Church Closing/Record Donation

When a church is going through a difficult transition — closing for good or merging with another congregation — its history can be lost forever. The Congregational Library is here to help, providing a safe and permanent "final resting place" for your valuable memories of the past. Our archival staff will also assist you with organizing and paring down accumulated records, and in making sure the most important materials are kept.

 

Getting Started

Any local church associated within the Congregational Christian tradition and founded before the formation of the United Church of Christ in 1957 may donate records to the Library. Please check with the archival staff if you need clarification on your denominational status.

As a general rule and for reasons of space, we cannot provide this service to churches not in the process of closing or merging, but are more than happy to provide advice, training, and consultation on records management.

As soon as the decision is made to close or merge, contact us immediately. Sorting, boxing, and sending all those records will take much longer than you may think!

 

Preparing Records for Donation

Before you bring your records to library, they will need to be organized and sorted through carefully.

For a quick overview of this process, please review our Records Management page. It also includes templates for creating policies and procedures, and advice about archiving electronic materials. Please note that you may need to consult the archival staff about dealing with media in outdated formats (floppy discs, Super8 film, etc.) that are not accessible using current technology.

You will likely do a lot of discarding before you bring your records to 14 Beacon Street. For example, there is no need to keep duplicate documents. We also ask that you do not send previously published materials, especially those not generated by your church, e.g., widely available hymnals, Bibles, and books. We do not take canceled checks or other physical objects like flags, furniture, or clothing. Moreover, any materials contaminated by mold or pests should be discarded immediately.

Think about what really tells your story.

 

Basic Steps

  • Sign and return our gift agreement form, available from the archivist
  • Sort documents according to guidelines on our Records Management page, making sure to remove all duplicate material
  • Check with church leadership to make sure the records are completely up to date
  • Pack sorted records into clean and dry bankers' boxes (12" x 15" x 10") or similar size
  • Put together a general inventory of box contents
  • Provide the Library with information on the starting and ending dates of the material you are sending, the types of material, and the total number of boxes/size of the collection. If you have any questions please check with our archival staff.

 

Your Records at the Library

The archivist will add the new collection to the processing queue. Please be aware that the work can take up to a year or more depending on the amount of material and staff workload. The archivist will appraise each item and then sort them all into acid-free folders and boxes for permanent storage in our archives. The collection will have its own guide (list of contents) which will be available in the online catalog on our website.

NB: We will likely not keep everything. Once the material is donated and under gift agreement, the Library may discard duplicate or ancillary material as it sees fit.

 

A Partnership with the Congregational Library

We do not require a set fee to cover our costs of processing and preservation materials (estimated at $300 per box), but we do encourage closing churches to set aside sufficient funds to help the Library manage these expenses, which can be considerable. Not only are we providing the time and talents of our excellent archival staff, but also covering the ongoing cost of secure, climate-controlled space in our archives. The Congregational Library is a nonprofit organization that depends on gifts and donations to carry on its mission, and so any gift is gladly received.

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