Archives history and mission

Mission of the Archives

The Kautz Family YMCA Archives, a part of the University of Minnesota Libraries Archives and Special Collections, collects, preserves, and provides access to the records of the YMCA of the USA and related historical material.

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History of the Archives

The Archives began life as a private collection of key material gathered to facilitate the training of new YMCA staff members, grew into a bustling corporate library, and eventually evolved into a university-based archives which serves researchers from around the world. Below are some key events in our history.

Jacob T. Bowne, while making a study of Association work in preparation for becoming the General Secretary at Hudson, New York, asked the International Committee (the governing body for the YMCA in the United States at that time) for material and was disappointed to learn that there was no official archives of basic YMCA records. Realizing the great value of conserving the literature and records of the Association, he begins gathering and classifying this material.
Now in Newburgh, New York, Bowne begins using the material in the training of other young men for the secretaryship, leading to rapid enlargement of the collection.
Bowne decides to donate his collection to the International Committee to hold in trust for the Young Men's Christian Associations of North America. The YMCA Historical Library of the Young Men's Christian Association Literature is established in Bowne's rooms.
Bowne becomes a member of the International Committee staff and is put in charge of developing men for the Association Secretaryship, a task for which the library is found increasingly serviceable.
The first YMCA Training School is incorporated in Springfield Massachusetts, and the library moves to its building under the direction of Bowne. The collection is now cataloged using the Dewey Decimal System.
In connection with the International Convention held in Springfield that year, the Library produces its first exhibit. It includes rare books and manuscripts, as well as over two hundred framed photographs of Association buildings, conferences, and individuals.
The collection comes to the YMCA headquarters in their new building in New York City.
The library now contains over 40,000 books, pamphlets, and documents, including publications of YMCAs in all lands in scores of languages and dialects. The Association's annual report of that year describes library as "a rare laboratory, the value of which cannot be overestimated" for the student of interdenominational Christian effort, and "the most complete reservoir of Association data in existence."
Budget reductions due to the depression force the National Council to reduce library staff to one part-time librarian and library hours are pared down to just three hours each afternoon on weekdays.
After years of understaffing and inadequate space, a temporary "Committee on the Library" is established to redefine the function of the library and recommend new plans for its oversight and management.
The library moves to the new Association headquarters on 291 Broadway, where C. Howard Hopkins makes heavy use of it while working on his History of the YMCA in North America.
An ambitious project to collect biographical sketches and other documentation on YMCA lay leaders of years current and past is launched by Dr. Ethan Colton and others. By 1959 it includes information on the early background, education, Association activities, offices and services, and career highlights in business or profession as well as social, civic, and religious affairs of nearly 100 individuals.
The library moves to a "modern, spacious, air-conditioned room" on the ninth floor of the New York headquarters, adjoining the Research and Planning Department.
The library celebrates its centennial. Reports written for the occasion highlight its dual roles as a historical collection serving researchers looking for historical information and as a modern corporate library serving YMCA staff in need of current information.
The YMCA of the USA moves its headquarters to Chicago, Illinois. Since the limited space and budget for the new headquarters include no provision for a library, the archives are packed and placed in temporary storage pending a decision on their disposition.
After working with consultant/archivist Gerald Ham to determine the best home for the material, the YMCA of the USA agrees to send the archives to the University of Minnesota, where they will complement the existing Social Welfare History Archives. The YMCA Archives are set up in University facilities near its St. Paul campus, under the direction of curator Andrea Hinding.
Richard C. Kautz (1916-2003), a businessman and prominent YMCA lay leader from Muscatine, Iowa, and his family donate $800,000 to fund a major preservation project. In honor of their gift, the archives is now named the Kautz Family YMCA Archives.
The Kautz Family YMCA Archives moves to the new Elmer L. Andersen Library on the west bank of the Mississippi River, bringing eight University of Minnesota Libraries special collections and archives units together into one building.
With funding from the Kautz family and the YMCA of the USA, the Archives completes a 3-year mass deacidification project, one of the largest of its type in North America, to ensure the long-term preservation of 9,500 books and more than four million sheets of manuscript materials.

For more information on the history of the Archives, see the Historical Library Records, 1880-1986 in the Kautz Family YMCA Archives, particularly Robert Young, [Thesis on the history of the YMCA Historical Library], 1967. Historical Library Records. Kautz Family YMCA Archives.

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About the YMCA of the USA

The YMCA, the oldest and largest social institution in the United States, has touched the lives of virtually all Americans. It gave the country basketball and volleyball, its best-known popular contributions. But it also pioneered camping, public libraries, night schools, and teaching English as a second language. The Y has provided war relief since the Civil War and served immigrants and refugees from countries around the world. It has fostered understanding and cooperation within Christianity and among the world's major faiths. It has summoned the strengths of association to make communities stronger.

The YMCA has probably touched more lives in America than any other volunteer institution.

-- Andrea Hinding, Curator 1985-2002, Kautz Family YMCA Archives

More on the History of the YMCA

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