University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Student Life and Culture Archives

Housed at the southern end of campus, right next to Orchard Downs, is the university’s Student Life and Culture Archive. Dedicated to preserving the history of student life on campus, this archive holds a wide variety of artifacts. From old newspapers to interviews to clothing, they have something that is bound to be of interest to everyone. There is no assignment required to visit, just a curiosity for what you’ll find there.

The question then is what exactly will I find there? The short answer is, a lot. For example, are you in a sorority or fraternity? Then you’re in luck because the archive has complete histories of 16 different chapters as well as a good deal of documentation on others. You can find everything from membership requirements to event information dating back to the founding of many of these chapters.

Perhaps you want to look into academics from the school’s early years. Want notes from a Constitutional History and Logic class from the late 1800’s? The archives have you covered with notes written by Alfred Gregory. Or if engineering is more of interest to you then you can access class notes from a senior level Civil Engineering course, about local bridges, from 1930. (Please note it is probable that the courses have changed in content over the years so maybe don’t try to copy these notes instead of attending class. Or do, I am not here to tell you how to live your life.)

If you are interested more in the social side of student life then you may be drawn to documents from numerous student organizations on campus including copies of the African-American Cultural Program publications from the 1960’s through the 2000’s. There are also copies of student comedy newspapers including the Illini Mothers’ Tyme (1969) and Booze News (2004-2006).

If you have an interest in politics you may want to look in the archives University of Illinois in the Cold War Era LibGuide which provides links to numerous resources within the archives. Included is a link to the photography subject file which houses pictures from the famous March Riots that shook campus during the 1970’s. There is also the collection of unrest documents which include flyers in favor of protesting the Vietnam War. Or perhaps you can read the Walrus, a student run alternative newspaper from the 1960’s.

If sports are more up your ally, these archives house a large number of documents pertaining to African American student athletes. These documents range from interviews with players such as Claude “Buddy” Young as well as a thesis written on African American athletes at Illinois in 1972.

If my best attempt at channeling a used car commercial has successfully sparked your interest then by all means head out there to visit. Simply head over to the Horticulture Field Laboratory by Orchard downs. (If you want to take the bus I’d suggest taking the Bronze 8 or the Teal 12 to the Orchard Downs North Shelter stop which is directly across the street from the lab.) Once you walk into the building take a right and on the right side you’ll see the reading room filled with wooden tables and chairs (it is almost impossible to miss.) Then present your icard to the archivist and tell them what you are looking for. Before you know it you’ll be handling notes from the time of your grandparents, no long process involved and no assignment required. If you aren’t sure where to begin, you can always look through the archive’s lib guide at or simply ask one of the archivists for advice. While you’re there consider asking them what their favorite item in the archive is: who knows what they’ll have to show.

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