Edgar Snow Collections: Collection Development Policy

Introduction

The Edgar Snow Collections at the Miller Nichols Library of the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) offer researchers access to international journalist and Kansas City native Edgar Snow’s writings, correspondence, film footage, and other memorabilia. The collections are closely associated with the Edgar Snow Memorial Foundation, an affiliated organization based on the UMKC campus and UMKC University Libraries whose mission is to enhance US and Chinese understanding and friendship in keeping with Edgar Snow’s legacy.

The collections are housed under the UMKC University Archives, which aids in UMKC University Libraries’ mission to “promote discovery, preservation, and dissemination of knowledge and creative work” by collecting, preserving, and providing access to historical materials related to Edgar Snow and his legacy. The University Archives is the official repository for UMKC campus administrative records meeting permanent retention, and for materials of historical value related to university functions. The University Archives has a broader collection development policy that may or may not interrelate to the Edgar Snow Collections.

Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to outline the scope and rationale behind collecting for the Edgar Snow Collections in order to:

  • assist in furthering our mission and upholding the professional standards of the library and archival community
  • aid University Archives and other library faculty and staff in selection of materials in a way that is planned, realistic, cohesive, and tied to the institution’s resources and priorities
  • inform the public of our selection priorities and encourage the donation of materials that support our mission and goals

Audience

The Edgar Snow Collections are available to all researchers on equal terms. The UMKC University Archives encourages anyone interested in the history of US-Chinese relations, including scholars, researchers, journalists, and interested civilians alike, to do research in its holdings. In addition to in-person clients, the UMKC University Archives serves researchers from across the globe who discover our resources online.

History of Collections

Mary Clark Dimond (1916-1983) started the Edgar Snow Collection at UMKC Libraries. She founded the Edgar Snow Memorial Foundation in 1974 as a fund to honor Kansas City native and international journalist Edgar Snow (1905-1972). Snow helped introduce the world to the communist People’s Republic of China in 1937 through his best-selling book Red Star Over China, which included interviews with early communist leaders such as Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai. Snow’s widow, Lois Wheeler Snow, finalized a 1986 loan-to-gift agreement with UMKC Chancellor George A. Russell that allowed Mrs. Snow to transfer boxes of materials to the university over a period of three years. Mrs. Snow and her two children retain copyright over the collection until they pass away. Additional materials from Mrs. Snow have been received as recently as 1994, and related gifts to the Library in memory of Snow are made on a regular basis from a variety of donors. The Edgar Snow Papers and associated collections were placed under the University Archives’ custody in 1984, prior to the University Archives and the Western Historical Manuscript Collection’s move from the library to Newcomb Hall. They complemented the personal papers and publications of Dr. E. Grey Dimond (1918-2013), the founder of UMKC’s School of Medicine, and his wife, Mary Clark Dimond. The Dimonds were family friends of the Snows and shared the same goal to improve Sino-American relations.

In 2014, the Edgar Snow Collection moved with the University Archives to the Special Collections and Archives Division in Miller Nichols Library. The Edgar Snow Reading Room houses books, periodicals, and artifacts related to Snow’s life and career, and Chinese history and culture. The approximately 30-square-foot space opened in 2016 and is located in the Special Collections and Archives Reading Room on the third floor of Miller Nichols Library.

Collecting Scope

The Edgar Snow Collection documents the life and times of international journalist and Kansas City native Edgar Snow, especially his contributions to American-Chinese relations during the 20th century. The collection includes materials related to the development of American-Chinese relations and Chinese history from the end of the Qing dynasty in 1912 to the present. UMKC University Archives collects materials in physical and digital formats.

Materials and Formats

Textual, audiovisual, machine readable, and three-dimensional items which have a subject matter or physical relation to Edgar Snow, his public or private life, his family, and his public or private associates may be acquired for the Edgar Snow Collection. Materials by or about Edgar Snow, such as holdings by scholars who have accumulated primary documents regarding his life and career, may be included in the collection. 

The University Archives no longer accepts duplicated copies of documents by and about Edgar Snow that are housed at other institutions.

Geographical Coverage

The Edgar Snow Collection reflects the international journalist’s professional activities reporting abroad and his years living abroad. His research and personal papers primarily cover geographic locations in the United States, China, India and southeast Asia, and Switzerland.

