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Merrill-Palmer Institute Records

 Collection
Identifier: UR002127
The collection illustrates the Institute’s commitment to research, education, and outreach through documentation of its programs, projects, and administration. It includes research and studies the Institute undertook, course information, nursery school, camp and club information, correspondence with students, individuals and organizations, presidential and faculty files, and day to day operational information.

Important Subjects: Child Development – Research Child Therapy Children in wartime Community education—United States Community service Day care Education—United States Emergency Nursery Schools Emotions in children—Study and teaching Family services—United States Higher Education and state—United States Home Economics—Study and teaching Homemakers—United States Human potential movement—Study and teaching Nutrition – Infancy & childhood Nutrition – Research – United States Preschool education Physical growth and development Skillman Center Teacher training Urban youth—Education—United States

Series Description: Series I: Education and Research, 1925-1967 Series II: Administration, 1917-1964 Series III: Operations, 1919-1981 Series IV: Audio-Visual, 1925-1966

Dates

  • 1920 - 1981
  • Majority of material found within 1928 - 1973

Creator

Language of Materials

Material entirely in English.

Access

Collection is open for research.

Use

Boxes 71-73 require researchers to sign a Restricted Use Form.
Refer to the Walter P. Reuther Library Rules for Use of Archival Materials. Restrictions: Researchers may encounter records of a sensitive nature – personnel files, case records and those involving investigations, legal and other private matters. Privacy laws and restrictions imposed by the Library prohibit the use of names and other personal information which might identify an individual, except with written permission from the Director and/or the donor.

Extent

80.5 Linear Feet (79 SB, 1 MB, 1 OS)

Abstract

The Merrill-Palmer Institute was founded in 1920 by an endowment from Lizzie Merrill Palmer. Throughout its 61years of independent operation, the Institute was greatly respected and internationally known as one of the top institutions for education, training and research in Child Development. Merrill-Palmer staff conducted and published studies on families and children, operated a nursery school, children’s camps and clubs, offered marriage and family counseling, and performed community service work. The Institute accepted undergraduate and graduate students from the U. S. and internationally and taught courses and provided research and laboratory experience unavailable elsewhere.

The collection illustrates the Institute’s commitment to research, education, and outreach through documentation of its programs, projects, and administration. It includes research and studies the Institute undertook, course information, nursery school, camp and club information, correspondence with students, individuals and organizations, presidential and faculty files, and day to day operational information.

History

The Merrill-Palmer Institute was founded in 1920 by an endowment from Lizzie Merrill Palmer. Throughout its 61 years of independent operation, the Institute was greatly respected and internationally known as one of the top institutions for education, training and research in Child Development. Merrill-Palmer staff conducted and published studies on families and children, operated a nursery school, children’s camps and clubs, offered marriage and family counseling, and performed community service work. The Institute accepted undergraduate and graduate students from the U. S. and internationally and taught courses and provided research and laboratory experience unavailable elsewhere.

A nursery school was opened in 1922 to fulfill Merrill-Palmer’s original purpose to train mothers in the proper care of children. It continues to operate 89 years later. In addition, from its earliest years, Merrill-Palmer was on the cutting edge of child and family research, and was well known and often consulted by other institutions in the field. Under the direction of Edna Noble White (1920-47) the early years of the school were focused on Child Development research, with a strong emphasis on physical development and nutrition. The Institute conducted research on children, provided nursery services and counseling for women and families, and trained and educated students from a multitude of colleges. Dr. Esther McGinnis, assistant director under White, assumed the directorship in 1947, carrying on this dual tradition of research and service. In 1952 Dr. Pauline Park Wilson Knapp became director. It was during her 15 years of leadership that Merrill-Palmer’s reputation expanded greatly. Knapp broadened the scope of the lnstitute into three areas: research, service and teaching, all of which worked with each other under the main goals of the Institute. In doing so, student enrollment was significantly increased. Under Knapp the school also experienced the greatest physical expansion in its history, with the erection of two new buildings. Dr. J. William Rioux became the next director in 1967, coming to the institute during a time of enormous social upheaval in Detroit as well as a major financial crisis in the Institute itself. The focus of Merrill-Palmer drastically changed from serving and studying a mainly middle-class white population to serving and providing resources for the area’s lower-income, urban community. Rioux changed the structure of Merrill-Palmer into six Units, focusing mainly on teaching and service with less emphasis on research. Under Rioux the staff and faculty were diversified and the approach of the Institute became more humanistic. In 1973 Rioux resigned, and was replaced by Dr. Michael Usdan who instituted a graduate degree program and slowly integrated a stronger research element to the Institute. The next director, Dr. Frances Palmer attempted to emphasize more research as well as a stronger preschool program. During the last two directorships the Institute faced severe financial difficulties, which it was unable to overcome. In 1981, Wayne State University assumed control over Merrill-Palmer Institute, eventually merging it with the Skillman Center for Children and Families to form the Merrill-Palmer Skillman Institute for Child and Family Development in 2005.

Arrangement

Arranged in 4 series – Series 1 (Boxes 1-35), Series 2 (Boxes 36-48), Series 3 (Boxes 48-77), and Series 4 (Boxes 79-81). Folders in each series are simply listed by their location within each box. They are not arranged, so any given subject may be dispersed throughout several boxes within each series.

Acquisition

The records of the Merrill-Palmer Institute were placed at the Walter Reuther Library in the 1980s and early 1990s, beginning in 1982.

Related Materials

Merrill-Palmer collections

Transfers

Audio reels relating to studies documented in the collection were transferred to the Reuther’s Audiovisual Department (see note at end of guide). Architectural prints of Merrill-Palmer buildings also transferred to the Reuther’s A-V Department (see dept. for inventory). Additional A-V materials located in the A-V Dept.

Faculty Publications and the Merrill-Palmer Quarterly were transferred to the Library (see inventory at end of guide).

Processing History

Processed and finding aid written by Kathy Makas in January 2011.
Title
Guide to the Merrill-Palmer Institute Records
Status
completed
Author
Processed by Kathy Makas.
Date
2011-01
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English

Repository Details

Part of the Walter P. Reuther Library Repository

Contact:
5401 Cass Avenue
Detroit MI 48202 USA