Rededication renews valuable Civil War collection at Illinois College
Illinois College’s Paul Findley Congressional Office Museum and Schewe Library recently hosted the Benjamin P. Thomas Civil War Memorial Library rededication.
The event celebrates the donation of the Thomas Civil War Library Collection at Illinois College, originally given to the College in June 1958 in memory of Benjamin Thomas H’47. Thomas, a historian, was well-known for his popular 1934 text Lincoln’s New Salem, as well as a 1952 biography of Abraham Lincoln, a text which gained success both in historic and scholarly circles, as well as the public. Thomas was awarded an honorary degree from Illinois College and later served as a trustee of the College. Both the Thomas family and the Springfield-based group, Springfield Civil War Roundtable partnered with the College to make the event a success.
Samantha Sauer, Illinois College Archivist, curator of the Paul Findley Congressional Museum and assistant professor of history is among IC faculty who helped to organize and host the event. According to her, the collection is unique in that its current location on the lower-level of Schewe Library, in close proximity to the Khalaf Al Habtoor Archives, which means it is available for circulation.
“Since its 1958 dedication, the collection has been housed in multiple locations throughout campus,” said Sauer. “Today, students and scholars may enjoy these resources inside and outside of library walls.”
Library Director Luke Beatty was also involved in the rededication and in developing future plans for the collection. He called the Civil War collection one of the library’s most “unique and fantastic” resources available to faculty and students conducting historical research. He is grateful for the generous donations provided by the Springfield Civil War Roundtable and members of the public which will allow the collection to grow.
“It’s always nice when the local community takes an interest in partnering with an academic library, and Illinois College’s Civil War Collection is tangible proof of the great things that can happen when both parties get in step with one another,” said Beatty.
Chuck Murphy, speaking on behalf of the Springfield Civil War Roundtable, which is the second oldest roundtable in the state, expressed the groups’ shared enthusiasm and dedication to investing in IC’s Civil War collection.
“After 60 years we’re very excited about finally taking steps to restore our historic partnership with Illinois College, renew our commitment to and augment the Thomas library through the use of tax-exempt charitable donations,” said Murphy.
The group plans to further study Abraham Lincoln and Civil War era history and anticipates hosting an annual Benjamin P. Thomas Civil War Forum on campus next year. The goal of such a gathering would be to encourage further study, discovery and dialogue regarding the Civil War and bringing lifelong learners to the Illinois College campus. William Furry, executive director of the Illinois State Historical Society was one of the 2018 event speakers. Furry noted, "I am so pleased to see the renewed commitment of the Springfield Civil War Round Table to preserve and build upon this collection, and to keep it accessible to scholars at Illinois College and around the state."
Additional speakers during the special event included Guy Fraker, Lincoln author and retired attorney; James Cornelius, Lincoln curator at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
Relatives of Thomas who participated in the rededication included his grandchildren Jennifer Barthel, Julia Alexander, Fred Slocombe and Amy Hathaway; along with his daughter Sarah Thomas.
The Khalaf Al Habtoor Archives at Illinois College and the Paul Findley Congressional Office Museum sponsored the event. Funds donated to the College on behalf of the Thomas Memorial Collection support the collection, Civil War scholarship resources, and future related future programming. For more information on this collection or other historical resources housed at Illinois College, contact Samantha Sauer at 217.245.3595 or firstname.lastname@example.org.