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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

History 498D : Local History in a Global Context

Guide to finding resources on the local experience of global events

On this page

  1. University Archives
  2. Student Life and Culture Archive
  3. Illinois History and Lincoln Collections

And in the sidebar below is information on the Champaign County Historical Archives.

Champaign County Historical Archives


The Champaign County Historical Archives was established in 1956 as a department of The Urbana Free Library specializing in genealogy and local history.  In 1987 it was designated the official repository for non-current Champaign County records. Although it focuses on Champaign County, the Archives holds extensive collections of works dealing with the rest of Illinois and most of the states east of the Mississippi.

The collection includes various printed materials, including books and periodicals; vital records and case files, newspapers, directories (city directories and phone books), maps, and organizational records and personal papers. Other relevant sources include vertical files and family files.

Significant holdings include material on the inner tier of four counties nearest to Champaign County: Douglas, Ford, Piatt, and Vermillion, and an outer tier of ten additional counties close to Champaign County: Clark, Coles, Cumberland, DeWitt. Edgar, Iroquois, Livingston, and McLean, Macon, and Moultrie.

The Archives has a sizable collection of local history materials which may be related to activities or organizations in which an individual has participated. Holdings include organizational records and personal papers, including athletic organizations, churches, schools, funeral home/ monument companies, title companies, civic organizations, clubs, fraternal organizations, libraries, government agencies, businesses, quasi-governmental organizations, and personal files. Holdings include an extensive collection of photographs, sound recordings, oral history interviews, and a collection of newsletters from local area organizations.  The archive also contains an extensive collection of photographs of individuals, buildings, and county scenes.

1. University Archives

The University Archives, located in the basement of the main Library, houses the largest collection of historical manuscripts in Illinois. The focus of the collection is American social, intellectual, and cultural history, and there is significant material pertaining to life in Champaign county. Because archives are unpublished, these materials are not cataloged and classified like books and periodicals, and they do not appear in the online catalog. Instead, they are arranged according to a system based on "provenance," record groups, sub-groups, and series, and this information is recorded on "control cards" and maintained in a paper file.

Fortunately, you can search the online version of these control cards on the web site of the University Archives. For example, you can browse their own subject descriptors (e.g., Civil Rights, Student Riots, World War I, World War II, Cold War) to identify material pertaining to the local experience of these world events and movements.

Here is a sample record from their database:

Vice Control Investigators Reports, 1936-1943
Record Series Number
: 6/1/36
Volume: 0.6 cubic feet
Arrangement: Chronological
Description: Vice Control investigators reports submitted to Director Charles S. Havens by Fred Gerstung, Willis George and Stan relating to vice, and illegal activities affecting students, including reports on gambling, law enforcement, police, politics, marijuana, numbers games, prostitution, alcohol sales and disorderly conduct in Champaign, Urbana, Champaign County and Danville.

Contact Bill Maher, University Archivist, or Chris Prom, Assistant University Archivist, for further information on the Library's archival collections (University Archives, Room 19 Library, 333-0798).

2. Student Life and Culture Archive

The Student Life and Culture Archive is located in the Archives Research Center at the former Horticulture Field Laboratory, 1707 S. Orchard Street in Urbana. This collection contains material documenting student involvement in fraternities, sororities, student government, religious associations, publications, social events, athletics, and other activities throughout the history of the University of Illinois. Included are correspondence, minutes, reports, scrapbooks, photographs, publications, and sound recordings from individual students and alumni, student organizations, and student related offices on campus. There is a wealth of primary source material documenting student activism, gender and race relations, military education, veterans' education, and religious and recreational activities. Contact Ellen Swain, Archivist for Student Life and Culture (333-7481), for help locating material on specific topics and for information about using this collection.

3. Illinois History and Lincoln Collections

The Illinois History and Lincoln Collections, located in 422 Library, maintains an extensive collection of printed materials on Illinois state and local history and the history of the old Northwest, as well as a manuscript collection with strengths in the history of the colonial and territorial periods, communitarianism in the 19th century, and late-19th and early 20th-century labor history. The manuscript collection includes the records of the Religious Society of Friends, Urbana-Champaign Meeting (Quakers), League of Women Voters of Champaign County, 1923-71, Urbana Association of Commerce, 1914-35, Champaign County Council of Defense (1919), Champaign-Urbana Peace Council (1951-66), and the diaries, letters and photograph collections of dozens of individuals with ties to Champaign county. There are brief descriptions of some of the manuscript collections on their web site. For more information on these collections, contact the curator, John Hoffmann (333-1777).