American Athena is a unique project in that even before I could begin research, I spent five years building my own archive.
Founded by enterprising Yale graduates in 1829, Illinois College is the oldest degree-granting institution in the state. In 2008, however, I arrived on campus as an Assistant Professor of History and found the archives in complete disarray. With nearly $45,000 in grants from the Davee Foundation and the Illinois State Historic Records Advisory Board (ISHRAB), and Student-Faculty Research Funds through Illinois College, I initiated the Illinois College Time Capsule Project, a broadly based preservation, research, and teaching program to process and grow the collections.
In December 2013, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) awarded Illinois College a $200,000 Challenge Grant for the Preserve+Share+Produce initiative to construct a state-of-the-art archival facility, hire an archivist, and make our collections available to the public. Dr. Khalaf Al Habtoor, a friend of the college and advocate for peace and justice, came forward as the lead donor, providing much of the match required for the NEH grant. The Khalaf Al Habtoor Archives at Illinois College were officially dedicated on October 13, 2014.
In March 2016, Samantha Sauer became the college’s first full-time archivist and curator, and thanks to her leadership the Khalaf Al Habtoor are thriving as a center for teaching, learning, and research. To keep up with her daily activities, follow the archives on FaceBook. For more in-depth information about how the archives came together, check out my previous blog The IC Time Capsule Project.