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Records of the Office of Communications (Group 18)
[37] Records of the Office of Communications, 1923-1992, 79 l.f.

Administrative History

The records of the Office of Communications and its predecessor bodies cover a wide range of events and topics relating to Oberlin College and community. During the 19th century, Oberlin made sporadic attempts to provide coverage of college events to area newspapers. It was not until 1908 that these efforts were consolidated through the formation of the Faculty Committee on Newspaper Correspondence, renamed the News Bureau Committee in 1914. The board of trustees created a Publicity Bureau in 1928. In 1930 the first full-time assistant was assigned to the News Bureau, and in 1936, Allen Bailey ’36 was named as secretary of the Publicity Bureau. He served in this position until 1942. With help from student assistants sponsored by the Works Progress Administration and the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, during the 1930s, Bailey developed and organized clipping and photograph files for the bureau. As the Publicity Office continued to expand in size and activity, it was reorganized as its own administrative entity, the Public Relations Office, in 1952. From this point on, the department assumed a larger role in the preparation and production of college publications. During the 1970s, the office focused on Oberlin’s need to attract undergraduates through the dissemination of its published materials. In 1983, the college communications and public relations entities were consolidated as the Office of Communications that reported to the Office of the Secretary. The program occupied a house at 153 W. Lorain St. In 1995, the Office of Communications managed the college news service and college relations offices, and also housed the program units for graphic design, the college photographer, the Oberlin Alumni Magazine, and the Observer. The director reported to the vice-president of development and alumni affairs.

Scope and Content

The records of the Office of Communications, existing in both textual and non-textual formats, document the life of Oberlin College from 1923 to the present. Items of architectural substance in this record group are held almost exclusively in Subgroup I “Textual Files.” Architectural records are retained primarily in the alphabetically-arranged Series 5 “Subject Files” and grouped within the Buildings & Grounds/Development files, although a limited number of architectural materials are also held in Series 9 “Publicity Files.” The bulk of these combined records, 1932-1964, consist of scattered planning documents, specifications, work orders, building use proposals, photostats of architectural drawings, floor plans, and historical materials (such as news clippings and official press releases) as related to specific Oberlin structures. Notable among these items are textual descriptions of construction and renovations to some of Oberlin’s more celebrated 20th-century building projects, such as the Allen Memorial Art Museum, 1938-1961; Hales Gymnasium, 1937-1957; Wright Laboratory of Physics, 1941-1949; and the Kettering Hall of Science, 1955-1962. In addition, there are promotional documents such as dedication booklets, manuscripts of dedication remarks, national newspaper and magazine clippings, and biographical materials relative to a structure’s architect, including Wallace K. Harrison, designer of Hall Auditorium, 1953, and Minoru Yamasaki, the designer of Warner Concert Hall, 1963, and of the Conservatory of Music, 1964.

Smaller construction projects, such as the John Herbert Nichols Gateway, 1952-1956, and Old Barrows Hall, 1954-1963, are also found in subgroup I. Most significant among the printed materials are a definitive, though not exhaustive, “Summary of Campus Architectural Styles,” n.d., by Charles Parkhurst and a collection of news clippings relative to the funding of Oberlin building projects.

Subgroup II of this record group consists of non-textual media such as audio recordings and photographic slides. Series 1 holds audio tapes of dedication speeches, including orations by architects, college officials, and distinguished guests. Recordings include dedication programs for the Kettering Hall of Science in 1961, Warner Concert Hall in 1963, the Conservatory of Music in 1964, the King Building in 1966, Philips Gymnasium in 1971, the Robert K. Carr Pool in Philips Gymnasium in 1972, the Seeley G. Mudd Learning Center in 1974, and the Venturi addition to the Allen Memorial Art Museum in 1977. Series 2 consists of photographic slides of a limited number of campus structures and areas, including the Allen Memorial Art Museum, academic buildings, the Oberlin Arboretum, the Memorial Arch, Tappan Square, the town of Oberlin, and Wilder Hall/Wilder Bowl.

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