Using the Archives Contact Us Search Site Index -
College Archives
Published Resources
Teaching Resources
Records Management
Outside Links
About the Archives
library links
RG 15 - Oberlin Shansi Memorial Association
Scope and Content

The records of OSMA date from 1881 to the present and document the activities of Oberlinians in Asia during that period. Earlier records discuss missionary activities of the Oberlin Band such as evangelism, teaching, medical work, and the operation of opium refuges in the Shansi province of northern China. The bulk of these records, however, deal with the education activities of OSMA, which was formed as a living memorial to those Oberlin missionaries who died in the Boxer Rebellion of 1900.

Administrative and financial records of the OSMA from 1908-1981 document the founding and operations of primary and middle schools, and later a college, in Shansi. Extensive correspondence and numerous reports provide insight into the lives of the Chinese people in this era and the lives of American men and women living and working in China. These people observed first hand and regularly reported on political events and social issues in China, from the founding of the Nationalist government, to the invasion by the Japanese and the ensuing Sino-Japanese War, and to the eventual triumph of communist forces, ending American diplomatic relations and thus OSMA's work in China. Major corespondents include H. H. Kung, Mark Wu, Lydia Lord Davis, Wynn C. Fairfield, and Herbert Van Meter. Photographs, negatives, slides, and audio tapes provide extensive visual documentation of the time and place. A selection of glass lantern slides have been highlighted and described on an addendum page. Student essays and art work of very high quality provide the Chinese perspective.

Records from 1950 to the present trace the secularization of OSMA and document the transformation of its programs to an emphasis on two way exchange of students and scholars. Administrative correspondence offers a look at the role of cultural exchange in both higher education and international relations (and vice versa). Extensive correspondence with both American and Asian students and scholars paints a detailed picture of the impact of cultural exchange on the individual.

Records of the OSMA have been arranged into the following subgroups and series:

Subgroup I. Oberlin China Band

Series 1. Minutes (correspondence contained in the book)
Series 2. Correspondence
Series 3. General File

Subgroup II. Administrative Records

Series 1. Constitution, Regulations, and Amendments
Series 2. Minutes
Series 3. Reports
Series 4. Correspondence
Series 5. Committees
Series 6. Financial Records
Series 7. General File
Series 8. Directory of Representatives

Subgroup III. Program Areas

Series 1. China

Subseries 1. Ming Hsien
Subseries 2. Yunnan University

Series 2. Madurai, India
Series 3. Taiwan
Series 4. Japan
Series 5. Thailand
Series 6. Indonesia
Series 7. Korea

Subgroup IV. Representatives

Series 1. Reports and Letters
Series 2. Questionnaires
Series 3. Correspondence * (Restricted)
Series 4. Unsuccessful Applicants * (Restricted)
Series 5. Diaries of Student Representatives * (Restricted)
Series 6. Correspondence of Non-Representatives

Subgroup V. Publications and Publicity

Series 1. Newsletters
Series 2. Newspapers
Series 3. Mass Mailings
Series 4. Programs and Events
Series 5. Pamphlets and Flyers
Series 6. Miscellaneous Publications

Subgroup VI. Architectural Plans and Maps

Series 1. Architectural Plans
Series 2. Maps

Subgroup VII. Audio-Visual

Series 1. Photographs
Series 2. Photograph Albums
Series 3. Negatives
Series 4. Slides*
Series 5. Motion Pictures

Subseries 1. Films
Subseries 2. VHS Tapes

Series 6. Audio Tapes
(*See Addendum to Series 4.*)

Series Descriptions

Subgroup I: Oberlin China Band, 1881-1900, 1931-58 (0.4 l.f.)

Contains records pertaining to the Oberlin China Band, predecessor organization of the OSMA. Records are divided into three series: 1. Recording Secretary's Book; 2. Correspondence; and, 3. General File.

Series 1: Recording Secretary's Book, 1881-1899 (0.2 l.f.)

