Founded in 1971 with trusts established by the Balch family of Philadelphia celebrated its twentieth anniversary.  In keeping with its mission to promote greater intergroup understanding, the library, museum, and education departments have been successfully collecting, preserving and interpreting materials reflecting America's ethnic diversity for two decades.  This guide and two other publications, one representing the museum's collection and the other the education' department's program and curriculum offerings, are a product of these efforts.

The Institute is unique in its focus on ethnic groups in America.  The library's manuscript and microform collections represent important resources in understanding the still-emerging story of America's multicultural heritage.

The library, museum and education departments strive to support and reinforce each other.  When collections are donated to the Institute, they are preserved in their entirety, and placed within the appropriate department for safekeeping.  The library's holdings consists of published works, manuscript collections, microforms and audiovisual materials; the museum collects three dimensional materials and works of art.  In many cases library manuscript and photograph collections help to document and interpret traditional clothing, household items or other materials from a corresponding museum collection.

Most of the process of preparing this guide was accomplished under the tenure of my predecessor, M. Mark Stolarik.  He served as President from 1978 through 1991, ably guiding the Institute through a critical period of development and growth.  I am pleased to have inherited his office and to build on the achievements of the past but look forward to future challenges and opportunities.  We hope that his series of publications will gain wider exposure for the collections among scholars, researchers, curators, students and visitors from all areas of the world.

John Tenhula, President and Chief Executive Officer