Exploring 125 years of history in the Archives

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Janet Rowley in her laboratory. 1980s. University of Chicago Photographic Archive, apf7-01134. Copyright 2015, The Chicago Maroon. All rights reserved. Reprinted with Permission. Special Collections Research Center, The University of Chicago Library.

Celebration of the University of Chicago’s 125th Anniversary is drawing increased campus attention to the University Archives this year. The mission of the Archives is to preserve and make available materials documenting the history of the University and the work of its faculty, students, trustees, and friends. Archives collections span many formats, from official reports to publications, photographs, media, and physical artifacts. Faculty papers in the Archives include letters, diaries, field notes, manuscripts, and teaching materials. In all, the Archives collections have grown to 60,000 linear feet, or more than 73 million individual items, and digital files comprise more than 20 terabytes of records in the Library’s Digital Repository.

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Bon Voyage. From the papers of Julian and Eva Overton Lewis. Special Collections Research Center, The University of Chicago Library.

Important new collections continue to enhance the Archives. Recent acquisitions include the papers of Janet Rowley, the University’s renowned geneticist and cancer researcher and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient. Gary Becker’s papers bring manuscripts, notes, and teaching materials of the 1992 Nobel laureate in economics. The papers of Jean Elshtain document her interdisciplinary work in religion, political philosophy, and ethics. And the papers of Julian H. Lewis, the University’s first African American professor, and his wife Eva Overton Lewis, document an influential career in medical research and the lives of a leading Chicago family.

Julian H. Lewis

Julian H. Lewis, the first African American to teach at the University of Chicago. 1917. Special Collections Research Center, The University of Chicago Library.

Recent classroom teaching drawing on the Archives includes Mark Bradley’s seminar on International History. Tara Zahra brought her History Colloquium on Migration and Displacement in Twentieth- Century Europe. Daniel Webb drew on the Archives for his class on America in World Civilization, while Susan Burns brought her class on Doing History. Kathleen Conzen led classes on Chicago and Chicago’s South Side, and Katherine Taylor’s courses examined the University’s modern campus architecture.

Support for research is also central to the Archives mission. Within the past year, projects of University researchers have drawn on the records of the Robert M. Hutchins administration, the Committee on Social Thought, and the University’s Chaucer Research Project of the 1930s. Visiting researchers have examined the papers of Mircea Eliade; the papers of University administrators and faculty involved in the world government movement of the 1940s and 1950s; the field notes and data collected by Sol Tax and other faculty members of the University’s influential Department of Anthropology; and the papers of Ernest W. Burgess, Louis Wirth, Everett Hughes, and other leaders in Chicago sociology.

Sol Tax

Sol Tax, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Chicago. n.d. University of Chicago Photographic Archive, apf1-08219. Special Collections Research Center, The University of Chicago Library.

The Library’s annual Robert Platzman Memorial Fellowships bring visiting scholars from the national and international scholarly community. This year, one Platzman Fellow from the University of Cambridge is examining the papers of Charles Merriam, Harold Gosnell, and others for a study of attitudes toward American public opinion. Using the papers of Ernest Burgess and Robert Havinghurst, a graduate student from Indiana University is researching a dissertation on the Guatemalan Indigenismo movement. A scholar from the University of Oxford is examining the papers of Louis Brownlow, Leonard White, and other faculty for a study of American political science. And a graduate student from the University of Minnesota is using the papers of faculty member A.K. Ramanujan to examine literary debates in nineteenth-century South India.

Visit the online University of Chicago Photographic Archive at photoarchive.lib.uchicago.edu.

Block group paints, 600 block of South Bowen.

Block group paints, 600 block of South Bowen. Mildred Mead, photographer. April 30, 1952. University of Chicago Photographic Archive, apf2-09636. Special Collections Research Center, The University of Chicago Library.

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