Consists of one volume containing minutes of meetings of the China Band, 1882-1884;original handwritten letters concerning the beginnings of the Oberlin Band in China Band, 1881, with copies added to the book by Martin Luther Stimson in 1889; brief quotations from the file of the Oberlin News, 1881-1885. Also included is one folder of typescript notes from this volume and other documents not extant taken by Grace McConnaughy, n.d. Roughly chronological within type of material.

Series 2: Correspondence, 1883, 1889-90, 1892-93, 1896, 1931-32, 1934, 1952, 1958 (0.1 l.f.)

Correspondence of members of the Oberlin Band and interested parties, 1883-96. Includes letters to and from C. D. Tenney, M. L. Stimson, F. H. Foster, Judson Smith, and others not identified. Also includes correspondence, primarily of Lydia Lord Davis, M. L. Stimson, and Wynn C. Fairfield, regarding the history of OSMA, 1931-34, 1958. Arranged into five categories: Letters concerning the organization of the China Band, 1881-1925; Letters received from the Oberlin China Band, 1883-1900; Journal Letters (photostat copies) from the Oberlin China Band preceding the Boxer Rebellion, 1900, 1907; Letters about the Oberlin China Band, 1900-1958; and, Letters and Accounts concerning the Boxer Rebellion, 1900-01, n.d. Arranged alphabetically in the inventory. Letters in this series are copies or transcriptions unless otherwise noted. (Five folders)

Series 3: General, 1881-1900 (0.1 l.f.)

Handwritten and typewritten notes, summaries, and extracts on the history of the Oberlin China Band. The material drawn on dates from 1881-1900, but the notes/summaries themselves are not dated. Contains lists of the original Oberlin Band members, extracts from Shansi Mission notes, extracts from Prudential Committee of ABCFM.

Subgroup II: Administrative Records, 1903-1999 (17.65 l.f.)

Administrative records documenting the founding and operations of the OSMA. The bulk of the Subgroup dates from 1920-1950. Arranged in eight series: 1. Constitution; 2. Minutes; 3. Reports; 4. Correspondence; 5. Committees; 6. Financial Records; 7. General File; and, 8. Directory of Representatives.

Series 1: Constitution, Regulations, and Amendments, 1908, 1923-24, 1949-77, 1983-85, 1989, 1991, n.d. (0.050 l.f.)

Describes the original purpose, objectives, and organizational structure of OSMA. Includes original and revised Regulations and Amendments, and draft proposals for the above. Includes OSMA’s original Articles of Incorporation and amendments.

Series 2: Minutes, 1907- (3.4 l.f.)

Minutes of meetings of the Association, 1907-40; minutes of the Executive Committee, Board of Trustees, 1941-97; and minutes of the Advisory Council, 1950. The Executive Committee, Board of Trustees, has been the primary decision making body since 1944. The minutes and supporting documents (i.e., Executive Director's Report, budget reports, and correspondence) discuss all issues regarding operations, organization, program development, and finance. Includes a "Duplicate" box which contains copies of Executive Committee Minutes. Arranged chronologically.

Series 3: Reports, 1907-1998 (0.8 l.f.)

Consists primarily of the Executive Secretary's Report, 1915-80, and the Annual Report of the OSMA, 1907-33, 1980, and 1982-98, the most important summaries of OSMA activities in any given year. Also includes Program Planner's Reports, 1973-80; extracts on OSMA from the Oberlin College President's Report, 1907-51; and reports of the Agricultural Department of Ming Hsien, 1928-43. Arranged chronologically within the office of origin.

Series 4: Correspondence, 1904-1986, 1991-98 (7.6 l.f.)

Correspondence of OSMA headquarters with individuals and organizations associated or concerned with OSMA activities, including administrators, representatives, Asian and American exchange students and faculty, colleges and universities, and organizations such as the ABCFM, 1902-61, the East-West Association and its director Pearl S. Buck, 1943-50, and the United Boards for Christian Colleges in China and Christian Higher Education in Asia, 1944-86. Arranged alphabetically by individual, institution, organization, or, in some instances, by subject.

