Thursday, January 21, 2010

UIS archives preserving regional history in central Illinois

If you’re looking for family genealogy records from the 1800s or researching the history of your town, the historical archives and special collections section at the University of Illinois Springfield may hold your answers.

The archives, located in the basement of Brookens Library, contain more than a million historical documents from 14 counties in central Illinois. The UIS archives are part of the Illinois Regional Archives Depository system collecting marriage, birth and death records, along with various court files.

“If we’re going to study our past we have to have authentic records of what was done in the past,” said Thomas Wood, UIS archivist.

The archive also contains a complete history of the foundation of Sangamon State University and its transition into the University of Illinois system. Wood is responsible for collecting all administrative records, pictures and other documents that have long-term historical value.

“That’s really the function of archives is to document our world for the future,” said Wood.

The archive is made up of over 3,000 cubic feet of records and serves as a training ground for students studying historic preservation.

“This has helped me learn how to sort, clean and learn what the archive has, so when I go to do my research as a grad student I know where to go,” said Anne Suttles, graduate student in public history.

Among the archives more interesting documents is an original copy of a survey conducted by Abraham Lincoln in the 1800s, which features his signature.

“This isn’t his actual hand writing. It’s a record copy that was made at the same time of the survey he made,” said Wood. “Documents that were in his hand are so valuable those have been sent to the vault at the Illinois state archives”.

The UIS archive is primarily used by people in the community who are researching their family tree, but not all the requests staff get are local.

“We also get a lot of reference use from all over the country and even other countries. We’ve had people from Europe and Russia using our oral history,” said Wood.

All archives/special collections’ materials are open to the public unless restricted by law or contractual agreement with a donor. The material must be used in the archives reading room, but photocopying and scanning are available.

For more information on the UIS archives visit:

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