Students from St. Dorothy School, Drexel Hill, enjoy their educational visit to the archdiocesan Catholic Historical Research Center in Northeast Philadelphia.

Last spring the Catholic Historical Research Center (CHRC) of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia welcomed seventh and eighth students from archdiocesan schools for an interactive learning experience at the CHRC.

Funded entirely by the Archdiocesan Educational Fund, the grant allowed students, staff and chaperones to learn about the local church through a two-hour program at the CHRC facility located in Northeast Philadelphia at the former Our Lady of Ransom School.

Thanks to the grant the CHRC in April and May welcomed 572 seventh- and eighth-grade students, not including teachers, principals or priests that accompanied them.

During their visits they enjoyed an interactive and hands-on learning experience, toured the facility, met the archivists, viewed current exhibits and saw archival collections. Students also learned about their own Catholic history and parish through a learning session in a newly equipped classroom.

Following the tour and classroom session, the students identified and handled artifacts from the archives such as a chaplain’s kit from World War I, 19th century religious candy molds and more.

It is rare that an archive or historical center would allow patrons physically to touch and handle items from the collections, and the students thoroughly enjoyed this opportunity.

Additionally while at the CHRC, the students completed a scavenger hunt with the chance to win a prize. The scavenger hunt was comprised of 14 questions/items and included items like finding the oldest object on display, identifying what an archivist is, or naming an example of a primary source they saw.

Students from Our Mother of Consolation School, Philadelphia, touch history as they examine historical artifacts during a visit to the archdiocesan Catholic Historical Research Center in Northeast Philadelphia.

The students also learned how to use the Find My Past research tool, and each visit was tailored to the school and parish, with historical photos, related facts, and trivia. All the visitors received a brochure that detailed how to use the archives and were invited to contact the staff for research help and to return to the CHRC.

The Catholic Historical Research Center was created in 1989 to collect, preserve and make available to the public the historical sources illuminating the growth of Catholicism in the United States.

The Archdiocesan Educational Fund awarded the CHRC with a $31,196 grant for the 2018/2019 academic year. The grant, “To Touch a Saint: Creating a Place for Middle School Students,” funded a Catholic archival learning program for seventh- and eighth-grade students. The fund supports Catholic education and Catholic ministry throughout the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

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Leslie O’Neill is director of the Catholic Historical Research Center of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.