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Archives and Special Collections: Collection Highlights

Overview on using archives, including definitions, collection highlights, and how to find and cite materials

Select Archives Collections - General

Diary repository – Many diaries by faculty and students, ranging primarily from the 1840s to the 1960s. These include personal, travel and student life diaries. Examples include a series of diaries by Beloit’s first president, Aaron Lucius Chapin; the 1910 “trip around the world” by Professor George Collie; an illustrated diary by student Theodore Chrischilles, and a diary of daily life in Beloit during the 1880s by faculty wife, Talma Rowlands.

Correspondence – Thousands of letters, some predating the college.  Among the most important collections are the Chapin correspondence, the Porter family correspondence (including courtship and travel letters), letters to and from one of the early women students, Ethel Bird, and a large collection of letters by Professor Carl Welty during his time in Koblenz Germany as a post-war relief worker for the American Friends Service Committee in 1946-47.

Photographs and audiovisuals – Countless photographs and slides on all topics relating to the college and city. Film collections include several dozen films dating from the 1920s through the 1960s documenting the college both informally and promotionally. Hundreds more videotapes span the 1970s through the present day. Audio recordings include acetate transcription discs dating to the 1920s, numerous reel to reel tapes, cassette tapes, and compact discs. Subjects include speeches and lectures delivered on campus, readings by well-known authors and poets, concerts, and oral histories.

Institutional records – These include official correspondence of the presidents and deans,  Trustees and Faculty minutes and complete runs of campus and student publications, in some cases dating back to the founding of the college.

Select Archives Collections - Specific

The Civil War – Materials include documents about the college during the Civil War, correspondence by student-soldiers, handwritten obituaries, diaries at the battlefront and on the home front, and book and newspaper accounts.

T.C. Chamberlin collection – In 1909, Thomas Chrowder Chamberlin and his son, Rollin, traveled to China as part of the Oriental Educational Investigation Commission.  T.C. Chamberlin was a member of the class of 1866, a prominent educator and famous geologist.  He and Rollin wrote extensive, closely observed diaries about their explorations. A gifted photographer, Rollin took dozens of photographs of China’s diverse landscape and people. Our holdings include their diaries, photographic negatives, prints and leather-bound scrapbooks. As an exercise for the History Workshop class, students transcribed and annotated small portions of the diaries. A special Archives display currently features many of the photographs

Emerson family – Hundreds of letters dating to the late eighteenth century relating to this New England family. They include correspondence with numerous prominent figures of the early to mid-19th century, a group of letters from world-wide missionaries, and much colorful family correspondence, both with immediate family members and with cousins in Cuba, pioneer Illinois, and Mobile, Alabama, among other places. There are also extensive travel letters from Professor Joseph Emerson’s trips in 1870-71 covering Turkey, Egypt, Lebanon, Greece, Italy and other countries as well as letters and a diary from an extended trip to Greece and Italy, 1888-91.

W. Willard Wirtz papers – W. Willard Wirtz, Beloit College class of 1930, was a prominent lawyer and politician who helped manage Adlai Stevenson’s two presidential campaigns and later served as Secretary of Labor under John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. The Archives holds his personal papers from childhood through his death in 2010. The papers include voluminous correspondence with prominent politicians and lawmakers in Washington, papers documenting the humanitarian work of Wirtz and his wife, Jane, as well as Stevenson campaign scrapbooks and much more. 

Beloit College Museums – We have a wealth of primary source material useful for researchers interested in the history and collections of the two campus museums. Logan Museum resources include voluminous correspondence to and from museum curators, directors and donors, original handwritten “College Cabinet” reports from the 1840s-50s, expedition diaries, photographs, clipping and press release files and much more. Wright Museum resources include a large collection of correspondence and files relating to museum founder and curator, Helen Brace Emerson, exhibit programs, clippings and press releases, photographs, Art League scrapbooks, and more. In addition, the Archives hold interesting materials in connection with the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, which helped jumpstart both museums, as well as files on museum buildings.