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RG 18 - Office of Communications
Scope and Content

The records of the Office of Communications and its predecessor bodies serve as a significant vertical file covering a wide range of events and topics of interest to the College. The records, existing in both textual and non-textual formats, thus provide an historical overview of these events and topics, dating from 1923 through the present. Comprised of news clips, subject files, news releases, photographs and reel to reel tape recording, the collection documents Oberlin history, Oberlin traditions, present and past aims, and other matters presenting to the public Oberlin's unique role in higher education.

Records pertain to the methods by which the Office of Communications serves as the administrative unit through which news about Oberlin College is gathered and distributed through the media. Although early efforts at public relations are not well documented, records from the 1920s indicate the gradual organization and growth of this news bureau function. The modern day equivalent of the Office of Communications developed over five decades.

Administrative efforts to shape the public image of Oberlin College are chronicled in these records. Dissemination of news and publicity through a variety of formats is also evident. Changing technologies for presenting news are documented here as well. The advent of wire services, radio, and television all impacted on the manner in which public relations information was conveyed and distributed. For example, files dealing with radio indicate a major emphasis on broadcasting Oberlin musical programs and symposiums lasting from 1930 through the mid 1950s. The production of a videotape in 1992, which details Oberlin's commitment to minority education, represents the use of a more recent technology and format.

The records of the Office of Communications are divided into two major subgroups. In segregating the files along the lines of format (textual records and non-textual records), one further understands the technologies employed by the Office as well as the methods used to represent Oberlin graphically and in print.

The textual records include administrative files, correspondence, news releases, newspaper clippings, publications files and subject files. Administrative files primarily reflect the modern administration of the Office during the tenure of James Lubetkin (O.C. 1963) from 1971-84, but do contain scattered annual reports from 1934 to 1971. A few items in the subject files contain information on the budget and College policy in general. The Lubetkin files document an increased awareness of minorities, and a strong commitment to recast Oberlin's image.

The correspondence series is very modest. That which was not separately maintained is dispersed throughout the subject files which contain both incoming and outgoing correspondence. The correspondence series contains the representative work of four different directors, Paul Douglas, Walter Reeves, Phil Tear, and Don Molloy. The chronological file, for 1969-70, is useful in gaining a feel of what transpired in the Office during a particular year. The General file likewise contains scattered correspondence which attests to the wide constituency served by the Office of Communications.

Subject files represent the largest records series and also the most significant series. The subject files serve as a time capsule chronicling stories about campus events and occurrences, faculty and student activities, appointments, promotions, and developmental gifts. The subject files show the way the office filed and retrieved information. Arranged alphabetically, these files primarily contain the raw material used to compile press releases. Dating from 1930 to 1989, these files contain much usable general information providing an orientation which serves as a springboard for further research. The alphabetical arrangement also acts as a balance for the chronological run of news releases spanning from 1958 to 1991. These two series largely complement one another.

The large volume of newspaper clippings serves as a means to measure the relative success of the Office of Communications in disseminating information and presenting a sympathetic picture of Oberlin to the public at large. The clippings are arranged into three subseries with the most basic arrangement scheme being along the lines of subjects designed to provide rapid access. While the clippings file should not serve as the final source of information, these records offer a convenient way to provide the context for more thorough study.

Beginning publication in 1979, the Observer is the official newspaper for the Oberlin College faculty and staff. The paper is produced under the auspices of the Office of Communications, and is filed here in accordance with administrative control of the paper. Unlike the Alumni Magazine which shares space in the Office of Communications house on Lorain, the Observer has been constantly affiliated with the Office of Communications. The Alumni Magazine has reported to several different administrative bodies, therefore it is filed with the Alumni Association records as that entity has had historical control over the publication. The records of the Observer consist of bound volumes, an index, and notes taken by Editor Carol Ganzel at General Faculty meetings which became the basis for articles on these meetings.

