The University of Michigan An Encyclopedic Survey

What it is:

Despite its somewhat unusual title, The University of Michigan An Encyclopedic Survey is a rich and particularly detailed source for the history of the university from its origins in Detroit in 1817, through the first century of its operation in Ann Arbor with updates extending the history through 1975. The Encyclopedic Survey is made up of more than 400 individual histories about the administration, schools and colleges, departments, programs, units, organizations, and physical facilities that comprise the university. In its hard-copy version the Encyclopedic Survey consists of six volumes and a series of unbound articles intended for an unrealized update. The text of all of the volumes and articles is contained within this on-line resource.

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Purpose and history:

The Encyclopedic Survey was an outgrowth of the 1937 centennial celebration of the establishment of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. As part of the centennial observances it was determined that "a treatment, in encyclopedic form, of the University's past and present accomplishments ... would form a desirable and unique evidence of the progress of the University since its first establishment in 1817." (from the preface to Volume I). Authorship of the articles was assigned to individuals affiliated with the schools and colleges, departments, units, and organizations included in the survey, while broader articles on the university's relation with state education and prior presidential administrations, for example, were authored by committee members. The individual articles include attribution of authorship along with bibliographical references to sources consulted during research. The overall project was edited by Wilfred B. Shaw, director of the Alumni Association. Shaw also provided the etchings used to illustrate the volumes. Following Shaw's retirement, he was succeeded by Walter A. Donnelly, editor for the University Press. Ruth Gjelsness served as associate editor for the final two volumes of the initial publication.

Publication history:

The first of four hard-bound volumes of the Survey was published in 1942. Publication continued through 1958 when volume IV, with a complete index was published. In the late 1960s discussions took place regarding updating the Encyclopedic Survey. Although work began on the update, covering the period from 1940 to 1975, production difficulties and budget reductions resulted in the issuance of two spiral-bound volumes in 1977 and 1981. These latter two volumes are generally not as comprehensive as the first four volumes. Articles received too late for inclusion in the updates as well as articles intended for an unrealized third update volume exist as a separate series of unbound articles. The committee in charge of the updates was chaired by Howard Peckham, director of the William L. Clements Library. In 1974 the project was transferred to the Bentley Historical Library which issued the two updates. (See the preface to volume V.) The updates were edited by Ferol Brinkman.

Contents and coverage:

The first published volume focused on the history, administration, and organization of the university with individual articles on the early history of the University of Michigan, governance, and the administrations of the first eight university presidents. The initial volume also included histories of the university's service bureaus and organizations along with alumni organizations and faculty clubs. Volume II focused on the college of Literature, Science and the Arts; the Medical School; University Hospital; Homeopathic Medical College; and the Law School. Histories of departments and units within the schools and colleges were also included. Volume III contained articles on the remaining schools and colleges. Coverage in Volume IV included histories of the libraries, museums, institutes, broadcasting services, university buildings and lands, athletics, and student life and organizations.

The 1977 update dealt with two presidential administrations, three vice presidential areas (university relations, state relations, and research), and the majority of the schools, colleges, libraries and cultural units covering the period from 1940 to 1975. The College of Literature, Science and the Arts, and the Vice-President for Business and Finance comprised the second update volume.

About the articles:

Since the articles were written by numerous authors across wide periods of time, there is some unevenness in the articles and their perspectives. There is also considerable overlap, particularly as the authors trace the histories back to the early days of the university when a very small faculty taught a large number of courses across numerous fields. With the exception of presidents, executive officers, and some key figures, biographical information on faculty members is limited. A separate volume of biographies of faculty members was considered, but did not come to fruition. Overall, the histories are highly detailed and are considered a very accurate source of information. While the first four volumes included bibliographical references, the update volumes did not list sources consulted.