Dates of Coverage

The collection dates from the end of the Qing dynasty in 1912 to the present.

Languages

The Edgar Snow papers are primarily written or recorded in English, and include some materials written or recorded in Mandarin, Chinese, and French.

Subject Area

The subject areas described below are meant as a general guide to the top collecting priorities, rather than an exhaustive list of all subjects covered in our collections. Some of these build on existing strengths in the collection, while others outline more recent acquisition initiatives for collecting areas we wish to develop.

The Edgar Snow Collection is an overarching collection of international journalist and Kansas City native Edgar Snow’s personal and professional papers, as well as the personal and professional papers of his family, friends, and collaborators. These primary and secondary sources document Edgar Snow’s editorial reporting of the Chinese Communist Revolution of the 1930s, the Eastern Front of World War II, and American-Chinese international relations from the 1950s up to his death in 1972. E. Grey Dimond, dean of the College of Medicine at UMKC, and his wife Mary Clark Dimond were family friends of Edgar Snow’s and co-founded the Edgar Snow Memorial Foundation in 1972. The Dimonds’ papers overlap in coverage with the Edgar Snow Collection.

Publications in the collection include books and serials by and about Edgar Snow regardless of language. It also includes books and serials by and about Snow’s colleagues in China dated between 1928 to 1941. The collection contains English language books and serials on American-Chinese relations and Chinese history after the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1911 to the present. The Edgar Snow Collection will avoid duplicating UMKC University Libraries’ holdings in the circulating and rare book collections.

Collecting Methods

Purchases of historical collection material will only be considered in exceptional circumstances, such as for rare books and publications. Archival materials, books, and serials can be acquired via a legal transfer of title through a deed of gift. The archivist will evaluate unsolicited donations in terms of their suitability and relationship to other materials in the collection. Those not suitable for, or pertinent to, the collection will be returned to the donor. 

Retention

The University Archives will dispose of materials that do not reflect the above collecting scope, subject to documented terms of acquisition via deed of gift. The department will follow best professional practices and judgment as to the appropriate disposition method. Archival appraisal and acquisitions are iterative processes, influenced by an adaptable collection policy, that ultimately improve collections’ access over time.

If, after acquisition, the archivist determines that an item can no longer be stored properly, preserved, or is harmful to other items in the collection, the item may be copied and returned to the donor after review. Should the donor not desire the return of the material, it may be discarded.

The University Archives will retain a maximum of three copies of any item for preservation, digitization, and access purposes. Exceptions will be made based on items’ popularity, rarity, age, and condition. Duplicates exceeding three copies will be removed.

Exclusions

All material donated to the Edgar Snow Collection must have a legal transfer of title to the UMKC University Archives via a deed of gift or other official acknowledgement.

No item may be acquired:

  • that is not intended as a permanent part of the collection.
  • that does not fit within the confines of the collection policy.
  • with a commitment that it will be exhibited or that any special manner of exhibit will be followed.
  • that cannot be stored, protected, and preserved under conditions that ensure its availability for research or exhibit purposes and that are in keeping with accepted professional standards.
  • that is a duplicated copy of a document by or about Edgar Snow that is housed at another institution.

Related Collections

UMKC University Archives works to have strong relationships with other area repositories whose collecting missions complement and coincide with our own. These include, but are not limited to: the State Historical Society of Missouri-Kansas City Research CenterMissouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library; the Black Archives of Mid-America, Inc.; the Jackson County Historical Society; and the Johnson County Museum. University Archives staff will make referrals whenever possible when materials offered to the department that do not fall within our collecting scope may be appropriate for these repositories. Moreover, University Archives Collection priorities are informed by the collection strengths and priorities at these institutions.

Policy Review

We recognize that collecting focus may change over time in response to a variety of factors. In response to this, we will review this policy when a new version of the University Libraries Strategic Plan is issued.

Date of Policy and Author

First version:  1987

Updated version:  Becky Briggs Becker, 2022-2023

Attribution

This policy was developed based on the “Collection Development Policy for Libraries, Archives, and Special Collections” from the Brooklyn Historical Society

This policy is informed by the Edgar Snow Collections Development Policy of 1987.

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