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Religion Collections in Libraries and Archives:
A Guide to Resources in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia

Table of Contents - Preface/Acknowledgements - Abbreviations
Lists of Entries: District of Columbia - Maryland - Virginia

National Presbyterian Church and Center
Library and Archives

Address: Administration Building
4101 Nebraska Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20016
Telephone Number: (202) 537-0800
ext. 7529
Fax Number: (202) 686-0031
Contact Persons: J. Theodore Anderson, Director of Library and Archives Department

Access Policies

Hours of Service:
Monday--Friday 8:00 a.m.--4:00 p.m.
Sunday 8:00 a.m.--1:00 p.m.
Open to the public: Yes
Photocopying:: Yes
Interlibrary loan: No

Photocopying is available only for a small number of pages on specific reference questions. In special cases the Library will search other area libraries and try to find the book needed for some special program of the church. The Director of the Library and Archives is available Monday through Thursday and on Sundays.

Reference Policy:
Telephone and mail questions are accepted if they are within the scope of the materials available in the Library and Archives.

Borrowing Privileges:
The public may borrow books. Patrons must complete a non-member card form and return books within four weeks..

The Library and Archives Department is a member of the national Church and Synagogue Library Association and the Society of American Archivists. Additional information about the Library and Archives is available on the church website at

Background Note:
The National Presbyterian Church and Center evolved from: The First Presbyterian Church (founded 1795), the Church of the Covenant [Presbyterian] (founded 1883), and the Covenant First Presbyterian Church (two churches combined in 1930). By order of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian denomination, Covenant First Presbyterian was designated as The National Presbyterian Church in 1946. The Library was founded in 1969 as a part of the mission of the National Presbyterian Church and Center when it moved to its location in a new building at the corner of Nebraska and Van Ness, NW. A Satellite Library operation in the Main Church Building provides additional accessability and contains many of the newer additions to the collection.
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Description of Collections

Books and monographs:
The Library holds 10,500 volumes with inclusive publication dates from 1768 to present. Only a few are from the 18th century. The focus of the collection is the history of the National Presbyterian Church and Center, biblical studies, devotional guides, religious life, and Presbyterianism in the Washington area and the nation. The Library also has materials in braille, including the King James Bible, Presbyterian hymnals, the Book of Order of the Presbyterian Church, and study programs of the Presbyterian Church USA for women's groups as well as a collection of Bibles in approximately 40 different languages. The Library has both a card and computer catalog covering the entire collection. The Library of Congress classification system is used for cataloguing the collection and the data on both the cards and computer system is in the LC format. A Satellite Library in the Main Church Building augments the collection accessibility and contains many of the newer accessioned items.

Periodicals and newspapers:
The collection includes 37 subscriptions and 180 bound volumes, dating from 1970 to the present. Subject emphases include Presbyterian history and current events; biblical studies; and the history of religion. Journals of note include Presbyterian Life and its subsequent title, Presbyterians Today, Presbyterian Survey, Journal of Presbyterian History, and American Presbyterians, now called American Presbyterians, as well as many standard religion journal titles. The collection also includes annual reports, bulletins of the parent churches, and newsletters.

Journals are organized alphabetically except for a few which are bound and classified.

Archives, manuscripts, correspondence, and oral histories:
The Archive Department houses over 260,000 documents within the Chapman Memorial Archive Collection. There are scores of volumes and many loose, unorganized papers dating from 1795 to the present. The focus of this collection is the history of the three Presbyterian churches which led to the formation of the National Presbyterian Church and the subsequent history of The National Presbyterian Church and Center, when it became the National Church of the Presbyterian denomination in 1946. Bound copies of the deliberations of the General Assembly of the denomination are also archived in this area.

A complete system of electronic cataloging and indexing is in progress.

The collection contains microfilms of all Session and Trustee official records as well as those of other Presbyterian organizations of the National Presbyterian Church and its predecessors. Highlights include official records of the Church including those for marriage, births, and baptisms.

An index is being created for this collection.

Maps of the Holy Land together with other historic religious maps are of limited quantity and included in several atlases in the collection. In addition, the collection contains a few aerial-view maps of church-owned land in Northwest D.C. across from American University where the Church was planning to build its new building. These are from the 1960s.

Videos and Sound Recordings:
Approximately 100 videotapes, dating from 1969 to present. This collection covers special events, celebrations, departure of ministers, and events involving national figures which have taken place in the Church. Of special note is the funeral of Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas. There is also a scattered collection of sermons on cassette tape from the past 30 years and a complete collection on cassette tape from the past 12 years.

Vertical files:
12 file drawers of vertical files with inclusive dates from 1795 to present. Topics and formats include newspaper clippings, biographical sketches, histories of Presbyterian institutions, Presbyterian College and Seminary data, and program materials for the Christian Education Program of the Church.

Paintings, photographs, slides, and prints:
1200 slides and over 8000 black-and-white and color prints and drawings with inclusive dates from 1795 to the present. This collection includes images of events, people, groups, clergy, mission stations, buildings and plans, as well as prominent visitors to the Church.

In-process material is arranged by classification scheme. The Library is still identifying many of these images. As the process of classification and identification continues, the Library is building a "who's who" of members of the church since its founding in 1795 along with their contributions to the church and the nation.

Other holdings not listed above:
The Library is part of the Library and Archives Department of the Christian Education Division. In the archives department is a collection of historical documents and ephemera going back to 1795 from each of the earlier churches that joined to form the National Church and Center.

The Church campus also includes a separate Day School (K-6) Library of about 16,000 children's books.

Subject Headings

Calvin, John, 1509-1564; Knox, John, ca. 1514-1572; National Presbyterian Church--History; Witherspoon, John, 1723-1794


Brand, Charles J. "The Emergence of the National Presbyterian Church." Journal of Presbyterian Historical Society Vol 22, (June 1950): pp. 1-6.

Bryan, W. B. "The Beginnings of the Presbyterian Church in the District of Columbia." Paper read to Historical Society, April 11, 1904.

Elson, Edward L.R.. Wide Was His Parish: An Autobiography. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1986.

First Presbyterian Church. Centennial Celebration, First Presbyterian Church, Washington, DC. Washington, DC: First Presbyterian Church, 1895.

Nannes, Casper. National Presbyterian Church and Center. Washington, DC: National Presbyterian Church, Bicentennial Committee, 1970.

National Presbyterian Church: The First 200 Years: 1795-1995. Washington, DC: National Presbyterian Church, 1995.

Presbyterian Church in the United States, General Assembly. The Presbytery of Washington City and the Churches Under its Care: Prepared for the Centennial of the General Assembly, May 17, 1888, by Order of the Presbytery in Response to the Resolution of the Assembly. Washington, DC: Gibson Bros., Printers and Bookbinders, 1888.

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  August 21, 2012
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