Oberlin Shansi films now available for viewing at the Oberlin College Archives

The Shansi: Oberlin and Asia project entailed transferring sixteen 20th century films taken by Oberlin Shansi Memorial Association (OSMA, or “Shansi”) personnel to DVD format for public access in the Oberlin College Archives reading room. All films are silent.

A short clip from one of the films is here below. The clip is an edited sample from a color, 16mm film shot by former Shansi representative Herbert Van Meter in 1948. The location is Chengdu in Sichuan province, where Shansi relocated after fleeing the original Taigu location in Shaanxi province ahead of the Japanese invasion in 1937. You will see a busy Chengdu street; Shansi’s school grounds, teachers and students; teachers in the Shansi Agricultural Department with animals donated by OSMA to improve local livestock; a ceremony celebrating the 40th anniversary of OSMA’s founding; and Shansi personnel and students practicing how to greet a new representative from America, using a dummy dressed up as an Oberlin Shansi representative.

Here is a summary of the films available for study as a result of this project. The earliest material can be found on assembly reels created by James S. Culp Productions in the early 1990s, using films made by people associated with Oberlin Shansi. In addition to these, nine films in the J. Clayton Miller Papers (RG 30/255, include footage of Oberlin Shansi and China in the early 1930s. Miller was a Shansi representative in China in 1930-32. These films were transferred to DVD in 2009 and are also available for research.

