Purpose and Mission
The Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives is a worldwide center for the study of Baptist history. Governed by the Council of Seminary Presidents, the SBHLA is one of the major denominational collections in the nation and serves, by assignment of the Southern Baptist Convention, as the central depository and archives of SBC records. The Library and Archives is located on the fourth floor of the Southern Baptist Convention Building at 901 Commerce Street in Nashville, Tennessee. The library is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and other hours by special appointment.
The purposes of the Library and Archives are:
- To serve as a research center for the study of the life and history of Baptists, in particular Southern Baptists,
- To collect, preserve, and make available for use a wide range of materials that document Baptist history,
- To serve as the denominational archives for the Southern Baptist Convention and to collect, preserve, and make available for use the official records of the Convention and its agencies,
- To assist Southern Baptist churches, associations, state conventions, and SBC agencies in the location and preservation of historical records.
History & SBHLA Today
Established in 1938 as a part of the Southern Baptist Historical Society, the Library and Archives was formerly housed at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In 1951, the Historical Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention was chartered in Tennessee as the Convention’s history agency, and the (Southern Baptist) Historical Society was rechartered as its auxiliary. In 1953, the contents of the Historical Society library were integrated with the Dargan Library of the Sunday School Board, SBC. The Dargan-Carver Library functioned as one library with two collections. Although the collections were together, the ownership of each item was defined, and each agency kept its own accession records.
Since January, 1985, the SBHLA has been located on the fourth floor of the Southern Baptist Convention Building where it occupies more than 10,000 square feet of floor space. Its resources include thousands of books, annuals of Baptist associations and conventions, comprehensive files of Baptist newspapers, audio and video recordings, photographs, pamphlets, archival records, manuscripts, microfilm reels of Baptist historical materials, and an environmentally controlled rare book room featuring a collection of rare Bibles dating from the early 1600’s.
Facilities and Services
The Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives is available to all researchers. Some collections have access restrictions; therefore, it is advisable to contact the staff before visiting so research needs can be met. The SBHLA online catalog, finding aids, and digital resources are available for viewing or downloading from sbhla.org. Researchers in the SBHLA do have access to Worldcat and the Southern Baptist Periodical Index, along with the SBHLA catalog.
The research center contains photocopy machines, microfilm readers, a microfilm scanner, and reader/printers, a separate research room, an audio-visual listening and viewing room, and several public access computers. A list of all duplication fees is available upon request. Library check-out privileges and research assistance are available. Wi-Fi access is available.
Researchers may bring their own computers for use in the research room. A fee is charged for using personal cameras for duplication.
Drinks such as water, tea, coffee, or juice are permitted in the Library if in a container with a lid. No food is allowed in the Library.
A break room is available to researchers and provides free coffee and tea.
Health and Safety: Air filtration and disinfecting have been enhanced. Staff will continue to maintain a distance of six feet when interacting with patrons. Face coverings are encouraged. Please postpone your visit if you are running a fever or not feeling well.
Free parking on the ground level of the SBC building is available to researchers in the SBHLA.
Researchers are requested to register upon arrival. Advance notice of arrival will allow the staff to have materials ready for researchers.
The SBHLA will microfilm your church’s important papers and place a microfilm copy of the records in our fireproof vault for only pennies per page. The SBHLA also makes available to libraries, individuals, and institutions a wealth of Baptist material on microfilm. Some subject and geographic catalogues are available. For more information about this service, or to inquire about purchasing copies of Baptist documents from other microfilm collections, call 615-244-0344.
The Southern Baptist Convention Building
901 Commerce Street, #400
Nashville, TN 37203-3630
8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, appointments encouraged.
To schedule an appointment, please call 615-244-0344.
The SBHLA is closed on the following holidays: New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King, Jr Day, Good Friday, Memorial Day (observed), Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving (Thursday and Friday), and Christmas. Please call ahead of time to check for other possible closing.