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Digital glimpses of Illinois history

Lincoln Presidential Library adds more historic photos to online archives

SPRINGFIELD – More than 5,500 images from Illinois history are now available online at, a resource offered by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum’s Center for Digital Initiatives.

Selected from more than 230 collections in the Presidential Library’s audiovisual department, the photographs provide an array of visual perspectives on family, social, business and political life in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Illinois.

“These photographs offer just a small sampling of the extraordinary collections of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library,” said ALPLM Executive Director Eileen Mackevich. “The variety of images is astounding, from the famous to the obscure, from turning points in the state’s history to ordinary life, from the city to the farm, from architectural history to family history, from disasters to confrontations.” 

Daniel W. Stowell, director of the Center for Digital Initiatives, invited the public to help improve the presidential library’s information about the images.

“Although we know the subjects in many of the photographs, the people and places in others are either unknown or imprecise. We would welcome additional information on the photographs,” Stowell said. 

For example, the library’s Temple Collection features many images from Wayne County in the 1950s, but the identity of the individuals in most of the photographs remains a mystery.

Visitors to can peruse the photos two ways. They can go to the “search the collections” box and type in a key word or two. The search results will list related records in the library’s collection, followed by images.

The second option is to click on “collections” at the top of the page and then select “Illinois Photographic Collection” from the many choices. Visitors will then get a list of various photo collections to explore.

The addition of these 5,500 photos is just the latest step in making the contents of Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum available digitally. Other online collections include photos and documents related to Abraham Lincoln, sheet music and song lyrics from many eras, and documents from Gov. Richard Yates, who led Illinois during the Civil War. 

The Center for Digital Initiatives works with the curatorial departments in the library and museum to develop and implement a comprehensive digitization plan to serve and expand the diverse users of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.  

The Center identifies and digitizes specific collections within the Library and makes them available online to a worldwide audience.  The Center also seeks to integrate digital content into the visitor experience in the Museum.