Summer fund includes preserving centuries-old photographs

Summer fund includes preserving centuries-old photographs

Published: July 26, 2012.

Stefany Drabes

Instagram wasn’t around when Will County was developing into the area it is today. So three Lewis University students entered into a modern day quest to match photos with names and places, and then make them accessible to share electronically. The unique internship opportunity for Stefany Drabes, Casey McKenzie and Yadira Perez, was funded through a grant from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelly Foundation.

Drabes, a history major from Bolingbrook, has been coordinating the slides of the I&M Canal and Lockport into a set of 5 binders. She is also accumulating as much data as possible to put the collection online.

“Digitalization is a great way to preserve these photographs and make them readily available for future generations. It is very enjoyable to be in close contact with such historical treasures,” said Drabes, who plans on a career as a museum curator after graduating in May 2013.

McKenzie, political science major from Chicago, is working to add over 200 drawings and newspaper articles by Adele Fay Williams to an existing online collection. MacKenzie said, “This experience will prove to be invaluable when I achieve my goal of becoming a history professor.”

The Adele Fay Williams items from the 1920s and 1930s were donated by Dr. Robert Sterling, a local historian and writer.

Dr. Dennis H. Cremin, Director of the History Center commented, “Adele Fay Williams drew hundreds of pictures of local sites; her articles provide us with a unique look at early 20th century Lockport.”

Perez, a history major from Lansing, is scanning and accessioning photographs of the Joliet area that were also donated by Sterling. “Working with the collection,” Perez said, “has taught me how to properly handle delicate artifacts, and the process that it takes to sort through a collection and make it accessible for people to peruse later.” Perez is extremely busy this summer because she is also doing an internship at the Naper Settlement in Naperville.

Perez worked closely with the Joliet and Will County photograph collection. The senior history major scanned, organized and archived centuries-old photos. Perez gained valuable information on the process of maintaining artifacts. “Working with the collection taught me how to properly handle artifacts and the process it involves. I feel like it has established a foundation for the work I plan to do in the future,” said Perez, who is preparing for a career as a museum curator.

More information about the Lewis University History Center and the preserved materials is available at To access Lewis University’s four current online collections, including the Adele Fay Williams collection, go to and look under Lewis University.

Lewis University is a Catholic university offering distinctive undergraduate and graduate programs to nearly 6,500 traditional and adult students. Lewis offers multiple campus locations, online degree programs, and a variety of formats that provide accessibility and convenience to a growing student population. Sponsored by the De La Salle Christian Brothers, Lewis prepares intellectually engaged, ethically grounded, globally aware, and socially responsible graduates. The ninth largest private not-for-profit university in Illinois, Lewis has been nationally recognized by The Princeton Review and U.S. News & World Report.

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