Illinois History & Lincoln Collections

These collections bring together the holdings of two once separate units of the Library, the Illinois Historical Survey and the Lincoln Room.

The collections consist of printed and manuscript materials that support research in local and state history and in the filed of Lincoln studies.

The collections contain approximately 24,000 volumes, 1,800 cubic feet of manuscripts, and a large number of maps, broadsides, prints and photographs, artifacts, and ephemera.

The unit began as two separate collections. Between 1909 and 1939, the Illinois Historical Survey mainly functioned as the editorial office of the Illinois State Historical Library, and it collected materials of immediate use in the preparation of the Centennial History of Illinois, a multi-volume study, and the Illinois Historical Collections, a documentary series. After 1939, when the state historical agency was consolidated in Springfield, the Survey became fully a part of the University and it gradually expanded its holdings in the filed of Illinois history as a whole. In 1966, the unit was moved from Lincoln Hall, where it was affiliated with the Department of History, to the Library, becoming an administrative part of the Library in 1980.

The collection which forms the nucleus of the Lincoln Room was donated to the University by Harlan Hoyt Horner and Henrietta Calhoun Horner, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of their graduation in 1901. The Lincoln Room, initially maintained by the History and Philosophy Library, became the responsibility of the Illinois Historical Survey in 2001.

In 2006, the Survey and Lincoln Room were merged and relocated within the Library. The combined collections of the two units are now stored in a portion of the main stacks reached from a hallway door on the third floor (Library 315). When the corridor to that area is remodeled as planned, it will again be possible for patrons to browse materials as they request on teh basis of the online catalog or with the assistance of the staff are brought to them in a reading room on the fourth floor (Library 422).

The nature of the Illinois History and Lincoln Collections is largely a reflection of the separate origin and development of the Illinois Historical Survey and the Lincoln Room. Both units acquired relatively comprehensive holdings of printed materials, nearly comparable to the holdings of the Illinois State Historical Library (now the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library) and the Chicago Historical Society (now the Chicago History Museum). However, neither unit acquired manuscript collections to the extent held by the Springfield library. Throughout its formative years, the Survey, after using manuscript collections in the field of Illinois history for its documentary publications, deposited them in Springfield; and the Historical Library was well-established as a preeminent collection of Lincoln manuscripts before the University received the Horner collection. The Horners collected only printed Lincolniana, and that emphasis has been maintained, partly because the acquisition of original Lincoln manuscripts is now prohibitively expensive.

If the Library's Illinois History and Lincoln Collections are kept intact and made accessible, and if they are supported by a curator familiar with research in Illinois history and with Lincoln studies, they will continue to be a useful center for scholarship in these fields. It is appropriate for the library of the University of Illinois, in the "Land of Lincoln," to maintain and build this investment in Illinois history and in Lincoln studies.

Version Date: Revised November 2005