Personal Papers and Archives

What are personal papers and archives, and why would I use them?

These are collections of documents and materials, sometimes from individuals or families, other times from organizations or businesses. They might include letters, diaries, photographs, drawings, printed material, files, financial records, and objects. Many may never have been published or even been intended for the public to see. They can provide insight into the views of people working or traveling in a region, detailed information on organizations, and miscellaneous materials that might be hard to find elsewhere.

OASIS, along with HOLLIS, may be a good source for finding information about papers of missionaries and diplomats held at Harvard. For example, the papers of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions provide information about its activities all over the world and often contains correspondence from missionaries in the field.

How can I find such collections? Consult:

  • OASIS (Online Archival Search Information System): provides "finding aids" - detailed descriptions of collections that contain a wide variety of materials - for some (but not all!) of the archival and manuscript collections held at Harvard. Please note that you cannot search OASIS using East Asian scripts, and you may need to try different romanizations when searching for historical names and places.
  • HOLLIS: HOLLIS contains brief records for many more of the collections held at Harvard. Where a finding aid exists in OASIS, there will be a link in the HOLLIS record. To search HOLLIS for archives and personal papers:
      • Go to Command Search
      • In the search box, enter wft=mx and wrd=yourkeyword. For example, try wft=mx and wrd=religion and wrd=japan. This will find all records where the words Japan and religion appears and the item's format is described as "mixed"
      • Click Search
  • Library staff: Not all collections are listed in HOLLIS or OASIS. Contact collections or reference staff at libraries with holdings on your topic.

Examples of collections with some Japan-related material:

Collections with an OASIS finding aid:

Champollion, Andre Cheronnet (1880-1914) Collection 1904-1909
OASIS finding aid
A gentleman scholar and artistic dilettante with talent in painting who focused his eye on the people and places in his global travels. Includes a journal outlining his 1904 trip to Japan and other countries.

American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. Archives: Guide.
OASIS finding aid
Records of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, including personal papers and photographs of individuals and organizations associated with it. Includes extensive materials on missions to Japan and other parts of Asia.

Castle, William R. (William Richards), 1878-1963. Diaries: Guide.
OASIS finding aid
Diaries of a diplomat who served in Japan in the early 1930s.

Court, Cora May Trawick, 1875-1970. Papers, 1893-1963: A Finding Aid
OASIS finding aid
Court and her husband moved to Kobe, Japan under the auspices of the General Board of Missions, Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC), South. Both taught at Palmore Gakuin while in Japan, and Rev. Court was the minister of the Kobe Union Church.  1901 – 1905.  Papers include reminiscences from the 1950s about her life in Japan, and notes to courses she taught at Lesley College on Japanese Culture, as well as some photographs, etc.

Forbes, W. Cameron (William Cameron), 1870-1959. Papers: Guide.
OASIS finding aid
Forbes was an American business and government executive. He served as governor-general of the Philippines, 1909-1913, and ambassador to Japan, 1930-1932.  Focus on politics

Gamble, Sarah Merry Bradley, 1898-1984. Papers, 1810-1984: A Finding Aid
OASIS finding aid
The Gambles made four around-the-world trips, working with doctors and social workers to set up family planning clinics in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Burma, Singapore, East and West Pakistan, India, Ceylon, the United Arab Republic, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Greece, Italy, Nigeria, France, Sweden, and England.  Collection includes diaries of various trips to Japan and East Asia in 1908, the 1950s, etc. 

Hocking, William Ernest, 1873-1966. Correspondence: Guide.
OASIS finding aid
Correspondence of Harvard philosopher William Ernest Hocking, his wife, Agnes Hocking, the Hocking family, and others.  From 1930-1932 he was chair of a Commission of Appraisal for the Laymen's Foreign Mission Inquiry, which studied the foreign mission work of six Protestant denominations in India, Burma, China and Japan. Hocking was principal author of the much debated report of this commission, Re-Thinking Missions.  Some correspondence also pertains to institutions involved with post-war Japan.

Collections recorded in HOLLIS (more detailed finding aids may be available at the holding libraries or with the materials):
American Unitarian Association. Dept. of World Churches.  Papers, 1918-1965
HOLLIS record
Correspondence, minutes and reports, printed material, newspaper and magazine clippings, and photographs relating to the Unitarian movement around the world, including Japan.
Andover-Harvard Theological Library: Ms bMS 521 [By appointment only.] 

Cary, Henry Montford, 1878-1936.  Papers, 1894-1938 (inclusive)
HOLLIS record
Letters, sermons, reports, clippings and other materials relating to the Universalist mission in Japan; and family letters, 1931-1938, including letters of Maude Cary (available as photocopies). From 1924 until his death in 1936, Cary served the Universalist Church mission in Japan. His wife, Maude Cary, was also an ordained Universalist minister.

Cate, Isaac Wallace, 1862-1908.  Papers, 1899-1915 (inclusive)
HOLLIS record
Chiefly letters (photocopies) from Cate to Luther Weston Attwood concerning the Universalist missionary movement in Japan. Cate served as a missionary in Japan from 1890-1897 and 1902-1908.
Andover-Harvard Theological Library: Ms bMS 177 [By appointment only.] 

Downing, Ruth G., Papers, 1938-1941
HOLLIS record
Letters, reports, and pictures relating to the Universalist missionary movement in Japan. Includes letters by Martha R. Stacy.
Andover-Harvard Theological Library: Ms bMS 176 [By appointment only.] 

Kirk, Hazel Ida, 1885-1957.  Papers, 1886-1957 (inclusive)
HOLLIS record
Correspondence, 1886-1957; biographical papers, 1900-1955, including certificates, programs, and clippings; subject files, mainly on Japan; sermons, 1914-1955; lectures, 1931-1952; some essays and miscellaneous compositions, 1918-1955; scrapbooks, photographs and negatives, 1904-ca.1934, including numerous photographs of Japanese customs and occupations and of Universalist mission work in Japan, 1918-1923. Kirk served as a Universalist missionary to Japan from 1918-1923.
Andover-Harvard Theological Library: Ms bMS 190 [By appointment only.]

OASIS: The Online Archival Search Information System (OASIS) database allows users to search a small but growing percentage of the finding aids for archival and manuscript materials found at Harvard University and Radcliffe Institute. There are over forty archival and manuscript repositories at Harvard / Radcliffe, all specializing in differing, though sometimes overlapping, subject areas.

Note: VIA does not currently handle East Asian scripts. All searches for East Asian terms must be entered in romanization.