These records, collected under the supervision of John R. Mott, represent the official archives of the World's Student Christian Federation from 1895 to 1925. The official WSCF archives from the period following 1925, which were located at the organization's headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, were transferred to the Yale Divinity Library in 2018 and constitute Record Group 46F. The WSCF archives represented by Record Group No. 46 contain materials dating from 1875 to 1945. The materials dating from before 1895 primarily document organizations which later became members of the WSCF The WSCF collection at Yale continued to receive important Federation documents and serial publications following the organization's change of headquarters in 1925.
Received with this collection were the books and periodicals that constituted the Library of the WSCF. In 1919, the Library of the WSCF (also called the John R. Mott Library) included some five thousand volumes, with documents in more than twenty languages. A dictionary card catalog and shelf list in the Day Missions Library provide bibliographic access to these printed materials.
A unique classification system modeled after the Dewey Decimal System was developed specifically for the archives and the library of the WSCF in the early part of the 20th century by Mrs. Grace J. Livingston. Mrs. Livingston's classification system was updated and expanded by Miss Ruth Rouse in the 1940s. The organization of files resulting from this classification system has been preserved in Record Group No. 46; the compilers of this finding aid take no responsibility for the inconsistencies, ambiguities, and undue complexities of the classification system!
Contained in Box 2, Folder 31 of this collection are documents that describe the arrangement of the archives, including: the "Key to Alphabetical Arrangements" and "Classification System for Federation Archives." These lists define the meaning of each alphabetical and numerical entry in the classification. Another important document in this folder, which researchers are advised to peruse is "Hints to Research Workers in the John R. Mott Library," which was compiled by Ruth Rouse in 1945. Rouse worked extensively in the collection while preparing her history of the WSCF published in 1948.
The alphabetical portion of each classification designation refers to the geographical location of a student movement, except in the case of section "A", which refers to the WSCF as an international organization. The numerical portion of the classification refers to various aspects of the activities and thought of the student movements. The "600" category, for example, documents student Christian organizations in individual educational institutions and work with special classes of students. The "600" category is divided into fourteen subcategories, each referring to a different type of institution (colleges and universities, theological schools, medical schools, etc.) or a different class of student (women students, art students, etc.). Therefore, any documents in Record Group No. 46 related to women students in France would be classified under D(f)622, the "D(f)" indicating the geographical location and the "622" specifying work among women students. Records documenting student Christian activities at Yale would be classified under B (for the United States) 610 through 619. The (often unnecessary) complexity of the classification system is illustrated by the fact that documents related to student Christian activities at Yale are found under twelve numbers within the 610 to 619 range: 611.25, 614.1, 615.004, 615.1, 615.311, 615.32, 615.444, 615.47, 615.49, 615.491, 615.495, and 615.5.
Interesting sections and items are scattered throughout this large collection. The D(c) section, for example, contains much useful material regarding Germany before, during and after World War I. The D(aa)912E and D(aa)990 sections contain reports of hardships amidst famine and revolution in Russia during the 1920s. The Federation News Sheets in section A950 provide international reporting of personal experiences during World War II. The "700" category documents student life in general and student organizations other than those which were members of the WSCF The blocks and photographs in the collection include John R. Mott and the other founding fathers of the WSCF, Ruth Rouse, and numerous groups of conference attendees. Also of interest are the World War I disarmament posters in Section B750.
Letters and writings of notable individuals are also scattered throughout the collection. Section A961.14, for example, includes a letter from Theodore Roosevelt to the WSCF conference in Tokyo in 1907. Sections D(bc)512, 518 and 544.3 contain works by the Swedish theologian Gustaf Aulén. Personal notes, writings and correspondence of John R. Mott are present throughout the record group. There are letters and writings by numerous individuals who were prominent in student work and the church overseas, including G. Sherwood Eddy, Karl Fries, Michi Kawai, T.Z. Koo, Baron Paul Nicolay, William Paton, Tissington Tatlow, W.A. Visser 't Hooft, Robert P. Wilder and H.L. Zia.
The constituent members of the WSCF varied widely in their size and vigor, a fact which is reflected in the volume of material available for each in this record group. For example, the student movements of Sweden, Great Britain, the United States, France, Germany, and China were most prolific in issuing publications.
Especially well-documented in this record group are WSCF members in the United States: the YMCA, YWCA, Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions (SVM), and American Interseminary Alliance. There are sixteen linear feet of correspondence, pamphlets and reports on subjects ranging from the origins of the movements to conferences, foreign students in the United States, sex education and Bible study. Of particular interest is a group of materials in section B549.01 which documents the Mount Holyoke Missionary Association, an early forerunner of the Student Volunteer Movement. The liabilities of the WSCF classification system are evident in the "B" (United States) section; records related to four distinct organizations are mingled together under numerous overlapping and confusing subject headings.