Exhibit of Commonplace Books

Students in Joanne Diaz’s Survey of English Poetry class visited the archives multiple times this semester to create an exhibit that showcases both material from IWU collections as well as commonplace books created by their classmates throughout the semester. The students explored commonplace books, scrapbooks, diaries, and notebooks donated by IWU faculty and alumni. They made connections between archival material and their own commonplace books and selected items to feature in their exhibit. Items selected include a Civil War diary kept by early IWU President William H. H. Adams and a scrapbook assembled by IWU alumna Florence Kasiske (Class of 1933).

Students arrange archival material in exhibit cases.

English 243 students install an exhibit of commonplace books in entry level rotunda cases.

Once selected, the students wrote exhibit labels and created flyers and promotional images for social media. On Wednesday, December 6, the students installed the exhibit in the rotunda cases on the entry level of the Ames Library. Through this exercise, students had the opportunity to interact with archival material, while learning about exhibit curation and IWU history.

Students seated at table in archives make selections of archival material for exhibit.

English 243 students curate an exhibit using archival material and student-created commonplace books.

The exhibit will remain on display through January 31, 2024. Thank you for sharing your work with us, English 243!

Where was Old North located?

Old North, 1856-1966 (click any image to enlarge)

The first building erected on IWU’s campus is referred to as Old North and was built in 1856. The purpose of this post is to clarify confusion about its location on campus.

People often say that it was located where State Farm Hall is today, but it was actually to the East of that and would have stood even a bit East of what is now the sidewalk leading to the entrance of the Center for Liberal Arts (CLA).

Quad Duration Hall. Approximate date 1964 or ’65 due to presence of Old North on right and Sheean not yet started.18-1/17 Aerial Photographs

This can be seen in this slightly elevated view of the Quad (likely taken from the top of McPherson Theatre), when it still held the building known as Duration Hall. Only part of Old North is visible in the upper right of this view, but the shorter building beyond it is what we now know as CLA. Before the remodel that transformed the facade it was called the Sherff Hall of Science. You can also clearly see the dorm we call Magill beyond that. Looking fro the same point of view today, State Farm Hall would block that view of Magill.

To further orient yourself, the street in the foreground is now a sidewalk, but the Hedding Bell and Powell Monument with flagpole are in the same location today. Duration Hall was actually the foundation of IWU’s second building, originally called the Main Hall/Old Main and later renamed Hedding Hall in honor of IWU’s commitment to the alumni of Hedding College when it closed in the 1930s.

Below are three aerial views of the Quad: two with Hedding in the center, on the south side of the East-West sidewalk from where State Farm Hall is today. Note the location of Stevenson Hall (aka, the School of Nursing), built in 1910, and the long sidewalk leading to the entrance of Hedding Hall. Use these as a reference point in the photo above and the one on the left below. Note also the position of Old North in the first and second photos below. The third photo clearly shows the sidewalk leading to the empty space once occupied by Hedding Hall and on the North side of the E-W sidewalk is IWU’s first free-standing library, called Sheean Library. It was in use from 1967-2002, when Ames Library opened, but it remained in that location until it was demolished in 2011 and replaced by State Farm Hall, which opened in 2013.

In the aerial photo below, it is clear that the only thing in the footprint of Sheean/current-day State Farm Hall was a short drive to an expansion of the parking lot that probably served Old North, Old Main, Stevenson and the tennis courts north of Stevenson.

1949 aerial with parking lot north of Duration Hall and adjacent to Stevenson with short drive connecting northeast to Old North.


Gulick time capsule

poster showing the original house donated by Anna Gulick that served as a "small hall" and construction of the current building.

(click to enlarge)

There’s been a plan to demolish Gulick Hall for the last few years to make way for the Petrick Idea Center. One of these times, in the fall of 2022, I prepared a poster for the current students of Gulick to learn about the building’s origins and namesake. I compiled these photos and many more at the request of the Petrick planners and made sure they knew there was a time capsule in the building.

Demolition was scheduled again for the end of May 2023, so I contacted Physical Plant personnel to begin arranging for the removal of the time capsule. They verified that a box was behind the date stone on the north east corner of the entrance side of the building, and on March 24th a small group of Residential Life staff and a few students met to witness the removal.

Malik took the box back to ORL for an opening event at a later date, and then we found out that Gulick gets another reprieve! On May 12th campus was notified that the building would remain for the happy reason of a larger than expected incoming class.

