Select images from the RNS collection at PHS, courtesy of PHS.

Select images from the RNS collection at PHS, courtesy of PHS.

The Presbyterian Historical Society (PHS) is the recipient of a 2023 National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Humanities Collections and Reference Resources (HCRR) Implementation grant.

The $330,678 grant will fund the digitization of 22,500 images, newspaper clippings and related documents from the Religious News Service (RNS) Photograph Collection, as well as rehousing of the entire collection of 60,000 photographs and accompanying materials.

The RNS photographs held by the society capture a diverse array of faith traditions and community experiences in the United States and around the world. The images offer insights into the interplay between religion and politics and document pivotal historic events, including the global efforts to rebuild after World War II, the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War and demonstrations and conflicts over abortion, nuclear proliferation, presidential elections and the conflict in Northern Ireland.

The implementation grant project will be led by Natalie Shilstut, PHS Director of Programs and Services. Shilstut’s experience with the RNS Photograph Collection extends back to 2018, when PHS was awarded an NEH HCRR Foundations grant to develop a pilot project to selectively digitize and provide access to about 500 photo files and rehouse 1,315 photo files.

“We will apply lessons learned during the pilot project to scale up our appraisal, digitization and descriptive efforts to a much larger number of photographs,” Shilstut said. “We are eager to get started and thrilled to finally be able to share these impactful images and stories with the public.”

Photographs from the 2018 pilot project can be accessed through the society’s Pearl Digital Collections. Religion News Service, the successor organization to the Religious News Service, collaborates with PHS to share select images from the RNS collection.

Shilstut and Allison Davis, PHS Digital Collections Specialist, will oversee digitization of the 22,500 new images, which will be added to Pearl over a 30-month period.

PHS is one of 36 institutions from across the country to receive a 2023 Humanities Collections and Reference Resources grant.

Logo for the National Endowment for the Humanities

“We are on cloud nine!” said Nancy Taylor, PHS Executive Director. “PHS is very grateful for the support from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The grant will allow us to make these important photographs much more accessible to a worldwide audience while also preserving the original prints and accompanying material.

“It is so gratifying that NEH recognizes the importance of religion to understanding the history of the mid-20th century.”


Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at:

This article first appeared as a PHS blog: