What started as an act of post-war technical aid led to the fondly known “sister relationship” between the University of Minnesota and Seoul National University (SNU) beginning in the mid-1950s.[1, 2] Spanning eight years, the partnership left a historic mark on both institutions; as it reestablished research, provided academic training, and initiated a cultural exchange. As a way to remember this project, the University Archives at the University of Minnesota completed a digitization project showcasing material online from the collections related to SNU. The history is now accessible for both institutions and researchers, local and international.
History of the Cooperative Project
After the conclusion of the Korean War, South Korea’s infrastructure was badly affected, including its institutions of higher education. As a way to rebuild and strengthen these programs and facilities, the U.S. Government Agency International Cooperation Administration (ICA), once known as the Foreign Operations Administration (FOA), as well as, the predecessor for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), sponsored a 3-year contract between the University of Minnesota (U of M) and SNU beginning in 1954. Its primary focus was for Minnesota to provide aid to SNU’s educational and research programs in engineering, agriculture, and medicine, including nursing. Within the first contract, a yearly expenditure of $750,000 (equivalent to $7.1 million in 2020) was utilized towards three components, including overseas fellowships, an advisory service, and reconstruction of facilities and equipment supply. In 1958, after an extension of the project, veterinary medicine and public administration were added to the program.
Administratively, the ICA and the U of M referred to the partnership as the “Korean Project” or the “Korean Cooperative Project.” Conversely, those affiliated with SNU referred to it as the “Minnesota Project.”
The overseas exchange included sending 226 SNU faculty to the United States to study at the University of Minnesota. Included were SNU’s President and the Deans of Agriculture, Engineering, and Medicine, who came for approximately six months to observe operations at the U of M and to consult with each college and their respective departments. Selected SNU faculty members studied between one to three years in graduate programs with 68 earning masters degrees and 15 completing doctoral degrees. After completing their education, the faculty returned to South Korea to train other faculty in their areas of study.
Concurrently, the U of M sent 59 faculty and administrators to Korea to advise SNU on developing strategic directions, consult on educational and administrative principles, and introduce new educational and research methods. Reconstruction of SNU facilities and laboratories was a major focus of the U of M advisors. With funds from both the ICA and the Korean government, the rehabilitation of SNU’s classrooms and laboratories included updated teaching spaces and equipment.
This technical assistance continued through June of 1962 when the eight-year relationship concluded. The outcome of this saw nearly 70 percent of SNU’s faculty educated by or cross-trained with their U of M counterparts. It also provided for a significant intellectual and technological transfer and the experience of shared culture for both Korean and Minnesotan institutions.
University of Minnesota’s Role
In serving as an advisory capacity to administrators and faculty at SNU, the U of M’s participants played a critical role in the reconstruction of SNU’s community and institution. Of these faculty, Dr. Tracy F. Tyler, Professor of General Education, and Dr. Arthur E. Scheider, Professor of Forestry, were mainstays in preparing and maintaining the program through its eight years. Dr. Tyler acted as the Coordinator of the Foreign Operations Administration contact for SNU and remained on the U of M’s campus throughout the contract. Dr. Schnieder served as Chief Adviser to the project in Korea for most of the project.
A Korean Advisory Committee advised the U of M President on future policies and contract operations throughout the project. Members of the Korean Advisory Committee included, Dr. Malcolm M. Willey, Vice President of Academic Administration, Mr. Laurence R. Lunden, Vice President of Business Administration, Dr. William T.S. Thorp, Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. A. F. Spilhaus, Dean of the Institute of Technology, Dr. Robert B. Howard, Dean of the College of Medical Sciences, Mr. Clinton T. Johnson, Comptroller, Dr. Gaylord W. Anderson, Director of the School of Public Health, Professor John C. Kidneigh, Director of Social Work, Dr. Lloyd M. Short, Chairman of the Department of Political Science, and Dr. Tracy F. Tyler.
