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New and Improved Voices of Illinois Oral History Portal!

A New Platform for Oral Histories

In the spring and early summer of 2024, Archives Research Assistant Spenser Bailey created a new, Omeka-based Voices of Illinois oral history portal.*  This process entailed making stylistic choices, developing search functions and organizational presentation for the interview collections, and transferring the existing 170 interviews over from the legacy platform.  The new portal is more than just an exact replacement – Omeka’s versatility allowed for the creation and deployment of an individual interview search/browse page, which the old portal did not have.

See the gallery below for examples of the new portal’s features:

View the new portal for the first time using the button below!

The new Voices site is still under construction, with finishing touches being completed.  Additionally, two new collections, chronicling the Unit One Living-Learning Community and queer culture in Champaign-Urbana (produced by students in Siobhan Somerville’s GWS 467/HIST468 class), are in progress and will be the first to deploy solely on the new portal.  Please contact Archivist for Student Life and Culture Ellen Swain if you have any questions about oral histories, would like to discuss a collaboration with the Archives, or have suggestions about the new site.

About This Project

The original Voices of Illinois oral history portal was created as a part of the University of Illinois sesquicentennial celebrations in 2017-18.  For the first time, oral histories and other historical audio recordings were available on a centralized, easy-to-navigate platform.  This increased the visibility and accessibility of these valuable collections, which, in turn, allowed scholars and the general public to use them for academic research and personal enjoyment.  I was an undergraduate at the University in the fall of 2017, and I used an anecdote from a “Great Depression” interview to highlight a point in one of my first ever academic papers.

Some of the sets of interviews in Voices came from oral history initiatives from the University Archives.  For example, in 2000-01, Student Life and Culture Archivist Ellen Swain interviewed 44 alumni from the 1920s and 1930s, and recorded their memories of attending the University before and during the Great Depression.  These coordinated projects contribute immensely to the historical record, as large sets of interviews allow for comparisons and different perspectives on some of the same subjects.  Notably, in at least one interview, the subject mentioned a story about some of his fellow students, one of whom was the subject of another interview!  Other recordings featured in the portal are digitized surrogates of historical conversations, like the Allen Recordings of Agricultural History.  Created by alumnus Ralph Allen from the 1940s to the 1960s, some of these predate the University Archives, and preserve the memories and perspectives of those who have long since passed away.

Further, since the creation of Voices of Illinois, Archives personnel have continued work in oral history, allowing for the Archives’ audio collections to grow in size and scope.  Natural and Applied Sciences Archivist Bethany Anderson spearheaded the COVID-19 Documentation Project, which resulted in 45 interviews with University of Illinois System personnel, in which they recounted memories of and responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the Voices portal, which is based on WordPress, has reached the end of its useful life.  Archives personnel had to identify and deploy a replacement platform to avoid losing the capability and centralized resources that Voices brings.  After consultation with the Library’s IT department, Omeka – a  free “open-source web publishing [platform] for sharing digital collections” was selected as the replacement for the outdated WordPress format of the original Voices portal.

*The University Archives would like to thank Krista Gray, program officer at the Illinois History and Lincoln Collections, and Alex Dryden, research programmer with Library IT, for their valuable assistance with the new Voices portal.  Krista introduced Spenser Bailey to Omeka, and provided him with templates and an example Omeka site, which he then built into the new portal.  Alex provided detailed guidance, technical support with Omeka, and solutions and encouragement, without which the new portal could never have been completed.

University Archives: A Nikkeijin Illinois Content Provider

University Archives: A Nikkeijin Illinois Content Provider

By Jason Finkelman

Jason Finkelman

Upon Spurlock Museum’s invitation to curate an exhibition on the Japanese American experience, Jason Finkelman proposed telling the story through profiles of those who had been part of the University of Illinois as students, faculty, and staff. Seeking subjects who had been part of the institution before, during and after the World War II incarceration of over 125,000 Japanese Americans, Finkelman turned to the University Archives to discover and research several of the twelve profiles on display through December 10.

