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Overview of Collections

The IHLC collects both print and manuscript materials documenting the history of Illinois and the life and legacy of Abraham Lincoln. The collections contain about 34,000 volumes, approximately 1,500 cubic feet of manuscripts, and a large number of maps, broadsides, prints and photographs, artifacts, and ephemera. Researchers benefit substantially from the advice and suggestions of a staff which is familiar with these materials, with their inner connections, and with Illinois history and Lincoln studies as a whole. Further details about the scope and coverage of the collections are found below.

Illinois History

Book cover for Illinois: The Crossroads of a NationThe IHLC holds a rich collection of both manuscript and published sources for the study of Illinois history. Manuscript sources include collections from individuals, families, and organizations dating from the colonial era to the present, as well as several collections of transcriptions, microfilm, or photostats of materials held by other institutions, most notably British, French, Spanish, and Canadian Archives. Collections include the papers of political leaders, lawyers, businessmen, labor leaders, clergymen, soldiers, scientists, and architects as well as the research files of a number of historians. Also included are records of various local, regional, and statewide organizations including religious groups, civic organizations, and social clubs or societies.

Books and other published volumes likewise encompass a variety of subjects. They include local histories, city directories, county and state atlases, contemporary works and commentaries, as well as works of scholarship. Travel books and pamphlets as well as children’s and young adult books on the history of the state or different municipalities are also included, particularly those dating from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The histories of Champaign and Urbana are well-represented, as is Chicago history, but the geographic scope extends throughout the state to include every county in Illinois.

Abraham Lincoln

Book cover for Lincoln’s yarns and storiesThe IHLC is especially strong in published sources for research in Lincoln studies. Published works include biographies, collections of Lincoln’s writings, and scholarship on various facets of his life, professional and political career, and presidency, as well as his assassination and legacy. Ranging from scholarly and popular works of history to children’s picture books, they date from the nineteenth century to the present and provide a variety of historical perspectives.

These published works are supplemented by a number of manuscript collections. These include collections of documents from Lincoln’s contemporaries and biographers, research files of Lincoln scholars, and records of Lincoln organizations. There are also a number of scrapbooks and clippings about Lincoln as well as a small collection of letters and legal papers in Lincoln’s own hand.

A separate graphics collection includes various photographic and artistic representations of Lincoln, his family, and events in his life. A number of Lincoln artifacts, such as an ox yoke that he is believed to have made himself, also form part of the IHLC’s holdings.