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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Digitization Services

Project Highlights from Digitization Services

Gwendolyn Brooks Digital Collection

The literary archives of Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000) are part of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Ms. Brooks was an Illinois Poet Laureate as well as the first Black writer to win the Pulitzer Prize. The collection is comprehensive and spans more than half a century. It includes Ms. Brooks’ youthful poetry and prose, scrapbooks of pieces she published as a young woman, and extensive correspondence with a significant roster of other writers. The correspondence section alone has more than 100 boxes filled with letters, envelopes, and other items that were sent to and by Ms. Brooks. Also in the collection are manuscript drafts and proofs, especially material from after she left mainstream commercial publishing to produce her works with small presses and Black-owned imprints.

Providing more insight into the daily life of Ms. Brooks, the collection also contains a profusion of notes documenting her observations on current events and daily life, her personal library of books, and a plethora of scrapbooks and other photographs – many of them detailed with extensive notes about their subjects. Ms. Brooks’ papers preserve and illuminate her creative process, sometimes across decades. Ms. Brooks’ meticulous preservation of and commentary on all aspects of her life is, at heart, a deeply archival pursuit, beckoning us to uncover networks of support and influence, make connections among her many interests and activities, and, ultimately, come to a deeper understanding of the person and the poet.


"The Gay Illini organization was formed in 1975 and Illini Pride was founded in 1977, both growing out of the work of the Gay Liberation Front. Gay Illini was announced in the Daily Illini on January 29, 1975. By April 1975, the group was holding Gay Forums, offering panels discussing topics related to gay students and queer life. The group also hosted a number of social events, including dances, picnics, and movie nights."

(reprinted from the Student Life & Culture Archives blog, written by Caitlin Stamm,

Since the beginning in the 1970s, the story of LGBTQ culture and student organizations has taken several twists and turns, including a large number of name changes, acronym rearrangements, and a shifting landscape of office space (or lack thereof). This digital collection offers only a glimpse into the past, and does not attempt by any means to represents events, organizations, or policies in their entirety. Rather, the collection should be thought of as just one door in a long hallway of history.

Another door is the current Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Resource Center, located in Room 323 of the Illini Union. As a complement to this collection, users may find the timeline the LGBTRC created here: helpful.

The University Archives are also a terrific opening for scholars who want to really dig into the LGBTQ past of the University of Illinois. All materials found in this collection were hand picked from two archival records series. To visit the University Archives online, please visit The analog collection these images were drawn from reside at the physical location of the Archives Research Center, Horticulture Field Laboratory, 1707 South Orchard, Urbana.

It is the hope of the University Archives and the LGBT Resource Center that, over time, this digital collection will continue to grow. If you are a student, faculty, or staff member and have questions about donating material, please contact the Archives at (217) 333-0798.

Collection Curator's Note: The University of Illinois recognizes that the acronym LGBT may not be agreeable to everyone it attempts to encompass. It was chosen for the title solely because it was the most used acronym found within the related archival collection. No offense is intended to any member of our highly diversified community campus.


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 Library is digitizing as many of the maps as possible, condition permitting. Maps are added to the collection as they are completed.



Railroad Maps from The Map Library

The construction of railroads shaped the United States in a way that no other nation has been shaped. Charters and land grants impacted the patterns and timing of settlement and farming by emigrants. The checkerboard pattern of railroad grant lands can still be seen on maps of areas in the United States West. The fortunes and destinies of towns and villages were determined by a railroad passing through or by passing population clusters. Towns passed by often dried up or were moved to a more optimal railroad location. The transcontinental lines, once constructed and connected, tied the east to the west in way that was faster than horse drawn wagon and more direct than ships sailing around Cape Horn through the Straits of Magellan.

Chicago was at the heart of the United States railroad network as a connection between the eastern United States, the Great Lakes, the Mississippi River, and the western lands beyond the Mississippi. Illinois was decidedly shaped by railroads converging on Chicago but also by deliberate construction paths such as the Y created by the Illinois Central Railroad (see illustration).

Railroad maps served as trip planning tools, company advertisements, and immigrant recruiters. This collection includes railroad maps of Illinois, the United States, and North America published during the 19th and 20th centuries.




Illinois and US History Broadsides and Printed Ephemera Collection 

The digitized content of the Illinois and US History Broadsides and Printed Ephemera Collection consists of consists of nineteenth and early twentieth-century ephemeral materials mostly related to the history of Illinois and the Midwest, collected by the Illinois History and Lincoln Collections (IHLC) and its predecessor, the Illinois Historical Survey.

The digitized content includes circulars, pamphlets, periodicals, posters, newspaper clippings, advertisements, handbills, leaflets, and various financial documents dating from circa 1800 to 1937. The materials document U.S. and Illinois history related to politics and government, education, religion, financial matters, and various advertising endeavors.

The physical items of the Illinois and US History Broadsides and Printed Ephemera Collection are managed by the Illinois History and Lincoln Collections at the University of Illinois Library. The Illinois and US History Broadsides and Printed Ephemera Collection was partially digitized in 2017 and 2018. For more information, contact an archivist at


Digital Rare Book Collection

The RBML Digital Rare Books Collection offers a comprehensive selection of titles from our distinctive collections. The collection features exemplars from our collections of medieval manuscripts, incunabula, renaissance, and other early imprints, as well as a great variety of subjects representing a good balance between the sciences and the humanities. These titles also showcase a wide variety of printing and binding technologies that are idiosyncratic to the history of the book.