Blackwell History of Education Museum

Blackwell History of Education MuseumWelcome to the Blackwell History of Education Museum at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, IL and a member of Illinois Association of Museums. We are a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting interest in the history of American education. We have one of the most extensive history of education collections in the country with thousands of books and artifacts of historical interest. Feel free to come in and take a look around..

The Blackwell History of Education Museum was named after Ruth and Harold Blackwell in recognition of their generous support of the museum. Ruth Blackwell was a teacher in one-room schools in South Dakota during the 1930s and 1940s. Many of the museum’s first books and artifacts were donated from Ruth’s own sizable collection. Together with her husband Harold, a WW1 veteran and lawyer, the Blackwells provided a significant endowment fund to the museum.

Today the Blackwell has over 11,000 textbooks that were used in schools; some are more than 400 years old. We have large collections of hornbooks, battledores, primers, and readers as well as many other texts and reference materials. In addition, we have collections of slates, pens, inkwells, samplers, prints, student work, report cards, and a variety of documents. The Blackwell is currently involved in two major projects: the Oral History Project and the Country School Project.

The goals of the Blackwell Museum are fourfold:

• To collect and preserve educational artifacts and related material for posterity

• To exhibit these materials to the public in an interesting and informative fashion

• To make the collections available to faculty and students for scholarly study and research

• To collaborate with local schools and community groups in the study of educational history

2006 Building Bridges: Community, Collaboration, Celebration Conference

The Association of Midwest Museums (AMM) is accepting proposals for the 2006 Conference, Building Bridges: Community, Collaboration, Celebration. The conference is scheduled for September 26-29, 2006 at the Radisson Hotel in the Quad Cities, Illinois and Iowa. In the spirit of the conference theme, AMM will collaborate with the Illinois Association of Museums (IAM) and the Iowa Museum Association (IMA). For this unique collaboration, the three museum associations will come together for a very special conference. The Association of Midwest Museums (AMM), the Illinois Association of Museums (IAM), and the Iowa Museum Association (IMA) will literally cross bridges over the Mississippi River to examine how museum collaborations can benefit institutions and celebrate communities. The 2006 AMM Conference, Building Bridges, will explore how museums engage in creative partnerships, both with other museums and other community organizations.

The deadline for submission is Tuesday, January 31, 2006.

A Typical Day in the Milan Schoolhouse

A Typical Day in the Milan Schoolhouse
A Typical Day in the Milan Schoolhouse

In the winter, the teacher, and sometimes the older children, would arrive at the schoolhouse much earlier than the others to start the fire and prepare for the school day. The younger children of Milan Township would arrive and warm themselves by the large vent. The teacher would greet the scholars as they came. The day would begin at about 9 a.m. The teacher would ring the large bell in the bell tower to announce the beginning of the day and to hurry along any students still trudging to school. The class would stand by their seats, recite the Pledge of Allegiance, and then would either sing a song or listen to a moral story from the Bible read by the teacher. On cold winter days, the teacher may allow the students to sing and march because their feet would be tingly and itchy from being nearly frozen and then warming quickly.

Once these activities were done, the morning lessons would begin. The day normally started with a reading lesson. During this lesson, each grade would have a turn to come up to the recitation bench and recite a passage for the teacher. Other grades would be busy working at their desks preparing for their turn at the recitation bench or doing other assignments. Following the reading lesson would be a writing or spelling lesson, depending on the day. During the writing lesson, the children learned good penmanship, a very important skill. After this, there was a short break. During the break, the children had a chance to use the privy, or outhouse, and get something to drink or just move around. After the break the children would begin their arithmetic lesson. The children would do their work on slates. The teacher would check the younger children’s work and would have the older children recite drills. Once the arithmetic lesson was over, it was time for lunch. If the weather was nice, the children could eat and play outdoors. If not, they would have to eat and play indoors.

After lunch and recess, the children would be back at work. The afternoon lessons generally consisted of history, geography, civics, language and maybe some nature study on nice days. The teacher would decide which lessons would be appropriate. The day would end around 4 p.m.. The students would file out of the school and walk the mile or two home. The teacher, and possibly a few older children or someone who had gotten into trouble during the day, would stay behind and clean the building in preparation for the next day.

