Most digital collections are organized thematically. Increasingly though, digital collections that appear to be organized thematically are actually digitized archival collections, and you'll find that it's helpful to know this before you begin exploring the collection, because with archival collections it's especially important to learn how the documents are organized before you begin using them.
Few digital collections have yet been created specifically around the theme of families. To find sources about families in digital collections, you'll need to do some creative thinking: what sorts of collections might contain documents related to your topic? What kinds of people or organizations might have created documents about your topic? Collections about social services and social groups will often will often include sources that document family life throughout history.
Microform collections tend to be one of two kinds: either thematic, or archival. Thematic microform collections are organized around a central theme, like women's history, American Indian history, history of madness, history of the American west, and so forth. Thematic collections will tend to be a mixture of published and unpublished sources, with greater emphasis on published sources. Archival microform collections are organized around provenance, which is to say the person or organization from which the documents came. In the case of archival microform collections, the person or organization from which the documents came is also very often the person or organization that produced the documents.
A brief summary of some of our outstanding collections is available at the web site of the Associate University Librarian for Collections.
The Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, located on the third floor of the Library, houses over 250,000 books and over 7,000 linear feet of manuscripts, including the papers of H.G. Wells, Carl Sandburg, and W.S. Merwin; a Spanish Civil War collection of material documenting the U.S. literary and military involvement in Spain's fight against fascism; the Baskette collection on freedom of expression and censorship; the Meine collection of American humor, and thousands of rare books from the 15th -20th centuries. For more information on their collections, see their web site.
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, but there is significant material pertaining to other parts of the world. Because archives are unpublished, these materials are not classified according to the Dewey Decimal Classification, and they do not appear in the online catalog. Instead, they are arranged according to a system based on "provenance" (the person or entity that created the material) into record groups, sub-groups, and series. A searchable database containing descriptions of the papers and records held by the University Archives is available at http://web.library.uiuc.edu/ahx/archon/.
Both personal papers and organizational or institutional records are held in the University Archives. Examples include the papers of the journalist James B. Reston (reporter for the New York Times from 1939 to 1989), the papers of Avery Brundage, the president of the U.S. Olympic Committee (1929-52) and International Olympic Committee (1952-72), the records of the American Society for Cybernetics, and the Alpha Tau Omega archives.
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, 217-333-7998).
The Student Life and Cluture Archive offers a wealth of source material documenting student involvement in fraternities, sororities, student government, political activities, religious associations, publications, social events, and athletics. The SLC Archives is located in the old Horticultural Field Laboratory at 1707 South Orchard Street in Urbana (east of the President's house on Florida Avenue). Contact Ellen Swain, Archivist for Student Life and Culture, for more information (217-333-7841).
The Communications Library and the University Archives hold three major collections of print advertising. The Communications Library curates the D'Arcy and Woodward Collections. The D'Arcy collection, containing 2 million ads published between 1890 and 1970, has its own online index of products and brands (http://www.comm.uiuc.edu/darcy/). The entire collection has been microfilmed, and you can obtain color photocopies of these ads. Contact Lisa Romero, Communications Librarian, for help with this material (firstname.lastname@example.org). The Communications Library also houses the Woodward Collection of approximately four million ads from the late 19th century through the 1980s.
The University Archives houses the Advertising Council Archives ("Only you can prevent forest fires"), which includes material from their campaign ads. The Advertising Council was established in early 1942 to support the war effort through public service advertising. For more information on the Advertising Council Archives, see http://web.library.uiuc.edu/ahx/adcouncil, or contact the staff in the University Archives (listed above).