The Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies

of The Historical Society of Pennsylvania

The Balch Institute collections have been relocated to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP) at 1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The collections will become available for research in phases.  Please follow the link below to see what Balch collections are currently available at 1300 Locust.  Inquiries may also be submitted to .

Balch Collections Currently Available at HSP

Balch Library and Archives

Information and Research

Scholars from all over the world use the Balch's collections to support their dissertations, books, and articles. Independent authors, journalists, and government officials seek data and background information for books, news stories, and reports. Graduate and undergraduate students work on their papers and class assignments. 


The Balch Institute documents and interprets the ethnic and immigrant experience in the United States. The holdings include books, personal papers, organizational records, photographs, audio recordings, newspapers and pamphlets representing 19th and 20th century American ethnic life. Some are rare; many are in languages other than English. To protect these materials from loss and damage, The Balch is a closed-stack library which means that only library staff may retrieve books and that the materials do not circulate. At this time, the library holds 60,000 volumes, 6,000 reels of microfilm and over 12,000 photos. There is also an extensive collection of 3-dimensional artifacts not currently available for research. Some restrictions may apply to use of materials regarding copyrights and permission to make photocopies, photo reproductions and other use requests. A price list for services is posted in the reading room.

The Library

The Library has reference books on ethnic studies and related topics, as well as current ethnic magazines and newspapers. The Library also holds extensive monographic literature on specific ethnic groups and the general historical context of ethnicity and immigration.

The Archives

The Balch archives include organizational and personal documents of regional or national significance to the field of ethnic studies. The archives include materials focused on particular ethnic groups. Each archival item is unique and of historical significance. Archives require special care and handling to keep them from physically deteriorating. 

Collection highlights

The largest collections pertain to Chinese, German, Greek, Italian, Irish, Japanese, Jewish, Polish, Latino, Carpatho-Rusyn, Scottish, Slovak and Ukrainian communities in the United States. Specific collections include The Leonard Covello Papers, Atlantis National Daily Greek Newspapers, Nelson Diaz Papers, Shigezo and Sonoko Iwata Papers, Scots Thistle Society, and the Fiorani Radio Production Records. 

Issues that can be explored within the collections include Japanese internment during WWII, the history of Philadelphia's Chinatown, the Civil Rights Movement and hundreds of other aspects of immigrant and ethnic life as it relates to local and world events. Current projects focus on documenting and interpreting the experiences of America's newer ethnic communities.

Research Aids

EMILY -- This is the electronic library catalog in the Reading Room that identifies published books available for use.

Manuscript Guide -- The guide is organized by the ethnic groups represented in the collections. Under each ethnic group are listed the names of organizations or private individuals who created the materials held at The Balch. Since archival collections are very diverse in form and topic, guides can give only outline descriptions of their contents. 

Registers -- After identifying potentially useful archival collections through the guide, a researcher uses registers to direct the search to particular boxes or folders of material. Complete registers for Balch collections are available in-house only. 


Look here for resources developed by The Balch, including Emigration USA and Destination USA.


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The Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies
of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania

1300 Locust Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107

Copyright © 1996-2002 The Balch Institute. All Rights Reserved.