How Illinois is mapping their history: BTN LiveBIG

University of Illinois Archives

How Illinois is mapping their history: BTN LiveBIG

There is a Confucian proverb that says, “Study the past if you want to define the future.” At the University of Illinois, archivists, librarians, historians, faculty, students and staff are doing more than just studying the past. They’re putting it on display.

The “Mapping History at the University of Illinois” project is an ambitious and far-reaching initiative to document university history through maps, 3D images and archival content. Since 2015, a multidisciplinary team has combed through a number of campus and community resources to create a rich visual and oral history of university life and the campus over the past 150 years.

On the “Mapping History” website, visitors can explore the project’s three main sections. Campus history combines written records and archival materials, letting the visitor know a little bit more about Illinois’ history during a specific period. In the Interactive Maps section, several clickable maps chart the growth of the campus and the significance of its structures, past and present. Finally, the Map Archives has a large collection of maps that relate to way-finding, political districting and campus planning, to name but a few.

In a recent blog post on the Illinois News Bureau website, Information Science graduate student Joseph Porto recounts his joy in finding a particular photo in a scrapbook belonging to a student who attended the university 100 years ago. The photo shows military aviators in uniform in front of what is now Busey Hall for a ceremonial flag-raising.

This item will help illustrate an online interactive map I’m creating that chronicles events on campus during World War I. This photograph, in particular, illustrates the sacrifices students made to accommodate the soldiers-in-training who moved to campus, including the university’s female students, who waited an extra year before moving into their newly built residence hall.

While Illinois’ sesquicentennial has come and gone, “Mapping History” continues to grow. Evermore detailed maps and new historical entries are added regularly. Historians, both professional and amateur, from within the Illinois community and the general public, are invited to submit their own works for consideration in the project.

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