The majority of the photographs in this digital collection have been digitized from negatives owned by the Dr. Jo Ann Rayfield Archives, the official repository for selected materials that document the history of Illinois State University and the life of its community. They are largely drawn from Illinois State University Photographic Services Collection, though some come from other archival collections or University Marketing and Communications.
The department that would come to be known as Photographic Services was first established in 1939 when Dean Ralph Linkins recommended to Illinois State Normal University President Raymond Fairchild that freshman Nelson R. Smith Jr. be tasked with taking pictures for use in University publications. Prior to 1939, the University contracted with local commercial photographers to document important events. Smith spent the next three and a half years as the University’s official photographer while also pursuing his education. He left ISNU for a short time to serve as a Sergeant in the United States Army Air Corps during World War II, then returned to Normal to finish his bachelors and master’s degrees. After graduating, Smith became the Director of Photographic Services. He continued to serve in this role for the next 52 years until his retirement in 1991. In 1996, ISU’s General Services Building was officially renamed the Nelson Smith Building in his honor.
Though the University retained an official photographer following Smith’s departure, Photographic Services was eventually decommissioned as a department. Jerry Libenstein, a longtime friend and colleague of Smith’s, was the university photographer until his retirement in 2002 after 32 years of service. Jon Muzzarelli then took up the reins from 2003 to 2007. Lyndsie Schlink was senior photographer from 2007-2022. The current University photographers are Shea Grahan and Tyler Mardis.
Archives acquired Photographic Services’ records, including over 100,000 proof sheets and negatives, in the late 2000s. Sections of the original collection had gone missing prior to the transfer, though it is estimated that about 2/3 of the photos survive in their original arrangement. This physical collection covers the years 1931-2004. Over 60,000 photos dating from 2009 to present are available to the public on ISU’s Flickr page.