Production of various campus publications has been handled by the Office of Communications and its predecessors since the 1930s. The publications series contains files relating to the production of these publications, many of which are one-time-only publications while others are produced in an ongoing basis. These files relate to the cost and production of brochures commencement programs, Office of Development campaign literature, and serial publications such as The Oberlin College Bulletin. The records contain examples of the finished product in addition to layouts and specifications. These functions are presently handled by Graphic Design, an affiliated unit.

Another supplement to the subject files and clippings series is the special events file. Primarily comprised of records relating to the celebration of the Centennial of Coeducation in 1937, these records provide insight into the process of organizing large scale celebrations and events. Noticeably lacking here are records of the Sesquicentennial celebration in 1983.

The second major subgroup, non-textual records, consists exclusively of non-paper media. Divided into two series, the records are comprised of audiotapes (reel-to-reel), and photographic media. The 700 audiotapes offer a wealth of recorded speakers and events to the researcher, providing the opportunity to hear the actual speakers or symposiums as they occurred. Dating from 1952 through 1987, these recordings are a rich source of distinguished visitors and faculty members speaking on relevant topics of the day. Key symposiums include debates on student demonstrations and reaction to American involvement in Vietnam. Recorded coverage of memorial services for slain leaders John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. assess the campus mood at the time of these events. Addresses given by Presidents William E. Stevenson and Robert K. Carr shed light on understanding their respective presidencies. Significant speakers recorded here include Abe Burrows, Clyde Holbrook, Martin Luther King, Jr., Senator Henry M. Jackson, Gloria Steinem and Robert E. Neil.

The role of the College Photographer is documented in the photographic media series. The latter contains contact sheets, negatives, slides, and the 1992 video on minorities. Photographs are described here, but are physically housed elsewhere in record group 32. Record group 32 was created by Archivist William E. Bigglestone as the central location for photographic material, combining photographic items from a variety of sources. Likewise the negatives of Arthur "Pinky" Princehorn (b.1904), College Photographer from 1931 to 1969, are separately identified and housed in record group 32/6. Photographic subject files in record group 32 are essentially the old working files of the Office of Communications. The photographic media provides a graphic portrayal of life at Oberlin College and in the Oberlin Community.

The records of the Office of Communications are organized in the following subgroups and series:

 

Subgroup I. Textual Records

Series 1. Administrative Files

Subseries 1. Annual Reports

Subseries 2. Administrative Files (Jim Lubetkin)

Subseries 3. Office of the Ombudsperson [2001/100]

Series 2. Correspondence

Series 3. General File

Series 4. Name Files

Series 5. Subject Files

Series 6. News Releases

Series 7. Newspaper Clippings

Subseries 1. Alphabetical Subjects, 1934-39

Subseries 2. Chronological Clippings

Subseries 3. Topical Clippings

Series 8. The Observer

Series 9. Publications Files

Series 10. Special Events Files

Subgroup II. Non-Textual Records

Series 1. Audio Recordings

Subseries 1. Reel-to-Reel Tapes

Subseries 2. Cassette Tapes

Subseries 3. CD-Roms

Series 2. Photographic Media

Subseries 1. Contact Sheets

Subseries 2. Negatives

Subseries 3. Photographs (Prints)

Subseries 4. Slides

Series 3. Videotapes


Series Descriptions

Subgroup I. Textual Records, 1923-2000 (52.7 linear feet)

This subgroup designation, which is designed to distinguish the format of the records, separates the photographs and sound recordings from the paper files. Records are comprised of the paper records created or received by the Office of Communications. The subgroup is subdivided into ten records: Series 1. Administrative Files; 2. Correspondence; 3. General File;4. Name Files; 5. Subject Files; 6. News Releases; 7. Newspaper Clippings; 8. The Observer; 9. Publications Files; 10. Special Events Files.

Series 1. Administrative Files, 1934-83 (1.70 linear feet)

Consists of an incomplete file of annual reports of the Office, 1934-71, and the administrative records of Jim Lubetkin, Director of College Relations, from 1971 to 1984. Included Lubetkin's records are his committee files, personnel files on his staff, and various subjects relating to College activities and media relations. His records from the College Investment Advisory Committee (CIAC), which he chaired, were transferred to the Record Group 33 (Committees). Arranged into two subseries: 1. Annual Reports, and 2. Administrative Files (Jim Lubetkin).

