Centennial History Project records

Centennial History Project records

Dates: bulk 1971-1979, 1835-1979 (bulk 1971-1979)

The Centennial History Project records are contained in 137 boxes and occupy approximately 45 linear feet of shelf space. The collection contains documents created and/or accumulated by Centennial History Project participants. Documents in the collection contain information relative to at least two major areas of interest: 1) The operation of the Centennial History Project; 2) The actual history of the University. The various administrative, correspondence, source material, and draft files in the collection reveal the inner workings of the project. Closely documented, is the manner in which the project was pursued, and the attitudes, abilities, personalities and interactions of the principle participants. The same files contain valuable information regarding the history of the institution from the time of its founding through the administration of Ernest L. Wilkinson. It should be noted, however, that the collection does not contain copies of all source materials consulted by project researchers. Contained in the collection are only those documents which staff members duplicated otherwise acquired for various reasons. Conspicuously absent from the collection are the research files and working papers of Bruce Hafen, writer of the chapters regarding the Oaks administration. These papers are found among the Bruce Hafen administrative papers. Roy Bird Copy Editor Files contains three boxes containing correspondence and papers relating to the final stages of the project.

  • Extent: 137 boxes (68.5 linear ft.)
  • Creator: Brigham Young University. Centennial History Project
  • Call Number: UA 566
  • Repository: L. Tom Perry Special Collections; University Archives; 1130 Harold B. Lee Library; Brigham Young University; Provo, Utah 84602; http://sc.lib.byu.edu/
  • Access Restrictions: Open for public research.
Languages and Scripts
In the processing and preparation of the collection for research, an effort has been made to observe and respect the original arrangement of the files and the folder contents of the various series. However, in order to deal efficiently with the large volume of documents which were unfolded and unorganized when the collection was accessioned, and in order that the final arrangement of materials would facilitate efficient and thorough research, some liberty has been taken to refile documents, combine folder contents, and in some cases, create new files. The collection is arranged into four series: 1. Ernest L. Wilkinson Office files; 2. Staff Correspondence files; 3. Source Material files; and 4. Draft Files. A fifth group, the Roy Bird files has been added to the collection after the initial processing was completed.
Conditions of Use
It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances. Permission to publish material from the Centennial History Project records must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services and/or the Special Collections Board of Curators.
See also: In the UA oral history interview collection there are interviews with Harvard Heath and Richard Bennett, to of the major researchers on the Centennial History Project. They describe in sone detail the inner workings and relationships of the staff who essentially created this collection.
Preferred Citation
Initial Citation: UA 566; Centennial History Project records; University Archives; L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University. Following Citations: UA 566, LTPSC.
Custodial History
Records in this collection were created and/or accumulated by the official members of the Centennial History Project. Principle participants in the project maintained offices in two locations on the university campus. Project Director Ernest L. Wilkinson occupied office space in the Faculty Office Building. There his office files were created and maintained until the conclusion of the project, at which time his files were transferred to the Smith House on Campus. While in storage there, the files were accessed and periodically perused by researchers compiling a biography of Wilkinson. From the Smith House Wilkinson's files were transferred in 1978 to the custody of the University Archives. Members of the project's research and writing staff occupied office space in the university's Harold B. Lee Library. Though staff members carried on their various research assignments in numerous locations on and off campus, the library office served as a centralized repository for the various files which they routinely generated and revised. Toward the close of the project and following the departure of the original research and writing staff these files were routinely accessed and perused by various individuals responsible for verifying documentation and preparing the manuscripts for publication. The staff files were transferred to the University Archives in 1978.
Acquisition Information
Transferred; office of Ernest L. Wilkinson (project director); 1978.
Separated Material
The following items originally accessioned with the Centennial History Project papers have been separated from the collection and placed in the custody of the University Archivist for proper disposition. 1. Audio tape recordings. See U.A. Tape Collection 2. Photographs. Included were several photographs of Walter Wolfe, a photograph of the Presbyterian School in Springville, Utah, and miscellaneous photographs of Ernest L. Wilkinson. 3. Several voluminous documents reproduced by the project staff, but exhibiting very few staff annotations and existing elsewhere were in University Archives or Manuscript collections. Included were the George Brimhall diary, David John diary, Francis Kirkham diaries, L.D.S. Church Board of Education minutes, B.Y.U. Board of Trustee Minutes, and the BYU News clipping file. 4. A number of original documents acquired by staff members from several existing University Archives collections. Included were documents from the Ernest L. Wilkinson Presidential papers, the Franklin S. Harris Presidential papers, and the Newburn I. Butt files. 5. Institutional histories of various campus colleges and departments produced by the departments in conjunction with the project.
Other Finding Aids
File-level inventory available online. http://files.lib.byu.edu/ead/XML/UA566.xml
Subject Terms
Wilkinson, Ernest L., 1899-1978; Colleges and Universities; Education
Genre / Form
Files (Records)
Processing Information
Processed; Steven R. Sorensen; 1983.
Appraisal Information
University history (University Archives collecting policy, February 2010).
Finding Aid ID Number
Finding Aid Title
Centennial History Project records
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Steven R. Sorensen
Finding Aid Creator
This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit 2013-11-24T04:26-0700
Finding Aid Language
Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant, 2007-2008
Biographical Info:

Biographical History

In January 1972, administrative officials at Brigham Young University inaugurated a project to compile and publish a comprehensive history of the school. The project was undertaken in conjunction with plans to commemorate the university's centennial anniversary. Given the official label "Centennial History Project," the endeavor evolved into an extensive four year research and writing effort which culminated with the distribution of the first published histories of the University.