This post serves as a record of the removal and a reminder that other time capsules exist. Between 2011-2023, three other time capsules have been removed and opened: Sheean Library, Mark Evans Observatory, and the Memorial Gym/Hansen. One other was placed in a building (State Farm Hall, placed in 2013) and one other was dedicated in the Spring of 2021 to commemorate the pandemic year for the Class of 2024. It does not have a permanent place in a building yet; contact Deborah Halperin for further information.


Exploring mistakes in primary sources

Back in 2015, I asked one of the archives’ student assistants to research and write a blog post about the gate at the West entrance to IWU’s Quad that is known as the Founder’s Gate. The South pillar of the gate contains an excerpt from the Education Report, Journal and records of the … session of the Illinois Annual Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, 1854, p. 19. The report was submitted by the Chairman of the committee that year W. D. R. Trotter and J. L. Crane, Secretary. (A complete copy of the report I obtained from the Methodist Conference Archives is available on request.)

Architectural features are considered primary sources, but like any other source we can’t take the informaton they hold at face value. The gate that stands at IWU’s West entrance offers valuable lessons that illustrate how trustworthy (or not) primary sources are.

Mis-quoting & implied attribution: As the earlier blog post notes, the quote on the South column of the gate is an abbreviation of the quote in the actual Conference Record. Here is a copy of the complete quote:

Complete quote

This is the text as it appears in the Education Committee Report in the 1854 Conference Record {click to enlarge]

By revising the first clause to read “We stand in a position…” rather than “The Methodist Church, in the west and south-west, stands…” and positioning it next to a column with a dedication to the Founders, the implication is that IWU’s Founders made this the statement as part of their reason for creating the University. Any evidence that they did so at all, let alone in 1850, has yet to surface. However, the chairman of the 1854 Education Committee, W.D.R. Trotter, was one of our Founders, so it might be attributed to him but he is not listed on the North column!

Mistaken transcription: The dedication plaque on the North column of the gate reads “In Memory of the Founders of Illinois Wesleyan University, 1850.”

It then lists the following names that, by implication, were all of the Founders: “James Allin, J.E. McClun, Linus Graves, Thomas P. Rogers, H.H. Fell, Ezekiel Thomas, W. H. Allin, Isaac Funk, John Moon, Jesse W. Fell, C.D. James, Silas Waters, C.P. Merriman, David Trimmer, John Magoun, James Miller, John W. Ewing, Jesse Birch, A. Goddard, W.C. Hobbs, David Davis, Peter Cartwright, John S. Barger, Henry Coleman.”

However there are some spelling errors in this list and some other names are missing. The author of a book published for IWU’s 100th anniversary, Elmo Scott Watson, provides a list of all the names and notes that some of the misspellings may have come from an inaccurate transcription in the 1895 history of IWU by William H. Wilder.

The reader can see the names and signatures in the 1850 document known as IWU’s “Birth Certificate” (aka, the Certificate of Incorporation). The 30 listed are:
“James C. Finley, James Miller, James Allin, John E. McClun, John Magoun, William C. Hobbs, Thomas Magee, Charles P. Merriman, Ezekiel Thomas, Thomas P. Rogers, Linus Graves, Peter Cartwright, James F. Jaquess, William J. Rutledge, Calvin W. Lewis, James Leaton, John Van Cleve, Silas Watters, Isaac Funk, David Trimmer, John S. Barger, C. M. Holliday, W. D. R. Trotter, W. H. Allin, William Wallace, W. H. Holmes, J. W. Ewing, Lewis Bunn, Kersey H. Fell, Reuben Andrus.”

Mistaken citation: Both columns contain attributions for the information on them:

  1. On the North we can see “Erected 1922 with Funds donated by the Bloomington Association of Commerce, Arthur L. Pillsbury, Architect”
  2. The day at the bottom of the South column is quite worn but an Argus article from February 13th, 1940 claims that it is “December 18th, 1850.” [n.b., The date on the “Birth Certificate” is December 3, 1850.]

The date on the South column, especially when juxtaposed with the dedication to the Founders on the North column, could lead people to believe that the statement was made by IWU’s Founders in 1850. By checking the original sources, we established that the quote was incomplete and was actually published after a meeting of the Central Illinois Methodist Conference four years later.

It is also important to consider why the Bloomington Association of Commerce erected this Gate in 1922.* That was the year that IWU declined an offer by business interests in Springfield to relocate the University. (see descriptions of this plan on p. 104 the Myers/Teichman book on IWU history and pp. 152-54 of Watson’s.)