Series 2. Correspondence, 1952-57, 1964, 1968-70, 1984-88 (0.4 lin. ft.)

The correspondence contained within this records series represents a small portion of the correspondence carried out by the Public Relations Office. The series contains the outgoing correspondence of Don Molloy and Phil Tear for 1969-70, arranged chronologically by month. The correspondence mainly deals with advertising and College publications. Also found here is a file of Walter Reeve's personal correspondence for 1964 and 1968-69. Letters of reference, written by Paul Douglas between 1952-57 and Walter Reeves from 1968-69, attest to their efforts to place students in post-graduate programs. Additional correspondence is to be found throughout the subject files.

Series 3. General File, 1952-70 (0.4 linear feet)

Consisting primarily of correspondence, the general file contains a partial alphabet from A to W. The bulk of the files are from the early 1960s, but dates range from 1952 to 1970. Both incoming and outgoing correspondence with individuals, faculty members and other colleges are found in this series.
Series 4. Name Files, 1936-87 (0.4 linear feet)

Name files contain correspondence, clippings, and supporting documentation relating to campus visitors, faculty members, and graduates. Many of the files contain background information on individuals used to compile news releases. Notable names include Charles Martin Hall, Martin Luther King, Jr., Paul Robeson, Eldridge Snyder, Adlai Stevenson, and Bishop Desmond Tutu. The series is alphabetically arranged.

Series 5. Subject Files, 1930-89 (19.0 linear feet)

Containing the bulk of the textual records, this series is an alphabetical record of College and Conservatory events, activities, and organizations. The record series also serves as a historical file chronicling campus unrest in the 1960s and changing social rules and regulations. These files were largely created for the purpose of gathering information to prepare news releases. Typical files contain news releases in draft and final form, correspondence (incoming and outgoing), clippings, and printed material. Topics range from issues such as academic freedom and loyalty oaths to student organizations and campus and community events. The Conservatory of Music subject files contain documentation on advertising, choir tours, the Salzburg program as well as Willard Warch's 1967 manuscript on the centennial history of the Conservatory. The College's efforts to utilize radio broadcasts to promote the College is well documented here. These files serve to support the news releases in series 6.

Series 6. News Releases, 1955- (8.2 linear feet)

This chronological sequence of news releases represents the main product of this administrative office, copies of news releases sent to newspapers and organization throughout the country. The only significant gap is for the year 1959. No releases exist for that year. Although releases were prepared prior to 1958, they were not maintained chronologically until 1958. Earlier releases may be found in the subject files. News releases contain stories on appointments and resignations, campus events and subjects, frequently in a suggested format. A news release log beginning in 1955, reports the date, subject, release number, total copies sent, and running totals. The log is complete from 1955 to 1988, with the exception of 1973-76, which is unaccounted for. The log for 1980-88 is a photocopy of the record still held by the Office of Communications.

Series 7. Newspaper Clippings, 1923-2000 (16.2 linear feet)

This large file of newspaper clippings documents the efforts of the Office of Communications and its predecessor bodies to promote Oberlin College in the press. Primarily comprised of news clips compiled by external clipping services, the series offers a rich source of information on subjects and events which were significant in the life of the College. Particularly rich are the clippings reporting on student demonstrations and protests in the 1960s. Both original clippings and photocopied clippings are housed within this series. The series is organized into five subseries: 1. Alphabetical Clippings (Original), 1934-39; 2. Chronological Clippings (Photocopied); 3. Topical Clippings (Original and Photocopied); 4. Scrapbooks; 5. Clipbooks.

Series 8. The Observer, 1979-91 (1.6 linear feet)

Consists of printed editions of the Oberlin College faculty and staff newspaper the Observer, 1979-1992, and General Faculty meeting files maintained by Carol Ganzel, including copies of minutes, supporting documents, and notes (prepared from meetings in her hand), covering the period 1987-1990.

