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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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About the UIUC Library Digital Collections

The digital collections at the Library of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are built from the rich special collections of its Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Illinois History and Lincoln Collection, University Archives, Map and Geography Library, and Sousa Archives & Center for American Music, among other units.

The collections include historic photographs, maps, prints and watercolors, bookplates, architectural drawings and blueprints, letters and other archival materials, videos, political cartoons, and advertisements. They cover a wide range of subject areas including Illinois and American history, music, theater history, and the history of the University of Illinois, among others.  The Library’s digital collections provide access to some of its most unique holdings for teaching, learning, and research for students, scholars and the general public.

The Library contributes collaboratively to local, national, and international digital initiatives, such as the Digital Public Library of America and the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

American Library Association Archives Digital Collections

American Library Association Archives Digital Collections

The American Library Association digitization project contains digitized photographs from the Faxon Collection from the Conference Photographs series (99/1/14) and the Library Building Photographs series (99/1/15), held at the University of Illinois Archives. Some photographs and postcards from the Library Building Photographs collection (Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, and California) have also been digitized. Read more about the project background here.

Amos Kennedy Collection

Amos Kennedy Collection

The Amos Paul Kennedy, Jr. Collection in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign contains artists' books, postcards, and posters. Kennedy is a letterpress printer, papermaker, book artist, and teacher who currently lives and works in York, Alabama. He was the first artist in residence at The Coleman Center for Arts and Culture, an organization founded in 1985 to further the arts in York. Through his strong graphics and bold typography, Kennedy addresses passionately issues of race, freedom, and equality, often incorporating proverbs and tales of the Kuba and Yoruba people of Africa, as well as the work of African-American poets such as Paul Laurence Dunbar.

Campus Folksong Club Oral History

Campus Folksong Club Oral History

During its height in the 1960s, the Campus Folksong Club (CFC) had over 500 members – making it an astonishingly large student organization and an important force in bringing culture from Illinois and beyond to the UIUC campus. The CFC was also unique in its commitment to a variety of traditional music ranging from gospel and blues to old-time Appalachian and Ozark music, as well as ethnic music from outside the United States. Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, the Stanley Brothers, Doc Watson, and the New Lost City Ramblers were among the best known musicians that the CFC brought to the UI campus. Read the entire article at Introduction to the University of Illinois Campus Folksong Club. If you are interested in learning more about folklore, see the Social Sciences, Health, and Education Library’s (SSHEL) A Guide to Folklore Resources.

Carl Sandburg Collection

Carl Sandburg Collection

The more than 2,700 photographs in this collection are scanned from the Carl Sandburg Collection housed in The Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Spanning the years 1893-1987, these images are part of a collection that includes typescripts and galley proofs of many of Sandburg’s works, his correspondence with literary and public figures, recordings and transcriptions of Sandburg’s radio broadcasts, and a supporting book collection of approximately 5,000 volumes.

Champaign-Urbana Historic Built Environment

Champaign-Urbana Historic Built Environment

The Champaign-Urbana Historic Built Environment collection offers a selection from the holdings of the Champaign County Historical Archives, which was established as a department of The Urbana Free Library in 1956. Among its holdings of books, manuscripts, and maps, the archives has preserved over 50,000 photographs of local people and locations. This collection provides a sampling of the rich visual history of Champaign-Urbana's historic built environment in the 19th and 20th century, including images of residential, commercial, governmental, educational, medical, and religious structures, and thus reflects the notion that historic buildings serve as an entryway into the community's collective memory.

Chuck Olin Digital Film Archive

Chuck Olin Digital Film Archive

The Chuck Olin Digital Film Archive consists of production elements from two PBS-broadcast documentaries: In Our Own Hands: The Hidden Story of the Jewish Brigade in World War II, and Is Jerusalem Burning? Myth, Memory and the Battle of Latrun. Both films, relying primarily on first-person accounts, tell the story of critical episodes in the formation of the nation-state of Israel. The unedited versions of the first-person accounts contained in the collection offer the student or scholar a unique set of primary-source material.

