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Oberlin’s facilities are unsurpassed by any school of its size. It has one of the nation’s most extensive college library collections, one of the finest college art collections in the country, and first-rate facilities and equipment in music, theater arts, the natural sciences, computing, and physical education.
The Oberlin College Libraries (OCL) is a four-library system consisting of the Mary Church Terrell Main Library in Mudd Center, the Science Library in the Science Center, the Clarence Ward Art Library in the Allen Art Building, the Conservatory Library in the Conservatory complex, and the College Archives (located on the fourth floor of the Terrell Main Library). A vibrant Academic Commons on the first floor of the Terrell Main Library features the latest computer technology and integrated learning support, along with Azariah’s Cafe (named for Oberlin’s first professional librarian and former interim college president Azariah Smith Root). The libraries received the “Excellence in Academic Libraries Award” from the Association of College and Research Libraries in 2002. One of the nation’s leading liberal arts college library systems, its collections exceed 2.5 million items including extensive access to electronic resources. The staff of the libraries is highly regarded for its visionary approaches to information literacy and the public humanities, service orientation, and responsiveness to student needs.
Founded in 1917, the Allen Memorial Art Museum (AMAM) at Oberlin College is recognized today as one of the five best college and university art museums in the United States. Numbering more than 15,000 works, the collection spans 6,000 years of human history, with works from the Ancient Near East, Egypt, Greece, and Rome; European and American paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts dating from the medieval period to the present; important holdings of Asian paintings, scrolls, sculptures, and decorative arts, including more than 2,000 very fine Japanese prints; notable African, Islamic, Native American, and Pre-Columbian works; a large collection of prints, drawings, and photographs; and the archives of the artist Eva Hesse. Free to all since it opened, the museum serves students and faculty through significant integration of the collection into the College curriculum and through many academic and public programs.
The collection is housed in an impressive Italian Renaissance-style building, designed by Cass Gilbert and named after Dr. Dudley Peter Allen, a distinguished 1875 graduate of Oberlin College. In 1977 a gallery for modern and contemporary art, designed by the architectural firm of Robert Venturi, John Rauch, and Denise Scott Brown, was added to the Gilbert building. The Allen art building complex houses the college’s art department with its superior art library of 100,000 volumes. Museum staff also oversee public programs at the College’s Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Weltzheimer-Johnson House.
The Oberlin Conservatory Complex is comprised of four contiguous buildings: Bibbins Hall, the Central Unit, Robertson Hall, and the Bertram and Judith Kohl Building. The Kohl Building, which opened in May 2010, serves as the innovative home for the conservatory’s Jazz Studies Division and its academic programs in music history and music theory. The Kohl Building features a world-class recording studio; flexible rehearsal and performance spaces; teaching studios and practice rooms; and an archive for the largest private jazz recording collection in America, rare musical instruments, and a rare collection of jazz photographs from the 1950s, among other holdings. The Kohl Building has been designed to be the first music facility in the world to attain a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold rating. In 2016, the Conservatory also opened the William and Helen Birenbaum Innovation and Performance Space, a club-like, subterranean venue at the Peter B. Lewis Gateway Center that is dedicated to interdisciplinary classroom experiences by day and Conservatory performances by night.
The performing arts at Oberlin utilize the Sophronia Brooks Hall Auditorium for theater and opera productions and the Warner Center for the Performing Arts for theater and dance classes and productions. Finney Chapel is available for concerts, lectures, and performances of various kinds. It houses the Kay Africa Memorial Organ, which was built by C.B. Fisk, Inc., of Gloucester, Massachusetts, and installed in 2000. Other pipe organs on the Oberlin campus include a three-manual Flentrop organ in Warner Concert Hall and a two-manual Brombaugh organ in Fairchild Chapel in Bosworth Hall.
The Carnegie Building houses the Department of Geosciences classrooms and laboratories along with a number of student and advisor support offices: the Academic Advising Resource Center/Registrar, the Office of Financial Aid, and the Student Accounts Office. The Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, which serves both students and employees, is also located in Carnegie.
Peters Hall, completed in 1887, was renovated in 1996 and its function redefined primarily for foreign languages. Extensive classroom space, including a dedicated seminar room for each department, along with faculty office space, are complemented by the Paul and Edith Cooper International Learning Center, a state-of-the-art language and media center. Also housed in the building are academic services and programs that include the Center for Student Success, the Office of Student Accessibility Services, and the Oberlin College Press. Atop Peters is the college’s observatory and planetarium, which are actively used by the physics and astronomy department for individual student projects and for public viewing sessions. The dome was installed in 1929, along with a Gaertner 6 inch f:15 refractor telescope. It currently houses a 14” Meade LX200 catadioptric reflecting telescope.
