PHS Live Logo

The Presbyterian Historical Society recently launched PHS LIVE, a webinar series that treats history fans and researchers with how-to sessions using the society’s online resources.

In March, Philadelphia mandated that all nonessential businesses close to the public due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It was during this early period of quarantine that PHS staff, working from home, identified a need to connect with audiences in virtual group settings.

PHS LIVE was organized by PHS staff as a series of instructional webinars to teach people how to access and use databases available through the society’s website. A schedule of future webinars has been expanded to include highlights from the collections and author talks. [Click here to see PHS Live schedule.]

The biweekly series has been a hit, with webinars hosting up to eighty audience members at a time. Each session ends with an opportunity for viewers to ask archivists questions, an interaction PHS staff values. “I love finding out how people use our databases and catalogs, because it helps me figure out ways to make them better,” said Cataloging and Metadata Librarian Gabriela Zoller.

Allison Davis and Gabriela Zoller preparing for their PHS LIVE session on Pearl Digital Archive, June 2020.

Allison Davis and Gabriela Zoller preparing for their PHS LIVE session on Pearl Digital Archive, June 2020.

So far, PHS LIVE sessions have provided critical instruction on navigating Pearl, the society’s online digital archive; conducting genealogy research at PHS; and searching the Calvin library catalog. The most recent session was an open office hour where researchers could chat with archivists about any question they had.

Frequent PHS user Miriam Reed has attended multiple webinars. During the inaugural PHS LIVE webinar on the Pearl Digital Archive, she expressed her appreciation for the new venture. “This has been very helpful. I’ve done a lot of work with you over the years, but I’ve always kind of been at sea so I’m really grateful that you’re having these sessions.”

As the country confronts issues of safety in the wake of the pandemic, staff at PHS are happy to connect with patrons remotely, including responding to research questions via email. For some, PHS LIVE means expanding their jobs in new ways and getting a chance to reconnect with Presbyterians and other history enthusiasts around the world.

Gabriela Zoller, who has co-hosted two sessions so far, usually works behind-the-scenes on Pearl, Calvin (the societies’ on-line library catalog), and Sheppard, another of the society’s databases. “It is a lot of fun for someone like me, who didn’t interact with researchers on a day-to-day basis in the non-Covid-19 world.”

View previous PHS LIVE sessions and learn more about upcoming webinars, including an August 13 session on China mission research and history.