Collins Collection of Irish Political Cartoons

Collins Collection of Irish Political Cartoons

An online collection of political cartoons from the University of Illinois Library Collins collection of books, pamphlets, newspapers, maps and cartoons. Purchased by the Library in 1917. This collection consists of cartoons drawn primarily from the Weekly Freeman and National Press and United Ireland newspapers. They address the subject of Irish politics of the late 1800s and early 1900s, and in particular Ireland's relationship with England.

French World War I Posters

French World War I Posters

This collection presents digitized versions of 105 posters published in France during the First World War, representing a time of national volatility and a visual culture of lithography, illustrations, posters, and paintings. The original posters are housed in the University of Illinois Archives. Repairs and encapsulation were accomplished prior to 2001 using funds provided by a gift of Marian H. Thompson, and the posters were scanned between 2001 and 2005. World War I inspired Europe's second poster craze, or affichomania, in a span of fifty years. The first took place during the last part of the nineteenth century, when new printing technologies allowed artists such as Toulouse-Lautrec and Theodore Steinlein to move beyond the small, single-color, and mainly textual broadsides of the past. Because of their mass-producibility and affordability, these posters were also especially attractive to collectors, who considered the image as important as the text for the poster's meaning. The posters collected here represent a landmark in poster history, because World War I saw the first large-scale use of posters for political purposes. With the rise of the mass media and the emergence of advertising, it was natural that national governments should embrace the poster as a primary instrument for mobilizing their peoples for war, and appropriate that a democratized art should be employed in a new kind of war that involved entire populations, civil as well as military. These posters were issued by a variety of institutions and organizations such as the French War Ministry, French and British banks, the American Red Cross, YMCA Union Franco-Americaine, Comite Nationale de Prevoyance et d'Economies, and associations Francaise contre la Propagande Ennemie. Established French artists such as Jules Abel Faivre, Maurice Neumont, Atelier Pichon, and Theodore Steinlien contributed to the effort through their design work.

The Faces of Abraham Lincoln: The Meserve Lincoln Photographs, 1848 – 1865

The Faces of Abraham Lincoln: The Meserve Lincoln Photographs, 1848 – 1865

Lincoln biographer Carl Sandburg, in his introduction to The Photographs of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1944) quotes Civil War era journalist David Ross Locke’s impressions on meeting Lincoln: “I never saw a more thoughtful face.  I never saw a more dignified face. I never saw so sad a face.”  This collection of images—reproductions of prints made from original daguerrotypes, ambrotypes, and negatives—captures 108 different visages of the 16th president of the United States.  The earliest image in this collection dates from 1848, when Lincoln was an Illinois congressman, and the last image to five days before he was assassinated on April 15, 1865.

This collection of photographs, pasted into a black photo album that is held by the Illinois History and Lincoln Collections, was acquired by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library as part of the Carl Sandburg Collection.  The photographs were collected in the preparation of The Photographs of Abraham Lincoln by Frederick Hill Meserve and Carl Sandburg.  Frederick Hill Meserve was an important collector of Lincoln photographs.  Sandburg asserts in his introduction to their collaborative work that “it is quite probable that certain Lincoln photographs would not have come to light but for Meserve.”

The Library wishes to acknowledge the Meserve-Kunhardt Foundation, which gave us permission to digitize the photographs and to reproduce the text of the image captions supplied by Frederick Hill Meserve in The Photographs of Abraham Lincoln.

Historical Maps Online

Historical Maps Online

This collection contains images of maps charting the last 400 years of historical development in Illinois and the Northwest Territory. Designed to appeal both to map aficionados and to educational institutions, the project aims to provide a broad spectrum of content, from expert scholarship of mapmakers and mapmaking to general knowledge about cartography and history. In addition, the database includes historic topographic maps of Illinois. The collection contains early large-scale topographic quadrangles published by the United States Geological Survey in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Maps covering each part of the State of Illinois are included.

James Reston Papers

James Reston Papers

The University of Illinois Library at Urbana-Champaign is the proud home of the James B. Reston Papers, managed by the University Archives. This important collection chronicles the distinguished career of a man whose writing changed the face of American journalism and who was twice honored with the Pulitzer Prize.

The collection consists of a variety of items that relate to Reston's career with the Associated Press (1934-1939) and The New York Times (1939-1989) that provide a wealth of historical information regarding World War II, the development of American journalism, elections and presidential administrations, the origins and growth of the United Nations, U.S. Cold War diplomacy, the Vietnam War, and The New York Times.