In January 1972, administrative officials at Brigham Young University inaugurated a project to compile and publish a comprehensive history of the school. The project was undertaken in conjunction with plans to commemorate the university's centennial anniversary. Given the official label "Centennial History Project," the endeavor evolved into an extensive four year research and writing effort which culminated with the distribution of the first published histories of the University.

Chief among those intimately involved in the project was Dr. Ernest L. Wilkinson, a former President of Brigham Young University. Receiving his appointment from B.Y.U. President Dallin Oaks, Wilkinson served as the project's Director and as Editor of the published histories. As Director, Wilkinson performed routine administrative tasks, selected staff personnel, and acted as project liaison with university and ecclesiastical officials. As editor, Wilkinson indirectly supervised research and writing, and read and edited preliminary drafts, eventually assuming responsibility for the literary style and intellectual content of the final product. Though principal figure in the Centennial History Project, Wilkinson did not work alone. He was aided in the discharge of his duties by a number of professionals and student assistants who served on his official staff.

The Centennial History Advisory Committee was formed by Wilkinson during the initial stages of the project. Composed of historians, university personnel, and alumni, the committee included Leonard J. Arrington, Edwin Butterworth, LeRoy Hafen, Wayne B. Hales, John Clifton Moffitt, Ernest L. Olson, Kiefer B. Sauls, Hollis Scott, and Vasco Tanner. From this group, Wilkinson sought advice as to the best approach to be taken in researching and writing the history. The committee met only once, though several members of the group continually rendered valuable service throughout the project.

Dr. James R. Clark and Dr. W. Cleon Skousen, both university faculty members and long time personal friends of Wilkinson, served on his staff as chief assistants. When the decision was made early in the project to produce two separate histories, Clark was placed in charge of work on a multi volume comprehensive history, while Skousen was given the task of preparing a single volume abridged version of the same history.

Under the direction of Wilkinson, Dr. Clark directly supervised much of the research and writing for the multi-volumed work. Working with him on various phases of the project were graduate student assistants Richard Bennett, Janet Hansen, Harvard Heath, and Eugene Thompson. When circumstances led to Clark's departure from the staff midway though the project, Bennett assumed the role of research director. This team carried on extensive research and produced preliminary chapter drafts for Wilkinson's editing.

Dr. Bruce Hafen, administrative assistant to President Dallin Oaks, worked independently of the official project staff to research and write the chapters dealing with the administration of Oaks. These chapters Hafen co-edited with Wilkinson. Additionally, Leonard J. Arrington, L.D.S. Church Historian, Robert K. Thomas, B.Y.U. Academic Vice President, and Frank Fox, a member of the university's history faculty, were assigned to review and edit those chapters of the history which dealt directly with Wilkinson's administration. For their work on the project, Arrington and Hafen were named as official editors. Representing the Brigham Young University Press in the process of editing the manuscripts and preparing them for publication was Roy. K. Bird.

Assisting the research and writing team as support staff were a corps of secretaries. Edith Johnson served as Dr. Wilkinson's personal secretary. Others included Nanette Bame, Carolyn Baum, Patricia Bennett, Karen Echols, Linda Lee, Klea Lundgreen, and Phyllis Thompson. To the secretaries fell the responsibility of maintaining office files, duplicating source material, preparing research cards, and typing chapter drafts.

Dr. Skousen pursued his task of writing a popular history of the school by abridging and condensing the final drafts of the multi volume work into a single volume. Assisting Skousen with research and documentation was student assistant Glenn Bird. Orson Scott Card and Roy K. Bird represented the University Press and assisted Wilkinson and Skousen in the editing process. For his work with the one volume history, Skousen was designated as the book's Associate Editor. Serving as secretaries to the project were Pamela Fugate, Linda Gravely and Linda Lee.

In addition to official project staff members, dozens of individuals from the ranks of university personnel, the local community, the L.D.S. Church, B.Y.U. alumni, and other interested persons contributed valuable time, talents, and information to the efforts of the Centennial History Project.

During the 1975-1976 school year, as the university celebrated its one hundredth birthday, the labors of the Centennial History Project were brought to fruition. The university published and distributed its official histories, the four volume Brigham Young University: The First One Hundred Years, and the popularized one volume work Brigham Young University: A School of Destiny. Shortly after the publication of the final volumes of the centennial histories, the Centennial History Project concluded its work.

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Cory Nimer
University Archivist - University Archives