In their desire to honor IWU’s Founders, and perhaps as a sign of their belief in the importance of IWU’s presence in the community, the Bloomington Association of Commerce used an excerpt from this powerful sentiment in what IWU leaders often cite as an inspirational call to service (one example is in President Wilson’s February 8, 2006 remarks at Founders’ Day).

President Minor Myers, jr. relates the story of how he went to the Gate to copy the inscription, describes its presumed origins, and notes its addition to the new Ames Library’s Rotunda at the 2003 Founders’ Day Convocation.

Since it is an excerpt, it is appropriate to attribute any use of the abbreviated quote to the Gate and not the Conference Record.

Founder's Gate 1922

The quote from the Gate is also available in The Ames Library’s Jown Wesley Powell Rotunda, where it serves as a reminder to all in the IWU community of their purpose.

*For more on the topic of examining the purpose behind monuments, I often recommend the book Lies Across America: What Our Historic Sites Got Wrong (1999) by James W. Loewen.

Hidden history revealed

A recently donated framed document revealed a hidden record of campus personnel and Civil War service. It is our practice in the archives to remove and dispose of frames/glass to lessen the chance of injuring people or damaging the artifacts they contain.

When I removed the frame of this view of Old Main and Old North had a fundraising appeal on the back of it. I hadn’t seen this perspective before, with the houses to the left of the Main building, but found the same view in the 1907 Bulletin so we can make a good guess at the date.

The inside of the backing board contained a paper with many lost sections and faded handwriting, describing the office locations and some details about the lives of four IWU faculty: Demotte, Troyer, Sharp, and Baldwin.

note inside frame

Click to enlarge

My attempt at transcribing this writing is below. No doubt a researcher who is curious about this item or these people could use the University’s archival holdings to explore more! [Note: DeMotte is the correct spelling of the first name]

H.C. Demot ….room to
& H. Troyer – left …..the [?]

B.[?]V. Sharp                          occupied the room
& Wm. M. Baldwin                  to the right of [?]

Demot was president of the school
afterward for [?]

& Troyer was for [?]
years a minister of [?]
ILL ME Illinois Conference

Baldwin & Sharp
joined Co K 2nd ILL
cav. sharp [?] but a
short time & was discharged on acct of
ill health. returned to Bloomington
& married. his father in law bought a
large Hotel & set sharp up in Hotel bus.



New is a relative term in the archives!

More than a decade ago we transferred photographic formats like negatives, contact sheets and slides from offices and storage areas in Holmes Hall. This kind of old collection transfer is new-to-us in the sense that researchers and the campus community at-large may not know it even existed. This is a central goal of the archives: make everything old new again through preservation and information-sharing actions.

This fall we transferred what I *think* will be the last group of unorganized photos and the next-to-last large amount of printed records relating to athletics and campus news offices (amounting to approx. 33 linear feet, unprocessed). In the spring we will be bringing over an additonal 20 linear feet of large storage cabinets filled with faculty, subject and photo files organized for use by the University Communications staff.

Two archives student assistants* have been sorting, rehousing and filing just the photographic formats from this large transfer so that they will be both accessible and preserved in a better environment. When that is complete they will start on the printed materials, many of which are related to the campus publicity and the sports information departments.

inital sort of printed photgraphs

inital sort of printed photgraphs

*The students are Savannah, sorting printed photos, and Arlo, working on photographic negatives. The latter are complementary additions to the 2011 accession that was lacking negatives for many of the contact sheets we added then. The negatives alone account for approx. 4 linear feet of this new accession!

Homecoming Museum 2022

This year IWU Homecoming was all in person for the first time since 2019! That means we were able to resume support from the University Archives’ collections for the museum tradition that started out in a tent on the Quad in 2010. Hard to believe it was just in 2018 that we moved indoors to the Eckley Lounge in the Memorial (Student) Center! (See photo gallery below).

Each year I have ways for attendees to interact with the exhibited materials and share their insights into campus traditions and to name the people in our largely unidentified photo collections. This year one alum solved a mystery that’s “bugged” me for a long time. I added the newly-recovered details to the photo of a car in a building that we now know was Gulick.

First Intercollegiate Women Athletes

Long before Title IX, two IWU students, sisters Grace and Rachel Green, were invited to Millikin to participate in a tennis tournament in 1917. It seemed almost certain that this was not a sanctioned event of the Little Nineteen Conference until an oral history with Grace Green Shields was found to contain her 1976 recollections of that event. Sanctioned or not, it was definitely the earliest women’s intercollegiate athletic event.

tennis doubles winners

Grace and Rachel Green are pictured in the 1919 Wesleyana with an image of the trophy they won as a doubles team and wearing sweaters that Grace mentions in her interview. She says IWU gave them a letter sweater along with the cup.