John Starr Stewart Ex Libris Collection

John Starr Stewart Ex Libris Collection

The John Starr Stewart Ex Libris Collection comprises some 1500 plates, each mounted on an individual card. Each card has a specially designed printed form mounted on the verso upon which Mr. Stewart inserted notes about the owner, designer, or subject of the plate. Besides bookplates, the collection contains book stamps and spine labels, especially from institutional libraries. The collection was made between 1903 and 1906 and is rich in contemporary bookplates, many in the art nouveau style, although older plates are also included. While mid-Western and other American plates predominate, a substantial number of English and continental plates are present.

Joseph Gurney Cannon's Album of Photographs of the Danville Soldier's Home

Joseph Gurney Cannon's Album of Photographs of the Danville Soldier's Home

Joseph Gurney Cannon's Album of Photographs of the Danville Soldier's Home collection comes from Cannon's Album of Photographs of the Danville Soldier's Home (1897-1908) held in the Illinois History and Lincoln Collection. Joseph G. "Uncle Joe" Cannon served as a Congressional Representative for the 14th District of Illinois and as Speaker of the House of Representatives. The collection contains 231 photographs of the Danville's Soldier's Home, documenting the progress of the construction.

Maps of Africa to 1900

 Maps of Africa to 1900

The Maps of Africa to 1900 digital collection contains images of maps listed in the bibliography Maps of Africa to 1900: A Checklist of Maps in Atlases and Geographical Journals in the Collections of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (Bassett & Scheven, Urbana: Graduate School of Library and Information Science, 2000). As such, this collection mines not only the Library’s map collections, but also its extensive collection of 19th century atlases and geographical journals, including the Journal of the Royal Geographical Society (United Kingdom), the Bulletin de la Société de Géographie de Paris (France), and Petermanns Geographische Mittheilungen (Germany). Bassett’s and Scheven’s original bibliography lists 2,416 maps of which nearly 78 percent date from the 19th century. Africanists and historians of cartography are drawn to this century because the map of the continent changed so rapidly in the wake of European explorations, conquests, and colonization (Bassett & Scheven, p. iii). About a quarter of the collection dates from the sixteenth century, 9 percent from the seventeenth, and 13 percent from the eighteenth century. The collection includes Professor Thomas Bassett's Personal Collection comprised of about 200 maps. The collection’s strength lies in the 19th century when three quarters of the maps were published. The remaining quarter was produced in the 17th and 18th centuries. The oldest map is Giacomo Gastaldi’s “upside-down” map of the continent from 1563, which places southern Africa at the top. About half of the maps in the collection depict West Africa and another third show the entire continent. In terms of their national origins, more than half (57%) of the maps originate in France, thirteen percent in the United Kingdom, and ten percent in Germany—the three major colonial powers of Africa in the 19th century. Maps produced in the United States account for just seven percent of the collection. The Library is digitizing as many of the maps as possible, condition permitting. Maps are added to the collection as they are completed.

Motley Collection of Theatre and Costume Design

Motley Collection of Theatre and Costume Design

The Motley Collection of Theatre and Costume Design is a valuable source of documentation on the history of theatre and is housed in the Rare Book and Manuscripts Library at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. It is a rare collection of original materials on the theatre comprising over 5000 items from more than 150 productions in England and the United States. These materials include costume and set designs, sketches, notes, photographs, prop lists, storyboards, and swatches of fabric. A sample of sketches from some of the productions were digitized from slides made of the images and then indexed to create a database for scholars and others interested in theatre history.

Paléographie des Classiques Latins

Paléographie des Classiques Latins

The Paléographie des classiques latins has been an important Latin paleographical reference work for more than a century. Assembled and edited by Émile Chatelain in 14 fascicles between 1884 and 1900, it consists of more than 200 facsimiles of leaves from medieval manuscripts, with explanatory text. The leaves range in date from the fourth to the fifteenth century, and together illustrate the development of Latin script from the late ancient world to the birth of printing. More than thirty classical authors are represented in the collection.

