History As Art: Turner’s Woodblock Prints, 1946-1974

History As Art: Turner’s Woodblock Prints, 1946-1974 is the newest exhibit at the Student Life & Culture Archives.

Found in record series 41/1/20, Box 44.

Fred Turner, circa 1930s

Dean of Men Fred H. Turner (1900-1975) dedicated his entire career—as a student, alumnus, and administrator—to the University and its students. Beginning in 1918, while himself a freshman, Turner worked with students continuously until his retirement in 1966.

Outside of his University career, Turner had a range of hobbies, including his interest in railroads, his curiosity about weather developments, and historical perspectives concerning every human development with which he had contact. As an amateur historian he became interested in historic sites after traveling by automobile in the mid-1940s through some of the oldest settlements in Illinois.

This interest in history led to three decades of artistic projects. Fred and Betty Turner did not send out usual holiday greet cards, but woodblock prints that Fred Turner made of historic sites in Illinois. Fred Turner’s original prints were crude, but over the years his carving and printing skills improved. On the inside of each card, the Turners identified the site, the year it was built, and included historical information on the site.

Found in record series 41/1/20, Box 45

Cloud State Bank woodblock print, 1971

Early hand-made wood blocks were cut from pieces of yellow poplar or “tulip” wood from one of the first buildings on the University campus. When University Hall was razed in 1938, Turner purchased the walnut and yellow poplar shelving from the Board of Trustees room. This shelving had been installed prior to 1875.

The Turners mailed the unusual Christmas greetings from 1946 through 1974 to approximately 270 people each year.

This exhibit will remain at the Student Life & Culture Archives through the summer of 2015.


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