Grace and Rachel Green are pictured above in the 1919 Wesleyana with an image of the trophy they won as a doubles team. Rachel’s granddaughter donated the trophy and a uniform (pictured below) to IWU’s archives this month!

The earth in front of The Ames Library

A view of the brick-laying equipment in front of the library taken from the northwest corner in 2001.


The same view in June 2022.

It’s been 21 years since the steps to the Ames Library first rose up from the ground level. It sure isn’t pretty right now but safety for our community is the goal! Crews are working to resolve the buckling issues that developed on the plaza and at the head of the stairs.

It took a truly monumental effort to lay all the brick and stone for this building! Danny Sylvester, the mason who was the foreman for J.J. Braker & Sons (Morton, IL) in the spring of 2001 donated a collection of 25 panoramic prints he took during the project.

A view of the north facade, before the build-up of steps from ground level.

Two kinds of scaffolding are visible in the photo below: the yellow is “Morgan scaffolding” and was used for working inside the cupula. Sylvester said these were operated with hydraulics and purchased specifically for this project. Tube scaffolding is visible on the outer circumference. Sylvester described this as his “most intriguing project” since it is unusual to make round building features with stone and brick.

Scaffolding being prepared for laying brick of the cupula.

Follow this link for more birds-eye views like this one in the days when Sheean Library still stood to our north and there were no windmills on the horizon!

Chinese works translated!

In the last post, I announced that our work making a collection of Chinese art available was complete. I am pleased to announce that due primarily to efforts by current students we now have more information to share about these works! This post contains individual images of the works, their translations, and details the students found on some of the artists. I will also add information to the works in the descriptions in the online Campus Art Collection.

Special thanks for providing English translations of these works go to
Dawn Mengheng Wang, Class of 2022;
Esther Siqi Yang, Class of 2023;
and Amber Ruofei Shuang, Class of 2025.

Dawn’s father, Yuhua Wang, who is a Professor of Chinese History, identified the traditional Chinese characters on the paintings.

Thanks also to Dr. Tom Lutze, IWU Professor of History, for finalizing the translations of the poetry. Dr. Lutze notes that, as with any attempt to translate poetry from one language to another, more improvements would be possible.

What follows is a gallery of six images that contain brief text about the works. Two pieces with poetry are shown individually below the gallery.
[Click on any image to enlarge.]

mountain and temple scroll

Artist: XU Shi
Date: Winter, 1987
Location: Suzhou


The waterfall cascades down from the rock,
the timbre of pine needles blends with the tenor of water–a chorus of nature
The mountain rain gathers into clouds,
the billows envelop the house where the hermit lives







For this last work, our students offer two possible translations.

Bamboo and Orchid

Title: Bamboo and Orchids Original ink wash artist: ZHENG Xie (commonly known as ZHENG Banqiao).             The Rongbaozhai workshop, located in Beijing, created this print.

Translation (#1) (written as the artist completed the painting):

Every day, I drink with my friend on the red bridge.
Everywhere, peaches and plums present their beauty.
Yet only orchids and bamboo adorn my home
They mark my independence–I follow no trend to change my lifestyle.

Translation (#2):

Day after day, in the beauty of spring, I go to Hongqiao to drink with friends.
House after house, everywhere I look, peach and plum trees blossom in beauty.
Yet in my yard I prefer to grow elegant orchids and bamboo.
I thereby stay true to myself, refusing to conform to the ways of the mainstream.

Our students also provided these additional details about the original artist and the printer of this work:

ZHENG was a significant figure in Chinese art history. Born in 1693 (Qing Dynasty), he was known for his love of bamboo, a central feature in many of his paintings. He also drew attention for his non-conformist anti-conservatism and was identified as one of the “Eight Eccentrics of Yangzhou.”

This painting is an original piece of Rongbaozhai’s woodblock watermark art. Woodblock watermark art is a centuries-old copying technique that itself is a skilled art form, involving painting, carving, and printing to create extremely high-quality reproductions of traditional Chinese paintings and calligraphy, both vivid and colorful. Rongbaozhai is an art workshop with a long history in Beijing, one of whose specialties is the preservation from generation to generation of the skills of producing woodblock watermark art.