Bringing local history into the 21st century

To better preserve and provide access to Oak Park’s history and local content, in 2017 we made some updates to our Special Collections. “I feel I’m carrying on a tradition started by the earliest librarians here, who knew they needed to focus on and collect these artifacts and stories for the community,” said Leigh Tarullo, Curator of Special Collections.

A better way to discover

Local history enthusiasts, genealogists, and researchers now have a better way to find and access items from both the library and the Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park (EHFOP), thanks to an Illinois State Historical Records Advisory Board grant that helped us make the contents of many collections more transparent and searchable in 2017.

“Before, people had to call us up to ask whether we had something, then we had to go digging through boxes,” Tarullo said. “It’s all about expanding access and letting people know what we have before they come into the library, so they can better target their research and not waste time.”

The collections inventoried online include photographs of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture, correspondence by local authors including Ernest Hemingway, rare books, ephemera, and movie posters.

“These items not only provide insight into the early history of Oak Park, but also detail some of its most important residents, institutions, and their achievements,” Tarullo said, noting that the grant has paved the way for her team to continue inventorying collections owned by both the library and EHFOP. “This is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Updated spaces

In 2017, we updated our spaces to better preserve and improve access to the items within, owned by both the library and EHFOP. We installed new shelving and storage systems, LED lighting, UV-blocking window film and light-blocking shades, and a new HVAC system to control humidity levels.

We even got a new doorbell to better accommodate visitors, so come and see us!

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Frank Lloyd Wright MinecraftWright-inspired Minecraft

In August, kids in grades 2–8 explored our staff-designed Frank Lloyd Wright MinecraftEdu World in the Main Library Idea Box, surrounded by a Unity Temple mural by artist Jill Kramer.

Inspired by images from Special Collections, kids built their own MinecraftEdu creations and learned more about the famous designer—including that he was an avid car collector!