  1. “Oberlin in Shansi, 1928-1930” (James S. Culp Productions, assembly reel 1). 
    Black and white, 16mm, 53:32 minutes. OCA film number 238. 
    Footage of Oberlin Shansi at Taigu and Carleton College representatives at Fenyang, Shanxi, China. Includes footage of the Taigu hospital and personnel.
  2. “Ming Hsien Schools, 1928-1948” (James S. Culp Productions, assembly reel 2). 
    Black and white/color, 16mm, 34:57 minutes. OCA film number 239. 
    Composed of four original reels of the Ming Hsien schools in several locations, with documentation of the Agricultural Department’s activities in Taigu. Includes the ceremony in which Ming Hsien was turned over to the Communist regime in Chengdu in 1949.
  3. Untitled, Shansi assembly reel 3, ca. 1937 (James S. Culp Productions). 
    Black and white, 16mm, 42:41 minutes. OCA film number 241. 
    Comprises three original films shot in Taigu and Fenyang, Shanxi and some footage taken in Nagasaki Harbor just before the Japanese invasion. Two of the original films were made by Shansi representative E. John Hamlin, an avid photographer, who managed to take shots of a Japanese warship off Taku Bar from a porthole. Most of the footage documents Oberlin Shansi life in Shanxi, but also includes activities of certain representatives visiting Peking and Hankow [Wuhan], with some footage of a holiday in Hawaii, possibly during the Hamlins’ honeymoon.
  4. Untitled, Shansi assembly reel 4, ca. 1939 (James S. Culp Productions). 
    Black and white/color, 16mm, 39:06 minutes. OCA film number 242. 
    Comprises three original reels by “Cliff” Domke, a Carlton College representative. The film titles are: “Movement of Ming Hsien and Ming I Middle Schools,” “Chengtu [Chengdu] Plain,” and “Madame Chiang’s Warphanage.” 
  5. “Travel Outside Taiku [Taigu, China],” 1934. 
    Black and white, 16mm, 2:40 minutes. OCA film number 211. 
    Footage of a trip to Wutaishan, Shanxi, a Buddhist temple complex not far from Taigu.  Representatives include Gertrude Cheney, Joe Hamilton, Frances Cade, Richard Irwin, Betty James, and Robbins Strong.
  6. “Van Meter, Cameron, Farley, Howes, Knapp in China” [title incorrect], Taigu, 1934-37. 
    Black and white, 16mm, 17:17 minutes. OCA film number 227.
    Oberlin Shansi representatives and the Ming Hsien Schools at Taigu, and footage of the “Trek” to escape the Japanese invasion, from Sian in Shanxi to Jintang in Sichuan. Personnel include: Charlotte Tinker, Frances Cade, Melville Kennedy, Wynn Fairfield, Mark Wu (Wu Shouming), and Ch’eng Lao Shih.
  7. “J.P. Mei at Temple” [title incorrect], Taigu, China, 1937. 
    Black and white, 16mm, 3:50 minutes. OCA film number 212. 
    Footage of Shansi personnel including Gertrude Cheney, Frances Cade, and Josephine Van Meter, and students at the Ming Hsien schools exercising and putting on a skit.
  8. “Hamlin--A Peiping Funeral,” with eight subtitles, by E. John Hamlin, ca. 1940. 
    Black and white, 16mm, 18:28 minutes. OCA film numbers 229/330 (combined). 
    Locations in China: Chengdu, Datong, Pucheng, Xinjiang (Shanxi); Forbidden City, Beijing; Shantou (Canton); Suiyuan (Northern China). Also brief clips taken in Korea and Japan. Representatives include Frances Cade, Jo Van Meter, John Hamlin, Ray and Dorothy Moyer, Joe Hamilton, and Robbins Strong.
  9. “Peking, China,” 1947. 
    Black and white, 16mm, 3:35 minutes. OCA film number 214. 
    Footage of city life in Peking, with Shansi representatives E. John Hamlin, Frances Cade and Melville Kennedy. Includes shots of temples, city gates, and a Buddhist monk.
  10. “Landscape outside Taiku [Taigu, China]”, 1947. 
    Color, 8mm, 1:23 minutes. OCA film number 216. 
    Footage of Yangtze Gorges in Sichuan province; Mark Wu (Wu Shouming) and his family; Ming Hsien leadership, faculty and families; Shansi students and workers in fields.
  11. “Color footage from Van Meter,” 1948. 
    Color, 16mm, 18:13 minutes. OCA film number 232. (See clip, above.)
    This is the film from which the video sample above was taken. Herbert Van Meter, a former Shansi representative, shot these segments at Chengdu in Sichuan province, and the Ming Hsien school there. Includes an elaborate funeral procession.  
  12. “A Day in the Life of Shansi Representatives,” 1948. 
    Color, 16mm, 16:52 minutes. OCA film number 233. 
    Among the Shansi personnel featured are Betty Cameron, Chang Chih-Hsi, Donald C. Farley, Liu Hsu Ying, Mrs. Chia, Mrs. Sung, Ch’eng Tzu Ch’ing (head of the elementary school), Hwang Tsu Ch’eng (head of Agronomy Department), Mark Wu (Wu Shouming) and Josephine and Herbert Van Meter. 
  13. “Mint, Church, Moyers, new construction, Betty Cameron leading chain, Herb and Gretchen (Van Meter),” 1948-50. 
    Color, 16mm, 3:39 minutes. OCA film number 215. 
    Shansi representatives and other personnel at Chengdu, including Janet Knapp (Byles), Ray Moyer, Betty Cameron, Herbert and Josephine Van Meter and their daughter Gretchen, Harry Howes, and Don Farley. Includes shots of construction of the Oberlin-in-China Ming Hsien College.
  14. Untitled, China, 1949-50. 
    Color, 16mm, 3:13 minutes. OCA film number 243. 
    Footage of the commencement of Communist youth activities at Ming Hsien school at Chengdu around January 1, 1950. Shansi personnel include Herbert and Jo Van Meter, Gretchen Van Meter, and Mark Wu (Wu Shouming).
  15. “Yangtze Gorges,” undated. 
    Black and white, 16mm, 12:54 minutes. OCA film number 234. 
    Rural landscape footage with few people shown, in Sichuan province. 
  16. “Jintang Scenes,” China, early 1940s.
    Color, 8mm, 16:35 minutes. 
    This film was donated in 2012 by Florence “Bobbie” Dunn Carlson and added to the Ellsworth C. Carlson Papers. Both of the Carlsons were Shansi Representatives in Sichuan; Ellsworth served from 1939-43, and Bobbie served from 1940-44. The first footage was taken at a seaside and in city streets, location unknown. The rest of the film covers scenes in Jintang in the eastern part of Chengdu, such as agricultural activities, vendors, rickshaws, city gates, architectural details, and political posters or murals on walls.