Series 9. Publications Files, 1939, 1952-81, 1984, 1992 (2.5 linear feet)

Documentation consists of records relating to the creation of College publications. Files contain the final printed copy, drafts and blue lines, as well as correspondence and fiscal records relating to cost and distribution of publications produced by Oberlin College. Publications range from brochures and fliers to commencement programs and course catalogs. The majority of the records date from the appointment of Walter Reeves as the first Director of Publications in 1963.

Series 10. Special Events Files, 1937, 1947, 1957-61 (2.5 lin. ft.)

This records series documents the public relations efforts in support of special events from 1937 to 1961. The majority of the records pertain to the massive public relations push to commemorate the Centennial of Coeducation in 1937. Included in these files is the correspondence written by William F. Bohn (1878-1947) and Ernest Hatch Wilkins (1880-1966) mainly covering invitations to the event. Other special events include the inaugurations of Presidents William E. Stevenson (1900-1985) and Robert Kenneth Carr (1908-1979), and the 75th anniversary of Charles Martin Hall's (1863-1914) discoveries in the aluminum field held in 1961. Records of building dedications are located in the subject file. Newspaper clippings contain additional coverage of many of these events.

Subgroup II. Non-Textual Records, 1950-87 (34.31 linear feet)

Arranged and described under subgroup II, are all non-paper records or media. Consisting of tape recordings, photographs, contact sheets, negatives, slides, and video, this subgroup mainly documents the work of the College Photographer. The tape recordings and photographs provide a graphic portrayal of campus life and events. Organized into two series: 1. Audio Recordings, and 2. Photographic Media.

Series 1. Audio Recordings, 1952-87 (27.61 linear feet)

Subseries 1. Reel-to-Reel Tapes

Divided into two subseries: 1. Reel-to-Reel Tapes, 2. Cassette Tapes. Over 700 reel-to-reel audiotapes located here broadly documents College life. Tapes record visiting speakers, commencement ceremonies, presentations given by faculty members and presidents, and debates and forums at Oberlin College between 1952 and 1987. The bulk of the recordings are from assemblies, and include addresses by Minoru Yamasaki, Ralphe Bunche, William Sloane Coffin, Jr., Henry Kissinger, Martin Luther King, Jr., Roy Wilkins, S.L.A. Marshall, Edwin O. Reischauer, Ralph Nader, Jesse Jackson, Shirley Chisholm, Gloria Steinem, Alex Haley, Gwendolyn Brooks, Ralph Abernathy, Julian Bond, and Cesar Chavez. Tapes are arranged chronologically. An index on 3x5 cards lists speakers and symposiums alphabetically (although the index also contains recordings not housed in this record group). The majority of the tapes are wound tails out. Subseries 2., Cassette Tapes, contains cassette tape copies of reel-to-reel tapes found in subseries I. See also 37/4 for other cassette tapes.

Subseries 2. Cassette Tapes

Contains cassette tape copies of reel-to-reel tapes found in Subseries I.

Subseries 3. CD-Roms

Contains CD-Rom copies of reel-to-reel tapes found in Subseries I.

Series 2. Photographic Media, c.1950-92 (5.0 linear feet) *

Records primarily document the efforts of the college photographer to capture a sense of College life and to provide illustrations for publications and news releases. A large portion of the photographic work was handled by Arthur Princehorn (b.1904), College Photographer from 1931 until his retirement in 1969. Princehorn's work is intensely connected with the Public Relations Office, although his photographs and negatives are separately maintained. Princehorn's negatives (1917-1966) are filed in record group 32/6. Prints attributable to Princehorn appear throughout the photographic subject files in record group 32. This series is comprised of five subseries, generally designated by format: 1. Contact Sheets; 2. Negatives; 3. Photographs; 4. Slides; and 5. Video.