As a Philadelphia-born Yonsei, a fourth generation Japanese American, Finkelman had long pursued knowledge of his Japanese ancestry utilizing historical documents available online and within the WWII Japanese American Internment and Relocation records of the U.S. National Archives. Nikkeijin Illinois provided an opportunity for Finkelman to better understand Chicago and Midwest Japanese American histories, starting with the fact that only 390 citizens of Japanese descent resided in Chicago in 1940. This community increased to 20,000 by 1945-46, relocating to the city for employment and education opportunities outside the ten incarceration centers.

One example of University Archives-based research Finkelman pursued extensively was piecing together the story of Seichi Bud Konzo. Arriving in 1927 as a Research Graduate Assistant Fellow in Mechanical Engineering, Konzo enjoyed an award-winning, lifelong career and affiliation with UIUC spanning over 50 years. First brought to Finkelman’s attention in Bill Hosokawa’s historical monograph Nisei – The Quiet Americans (1969; William Morrow and Company, Inc.) Konzo is listed as attending the inaugural Japanese American Citizens League national meeting in Seattle in 1930 “from Urbana, Illinois, where he was going to the University of Illinois.”

Exhibit panel with pictures of Seichi Konzo and information about his life and work at the University of Illinois.
Konzo panel from the exhibition. 

A bound edition of Japanese Students’ Christian Association newsletters discovered in the student life and culture archives revealed Konzo also served as the 1930 Midwest Representative of this North American organization. During WWII, Konzo’s employment outside of the West Coast military exclusion zone allowed him to maintain his station at the University of Illinois as a research professor and to contribute to the war effort as a fuels consultant for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from 1941-1945. In the archives Finkelman discovered an open letter from University Counsel Sveinbjorn Johnson dated December 10, 1941, declaring Konzo as a loyal citizen of the United States and fourteen-year faculty member of the University, who is required to travel to Cleveland, Ohio on December 11 to consult on “heating plants for defense housing units.” This fascinating document serving as a type of “official” university “leave clearance form” and confirmation of loyalty is included in Konzo’s profile at Spurlock Museum.

Along with the exhibited Nikkeijin Illinois profiles, Finkelman pursued understanding the evolution of University of Illinois policies on admitting Japanese American students during the war years. Research in the archives was critical to the College Nisei story display panel. After President Roosevelt’s signing of Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942, approximately 2500 Nisei students enrolled in West Coast colleges were forced to withdrawal from their programs. As early as March 1942, after receiving numerous transfer inquiries from institutions and students within the Western Military Zone, president W.C. Coffey of the University of Minnesota, corresponded with UIUC President Arthur C. Willard regarding policies to admit Japanese American graduate students. Willard responded, “I do not believe the Board of Trustees and other authorities of this institution look with favor upon the admission of either Japanese aliens or Americans of Japanese ancestry.” This statement was followed in April 1942 by President Willard’s administration adopting a no admissions policy claiming the University of Illinois a military exclusion zone due to government sponsored research and proximity to Chanute Air Force Base.

Under continued pressure from various agencies including the National Japanese American Student Relocation Council working under the War Relocation Authority, the Board of Trustees approved an arduous policy for admittance of Japanese American students in March 1944. The BOT public record states, “The Registrar has been studying this matter and he recommends that the University agree to admit… under the following conditions.” This one statement set Finkelman on a deep archives dive to uncover any record of the Registrar’s report. With the discovery of an undated two-page summary titled “Policy With Respect To Admission Of Students Of Japanese Ancestry”, along with an attached third statement from University of Michigan dated January 31, 1944, Finkelman enriches the record of the College Nisei story by providing access to a unique overview of the policies followed by fourteen peer Midwest institutions.

Wide-angle image of the Nikkeijin Illinois gallery at the Spurlock Museum.
Nikkeijin Illinois exhibition gallery.

Curated through research in the University Archives, as well as in historical newspapers and online Japanese American WWII documents, Nikkeijin Illinois is a revelation of the dynamic histories and events of the Japanese American experience through stories of those who are part of the University of Illinois record.

Finkelman will offer a lecture titled “Nikkeijin Illinois – Extended Stories” on October 6, 2023 at 12:00 PM as part of the Friday Forum + Conversation Café series presented by Diversity and Social Justice Education and University YMCA, sharing new information learned since the exhibition opened in February.