Series 5: Committees, 1918-96 (1.6 l.f.)

Records pertaining to the activities and efforts of committees addressing specific challenges such as future policy or areas of concern such as agriculture or curriculum. Also contains records of the Student Committee, which played an important role in selecting representatives. Election Records exist for 1937-69, 1979-81, 1982-85, and 1987-91. Records of the Student Committee date from 1918-75 and 1977-1991, while the remainder of these files date from 1944 to 1948. Arranged by committee, with the most influential filed first. Chronological within committee. Minutes for Student Committee, 1926-96. The correspondence concerning the transfer of security and funds from the Charles M. Hall estate, 1928 are also included in this series.

Series 6: Financial Records, 1903-2001 (5.0 l.f.)

Consists of records pertaining to income and expenditures, including annual financial reports and budgets, 1910-1941; Financial Statements with Auditors' Reports, 1935-52, 1960-80, 1982-89, 1998-99; reports and correspondence of the treasurer, 1936-66, 1969-80, 1988-89; records of the Finance Committee, 1937-64, 1980-86; information on scholarship applications and awards, 1919-71; and ledgers and account books, 1903-72. The bulk of this series dates from 1920 to 1950. Arranged hierarchically, with annual reports and treasurer's records first, followed by Finance Committee records, general files, and ledgers. Also includes tax reports (IRS) from 1970's, 1980-83.

Series 7: General Files, 1918-1984 (2.5 l.f.)

Materials produced by, collected by, or related to the OSMA. Includes reports, essays, writings, speeches, notes for Susan Hinman's history of OSMA, and talks such Jacobson's Memorial Arch talk, 1989. Extensive notes by Wynn C. Fairfield for his history of OSMA and other reports, as well as his lectures and talks, make up 1.25 linear feet. Alphabetical by individual, institution, or subject.

Series 8: Directory of Representatives, 1918-1993 (1 vol.)

This 44-page spiral-bound "Directory of Representatives, 1918-1993" was produced by the office of the Oberlin Shansi Memorial Association.

Subgroup III: Program Areas, 1907-2000 (10.25 l.f.)

Records relating to OSMA's programs in Asian educational institutions. Includes administrative records, correspondence with exchange students and faculty and with those institutions, and a small amount of printed matter and students' work from the Asian schools. Arranged in six series: 1. China; 2. Madurai, India; 3. Taiwan; 4. Japan; 5. Thailand; and, 6. Indonesia. About one third of the material relates to OSMA's work in China.

Series 1: China, 1907-2000 (3.7 l.f.)

Subseries 1: Consists primarily of materials relating to Ming Hsien, 1907-1950, including minutes and correspondence of the Board of Managers; reports of the Ming Hsien schools; financial records of the schools; correspondence, primarily with Oberlin-connected ABCFM missionaries working in the schools and with Chinese students; a general file of student art work and essays, questionnaires, miscellaneous reports, and campus plans; and Chinese language printed and hand-written materials. Arranged alphabetically or chronologically within each document type.

Subseries 2: Includes files concerning the Yunnan University Program, 1987-1996. These files include Faculty Fellows and general information.

Series 2: Madurai, India, 1955-2000 (3.5 l.f.)

Records relating to OSMA's cooperative exchange programs with Lady Doak and American Colleges in Madurai. Includes minutes, reports, and correspondence of the Managing Committee; correspondence of the directors; correspondence with the colleges and with Indian "faculty fellows" who were sponsored to study in the U. S.; a few financial records; miscellaneous articles and reports; and catalogs and publications of the two colleges. The bulk of these files document the first phase of the program in India, 1955-1971, rather than the period since it was resumed in 1978. Arranged alphabetically or chronologically within each document type. A copy of Green Well Years (1997) by Manohar Devadoss is included in this series.

Series 3: Taiwan, 1954-1992 (1.25 l.f.)

