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Photos tell the story of time
By Karen Tableriou   - 04/06/2009

Western Courier

More Info on This Book: Western Illinois University

Writing a book, non-fiction or otherwise, requires dedication, hard work and a whole lot of free time. Last year, Jeffrey Hancks, Director of the Archives at Western Illinois University, and Adam Carey, Western Illinois history grad student, worked together to write "Western Illinois University" as part of Arcadia publishing's Campus History series.

Hancks previously wrote a book in the same Arcadia series, "Central Michigan University," when he worked at the school's archives department.

Four years ago, Hancks came to Western Illinois and took the job as Director of the Archives.

Having grown up in the area, he felt a connection with the region. After the success of his previous book about Central Michigan, Hancks pitched his idea to include Western Illinois among hundreds of other colleges and universities in the Campus History series to Arcadia and got the green light.

Knowing he could not do it alone, Hancks asked Carey to co-author the book. Carey, getting his master's in history, had three options for attaining his degree. Working on the book became his special project and one of the options for his degree.

"When Jeff asked me to co-author the book, I was very excited at the chance to be part of a project that could be studied by others years from now," Carey said.

The 128-page book took four months for Hancks and Carey to complete. When approval came in late May 2008, they headed down to the basement collection of the archives and hit the books, so to speak.

Setting a goal of 20 pictures a week, Hancks and Carey prepared for a grueling summer. Luckily, the Western Illinois Archive was already divided up and categorized. When going through folders of buildings on campus and events that occurred throughout Western Illinois' history, the only difficulty they had was in deciding which pictures to use.

"It was a good experience to get into the folders and really look and see what was in there," Hancks said.

After choosing the pictures they wanted, the two had to decide how they were going to put the book together in a creative yet logical order.

"We had to find a way to organize the book around a couple of themes," Hancks said. "We didn't really know if we wanted to do it by decades." Then an idea struck them: the presidents of Western Illinois brought a variety of different changes to the school and would be a great way to break up the book.

"We thought that was a good way of telling the story of time by presidential administrations," Hancks said.

As the summer progressed, Hancks and Carey worked diligently. Some weeks they were unable to meet their original goal and others they would exceed the 20 pictures.

With each picture they chose, they had to research the tale behind the photograph and write a 100 words for the captions. As September drew closer, Hancks and Carey entered crunch time, working several hours a day to finish the book before their deadline.

With the book completed and published, Hancks and Carey feel they have taken away a lot from the experience.

"It just reaffirmed to me how important Western is to this part of the state," Hancks said.

What Carey found the most interesting while delving through the archives was how many famous people have visited Western Illinois. "Eleanor Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart and Bob Hope to name a few of many," he said. "Western is more than just buildings and students, it is a special place."

Buy It Now: Western Illinois University $21.99

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