Billy explain how and why to create an inventory list: a simple document that includes basic information about the contents of a church’s entire collection of records and often includes a clear description of materials in the collection and an indication of how extensive they are.

Protecting and Providing

Recorded: January 23, 2024

Zachary and Billy walk you through the steps and procedures necessary to start your own church reference desk: from what reference services are, to why reference is so important, how to create secure reading room policies, and ways to manage visitors from initial inquiry to successful research visit.

To Keep or Not to Keep

Recorded: April 17, 2024

Zachary and Billy discuss the retention schedule, a policy document which lays out how records created today will be handled in the future and provides a clear guide to what has been preserved and what should be preserved in the future.



  • Should we digitize our old/fragile materials to help preserve them?

    The short answer is no.

    Digitization should not be viewed as a preservation strategy as digital and digitized content is significantly more prone to catastrophic loss than physical paper equivalents. Digitization should only be thought of as a tool for accessibility.

  • How should we store/preserve digital photographs/documents?

    While it is not an ideal long-term solution, 3rd party cloud services are sufficient for most church archiving needs. We suggest looking at Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft One Drive as potential storage solutions.

  • Where can we buy archival supplies?

    While the Congregational Library & Archives tends to use Hollinger Metal Edge for most of its archival supply needs, many archival equivalents and alternatives can be found at big box office supply stores and Amazon.

  • Should gloves be used when handling all kinds of archival material?

    You should only use white cotton gloves when handling materials such as photographs and film. They should not be used for any other kinds of material because they do not provide protection to collections as previously believed. The best practice is thoroughly washing and drying your hands to prevent oils from transferring to whatever material you are using.

  • How do we handle requests to view our records for topics like genealogy?

    For requests to view your records, only do so if you can properly monitor them and your records. No one should be left unsupervised under any circumstances. While it would be ideal to make your records available for people to view, the safety of your collections should take precedence. We dive deeper into this topic with our "Protecting and Providing" workshop.

  • We have tons of photos from across the history of our church. What are some initial steps to keep them properly preserved?

    Archivally sound photo sleeves are the best route for long-term preservation (examples here), but they can be expensive. If you have the budget to do so, we recommend buying them. We also recommend that you write down the names of people and events on the back of the photos. Do this work only in pencil as pens or markers will damage the photos. They do make pencils specifically for use with photos, but a regular pencil is fine in most cases.

  • We have experienced a fire/flood/disaster. What should we do?

    Please reach out to the Northeast Document Conservation Center as soon as possible. Their Disaster Assistance webpage is an excellent font of relevant resources for any and all kinds of disasters.

Have a question about archival processes for Zachary and Billy? 
Leave it below, and they'll be in touch as soon as possible.