The Women in WWI collection represents a tremendously important resource to the study of women’s service roles in World War I. This material, though, is only a small amount of the primary documents representing WWI service by Illinois State Normal University students, alumni, faculty and staff. The digitization and provision of access to the remaining ninety-five percent of WWI materials in the Illinois State University Archive’s War Service Records collection would be invaluable to scholars, students, and genealogists. This material consists of four (4) cubic feet of letters to and from service members by Illinois State Normal University Librarian Ange Milner and others, photographs, newspaper clippings, postcards, and completed survey results for 613 Illinois State Normal University men not covered by the Women of WWI collection.
Digitization of the remaining materials and placement within the University’s fledgling institutional repository would allow access to these valuable materials, and would also add to the reputation of Illinois State University’s institutional repository. The repository would, first and foremost, provide access to these fragile materials on a much wider basis than they currently have hidden away in the Archives. Much greater access would be allowed than could be provided by the physical materials alone. It would also aid research by making the items, in fact, findable and discoverable, and this would make confirmation possible for researchers interested in a particular topic or individual.
There are several target user groups for these materials. One primary user is the University itself. In 2007 Illinois State University will celebrate its 150th anniversary. The wide spread availability of these materials would be a great addition to the rich history of the University that is to be commemorated during this event. This material could be used in the marketing and celebration of the University on this historic occasion.
Researchers and scholars in many fields would find this cache of mostly primary source materials to be an invaluable resource. There is still much historical work to be done on WWI, its participants, and its effects on these participants. These materials represent a unique historical, sociological, and psychological collection that needs to be made available to researchers. There are, no doubt, many journal articles, a few books, and several dissertations and theses waiting to be discovered in this collection.
Interested laypersons, history buffs, and others would also find much of value in these materials for their own personal edification and knowledge of this unique period in Illinois State Normal University’s and the world’s history.
Genealogists and descendents of the persons represented by these materials would find much of value in this collection. This material could be used in the various manners in which any genealogical material is used, and could also serve to fill in many holes in family members and descendents knowledge of their relatives who served in this great war.
There are many WWI resources available on the internet (see Appendix I for a sample). Most of these materials consist of photographs and postcards, a few letters, and assorted materials, such as sheet music. However, there is no collection of the depth and breadth represented by the letters and related materials accumulated by Ange Milner. These letters and survey results from 613 Illinois State Normal University men represent a unique collection of materials centering on the response of American college men to WWI. As such, the digitization and subsequent access to these materials represent a timely addition to Illinois State University researchers, community members, and students on the eve of the university’s 150th anniversary in 2007. They would also make a significant contribution to a more global community of researchers and laypersons interested in WWI, and genealogists and descendents of these service members.
This collections needs to be digitized and access to it provided. As of now, it sits slowly deteriorating in the bowels of Williams Hall, with very few knowing of its existence, and even fewer knowing the wealth of resources that it contains. This unique collection should be made accessible to the world at large. Ange Milner took highly involved and detailed steps to stay in contact with, and then survey, the men and women of the Illinois State Normal University community who participated in WWI. Now it is the University’s time to honor her and all those who served during this period by making the vast richness of this collection available to those who must not forget.
Rayfield, Jo. “Women of WWI: A University Goes to War: Illinois State Normal University Women of World War I.” Milner Library Archives. University Archives, Illinois State University. 30 Oct. 2005 <http://www.isuarchives.org/women.php>
Rayfield, Jo. “Women of WWI: About the Project.” Milner Library Archives. University Archives, Illinois State University. 30 Oct. 2005 <http://www.isuarchives.org/women-about.html>
“A Summons to Comradeship”: World War I and II Posters and Postcards (University of Minnesota)
WWI Collection of the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections History Collection
World War I Photograph Albums and Postcards of the NYPL DigitalGallery
World War I Sheet Music at Brown University
World War I items available in the Memorial Hall Museum Online’s “American Centuries …view from New England” collection
The Stars and Stripes newspaper collection from the Library of Congress’ American Memory Project
“The Newspaper Pictorials: World War I Rotogravures” collection from the Library of Congress’ American Memory
“The American Leaders Speak: Recordings from World War I and the 1920 Election” collection from the Library
of Congress’ American Memory Project
This paper licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license by Mark R. Lindner