The Theosophical Society in America

Scope of the Collection

Scope of the Collection

The Theosophical Society in America Archives follows these guidelines in determining what materials to collect:

  • The TSA Archives collects materials reflecting the depth and breadth of history of the TSA; its predecessors, subsidiaries, and associated organizations; its philosophies, activities, literature, events, and impact; its leaders; and principles of theosophy.

  • Institutional records are the chief responsibility of the Archives. These include such items as reports, correspondence, minutes, budgets, grants, programs, brochures, catalogs, membership rosters, election documents, insurance inventories, construction records, and blueprints, in any format. Records of the President, National Secretary, National Treasurer, and Board of Directors are particularly important. Routine transactional materials such as invoices, payments, supply orders, and subscriptions are not collected except for samples that demonstrate departmental operations, or individual items that have special significance.

  • Formats collected include papers; books, periodicals, pamphlets, and other published works; albums; works of art; photographic materials and films; audiovisual materials, both analog and digital; digital documents, emails, and screen shots of websites; and artifacts.

  • Records of federations, branches, lodges, camps, and study centers are collected whenever possible, either in the form of original documents or reproductions. Closely associated organizations such as the Theosophical Order of Service, Young Theosophists, Esoteric Section, Theosophical Book Gift Institute, and Theosophical Book Association for the Blind are treated in the same way.

  • Experiences of Society members reflecting the history of the theosophical movement are actively collected in the form of personal narratives, memoirs, and oral histories.

  • External views of the Society are collected in the form of newspaper and magazine clippings; academic publications, dissertations, and theses; Internet blog postings and discussion group conversations; and quotations from published works.

  • Independent organizations such as the Co-Masonic Order, the Liberal Catholic Church, and theosophical groups independent of the Adyar-based Theosophical Society are welcome to store their archival records in the TSA Archives on a contractual basis. Recognizing that special access arrangements may be necessary, storage and processing fees may be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

  • Special collections include materials donated by individuals, families, or organizations, ranging from single items to large collections. These donations must relate to the theosophical movement; to theosophy; or to people whose work had a significant impact on the theosophical movement, such as writers, lecturers, leaders, and researchers.

  • Books are retained by the Archives (1) if they have intrinsic value as objects owned or annotated by prominent theosophists, (2) if they require a physical environment or security not available in the Library, or (3) a deed of gift requires keeping them physically with other portions of a donated mixed-media collection. Collections of books from noted researchers such as Boris de Zirkoff, Mary K. Neff, and John Algeo are held in the Library’s Rare Books Room rather than in the Archives. Otherwise, books and periodicals are generally separated to the Library for disposition, subject to restrictions in deeds of gift.