After I made it into downtown Chicago and checked in to the conference hotel, I took the train down to Hyde Park and the University of Chicago. As an archaeology student, we visited the Oriental Institute at the U of C on multiple occasions. The OI has significant collections from the various civilizations that inhabited the Mesopotamian and Nile regions over the last 10,000 years. The museum underwent a major renovation right after I graduated, so I hadn’t seen the new museum. There were huge improvements made regarding their climate control and security, allowing for the display of many artifacts for the first time in many years. I located a few of my old favorites in their new exhibit spaces and luxuriated in the air conditioning before moving on to the Rockefeller Memorial Chapel and the Robie House.
On Wednesday I headed out to the suburbs to the town of Wheaton, where I had attended Wheaton College as an undergrad. Other alums you might know, besides me, are our own Nathan Hatch, and Billy and Ruth Bell Graham. One of the main buildings on campus is The Billy Graham Center, which houses the college archival collections, a museum on the history of American evangelism, and many departmental offices and classrooms.
After wandering around campus, my next air-conditioned stop was at the Wade Center, an archival and research center focused on seven Oxford authors. Wheaton has a collection development story similar to Wake Forest’s, in that both had an involved literature professor who visited England, made several important contacts and built up an amazing archival and manuscript collection. In Wheaton’s case, the professor was Clyde Kilby, and he struck up a friendship with C.S. Lewis, as well as his brother, which led to the collection of a variety of items from these seven authors: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkein, Dorothy Sayers, George MacDonald, Owen Barfield, G.K. Chesterton and Charles Williams.
Beyond the manuscripts, letters and books in the collection, the Wade Center holds several larger pieces that spark the imagination, including Tolkein’s desk and the wardrobe that inspired the Narnia series.
Of course, I had to stop by Buswell Library, where I worked as a circulation assistant during my senior year. The library has also had extensive renovations since I was there last in 1997, and it was interesting to wander the building and try to visualize things as they used to be. My favorite study space is now behind the new circulation desk and is someones office!
Stops at Blanchard Hall, at the campus bookstore to purchase a t-shirt, at the soda shop to get some ice cream (did I mention it was 95 degrees!) and at my old dorm and house rounded out this visit to my alma mater. I don’t plan to wait another 15 years before my next one!