The Adam J. Lewis Center for Environmental Studies opened in January of 2000. The building and landscape design intentionally provide a one-of-a-kind learning environment through the adoption of multiple integrated net-zero technologies. These include solar PV electrical generation, ground-source heating and cooling through the use of wells and heat pumps, and a “Living Machine” for the treatment of wastewater. All these systems operate on site. On an annual basis, the photovoltaic solar array on the roof and above the parking lot are designed to allow the center to meet all or most of its energy needs. The “Living Machine” is an ecologically engineered, wastewater treatment plant that internally recycles all the wastewater produced in the center. Annually, more than 70% of the water used within the Lewis Center has already been through the Center at least once. Additionally, ecological restoration, permaculture, agroforestry, and organic gardening are demonstrated within the center’s landscape, which includes a restored wetland ecosystem, a fruit orchard, experimental hazelnut orchard, and a household-scale organic garden. The center is a living laboratory that showcases sustainable environmentally efficient building technologies and operating systems. The Lewis Center has won major architectural awards and has attracted considerable national and international attention.
The Oberlin College Science Center, completed in 2002, is an integrated science complex that incorporates the Roger W. Sperry Building, the Kettering Hall of Science, and the Wright Laboratory of Physics into a comprehensive facility offering laboratories for teaching and research, lecture halls, classroom spaces, and communal spaces like Perlik Commons, Love Lounge, and Bent Corridor which are available for use by all students and faculty. The center houses the Biology, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Neuroscience, and Physics and Astronomy departments, the Science Library, and the Center for Learning, Education, and Research (CLEAR). The design of the 230,000-square-foot facility encourages collaborative learning among the disciplines of the natural sciences, supports both faculty and student research, and fosters both formal and informal learning.
The Irvin E. Houck Center for Information Technology (CIT) supports technological services and tools used in teaching and learning at Oberlin. CIT’s primary location is in Mudd Center, whose Academic Commons features the latest computer technology in a social space for collaboration. Also located in the Commons is a technology help desk that provides free software assistance and facilitates computer hardware repairs for students, faculty, and staff. CIT also supports computer labs in both academic and residential buildings, technologically-enhanced classrooms, and provides a library of audiovisual equipment available to students and specialized software for mathematics, the sciences, and the arts. CIT also works directly with faculty to facilitate technology in the classroom, specifically in science research, high-end computing, and digital arts.
The Jesse Philips Physical Education Center has been the primary recreational facility on campus since 1971. The facility provides numerous fitness opportunities, including Life Fitness & Hammer Strength equipment, free weights, treadmills, elliptical machines, aerodyne bikes, and steppers; two full-length courts for basketball; racquetball courts; squash courts; a sauna; and a multipurpose room for group exercise. The facility also features a bouldering cave and climbing wall that challenges students with four climbing faces.
The Patricia ‘63 & Merrill ‘61 Shanks Health & Wellness Center is an expansion of Phillips Physical Education Center and features a renovation of the Robert Carr Pool. The pool goes from six lanes to eight, with an improved competition diving well, and recreational/instruction lanes. Shanks Center also includes a fitness center, cardio area, spin room, and a number of multi-purpose rooms for classes, yoga, spinning, and other physical fitness activities.
The John W. Heisman Club Field House is connected to the Philips Physical Education Center. Heisman Field House contains a 200-meter track and four tennis courts for the use of varsity athletics as well as recreational users. Heisman has been the site of numerous North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) championship events for both tennis and track & field.
The 25,000-square-foot Williams Field House features a 90-foot by 185-foot monofilament turf field and serves as an indoor practice location for numerous varsity, club, and intramural sports. As the first LEED Gold rated building on campus, Williams features natural ventilation provided by operable windows and skylights, abundant natural lighting, light sensors that save electricity, enhanced mechanical and electrical systems, and adaptive reuse of construction materials from a building formerly on the site.
The Austin E. Knowlton Athletics Complex / Dick Bailey Field features an all-weather, multipurpose field with artificial turf and lights, suitable for nearly every athletics team, club sport teams, and intramural events, as well as Oberlin wellness endeavors. It also includes locker rooms for all of Oberlin’s outdoor varsity teams.
Oberlin College also features two outdoor stadiums that are used by the varsity baseball and softball programs. Baseball’s Dill Field was renovated in 2013 with infield turf, a press box, and stadium seating and is now one of the best in the NCAC. Softball’s Dolcemaschio Stadium at Culhane Field was updated in 2018 with a new press box and stadium seating. The field has a natural surface infield, scoreboard, and batting cage.
The Robert Lewis Kahn Track & Fred Shults Field is the training and competition site for track & field and soccer. The facility opened in the fall of 2006. The Beynon track is a poured urethane surface and is widely considered one of the top competition surfaces in the area. The field is a natural grass surface with Kentucky Blue Grass and perennial rye. The track is open to members of the college and Oberlin community for recreational use.
Other recreational facilities that are available for use by students, faculty, and staff include 12 outdoor tennis courts, multipurpose outdoor fields, and six bowling lanes located in Hales Gymnasium.
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