Pride at UIUC


Written by Chloe Attrell

RS 41/2/46

The Stonewall Rebellion on June 28th, 1969 in New York City inspired queer people of various backgrounds to organize coalitions to combat discrimination, and advocate for civil rights in a time of intolerance and police brutality. This is the instance that many recall when Pride month comes around, as a singular, pivotal moment in history that defined much of the struggle to come. Nonetheless, it is just as important to consider the history of achievements made by local queer activists as well.

In the years following the rebellion, students and Champaign-Urbana residents sought to form queer rights advocacy groups. Jeffrey Graubart founded a Gay Liberation organization through the University in 1970, stressing the importance of heterosexual education on gay struggles as key in the advancement of gay rights [1]. Although this chapter disintegrated by 1973, those in the organization advocated against homophobic policy within the city and paved the way for other gay organizations to come.

Poster For Gay Switchboard (41/2/46 Box 1, Folder “Gay Illini Archives 1975-1976”)

The Gay Illini (initially called the Gay Students’ Alliance), founded in early 1975, became the central group for gay student concerns. Through collaborations with both the University and greater Champaign-Urbana area, they made significant achievements in their first two semesters of operation. The Gay Switchboard, established in fall of 1976, was among the GI’s most esteemed contributions. This Switchboard was a volunteer-run mental health hotline specifically for the gay community [2]. At this time, there had been no such resource for queer people in the area, making it a matter of urgency to have this hotline available. The number for the Switchboard came to be added to Urbana’s News-Gazette after representatives of the organization stressed its importance to local newspapers [3]. Additionally, they opened a Gay Resource Center in the University’s YWCA lounge by the end of 1975, where educational materials on sexuality were available to be checked out [4].

In addition to providing resources for queer students, the newly renamed Gay and Lesbian Illini advocated for an amendment to the University’s non-discrimination policy that would provide civil rights protections to queer students on campus, beginning in 1983. After two rejections from Chancellor Thomas Everhart, GLI responded with protests, including a sit-in in the Chancellor’s office. This response prompted Everhart to appoint a task force in 1986 to investigate the climate of queer student life and discrimination on campus [5]. By 1987, University policy began to change in favor of GLI’s goals.

The story of GLI’s fight for non-discrimination, visibility, and education, although important to the University’s history of civil rights, is only one aspect of LGBT life on campus and in Champaign-Urbana. Before and since their founding, queer students have existed and come together, and continue to do so today. To learn more about LGBT life on campus, The Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns Papers (RS 41/2/46) contains documentation of the history of queer student presence and activism. Joyce D. Meyer’s Papers (RS 41/20/271) additionally provides insight into Lesbian activism through the 1970s-1980s. Moreover, local newsletters like People Like Us and OUTpostings (RS 41/66/815; RS 41/66/816) are resources that provide insight into local queer culture and organization since the 1980s.


[1]-[4] 41/2/46 Box 2, Folder “Newspaper Clippings, 1970-1989 (1 of 4)”

[5] 41/66/815 Box 1, “People Like Us”


Second-Wave Feminism in the Student Life and Culture Archives

Written by Patty Templeton

The first-wave of feminism in the United States focused on overturning legal obstacles to gender equality. It concentrated on issues like voting rights and property rights. The second-wave of feminism is agreed to have lasted from the 1960s until the 1980s. During these two decades of activism, people fought for a variety of issues that revolved around sexuality, reproductive rights, work life, family life, and gender-based inequalities. It should be noted that the second-wave of feminism has been criticized as not inclusive to the issues of women of color/working class and poor women.

Activism concerning second-wave feminism can be found throughout the Student Life and Culture (SLC) Archives. The following materials are a starting point for second-wave feminism research in the archives. These resources connect to topics and people pertinent to feminism on campus and how female students were treated during this time.

Women Supporting Equal Rights Amendment, ca. 1976

The Women’s Resources and Services Subject File, 1964-1991 (RS 41/3/10) contains pamphlets, posters, flyers, correspondence, newsletters, and more regarding programs like the Feminist Scholarship Conference (1978), the Illinois Symposium for Women (1969-1981), and the Verdell Frazier-Young Awards (1970-1991).

The Women’s Resources and Services References File, 1959-88, 1993-2005 (RS 41/3/9) builds broader context for second-wave feminism. It contains clippings, articles, brochures, and booklets about women in higher education focusing on topics such as Title IX, women’s liberation, Women’s Studies, and the Equal Rights Amendment.

