About the State Archives

Welcome from the State Archivist

In 1681 William Penn founded the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the Charter that gave him the legal right to do so lives today in the Pennsylvania State Archives. Nearly 300,000,000 other documents live in the archives alongside Penn’s Charter, and though few of them are as dramatic as the Charter, each one has been selected because it has tremendous historical, legal, or financial value to the Commonwealth.

The records in the State Archives are used for serious purposes—to establish the state’s boundaries and protect the property rights of our residents; to prove military service or document changes to our environment—but the documents belong to the people of Pennsylvania and are open to all, even to those who are just curious to see what a Civil War letter looks like. I hope you will consider visiting the State Archives. Come to study your family’s past, research the history of your house, or simply to satisfy a curiosity.

We look forward to welcoming you!

Our Mission

The mission of the Pennsylvania State Archives is to acquire, preserve and make available for study the permanently-valuable public records of the Commonwealth, with particular attention given to the records of state government. In fulfilling its general responsibility for the preservation of historic documents, the State Archives also collects private papers relevant to Pennsylvania history.

Our History

The Pennsylvania State Archives was created in 1903 as the Division of Public Records in the State Library. It was combined in 1945 with the State Museum and the Pennsylvania Historical Commission to form the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC). Officially designated as the Bureau of the Pennsylvania State Archives within the PHMC. More detailed information about the history of the archives and its holdings can be found in: