The Ethel M. Barber Papers, dating between 1940 and 2000, fill two boxes and consist mainly of biographical material, press releases and clippings, records of her philanthropic and volunteer involvement in Northwestern University and other organizations, and photographs. The papers highlight Barber's commitment to education and the theater arts via her generous financial support of educational and building programs and scholarships at Northwestern University, Lawrence University, and the American Association of University Women.
Biographical materials relate to Ethel M. Barber and her husband, Judge James G. Barber. The biographical file, which spans the years 1940 to 2000, includes a copy of her marriage license, the commencement program from her 1947 NU graduation, her entries in Who's who of American women and similar publications, biographical sketches (some prepared by the Northwestern University Development Office), her résumé, her personal address book, and two obituaries. The file relating to James G. Barber includes press materials documenting his judicial service and involvement with the Salvation Army, as well as his obituary and a certificate acknowledging his service in World War I.
The folder of certificates, awards, and diplomas includes Barber's doctoral diploma from NU, Distinguished Service Award (1977) from Zeta Phi Eta, and certificates from the International Platform Association, the National Historical Society, Kungsholm (a cruise line) the board of her condominium, and NU's Kellogg Graduate School of Management.
Press clippings date from 1950 to 1985. Clippings range from a note and photo from a cruise line magazine to mentions in NU and Evanston publications. Earlier clippings report on Barber's activities in the Evanston community, while later ones document her many donations to NU. Several clippings contain a substantial amount of biographical information.
Barber's student work consists of notes on American poets and a paper about poetry relating to peace and war (from a class she took at NU), as well as a summary of her doctoral dissertation.
Correspondence with lecturer, writer, and actress Li Ling Ai dates between 1957 and 1962, although internal evidence suggests that the friendship had begun before 1957. Most of the letters are from Li, but there is one carbon copy of a letter from Barber.
The Northwestern University materials cover the years 1963-1987. Barber was a member of the John Evans Club, and materials dating from 1963 to 1979 trace her association with the organization from her earliest involvement to her service on its board of directors. The bulk of the NU materials consist of correspondence and press releases and clippings that document Barber's donations to the School of Speech and theater program.
Heavily documented in the Barber papers is the Ethel M. Barber Visiting Artist Program that she began in the late 1979, which brought distinguished artists to the School of Speech.
A scrapbook compiled to commemorate the announcement of the Visiting Artists Program in 1979 was dismantled and the contents (press releases, clippings, and photographs from the announcement reception) placed in a folder in their original order.
Correspondence and press clippings relating to the Ethel M. Barber Theater, dating from 1984 to 1987, reflect Barber's dedication as a donor to the Theatre and Interpretation Center. Additionally, there are some documents from the NU Development Office used to publicize Barber's donations.
Non-Northwestern University materials show Barber's contributions to other organizations and institutions. Her involvement with the American Association of University Women, to which she endowed scholarships from the 1960s through at least the 1980s, consists of correspondence, financial information, and lists of scholarship recipients (some with academic profiles). The Lawrence University folder, containing correspondence, clippings, and theater programs, documents her ties with her alma mater (when it was called Milwaukee-Downer College), her service as a trustee, her establishment of the Visiting Professorship, and her honorary doctorate from Lawrence. Finally, the Salvation Army folder documents Barber's service to the Corps, of which she was made a life member in 1969.
A dropfront box contains oversized photographs of Barber and her husband. A scrapbook of photographs and clippings, presented by Northwestern University to Barber in 1985, commemorates the 1984 dedication of the Ethel M. Barber Theater and the 1985 unveiling of her portrait. Also included is a box of slides of Barber with colleagues and in Europe.