Collection information

The records of the YMCA of the USA, founded in 1851, and its various committees, programs, and constituent bodies, form the core of the Kautz Family YMCA Archives.

About the collection

In addition to personal papers of over 300 YMCA leaders, the collection has more than 75,000 photos dating from the American Civil War to the present.

Other materials include a complete set of Association Press publications, rare books and pamphlets, meeting minutes, research studies, scrapbooks, and artifacts such as flags from countries where foreign secretaries worked.

Although the Archives generally does not collect the records of state or local YMCAs, holdings do include the records of the Minneapolis and Greater New York YMCAs and of related organizations serving the worldwide "Y" movement, including Ys Men International, an auxiliary service organization, and the Association of Professional Directors.

Also in the collections are the records of George Williams College, formerly located in Chicago.

The collection spans the period from the early 1800s to the present (with the bulk concentrated from the 1850s to the 1980s) and documents every aspect of the YMCA, from work in the United States and overseas to the student movement, YMCA programs, local Ys, and the Armed Services and Transportation Ys. It contains records on the YMCA's moves to include women and minorities, information about the Y's service during wartime, and files on hundreds of YMCA buildings in 90 countries.

The records contain extensive information on YMCA programs in religion, education, physical education, sports and leisure; and on groups the YMCA served both in the United States and abroad, among them students, African Americans, native Americans, railroad workers, members of the armed services, and coal miners. Subjects covered include the evolution of the YMCA from its Protestant evangelical origins, the YMCA's contributions to Civil War relief, the invention of basketball and volleyball, rural reconstruction in India and Korea, teaching English as a second language, and more.

Records from the International Division include valuable material from the turn of the century to the present day about China, Japan, Latin America, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.

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Materials by type or format

Archival records: Organizational records and files Archival records comprise over 3,000 linear feet of material and include meeting minutes, correspondence and memoranda, research studies and reports, news clippings and press releases, financial and personnel records, pamphlets, maps, charts, blueprints, and subject files. The bulk of these records, dating from the 1850s through the present time, are organized as separate groups of material representing the programs and activities which created them, such as the Armed Services Division, International Work, Physical Education, Student Work, and many others. There are also collections of personal papers of various individuals associated with the Y, as well as an extensive biographical file, which was compiled by YMCA staff over the years.   

Photographs, postcards, and scrapbooks An extensive collection lantern slides, postcards, and photographs dating back as far as the Civil War includes images of a wide spectrum of YMCA individuals, programs and activities. There is an extensive series depicting YMCA buildings across the country. Images and scrapbooks documenting the YMCA's international work and its war-time activities with the armed services are also highlights of the collection, which includes over 100,000 items and occupies over 200 linear feet. Digital images of a small but growing number of photographs and postcards are available online via the University's UMedia Archive.

Films, videos, and audio-recordings Films and recordings created by the YMCA for various programs and activities or documenting certain events, including promotional, outreach, and training material. A highlight of the audio collection is an 1894 wax cylinder recording of the voice of YMCA founder George Williams.

Posters and broadsides The collections include over 400 posters and broadsides. Many relate to various YMCA conferences, events, training programs, and publicity campaigns. Highlights of the collection include World War I and II posters and posters from a 1920s public health campaign in China.

Artifacts Memorabilia and other three-dimensional objects relating to various functions of the YMCA. The collection includes Indian Guides and camping memorabilia, World War I uniforms, medals and medallions, badges and pins, flags and banners from around the world, antique sports equipment, printing blocks, and more. Also included in the collection prisoner of war artwork, primarily from World War I.

Books The collection includes over 5,000 books collected by the YMCA, originally as resources for its staff members, as well as a virtually complete set of the books published by the Y's own Association Press. The collection includes histories of the YMCA movement and its programs from the local to the international level, biographies and memoirs of various individuals associated with the Y, and works from various time periods in such subject areas as education, management, religion, morals, various sports, and camping.   

Periodicals Periodicals in the collection consist of titles published by the YMCA in the U.S. as well as by YMCAs around the world. They include journals of particular associations as well as those devoted to particular topics, such as physical education, missionary and other religious work, and work with students and youth. The collection also includes many non-YMCA publications on topics related to YMCA work.  

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