Academic journal article Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society

Documenting Southern Illinois: A Guide to Selected Resources at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale

Academic journal article Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society

Documenting Southern Illinois: A Guide to Selected Resources at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale

Article excerpt

Over the past few decades, the study of local history has gained prominence as an academic discipline, as a genealogical resource, and as a means of engaging younger students in historical research. The archival profession has played an integral role in these developments. On a daily basis, repositories acquire resources that support their researchers' needs, and existing collections are rediscovered and reevaluated. In many cases, repositories play an active role in defining and enhancing historical research trends. Published and in-house guides, web pages, exhibits, and internet electronic lists are all means for archivists to inform both their current patrons and the potential research community of the resources available in their repositories.

In 1912, historian George Washington Smith wrote, "The richest heritage which shall ever come into our possession is the simple story of the struggles, the sacrifices, and the triumphs of the men and women who planted in this western wilderness the home, the school, the church, and the state."1 This sentiment still rings true today, and it is crucial that the archival community provides a wide range of materials documenting these and other tenets of American culture.

For over thirty-five years, the Special Collections department of Morris Library, Southern Illinois University in Carbondale has maintained a commitment to collecting, preserving, and providing research access to materials that document the social, political, and cultural history of southern Illinois. The manuscript collections and faculty papers housed in the department reflect this commitment and include personal and family papers, the records of businesses and organizations, the papers of individuals affiliated with Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, and the research and writings of local historians.

Personal and family papers reflect the experiences and accomplishments of the diverse people of southern Illinois. Diaries, correspondence, photographs, and newspaper clippings document their daily lives in the region and reflect their attitudes about greater issues facing all Americans. Of note are numerous Civil War letters to and from Illinois soldiers that offer insight into both their experiences in the service and those of their friends and families on the home front. Collections include the Harwood Family, Michael Kelly Lawler, Edwin A. Loosley, Mann Family, John Reese, Joseph Skipworth, Thomas Sullivan, and Benjamin Wiley Papers. Southern Illinois citizens' contributions during World War II are similarly documented in the papers of LaDaw Bridges, Miles and Stella Hopper, and Raphael McDermott.

The businesses and industries that have shaped Southern Illinois are as varied as the people of the region. Mining and labor are represented in the Clyde Anderson Collection of the Madison Coal Company, the John Jones Papers, the records of the United Mine Workers of America DuQuoin local 5134, and the International Ladies Garment Workers' Union. Other businesses represented in the holdings include Carbondale's Holden Hospital, the Trovillion Private Press, the Centralia Sentinel newspaper, the First Presbyterian Church of Carbondale, and the Unitarian Fellowship of Carbondale. Records of civic organizations and clubs include the Carbondale Federated Women's Club, the Carbondale League of Women Voters, Honor Our Men's Efforts (H.O.M.E.), and the Southern Illinois Citizens for Peace.

Southern Illinois University in Carbondale itself, formerly Southern Illinois Normal University, has had considerable influence on the development of the region. Chartered in 1869, the university has been responsible for attracting students, faculty, and staff to the area, and it has served as a center of both culture and conflict. Several collections of papers from administrators, faculty, staff, and students reflect these roles. Included in the holdings of Special Collections are the papers of biologist and local historian George Hazen French, trustee Ezekiel J. …

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