NORMAL — Selecting photos for a book on campus buildings was like “picking your favorite child,” says Illinois State University archivist April Anderson.
But she did manage to choose 200 favorite “children” for a newly published book, titled simply “Illinois State University,” that is part of Arcadia Publishing's Campus History Series.
Putting the book together was more than an exercise in choosing a “favorite child.” The process also was part scavenger hunt and part mystery challenge.
For example: Why do the archives have pictures of a time capsule being placed in Old Main but none of its contents? And is it true you can, theoretically, piece together all of the so-called “Altgeld castles” in Illinois (of which ISU's Cook Hall is one) and create one big building?
It turns out that the contents of the capsule from Old Main, the administration building that was the first building on the Illinois State Normal University campus, were placed in the time capsule of the Centennial Building — now known as Centennial East and Centennial West.
As for the legend of the interlocking “castles” built in a Gothic-style design favored by then Gov. John Peter Altgeld, Anderson said, “I have not been able to prove that.”
Speaking of Cook Hall, it is the oldest campus building still standing, dating back to the late 1800s. Currently home to the school of music, it opened originally as a gymnasium and even served as the library for a while.
Anderson said you can learn a lot about an institution from its buildings.
“All these buildings have such a rich history to them,” she said.
Anderson will present a program about that history, “The Walls Speak: Telling ISU's Story Through its Campus Buildings,” at 3 p.m. Friday on the third floor of Milner Library.
There also is an exhibit in the second-floor vestibule of Milner Library that displays several photos and original artifacts that are featured in the book. The exhibit will remain through Dec. 16.
Her favorites among favorites include photos of the bell tower on long-gone Old Main, Braden Auditorium under construction and the university's longest serving president, David Felmley, giving a lecture in Capen Auditorium.
Ross Griffiths, former director of university archives at ISU, said the book allows people to explore ISU's history.
Noting that ISU is Illinois' first public university, Griffiths said, “ISU really built a core part of its identity around its history. It is rightfully very proud of that history.”
His favorite building is Williams Hall, which Griffiths likes because the former library has “interesting architectural features” and represents the last of prewar architecture.
“ISU is dominated by larger postwar buildings,” which lack “the interesting and thoughtful architecture of earlier buildings,” said Griffiths, archivist at Worcester State University in Massachusetts.
The cover of the book includes a 1959 photo with students milling around the area of North Hall, which no longer exists, and Schroeder Hall.
“It's representative of the old and the new,” said Anderson. “It's my way of saying, 'Hey, guys, remember where we came from.'”
Dane Ward, former dean of ISU's Milner Library, said Anderson's passion for ISU comes through in the book.
“This is a wonderful photographic history of Illinois State University with excellent annotations,” said Ward, dean of university libraries at Appalachian State University in North Carolina. “The book is a nice photographic complement to John Freed's 'Educating Illinois.'”
Anderson said Freed's book, a history of the school written for its sesquicentennial in 2007, was the first thing she read when she started working at ISU in 2011. Anderson said she used the book by the professor emeritus in preparing the photographic history of ISU.
Ward, Griffiths and Dallas Long, associate dean of Milner Library, were involved in making arrangements with Arcadia Publishing to produce the book.
“What these books do is provide an easy reference,” said Anderson. “We're able to impart a little of that history to our alumni and students.”
The official release date is Monday but Anderson is hoping some of the books will arrive early for alumni to purchase at the bookstore during homecoming this weekend.