Subseries 1. Contact Sheets, 1959-73 (1.25 linear feet)

The contact sheets retained here represent a sampling of the work of various college photographers between 1959 and 1973. Photographers include Robert Williams (b.1916), Arthur Princehorn (b.1904), and Robert Stillwell (b.1945). The contact sheets provide evidential value of the photographic process in place at the time, as well as the photographer's perspective. The contact sheets, largely unidentified, are chronologically arranged.

Subseries 2. Negatives, c.1950-85 (1.25 linear feet)

Represented here are miscellaneous negatives in a variety of formats, including 35mm strip negatives, 2x2, 4x5, and 8x10. The negatives encompass a variety of people, events and subjects. A portion of the negatives from the 1970s and 1980s are entered in the Archives numbered negative file. The Princehorn negatives (32/6) should also be consulted.

* The volume figure given here only represents materials physically housed within this record group. Additional photographic records are described here, but housed elsewhere.

Subseries 3. Photographs (Prints), [c.1910-1988]

Although the photographs are described here, they are physically filed in Record Group 32. Photographs organized in record group 32 include buildings, subjects and miscellany. Photographs in these files have come from a number of sources, the primary source being the college photographer and Office of Communications. In a real sense these images represent the working files of the Office of Communications. Many of the photographs bear a stamp which notes either "News Bureau" or "Public Relations". Further information and more complete inventories appear in the Archives "Guide to Photographs."

Subseries 4. Slides, 1961-84 (2.0 linear feet)

These slides of campus and community scenes, and assorted faculty and staff members provides further evidence of the work of the college photographer and Office of Communications. The slides represent the efforts of Robert Stillwell (b.1945) and John Corveau. Of interest are the slides relating to the 1980 Winter Term project, "Rediscovery of the Underground Railroad."

Series 3. Videotapes, 1992 (0.2 linear feet)

Found here is a videotape produced by the Office of Communications. Titled, "Follow the Morning Star," the video documents Oberlin's commitment to African-American and minority students. The video, released in 1992, is narrated by Bill Cosby and includes several images from the Oberlin College Archives. See also Shurtleff house tour, 2001/013, RNG 42. Also includes the transcript (27 p.), written and produced by Betty Gabrielli.

 

Provenance

The records of the Office of Communications (Public Relations Office) were received in nineteen separate accessions between 1967 and 1992. In December 1966, Archivist William E. Bigglestone conducted a records survey of the Public Relations Office in Peters Hall. At that time he identified four major records series and developed a retention schedule for transfer to the Archives. In 1967 the first lots of records were transferred to the Archives, consisting of paper files, photographs, and audiotapes. Photographs generated by Public Relations were interfiled with existing photographs in record group 32. The remaining records were classified as part of the newly created Public Relations record group (18). The largest accession was received in September 1988 when 52 linear feet of records were transferred to the Archives from storage in Peter's Hall. In 1991, Rick Sherlock, the College Photographer transferred eleven cartons of miscellaneous prints, negatives, and contact sheets which represented the work of his predecessors. These photographic files were added to the records of the Office of Communications. Processing of the collection began during January 1992. At that time the total volume of the collection stood at 110 linear feet. After considerable weeding, the collection now stands at 79 linear feet. Not included in this volume are five linear feet of records separated from the collection: College Investment Advisory Committee (CIAC) files which were transferred to record group 33 (Committees), and the faculty and staff files which were interfiled into record group 28. Several files of photographs were added to those already identified in Record Group 32.

Since 1992 an additional 32 accessions have been added to the collection. These accretions include CD-Rom copies of the reel-to-reel audio recordings filed in Series 1, Subseries 3.

Related Materials

For additional information regarding the Office of Communications and its predecessor bodies, the researcher is advised to consult the following collections: William F. Bohn (3/1) as well as the other Presidential Assistants in record group (3); Records of Presidents from King to Fuller (2); Office of the Secretary (5); and Alumni Association Records (20). Publications produced by the Office of Communications can be found in College General (0). Photographs are located in record group (32); cassette tapes in record group 37/4.

 
 
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