Libraries, Museums, and Archives

Tour curated by: ExploreCU Team

From public libraries to university museums, Champaign-Urbana is home to numerous institutions of cultural heritage.

Libraries have a long history in Champaign-Urbana, and remain a source of pride to the community. The first library in Champaign started in 1868 as a private collection, and consisted of a small collection of about 300 books and periodicals assembled on the second floor at No. 7 Main St. in Champaign. This private club of forty members eventually evolved into the state-of the-art Champaign Public Library that you see today. The Urbana Free Library was founded in 1874, and is one of the oldest public libraries in Illinois. It is also home to the Champaign County Historical Archives, an invaluable source of local historical and genealogical information. Additionally, the largest public university research library in the United States is situated directly on the Champaign-Urbana town line.

Museums have enjoyed a presence in Champaign-Urbana since 1875, when Regent Gregory established an art gallery in Old University Hall filled with plaster casts, reproductions, and prints. Today, the Krannert Art Museum maintains a collection of over 9,000 original works from artists such as Childe Hassam and Winslow Homer. Other museums in the area such as the Spurlock Museum, Chanute Air Musuem, Museum of the Grand Prairie, and the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music contribute towards establishing Champaign-Urbana as a hub of cultural activity.

The libraries, museums, and archives tour explores the histories and services of our local cultural institutions.

Locations for Tour

The first library in Champaign started out as a private collection. In 1868, about 300 books and periodicals were assembled in a modest reading room on the second floor at No. 7 Main Street in Champaign. Forty members of the private Champaign Library…

In 1961, Ellnora and Herman Krannert donated one million dollars to the university for the construction of an art museum. Herman Krannert said of the donation: “I wanted to do something for the university…which the university could not do for…

The foundation for the Library's architecture and art collections was laid by the country's first college graduate of architecture, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign professor Nathan Clifford Ricker (1843-1924), who in 1873…

The Monticello Railway Museum is a not-for-profit, all-volunteer organization founded in 1966 with a goal to maintain and operate steam powered passenger train trips. SPUR (Society for the Perpetuation of Unretired Railfans) as the organization was…

The mission of the Parkland College Library is to provide services and resources that support the educational goals and purpose of the College. The Library is dedicated to providing the highest quality service, resources, and environment for the…

The University Library was founded with the charter that established the Illinois Industrial University in 1867. The Board of Trustees designated $1,000 to purchase 644 books to start the library. These books were first housed in the office of Regent…
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