Raiders of the Lost Archives – Archival Context and a Map to an Undiscovered Tomb

Finding information in the archives can sometimes feel like an expedition through time – a scavenger hunt in countless records to find the holy grail document that you’re looking for, sifting through ancient ruins and dusty boxes for the one scrap of information that will definitively answer your research question. On occasion, this digging will turn up the exact information you were looking for. Other times, you must answer your questions to the best of the ability of the extant sources, and results are not always as conclusive as we would like them to be.

Sometimes, you come across an item that raises far more questions than it answers. For me, this serendipitous moment occurred while browsing the Neil L. Block Papers (RS 35/3/418). This item, found within a folder inconspicuously labelled “Ancient Egypt – Notes On,” is a 12-page document, handwritten in a purple cursive script on lined, 3-hole punched paper.[1] The first page contains a brief abstract about the Pharaoh Tutankhamen: his life, his reign, the discovery of his tomb, and the grave goods found within. The following 11 pages appear to record a question-and-answer session in which the responder describes exactly where and how to find a (presumably still lost) Egyptian tomb. The 67 questions in the document are addressed to “Ouija,” and the entity responding makes references to the use of a board. Mention of a medium implies that, much like the séances conducted as part of Edwin Peebles’ research (RS 35/2/50), this conversation could have been facilitated through the use of a medium as well. The questions in the document sought to clarify the location of a tomb and how to find it, but the answers are cryptic and sometimes contradictory.

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A Ghostly Past – The Early Life of the English Building

Believe it or not, the University of Illinois is regularly ranked as one of the most haunted college campuses in the United States.[1] From the on-campus burial of the first Regent, John M. Gregory, to the alleged tombstone beneath the Noyes Laboratory, spooky stories are abundant in campus folklore.[2] One of the most famous of these is the harrowing tale of the ghost that haunts the English Building.

Like most folklore, there’s no single correct version of this story. Regardless of the version told, the legend recounts the tale of a woman who died in the English building during its (alleged) use as a dormitory in the early 20th century, and who remains to haunt it to this day.

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Why can’t I find archival material on Google?

Recently the Archives received a question from a student who wanted to know: why aren’t archival records searchable with Google? Is there any way to make Google show archival results?

While on the surface this seems like a simple question, the issue is quite nuanced and dependent on individual practices of different repositories. The main reason that Google doesn’t reflect archival information is that the majority of archival material is not digitized (i.e., converted from a physical format to a digital one, such as via scanning paper material). Something that I usually tell students is that when you’ve heard teachers and librarians tell you that “80% of all information can’t be found online,” the material in the archives comprises a large chunk of that 80% which requires more effort to find. Other scholarly resources that end up behind paywalls, as well as files that are currently in use or not yet deposited anywhere comprise another sizable portion. Even when archival material is born-digital or digitized, it tends to be accessible and searchable mainly within the catalog or database that it lives in, as opposed to through major search engines like Google.

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Hidden Truths in the Archives – UFOs

Amidst the recent UFO and balloon sightings across the United States, many are turning their eyes to the sky in the quest for the unknown. The search for unidentified flying objects and their meaning is not a new trend. At least as early as the 20th century, reports of mysterious flying objects have been filed worldwide, with explanations ranging from rogue weather balloons to full-on alien invasion.

The University of Illinois campus has not been immune to UFO interest over the years. On October 7, 1965, a student reported a UFO sighting outside the Education Building. The report was difficult to verify, however: as a letter to the editor pointed out on October 12, the image of the object printed in the Daily Illini was completely invisible. Curiosity about UFOs on campus has carried on sporadically ever since. Other sightings have been reported, clubs such as the UFO and Outer Space Clubs have been formed, and talks on the subject were advertised in student publications throughout the 1960s and 70s.

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Campus Mythbusting: Is there a bulldozer buried beneath Memorial Stadium?

A few weeks ago, the University Archives received a request from the Champaign News-Gazette regarding an oft-repeated claim about Memorial Stadium. The claim states: “During the construction a particularly rainy week caused a bulldozer to sink into the field, and it was determined that it would be cheaper to leave it in place rather than remove it.” Much like other campus myths, this trivia tidbit has never been linked to any documentary evidence, but it is a topic about which we have received regular inquiries. I decided to take up the question and look at every source that we have available. While understanding that it is far more difficult to prove that something did not happen than to prove that it did, I believe that there is sufficient evidence in the Archives to support the conclusion that this campus myth is highly unlikely to be true.

A thorough examination of the sources reveals that not only were bulldozers most likely not used in the Memorial Stadium construction project, but despite frequent setbacks due to poor weather conditions and the precarious financial situation of the project throughout its duration, there is no evidence to support the idea that large equipment would have been abandoned beneath the foundations of the building.

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