American Sociological Association

Association Archives

Association Archives

An office for the association was established in New York City in 1949; until that time there was no office for the Association and therefore no centralized place to store records of the association. In 1949 the first staff person was hired, but only on a part-time basis. Talcott Parsons described the early operation of the association in a column in the February 1966 issue of The American Sociologist:

The Association up to that time had been run with the utmost informality. The chief administrative officer was the Secretary, who managed the affairs from his own departmental office – the last incumbent under this arrangement was Ernest Mowrer at Northwestern. The Secretary was merely given very modest funds for clerical assistance, on anything like a full time basis, I believe, employing one secretary, with some extra help for such functions as getting out dues notices. The President, then as now, conducted his share of the business without any formal help. The only other operation was the Review which by then had been established for a little over ten years. The Editor managed it in his own institution, with very modest funds for clerical assistance provided by the Association.

Records from the creation of the Association in 1905 through 1949, if they exist, are mostly in the archival holdings of the early Presidents of the Association, in university libraries around the country.  From 1949 to 1969 the Association grew and generated a vast collection of historical records.

Minutes of the September 1, 1969, ASA Council meeting report that a proposal was made to establish an Archives of American Sociology. "This proposal was received as a communication to Council and placed on the record." (American Sociological Review, Feb. 1970, p. 59) In the years that followed, the Association researched options and looked for a home for its historical records.

In 1983, approximately 60 file cabinet drawers of the early records of the American Sociological Association were given to the Library of Congress (LOC) by the Association for safekeeping. Additional records were forwarded to the Library of Congress in 1986 and 1987.

At the peak of the collection, the Library of Congress presently held approximately 57,900 ASA items, occupying 77.2 linear feet of shelf space. The materials held by the Library of Congress covered the period 1931 through 1986, with the bulk of the materials covering 1950 through 1979.

On January 23, 1992, the Library of Congress wrote to the ASA Executive Officer to report that the library had decided that it could no longer devote its limited staff and storage facilities to the records of the ASA. Council formed an Archives Committee and charged them with identifying an alternative means to archive ASA records.

On August 22, 1995, Council voted to authorize the Executive Officer to reach an agreement with the Pennsylvania State University to establish the American Sociological Association Archive according to the general terms in the Draft Memorandum of Understanding, with the continued advice of the ASA Archive Committee and ASA legal counsel.

On January 23, 1997, a "Memorandum of Understanding and Deed of Gift" was signed to establish an ASA Archive at Pennsylvania State University. In late 2000, approximately 300 boxes of material were shipped to Penn State as the basis of the ASA archives.

In 2004, the temporarily dormant archiving process was re-engaged with active consultation between ASA and Penn State. The Library of Congress records were moved to the ASA Archives at Penn State. Additional materials from the ASA Central Office are transferred to Penn State on an ongoing basis.  Ultimately a complete inventory of archival records will be created and posted on the ASA website.

To access or contribute to the ASA Archives please contact:

Special Collections Library
The Pennsylvania State University
104 Paterno Library
University Park, PA 16802-1808

To access the 500+ page Finding Aid for ASA's papers within Penn State University's achrive go to the following link:

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