Local History

The Local History Collection at the Decatur Public Library:

Mission Statement:

The Decatur Public Library will collect, organize, preserve and provide access to a non-circulating collection of primary and secondary sources that document the history of the City of Decatur, its inhabitants, government, environment, businesses, institutions and organizations.  Materials related to the history of Macon County, its communities and Illinois will also be maintained in cooperation with other historical, genealogical, archival and library collections in the area. (created August 2011)

The Collection:

The collection includes, but is not limited to, published books, photographs, government documents or facsimiles, maps, manuscripts, pamphlets, newspapers, serials, audio-visual materials, institutional and organization records, and scrapbooks of historical materials that relate to Decatur and its environs.  Emphasis will be placed on documenting the creation of city and county government, settlement, industry, commerce, education, recreation, and historically significant individuals as well as the history of civic, religious, cultural and social organizations.  Found in the collection in various physical formats are: organization minutes, letters, yearbooks, periodicals, newsletters, demographic information, city directories, phone books, reports, studies, plans, obituaries, local histories, maps and plats, and images. (created August 2011)

Listed below are many of the great resources found in the Shilling Local History Room:

  • Past Local Newspaper on microfilm (Located outside the Shilling Local History Room.  Available whenever the library is open.)
    • Decatur Herald and Review: 1931-present (always three months behind)
    • Decatur Herald:
      • Decatur Morning Herald: 1880-1931
      • Herald Dispatch: 1896-1899
      • Saturday Herald: 1880-1895
    • Decatur Daily Review:
      • Decatur Daily Review: 1878-1931
      • Decatur Local Review: 1873-1876
    • Decatur Republican:
      • Decatur Daily Republican: 1867-1870, 1872-1899
      • Decatur Republican (Weekly): 1870-1898
    • Daily Labor Bulletin: January 5, 1886-January 26, 1886
    • Labor Bulletin: September 14, 1886-January 22, 1889
    • Evening Bulletin: July 15, 1895-1896
    • Decatur Daily Dispatch: July 12, 1889-February 28, 1890
    • Bulletin Sentinel: 1895-1896
  • Cemetery Listings for Macon County
  • Obituary Indexes for the Decatur Daily Review (Herald and Review)
    • 1879-2013
  • Old Local Yearbooks: Please contact the Local History Room for more information on which years are available.
    • Decatur High School – Decanois:
      • 1914-1975, 1977-1998
    • Lakeview High School – Dorian:
      • 1953-1963, 1966-1969, 1972-1982
    • MacArthur High School – Cadet:
      • 1958-1976, 1978-1984, 1986-1993, 1996-1999, 2001-2013
    • Eisenhower High School – Pantherama:
      • 1958-1959, 1961-1967, 1969-1970, 1972-1995, 1997-2005, 2007-2010
    • St. Theresa High School – The Teresian:
      • 1955-1967, 1969-2013
    • Millikin University – Millidek:
      • 1906-1909, 1911-1921, 1923-1958, 1960-1998
    • various junior highs
  • City Histories
  • Annual Reports of Businesses
  • Special Interest  Artifacts
  • City Directories
    • 1871-1872, 1881, 1884, 1889, 1896-1897, 1899, 1901, 1903-1906, 1909-1912, 1915, 1919-1926, 1928-1933, 1935-1942, 1944-1964, 1966-2003, 2005-2013
  • Special Interest Indexes
  • Maps and Zoning Information
  • Photographs
    • The library is currently working to get its extensive photograph collection online.  In the meantime, if you would like to know if we have a certain photograph, please contact us.
    • If you are interested in using an image in a publication, we ask that you contact us and fill out our Reproduction agreement.

Finding Aids: content lists and helpful information for collections

Brink Collection finding aid

Hibbs Personal Papers finding aid

Jane Hamand Correspondence Collection finding aid

Genealogical Databases:

The  online databases Ancestry.com – Library Edition and HeritageQuest (HeritageQuest @ Home) are available for free to all users in the library.  Heritage Quest is also available at home with a valid DPL library card.  Ancestry.com Library Edition is only available on-site, but the library does offer 4 database-only computers on the first floor that can be used for 2 hours a day.  To access the library’s databases, please click on the Database tab at the top of the screen.  The databases are listed in alphabetical order.


The Shilling Local History Room is open to the public for research 30 hours a week (please see the hours of operation listed below).  The room is staffed primarily by volunteers, so calling ahead is highly recommended because the hours cannot always be guaranteed.    Appointments are always welcome, though not necessary.  If you wish to make an appointment, please contact us at least 48 hours in advance to give the staff time to prepare for your arrival.

Making Requests:

If you are unable to visit in person, you can make requests for information by mail, email, or phone.  Decatur Public Library does charge for requests.  It is $5.00 for research/lookup for up to 3 people/topics ($10.00 for research/lookup for 4 or more) and $.50 for each copy.  Payment can be made by check or money order only (made payable to Decatur Public Library).  There is no charge if the requested information cannot be found.  The fee is the same whether the material is sent by email or mail.

Photocopying and Scanning:

Almost all the materials in the Local History Room can be photocopied or scanned except for materials that have copyright restrictions or are too fragile.  To ensure the safety of the material and the quality of the photocopy or scan, only the staff and volunteers are allowed to use the equipment.  Please ask a volunteer to make a copy for you.  Please bring a flash drive if you would like an item scanned for you.

The charge for photocopying is $.15/page for black and white, and $.50 for archival paper (available upon request).  We cannot make colored copies.  There is no charge for scanning an item on-site.

Microfilm and Microfiche:

The library has 6 microfilm scanners that are available to visitors when the library is open.  4 of these machines are capable of reading microfiche as well.  The two oldest machines (Canon 300 and 500) are $.25/page, while the 4 newer machines are $.15/page.  For a list of the library’s holdings of newspapers on microfilm, see the list of resources above.

Call (217)421-9766 or e-mail localhistory@decaturlibrary.org for more information.

Hours of Operation:

Monday: 10:00-2:00 (3:00-7:00 by appointment)
Tuesday: 10:00-4:00 (4:00-7:00 by appointment)
Wednesday: 10:00-5:00 (5:00-7:00 by appointment)
Thursday: 10:00-5:00 (5:00-7:00 by appointment)
Friday: 10:00-12:00 and 12:30-3:00 (3:00-5:00 by appointment)
Saturday: 1:00-3:00
Sunday: Closed


Contact Information:

Shilling Local History Room
Decatur Public Library
130 N. Franklin St.
Decatur, IL 62523
Phone: (217)421-9766
E-mail: localhistory@decaturlibrary.org


Links for Researchers:

Decatur Genealogical Society & Library – Great place for in-depth genealogical research!

Macon County Historical Society and Museum


FamilySearch – Free family history site.  A good place to start, but make sure to check out your local genealogical society for more in-depth information.

FindAGrave – Looking for that relative’s grave?  Don’t know where they are buried?  Search here.  It’s free!