Even though the original contract included medical, administrative, and agricultural studies, starting in 1957, conversations between the U of M and the School of Fine Arts and Music at SNU began to plan an art exchange between the two institutions. From January to February 1957, the University Gallery, a precursor to today’s Weisman Art Museum, displayed artwork as part of SNU’s Korean Art Exhibit. The exhibit illustrated the “vital role [that] art has always played in Korean culture” and combined “western directness and eastern sensitivity to create a series of very beautiful patterns in which color, texture, line and mass interplay with full mastery.” The artwork included paintings, ink drawings, designs, photographs, and ceramics, of which were chosen from annual student shows at SNU. This exhibit then continued to circulate to other colleges and museums around the United States for the remainder of the year. In 1958, students and faculty of the U of M’s Fine Arts department provided material to SNU through the “Minnesota to Korea” art exchange. Pieces included oil paintings, ceramics, drawings, and photographs. The pieces were a part of a traveling exhibit at the U.S. Information Service facilities at Taegu, Kyungsang-Pukto, Pusan, Kyungsang-Namdo, Chunju, Chollo-Pukto and Kwangju, Chollo-Namdo.
To document the history of the Korea / Minnesota Project, the University of Minnesota Archives initiated a digitization plan funded by the University Libraries to provide online access to the archival material. Twenty collections were selected to be digitized, including administrative records, personal papers, and photographs. Archives staff pulled the collections then identified related materials for digitization and created the needed metadata for description and discovery. Once completed, the collections and metadata were then shared and sent to the University’s Digital Library Services for digitization. Those digital images were added to the UMedia Archive repository and can be found under the special category, “Seoul National University.”
A bulk of the material came from the collections of administrators and faculty from the U of M who were involved with the project, including:
- Tracy F. Tyler papers
- Arthur E. Schneider papers
- Lloyd M. Short papers
- Harold Macy papers
- Clarence E. Lund papers
- N.L. (Neal) Gault, Jr. papers
- Florence J. Julian papers
- Myrtle Jeannette Eklund papers
- Clyde H. Bailey papers
- Gaylord W. Anderson papers
- Katharine Jane Densford Dreves papers
From these collections, archives staff identified SNU-related administrative data, reports, correspondence, and photographs for digitization.
The digital material also includes departmental records from the following collections:
- College of Agriculture records
- Department of Political Science records
- Office of the President records
- Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum records
- Board of Regents Supplements
- Office of the Vice President for Academic Administration records
- Graduate School records
- University Relations records
- Central Files records
Items from these collections contain reports on the collaborative work completed by departmental faculty and SNU administrators studying at the U of M. Also included is material from the University’s Scrapbook collection and the University Archives Photograph Collection. Both provide additional photographs documenting the partnership between the U of M and SNU between 1954 to 1962.
This online digital collection highlights the shared institutional history of the U of M and SNU. Its availability benefits both institutions, families of participants, and scholars of this international cooperative project. It attracts students and researchers from a variety of fields, while also providing insight into lesser-known areas of the project, such as the two art exchanges. As more scholars, both regionally and internationally, become interested in this historical project, this digital collection will provide an ease of access, where users will have the capability to download materials at their convenience. Ultimately, this “sister relationship” will continue through this online access and commemorate its history for years to come.
 “Prof Schneider gives U Staff a Report from Korea,” The Minnesotan (March 1955): 4. http://hdl.handle.net/11299/108694. Accessed 31 Mar 2020.
 Seoul, University of Korea, 1954-1960 (Box 113, Folder 19). 1954 – 1960. University of Minnesota Libraries, University Archives., https://umedia.lib.umn.edu/item/p16022coll512:205. Accessed 27 Mar 2020.
 Korean Art, catalogue, 1957 (Box 111, Folder 16). 1957. University of Minnesota Libraries, University Archives., https://umedia.lib.umn.edu/item/p16022coll498:423. Accessed 31 Mar 2020.
 Circulating Exhibition: Korean Art Seoul National University, 1957 (Box 89, Folder 7). 1957. University of Minnesota Libraries, University Archives., https://umedia.lib.umn.edu/item/p16022coll498:244. Accessed 31 Mar 2020.
 Loan (And Gift) of “Minnesota to Korea” Exchange, 1958-1959 (Box 89, Folder 10). 1958 – 1959. University of Minnesota Libraries, University Archives., https://umedia.lib.umn.edu/item/p16022coll498:60. Accessed 31 Mar 2020.
—Katelyn Morken is a project archivist for the University of Minnesota Archives. To learn more about the University of Minnesota Archives, please visit www.lib.umn.edu/uarchives.