For minutes, newsletters, and program materials about the Equal Rights Amendment, sexual harassment, rape, the National Women’s Music Festival (1976-80), the Women’s Film Festival (1981 & 1984), and other issues concerning women, look through the Women’s Student Union Records, 1974-84 (RS 41/66/100).

Women’s Folk Festival, 1974

The Joyce D. Meyers Papers, 1961-2018 (RS 41/20/271) reflect the life and activism of Meyers, who attended UIUC in the 1970s, protested for the Equal Rights Amendment, and became the first openly LGBTQ candidate to run for Champaign City Council.

The Paula Treichler Papers, 1970-1998 (RS 52/5/21) reflect Professor Treichler’s work, correspondence, papers, and clippings regarding issues such the Campus Affairs Committee on Women’s Concerns, child care, women’s studies, and the Committee on the Status of Women.

A search through the Student Organizations Publications, 1871- (RS 41/6/840) may be fruitful, as it contains copies of student org docs and announcements. For example, Box 1 contains info on the Abortion Rights Coalition and the Allies for a Women’s Center.

To position the expectations of women on campus leading into and during second-wave feminism, peruse Illini Wise 1944, 1946, 1949-60 (RS 41/3/810). To further situate how women and their interests were viewed, check out Editorial Office News for Women, 1948- (RS 8/3/861). These weekly news releases focused on “news of general interest to women” and homemaking.

Several more publications of interest include Continuing Conversations, 1967- (RS 41/3/814), a bimonthly publication focused on concerns of women at UIUC, and People Publications, 1970-71 (RS 41/66/969). People reflected radical activism on campus, including women’s liberation.

As always, the Daily Illini is an excellent resource to keyword search for topics such as feminism, abortion, Title IX, the Equal Rights Amendment, and women’s liberation. (Make sure to limit the years of your search!)

The SLC has a plethora of material regarding women’s history throughout the second-wave of feminism, as does the University Archives at the Main Library. Start here but contact an archivist if you have any questions!

Pauline Chiang: The First Female Chinese Student at UIUC

Written by Patty Templeton

Pauline Chiang was the first female Chinese student to attend UIUC. She joined the College of Commerce (now the Gies College of Business) in 1922. This is 16 years after the first male Chinese students began studying at the university. In a Daily Illini feature, Chiang said, “I am perfectly satisfied at the University of Illinois,” and further stated, “In my home in Pekin, I heard of Illinois, and my friends in this country directed me here. It is a wonderful place.”

Pauline Chiang

Upon her arrival Chiang, lived at McKinley Hall and became active in the Freshman Commission, the Woman’s Cosmopolitan Club, and at the Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church. Chiang also associated with the Chinese Students’ Club and took the part of a princess in “The Philosopher’s Stone,” a play that the club wrote and produced in 1923. (Details about the Chinese Students’ Club building can be found here.)

            McKinley Hall group from page 430 of the 1924 Illio

Chiang spoke up about issues of world education and race while at UIUC. A Daily Illini article from 1923 features Chiang’s thoughts on the 1922 silent drama East Meets West, a movie that starred a white woman in yellowface and heavily featured stereotypes about Chinese people. Chiang said, “I never saw Chinese girls with false teeth, as so described. I never saw Chinese dressed the way the picture describes.” She goes on to say, “It is the pride of the nation that I am fighting for.”

Freshman Commission from page 170 of  the 1924 Illio

Cosmopolitan Club from page 473 of  the 1924 Illio

Pauline Chiang is listed in the 1922 Local Faculty and Student Directory. In September of 1923, Pauline Chiang married a fellow student, Herbert C. Euyang. She then appears in the 1923 Local Faculty and Staff Directory as “Mrs. H.C. Euyang.” She is not found by either name in any subsequent directories. Herbert Euyang graduated in 1924 and took a job in Chicago at an importing firm, and this may account for Pauline leaving UIUC’s campus.

For additional information on Pauline Chiang/Pauline Euyang, peruse the 14 mentions of her in the Daily Illini, the 6 mentions of her husband Herbert in the Daily Illini, or contact an archivist.

For more information on the early years of Chinese students studying at UIUC, check out our Illini Everywhere blog series which discusses Chinese students from 1917-1927 and from 1928-1948.