Émile Chatelain (1851-1933), a professor at l’École des Hautes Études, and a conservateur at the library of the Sorbonne, was also a scholar of Latin paleography. Early in his career he worked at the French School in Rome (l’École française de Rome), and organized the library of the Palazzo Farnese. In his travels, he had access to a number of European libraries from which he made these selections. In 1904 he was awarded the Prix Jean Reynaud by the Académie française for his Paléographie des classiques latins.

Some of the plates used in this digital project once belonged to Karl Dziatzko (1842-1903), who was the librarian of the University of Göttingen from 1886 until his death in 1903 (today, the Niedersächsische Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Göttingen). The University of Illinois Library acquired the Dziatzko Collection in 1905. It contained more than 500 items, and included important works on library science, and paleography, as well as histories of printing, libraries, and the book trade.

Picture Chicago

Picture Chicago

Picture Chicago is a collection of images originally published in books about Chicago that were digitized by the University of Illinois' Urbana and Chicago campus libraries through our participation in the Open Content Alliance, a collaborative effort of a group of cultural, technology, nonprofit, and governmental organizations from around the world to help build a permanent archive of multilingual digitized text and multimedia material. Much of the pictorial and graphic content of these books have been brought together in this image collection with URLs linking back to the digitized texts. Here you can see photographs of Chicago gangsters, politicians, and early famous Chicagoans; the first taxicab in the city; the early pneumatic tube system installed in the the Chicago Post Office; the devastating fire at the Iroquois Theater in 1904 that took the lives of hundreds of Chicagoans; the reference room of the Chicago Public Library in 1911; Michigan Avenue before it was widened; stately North Shore residences; the famous Keeley Institute for the treatment of alcoholism; the draft plans to straighten the Chicago River; and much, much more! Within the description of each image you will find a link back to the original digitized text. Picture Chicago is a joint project of the libraries of the Urbana and Chicago campuses of the University of Illinois. Funding to support building this image collection was provided by a 2009 Collections Enhancement and Access Award from the Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois (CARLI).

Portraits of Actors, 1720-1920

Portraits of Actors, 1720-1920

Portraits of Actors, 1720-1920, includes almost 3500 pictures of actors' studio portraits and actors posing in costume for a particular role or performing a scene from a play. Dramatists, theatrical managers, singers and musicians are also included, but the majority are British and American actors who worked between about 1770 and 1893. Among the hundreds of actors included are: Sarah Siddons, Edmund Kean, John Philip Kemble, Edwin Booth, Edwin Forrest, William Henry West Betty, Charles Mathews, Dorothy Jordan, Frances Abington, and Ada Rehan. The images were digitized from etchings, engravings, lithographs, mezzotints, aquatints, wood engravings, photographs, and photomechanically-reproduced prints, all from the University of Illinois Theatrical Print Collection.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps

The University Library’s collection of Sanborn fire insurance maps includes maps for Illinois towns; rural settings are not included. Sanborn maps were produced to assist insurance underwriters in determining fire insurance rates for individual buildings by examining the buildings' construction methods, heat and lighting sources, manufacturing uses, and the same attributes of nearby buildings. The maps primarily provide information on the downtown areas of cities and adjoining residential areas. They are a record of urban development from the 1880s through the first half of the twentieth century. Family historians may find them interesting in documenting family homes and businesses. The maps in the collection are duplicates of the maps held at the Library of Congress. Information about additional Sanborn maps for Illinois can be found here.

Sjoerd Koopman Library Postcard Collection

Sjoerd Koopman Library Postcard Collection

The Sjoerd Koopman Library Postcard Collection includes pictorial and photographic postcards of libraries all over the world. The ALA Archives holds digital copies of approximately 1,000 cards from this collection depicting libraries throughout the United States; several hundred of these are also available as physical objects. Subjects include public libraries, private libraries, academic libraries, library interiors, reading rooms, and bookmobiles. New objects will be added periodically.