I followed the general schedule suggested for one-room school teachers found on page 8 in the Aids to Teachers and School Directors of The One-Teacher School written by the Illinois State Superintendent of Schools in 1927. The rest of this information was fleshed out from what I had written in this book before this section. (Rebecca A. Edwards, NIU, April 2004)

The Blackwell Museum

The Blackwell Museum
The Blackwell Museum

The Blackwell Museum is dedicated to supporting, encouraging, and disseminating history of education research.

Research Facilities
For those interested in conducting research, the Blackwell offers an excellent history of education reference collection containing a large assortment of research reports, reference books, and journals. There is also a massive collection of original school texts and teacher education material in a variety of subjects, as well as an expanding body of oral histories.

Blackwell Electronic Journal of Education History
To aid in disseminating research, the museum has launched the Blackwell Electronic Journal of Education History. This new journal will publish on-line articles that deal with issues of concern to historians of education, museum curators, and narrative researchers. We expect to have the first articles available on-line soon.

Blackwell Research Associates
The Blackwell is determined to recognize the work of historians of education. Periodically, nominations are solicited for outstanding historians of education to become Blackwell Research Associates. We encourage individuals who are interested in this program to contact the Blackwell Museum.

The Blackwell seeks and accepts funding for research efforts in the history of education.

Current Research and Artistry at the Blackwell
Examples of the current research efforts of the Blackwell:

Oral History Project
The Blackwell currently has completed 109 oral histories of individuals who attended or taught in one-room schools. This on-going project provides both an audiotape of each interview along with printed transcripts. Each packet also includes biographical and key historical information concerning each person interviewed.

DeKalb County Rural School Project
The Blackwell is working with local historians and historical societies in an effort to document the history of all one-room schools in DeKalb County.

Emma Willard Papers Project
The Blackwell is collecting the scattered papers of Emma Hart Willard (1787 -1870). To date, repositories in 24 states and one foreign country have been visited. Over 800 letters have been sent in search of photocopies of documents.

Most Influential Books
The staff at the Blackwell is compiling an annotated bibliography of books that have greatly influenced education down through the ages.

Blackwell Mural Project
The Blackwell Mural Project has produced several murals that hang in the halls of Northern Illinois University’s College of Education. These were produced with the help of students in the Art Education and Upward Bound programs. Currently, the Blackwell is sponsoring more murals depicting the history of education also to be hung in the College of Education.

Educational Technology Collection Essays
The Blackwell History of Education Museum has almost 50 essays exploring the artifacts in the Blackwell Technology Collection and the AECT (Association of Educational Communications and Technology) Archives. Most were written by NIU students for their Educational Technology/Instructional Technology 640 class. The Blackwell is continuing to expand this collection and is always accepting more essays.

To view the essay lists and accession sheets please click here

Coming soon:

Coming soon:
Coming soon:

We hope very soon to provide our web site visitors with a complete on-line catalog of our museum collection: books, artifacts, prints, and documents. Currently we are transferring our catalog to a new program, so please be patient. Thanks.

Our Collections

The Blackwell is home to more than three thousand artifacts that deal with the history of education. Included in this variety of material are slates, school bells, school furniture, school lunch boxes, pencils, pencil sharpeners, educational games, antique AV equipment, pull-down wall maps, inkwells, and so on.

There are more than 11,000 books in the growing Blackwell collection. Most of the holdings are schoolbooks on a variety of subjects including reading, spelling, grammar, math, geography, etc. There are also teacher editions, teacher education books, and several reference books on a variety of topics in the history of education.

Special Collections

This collection consists of approximately 50 original hornbooks as well as a number of research publications pertaining to hornbooks. A highlight of this collection is an original copy of the 2-volume set of Tuer’s History published in 1896.

History of Education Slide Collections
Glass Slides
The Blackwell has hundreds of original glass slides including the small, hand-painted slides used in toy magic lanterns. The Blackwell also houses a rare set of stereopticon views on the history of education consisting of lantern slides created in 1912 by Professor Monroe.

35 mm Slides
The Blackwell also holds a set of 5000 slides that includes the images on Monroe’s stereopticon views. It also contains images of many artifacts in the museum.

Print Collection
There are approximately 200 prints, lithographs, paintings, etc. in this collection. They all depict various school-related activities. Each print has been individually framed and are on display in various locations throughout the College of Education.

Antique School Sampler Collection
There is a sizeable collection of 18th and 19th century antique school samplers in the Blackwell. This collection includes other examples of student needlework and several reference books on the subject.