Consists primarily of correspondence with "faculty fellows" (exchange scholars) from Tunghai University. Also includes a small amount of correspondence with the Tainan Boys School and Tunghai University catalogs and other publications, some in Chinese. Filed first alphabetically and then chronologically in each document type.

Series 4: Japan, 1952-2000 (1.0 l.f.)

Correspondence with exchange students from Nagoya University and Obirin Gakuen. Files also include the students' application for the program and some letters of reference. Arranged alphabetically within each school.

Series 5: Thailand, 1972-1984 (0.2 l.f.)

Correspondence with two universities and one individual who came to Oberlin on a faculty exchange. Arranged alphabetically.

Series 6: Indonesia, 1972-2000 (0.4 l.f.)

Correspondence with Gadjah Mada University and with American and Indonesian exchange faculty. Arranged alphabetically.

Series 7: Korea, 1972-1984 (0.2 l.f.)

Correspondence with Yonsei University and with Korean exchange faculty. Arranged alphabetically.

Subgroup IV: Representatives, 1931-1992 (17.85 l.f.)

Files, primarily correspondence, relating to Oberlin College graduates selected as OSMA representatives. Divided into five series: 1. Reports and Letters; 2. Questionnaires; 3. Correspondence; 4. Unsuccessful Applicants; and, 5. Diaries of Student Representatives.

Series 1: Reports and Letters, 1933-1990 (1.85 l.f.)

Consists of one-time reports to the OSMA trustees and periodic non-personal letters from representatives that served as regular bulletins or updates on their activities. Arranged chronologically within each document type. Each box can contain reports/letters from China, Japan, India, Indonesia, Taiwan, Thailand, and/or Hong Kong.

Series 2: Questionnaires, 1972, 1974, 1984, 1993 (0.4 l.f.)

Responses of representatives and former representatives to four different questionnaires. Arranged chronologically.

Series 3: Correspondence, 1931-2002 (15.0 l.f.)

Personal correspondence with representatives prior to, during, and after their service in the field. Discusses their appointments, travel and financial arrangements, and their experiences living and working in another culture. Some files, especially those dating from the 1970's and 1980's, include such confidential information as the students' applications, transcripts, doctor's reports, and letters of recommendation; therefore, researchers must have the archivist's permission before using this series. Arranged alphabetically by country and alphabetically by representative's name within each country.

See also Anthology of Shansi Rep letters, 2000, SG V. Publications and Publicity.

Series 4: Unsuccessful Applicants, 1986 (0.4 l.f.)

Files of applicants who were not selected as representatives. Include biographies, letters of recommendation and notes from the screening interviews. Records are arranged alphabetically by applicant. This series is restricted. Permission of the Archivist is required to view these records.

Series 5: Diaries of Student Representatives (unidentified) (4 vol.)

Consists of four composition books which served as the diary of one unidentified representative in the Shansi program. This series is restricted.

Series 6: Correspondence of Non-Representatives, 1991-1995 (0.2 l.f.)

Personal correspondence with non-representatives during and after their service in the field. Includes discussion on their activities, travel arrangements, and cultural experiences. Some files include applications and letters of recommendation. Arranged alphabetically by last name. Series is restricted.

Subgroup V: Publications and Publicity, 1900-2000 (5.0 l.f.)

Contains a variety of printed materials used to describe the work of OSMA in some detail, provide brief synopses for promotional purposes, or request donations from Oberlin alumni. Arranged by document type in six series: 1. Newsletters; 2. Newspapers; 3. Mass Mailings; 4. Programs and Events; 5. Pamphlets and Flyers; and, 6. Miscellaneous Publications.

Series 1: Newsletters, 1913, 1932, 1938-47, 1949- (0.8 l.f.)

Newsletters published by OSMA over the years. The bulk consists of the OSMA Newsletter, 1957 to present. Arranged alphabetically by title, chronologically within each title. The Newsletters report on the annual Shansi Day Assemblies.