Sousa Archives Music Instrument Digital Image and 3D Model Collection

Sousa Archives Music Instrument Digital Image and 3D Model Collection

The Sousa Archives and Center for American Music (SACAM) acquires and preserves significant archival records and historical artifacts in multiple formats that document America's diverse music heritage. The Center’s collection of historical music instruments, dating between 1810-1972, include rare cornets and trumpets, early boxwood clarinets and flutes, unique double-reed sarrusophones, bassoons and Heckelphone, unusual harps and zithers, prototype electronic Hawaiian guitars and Sal Mar Construction, , and Civil War era military horns. The Center’s music instruments complement its significant archival collections that document the lives and careers of such musicians and band leaders as John Philip Sousa, Herbert L. Clarke, Claude Gordon, as well as University of Illinois Band Directors A. Austin Harding, and Mark Hindsley. The instruments also document early technological developments associated with both European and American music instrument manufacturing by such important manufacturers as Frank Holton, F. Besson, C.G. Conn, Isaac Fiske, John F. Stratton, Graves & Co., A. G. Wright, and Christian R. Stark. The provenance of each instrument is identified in each set of images. Each instrument from the archive’s collections is being photographed from multiple viewpoints. In addition to high resolution still images of the fronts, backs, sides, tops, and bottoms of each instrument, fully accessible 3-dimensional digital models are being created for each of the instruments. These 3D images are highly interactive, allowing online users to move, rotate, turn, pan across, and zoom in and out of each model to more fully examine the intricate details of instrument. The Center’s ultimate long-term goal is to create digital sound files for each playable instrument and incorporate them into its music instrument digital library which will provide users with broadest multi-media educational experience using today’s online technologies.

Teaching with Digital Content (Digital Cultural Heritage Community)

Teaching with Digital Content (Digital Cultural Heritage Community)

Using digitized primary source materials involves fundamental shifts in the service and teaching methods of curators, librarians, and teachers, regardless of their audiences. This project seeks to develop a successful model program to integrate digital primary source materials into K-12 curriculum and assignments, as well as into the educational programs of museums and libraries. We have brought together a group of libraries and museums and their digital content with K-12 teachers, to identify reliable methods of integrating this content into teaching units and learning guides, to demonstrate innovative technology-based applications using these materials, and to evaluate and report on their effectiveness. This database contains the materials supplied by the participating museums, libraries and archives for the teachers.

University Honors - the Bronze Tablets

University Honors - the Bronze Tablets

The University of Illinois began the tradition of inscribing the Bronze Tablets with the names of students receiving University Honors in 1925. A new tablet is hung in the Main Library each year. Inscription on the Bronze Tablets recognizes sustained academic achievement by undergraduate students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. According to the Student Code, students must have at least a 3.5 cumulative grade point-average through the academic term prior to graduation, and rank in the top three percent of the students in their graduating class. The University Library commissioned Chris Brown Photography to photograph the Tablets. Prints are available for purchase through the Illini Union Bookstore.

University of Illinois Built Environment

University of Illinois Built Environment

In the beginning, the inspiration and actualization of the land-grant Industrial University, what was to become the University of Illinois, required thoughtful planning and a commitment to its built environment. The design and planning decisions made early on would influence all current and future development on the campus of the University of Illinois and its influence on the surrounding neighborhoods. It is the essence of the built environment that provides a back-drop to and anchors all aspects of daily life for most communities. For the Urbana campus these anchors are grounded in the foundations of historic landmarks such as the Central Quadrangle, the Alma Mater, Memorial Stadium, the Illini Union, Altgeld Hall, and Lincoln Hall. The daily life of those engaged in academic pursuits is punctuated by the open spaces and trees lining walkways between buildings. Within the buildings themselves, the use of space is in a never-ending state of movement, with remodeling projects shifting space to meet the classroom and laboratory needs of the next generation of students and faculty.

The Illinois Built Environment collection provides to the public for the first time, a first-hand view of select original documents used to shape the Campus. Among others, items include hand sketches of campus plans, original trace and linen drawings of many of the Central Quadrangle buildings, four separate proposed sketches for the original Library, now known as Altgeld Hall, and watercolor renderings for the display of the Alma Mater and many buildings. Many of the documents are common elevation architectural drawings. Some provide information that can inform the educated eye about building materials and the use of various construction techniques. Many are reflective of design trends of the times and some show comments and notes of the architect. Unique to a collection such is this is the dual role the document plays. At any moment a document may be in immediate need to help guide professional craftsmen with repair and remodeling tasks. This same document may simultaneously be a living testament to the past by the very nature of the information it contains, thereby making it a priceless artifact. This collection will grow over time as more original drawings, sketches and renderings are released for public use.