The mission statement of the Virginia Theological Seminary Archives directs collection, preservation, arrangement, description, and making available for scholarly research the unique documentary materials entrusted to its care. All policies for access, collection development, gift, reference, and use have been approved by the Library Committee of the Bishop Payne Library and reflect standard archival practices.

Mission Statement
The mission of the Archives of the Protestant Episcopal Theological Seminary (also known as the Virginia Theological Seminary) is to solicit, collect, arrange, describe, preserve, and make available the historical record of the origin, development, programs, ministry, influence, liturgical practices, and people of the Protestant Episcopal Theological Seminary (PETS), the Bishop Payne Divinity School (BPDS), and the Episcopal Church in Virginia.

The components of this mission are to collect (*Adopted by Library Committee 4/2/01):
  • The institutional records of enduring administrative, legal, fiscal, and historical value of the Protestant Episcopal Theological Seminary and the Bishop Payne Divinity School.
  • Personal papers of selected notable administrators, officers, faculty, and students of the PETS and the BPDS.
  • Records and personal papers of historical value of other Episcopalians and Virginia Episcopal institutions significant in the life and ministry of PETS and BPDS.
  • Provide facilities for the retention, preservation, servicing, and research use of its records and collections by the PETS community and other patrons.
  • Provide reference services to assist and support the administration and operation of the seminary;
  • Facilitate the efficient management of the recorded information produced by the seminary. 

Collection Development
The Archives and Special Collections collection development policy is essentially a planning tool formulated to guide the archivist staff in making informed decisions on potential accessions. The collections development policy is, therefore, an essential component of the appraisal process through which materials are added to the collection. Equally important, the guidelines it provides insure an appropriate balance between the department's resources and its commitments. In terms of general criteria, the Archives collects in areas that:
  • Extend the Archives’ research strengths, interests, and needs in a logical and rational manner.
  • Support the Archives’ existing collections.
  • Support the Virginia Theological Seminary’s curriculum and the research interests of its students and faculty.
  • Anticipate future research needs.
  • Show a high ratio of use to volume and processing costs.
  • Complement rather than compete with the collecting priorities of other regional special collections or denominational repositories.
Throughout its history the Archives of the Virginia Theological Seminary has been the honored recipient of gifts of manuscript collections, personal papers, and historical documents from generous alumni, faculty, and friends. These gifts have enriched its collections immeasurably, helping it to document the history, ministry, and influence of its graduates in the Episcopal Church. Other gifts of papers and documents pertaining to the Bishop Payne Divinity School augment the fragmentary remaining official records. The Archives continues to welcome donations of personal papers and related documents in its respective collecting areas that further its mission. All donations are documented by a Deed of Gift (please see sample here) transferring full rights title to the collection to the Virginia Theological Seminary. Persons interested in donating personal papers or related materials should contact the Archivist.

The Archives of the Virginia Theological Seminary has a primary responsibility to serve the teaching, administration, program, and mission of the Virginia Theological Seminary by meeting its information and research requirements. As an extension of its mission, the Archives welcome access to the collections by bona fide researchers from outside the VTS community. Prior to access to the collections, all researchers must complete a Request for Archives Use form (available on this page) providing personal identification and stating the subject and purpose of the intended research. Any researcher who registers, provides acceptable identification, and agrees to abide by the policies and rules of the Archives will be permitted to use unrestricted materials. Access to all materials is granted on the basis of their age and condition. Some collections are restricted by the terms of a Deed of Gift. Access to the official records of the Virginia Theological Seminary and the Bishop Payne Divinity School are granted on the basis of the age and content of the records. Open records are normally those materials older than 30 years that are available to the public. Confidential records include student records and documents containing sensitive personal information. These materials are closed for a period of 80 years.  Access to restricted records is sometimes allowed with prior written permission from the appropriate authority. The Archivist will keep the original copy of all such approvals on file at the Archives.

Reference Assistance
It is the policy of the Archives of the Virginia Theological Seminary to provide all patrons with professional, equitable, and courteous reference assistance. Reference assistance is available to faculty, staff, students, and the general public. Reference assistance will be provided to patrons in need of research aid, but it is not in the mandate of the University Archives to perform detailed research work for patrons. For those researchers unable to visit the collections in person, Archives staff has had to limit the amount of research which can be undertaken for any one individual. It can provide up to 30 minutes of research time and a report of findings free of charge. Please allow at least 2 weeks for a response due to the number of reference questions received and other duties associated with the management and operation of the Archives. All reference requests will be answered in the order in which they are received. Inquiries by mail, email, fax or phone.

All archival materials shall be used within the Archives Room reading area under the supervision of the Archivist and his representatives. The Archives will be open daily (except Tuesdays & holidays) 9:00-4:00 P.M., September - June, and by appointment only on Tuesdays and during July and August. Due to staffing limitations, the Archives is closed to researchers during the Archivist's lunch hour, normally 12:00 - 1:00. The collection stack areas are closed to all researchers. An archives staffer will locate all materials needed by researchers. Materials are to be returned directly to the Archives staff by the researcher after use.

Archives Reading Room Rules:
  • Before commencement of research, the research shall complete a Request for Archives Use form and provide picture proof of identification, such as a Driver’s License. The Request for Archives Use form and a copy of one’s identification will be kept on file at the Archives.
  • Researchers are required to sign the daily register.
  • All archival materials are house in closed stacks. Readers must request materials, which will be brought to them by the Archivist.
  • Only erasable pencils or a researcher’s own laptop computer may be used for taking notes. Ink pens, markers, highlighters, ink, and indelible pencils are not allowed in the Archives.
  • All archival materials will be used in the research room only. No material may be removed from the Archives.
  • A researcher is responsible for the safeguarding of any materials made available to him/her in the reading room.
  • Researchers may use one box of materials and only one folder from that box at one time. Materials used may not be rearranged by the researcher and are to be kept in the original order in which they are received.  Materials may not be leaned on, written on, folder, or handled in any way likely to damage them. In certain instances the use of cotton gloves may be required.
  • Eating, drinking, and smoking are prohibited in the Archives.
  • No materials from the collection may be reproduced in any form for public or commercial use without prior written permission from the Archivist. Supplying of a photocopy is not an authorization to publish.
All copies of items in the Archives' collection will be approved and made by the Archives staff. Charges are $.50 per page, plus postage (if appropriate). The Archivist may deny a request to photocopy material based on the size, age, and/or fragility of the item. Requests for materials and photocopies must be made before 3:30 P.M. It is understood that all photocopies are to be used in accordance with U.S. Copyright Law.  Permission to quote or exhibit a photocopy or photograph does not convey permission to reproduce or publish an item or to quote from unpublished materials. Requests for permission to reproduce, publish, exhibit, or quote must be submitted in writing to the Archivist.

The proper citation of archival or manuscript collections held by this repository: Name/Title of item, Collection name and number, box and folder no., Virginia Theological Seminary Archives, Alexandria, Virginia.

The Archives of Virginia Theological Seminary assumes no responsibility for infringement of copyright. The researcher is responsible for obtaining the necessary publication rights and copyright clearances for reproduction or publication.