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NIU historic photos remain on display

November 7, 2013
First NIU President John Williston Cook visits Freshman Class Day in 1905.

First NIU President John Williston Cook visits Freshman Class Day in 1905.

Nine panels of old photographs depicting NIU’s rich history greeted visitors to the Carl Sandburg Auditorium for the inauguration of President Doug Baker.

Called “Made by History,” the photo exhibition covers topics such as the physical campus, colleges, student life, athletics, prominent visitors, “communiversity” and, of course, NIU presidents.

Wade Duerkes, a photographer for NIU Media Services, chose the images with guidance from university archivist Cindy Ditzler of the Regional History Center. Sophia Varcados, a graphic design supervisor in Media Services, designed the panels.

“I had worked with the Regional History Center before on other projects in the past so knew a little about some of the items and photographs they had in the archives,” Duerkes said.

“There is a wealth of knowledge about the university there so it was hard trying to decide what to include,” he added. “When selecting images, I wanted to include things that were part of our tradition here that people may not realize.”

For example, Duerkes said, NIU welcomed its first international students in 1904 – only five years after the university opened in 1899 as the Northern Illinois State Normal School.

Students pose around “Freshman Bench,” constructed in 1903.

Students pose around “Freshman Bench,” constructed in 1903.

Duerkes hopes that visitors not only gain a deeper knowledge of NIU’s traditions but leave inspired to learn more.

“The title of the exhibition comes from a quote by Martin Luther King Jr.: ‘We are not makers of history. We are made by history.’ I think that sums up the reason behind the exhibition,” Duerkes said.

“We have been made by the history before us. Just as future generations of Huskies will be made by the history we make today,” he added. “We are here in part thanks to those before us who looked forward to their ‘Bold Future.’ This is a celebration to that as we create our own.”

Members of the the Inauguration Planning Committee wanted to add some historical perspective as we prepare for NIU’s future, said Abby Dean, associate director of University Marketing.

“We thought it would be a fun addition to the festivities. It’s always nice to look back at where we have been as an institution, to see the changes we’ve made,” Dean said.

“It’s hard to accomplish on just a few panels. I know I’ve learned a lot about our history through this process,” she added. “What has been most exciting is seeing that educational concepts such as internships, experiential learning and student career success have truly been a part of NIU from the beginning.”

The photos will remain available for viewing outside the Sandburg Auditorium through the rest of the semester.

Afterward, the photo displays will be made available for other campus events. For more information, email [email protected].