Most students aren’t especially aware of ISU’s history or that the school has an entire building dedicated to its past.
The Dr. Jo Ann Rayfield Archives help preserve many items that make up ISU’s history. In honor of Founders Day, it’s important for students to see what goes on behind the archive doors. Located off-campus on 2016 Warehouse Road, this repository holds any and all objects, documents, and information pertaining to the history of ISU. According to University Archivist April Karlene Anderson, who has worked with the department since 2011, items in the archives include “things like the first course catalogs, yearbooks, faculty papers, and administrative records from colleges and departments.”
Some of the most interesting items in the collection according to Anderson are the Civil War era battle and ceremonial swords from ISU’s first president, Charles Hovey, as well as the photo collection.
She said other unusual items include administrative papers from almost all of ISU’s presidents. They even hold every copy of the Vidette ever printed.
This week is the perfect time to spend a little time learning about how ISU has changed since it opened its doors in 1857. The archives are open to the public, and documents and artifacts can be viewed if a request is made to archives staff.
The oldest items from the collection, which belonged, according to Anderson, to the Fell family, will be on display in Milner Library and the Brown Ballroom on Founders Day.
Anderson herself will be there with the items in order to share stories and answer any questions.
“Some of the oldest items,” Anderson said, “belonged to the parents of our founder Jesse W. Fell and date back to the early 1800’s.”
For those who are interested in browsing through some archive photos, online galleries are available through the archive website. The photos include shots of old presidents, group pictures of clubs and sporting events, as well as old pictures of life on campus.
Flipping through these snap shots dating as far back as the 1800’s really help show what life was like for a Redbird one hundred years ago.
When Anderson began working for the archives department, she immediately felt proud to be a part of ISU because of the school’s commitment to the students.
“There are large universities out there who don’t offer the individualized attention to a student’s education that ISU can,” Anderson said. “It’s something I value and want to be part of. That and the alumni base is an extremely dedicated bunch which makes this job so much more fun.”
To remain updated on the archive news, visit Anderson’s Twitter and Facebook accounts, the University Archives blog, or log onto www.library.illinoisstate.edu/unique-collections/archives/ to view digitized yearbooks, catalogs, and databases.