Series 2: Newspapers, 1917-18, 1920, 1922, 1936, 1940-41, 1945-48, 1950, 1952-54 1956, 1958-64, 1976 (1.0 l.f.)

Newspapers published by OSMA and OSMA supplements to the Oberlin Alumni Magazine and the Oberlin Review. Also includes one folder of miscellaneous clippings and two boxes of clipbooks (c. 1908 -1975). Arranged chronologically.

Series 3: Mass Mailings, 1913-41, 1948, 1959-61, 1973, 1978 (0.4 l.f.)

Letters sent "Dear Alumnus" or "Dear Friends" to give brief updates on OSMA activities and request donations. Arranged chronologically.

Series 4: Programs and Events, 1910-1997 (1.6 l.f.)

Schedules, flyers, and other publications related to programs and events such as the Shansi Breakfast or anniversaries. Arranged chronologically within each document type.

Series 5: Pamphlets and Flyers, 1900-1980 (0.8 l.f.)

Small publications designed to explain and promote the past and present activities of OSMA to students and present and potential supporters. Arranged chronologically.

Series 6: Miscellaneous Publications, 1900-1949, 1993 (1.4 l.f.)

Miscellaneous publications dealing with OSMA as well as with China in general. Includes photoduplicates from microfilm negatives of ABCFM North China Mission minutes and reports (0.4 lin. ft.) and other English and Chinese language materials. American Board materials are filed first, chronologically, followed by the remainder of the documents filed alphabetically by title.

Series 7: Anthology of Shansi Representative letters, 1996-96, 2000

Correspondence, 1995-96, with contributors, and a copy of the book Anthology of Shansi Representative Letters, 1951-88 (2000).

Subgroup VI: Architectural Plans and Maps, 1910-58 (1.7 l.f.)

Architectural plans and maps consist of blueprints and aeronautical charts related to the work in China. Arranged in two series: 1. Architectural Plans; and, 2. Maps.

Series 1: Architectural Plans, 1910, 1917, 1929, 1931, 1958, n.d. (1.0 l.f.)

Blueprints, drawings, and rubbings of the school and mission compounds at Taiku and Fenchow-fu.

Series 2: Maps, 1908, 1921-22, 1935, c.1940s, n.d. (0.7 l.f.)

Three American Air Force aeronautical charts, 29 x 22, of the Lo River in Honan, China, three silk maps of China used by WWII pilots, Yunnan Province, Kunming and Lao Gai Railroad, and the Wei and Huang Rivers in North Central China.

Subgroup VII: Audio Visual, c.1890-1987 (15.05 l.f.)

Audio-Visual documents the work in China from approximately 1890 to 1985. Materials covers a wide range of photographic formats including individual photographs, photo albums compiled by student representatives, negatives and film reels. Arranged in five series based on format: 1. Photographs; 2. Photo Albums; 3. Negatives; 4. Slides; 5. Films; and 6. Audio Tapes. (An addendum for Series 4 is also contained).

Series 1: Photographs, c. 1890-1987 (5.15 l.f.)

Photographs documenting representatives and their work. Best represented is work in China, 1890-1950 (primarily b/w) and 1980s (color and some b/w). Also represented are Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, and Thailand, 1950s-1980s (primarily color). Also included are b/w pictures of Shansi school and some of its representatives, primarily from the late 1930s to the early 1940s. Additional color photographs are of Shansi activities and members in Oberlin, 1970s-80s, and photographs from alumni tours, 1980-81, 1988, and 1997. Photographs are arranged roughly chronologically; however later accessions of photographs relating to a particular country have not been filed with the earlier photographs from that country, but rather have been added at the end.

Series 2: Photo Albums, 1913-1937, 1960 (6.15 l.f.)

Photo albums compiled by OSMA student volunteers. Primarily black and white photographs documenting activity in China and Japan. Several albums are annotated.

Series 3: Negatives, c.1890-1933, 1934-37 (0.75 l.f.)

Box 1 Consists of two small volumes with pockets for 2 1/2" x 3 1/2" negatives, and one volume with pockets for 3.5” x 6” negatives (1999/034). Negatives are from China and Japan. Negatives are labeled in an index at the front of the volumes. Box 2 consists of 5x7 glass plate negatives documenting rural China c.1910s-20s. These plates have not been identified and thus are in random order.

Series 4: Slides, c. 1890-1949, 1981-82 (3.1 l.f.)

Approximately 1200 3x4 black and white and hand-colored lantern slides, 52 2x2 black and white lantern slides, and 65 35mm Kodachrome and other slides depicting people, places, occupations, and modes of transportation in China, most of them not specifically identified. Nine 3x4 glass lantern slides have been highlighted, dating primarily from c.1890-1905, with the assistance of Carl Jacobson, Executive Director of OSMA.

Series 5: Films and Videotapes, c. 1915, 1930's, 1940's, 1950, c.1970, c.1980, 2004 n.d. (24 reels)

Subseries 1. Motion Pictures:

Fourteen reels of 16 mm. film, 5 of which are by John Hamlin, apparently taken in China and related to OSMA's work. Ten 8mm reels are included, some of which were taken of or by reps Herbert Van Meter, Betty Cameron, and Robbins Strong. Not all films are labeled.

Subseries 2. VHS Tapes - Selected titles converted to videotape

Contains SVHS master and copy tape for each title (Some titles combined on one tape). [2001/065] Also included is a tape (and DVD) of "Oberlin Shansi: Renewing the Commitment to Joining Worlds," 2004.

Series 6: Audio Tapes, 1961 and 1979, (2 tapes)

Contains one "mini" reel-to-reel tape, and one magnetic cassette tape. The reel-to-reel tape documents a discussion by American College Lecturers of the Oberlin Shansi program, 10 March 1961. The cassette documents a tour given by Tom Gold to an Oberlin Shansi tour group on 15 July 1979.


Records of the Oberlin Shansi Memorial Association were acquired in fourteen lots between 1967 and 1991. Margaret Leonard directed the transfer of files from the OSMA office to the Archives in 1967, 1981, twice in 1987, twice in 1988, and twice in 1990. One lot of photographs arrived in 1991. Ellsworth Carlson transferred files in 1985. Carl Jacobson and Peg Leonard directed the transfer of the accessions in 1990. Four lots came from the Oberlin College Library in 1968, 1972, 1976, and 1987. Fourteen more accessions were received from the OSMA office in accessions 1996/098 1997/068, 1997/80, 1997/088, 1997/089, 1998/87, 1999/34, 1999/70, 2000/51, 2000/67, and 2000/80, 2000/112, 2001/005, and 2001/065. 0.4 l.f. of records were transferred from the papers of President Starr in 1998. Additional material was transferred from the Oberlin College Library, Special Collections, in 2001 (2001/094).

Related Materials

Papers of Oberlin College Presidents Henry Churchill King (RG 2/6), 1873-1934, and Ernest Hatch Wilkins (RG 2/7), 1927-46. Papers of Lydia Lord Davis (RG 30/80), 1862-1944; Florence Fitch (RG 30/37), 1807-1951; Alice Moon Williams (RG 30/58), 1883-1952; John Griffith Olmstead (30/2), c. 1902-1930; Everett D. Hawkins (30/130), 1927-1972; Robbins Strong (30/215), 1934-89; Herbert and Josephine Van Meter (30/288), c. 1930s-1987; Raymond T. Moyer (30/260), 1921-1992; Ellsworth C. Carlson (30/176), 1935-2000; Paul L. Corbin (30/49), 1886-1937; Frances Cade and E. John Hamlin (30/418); and records of the YMCA-YWCA (RG 29), c. 1900-1965; and the Oberlin Band of Student Volunteers for Foreign Missions (RG 19/3/1), 1886-1927.

See Archives guide to Missionary Records

Oberlin College Seal -