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Annual Report: Phantasm Photographic Presevation Project: A Photographic Record of the University of Illinois

Phantasm: Annual Report


First Annual Report (2005)

With the close of 2005, the Phantasm (formerly UIPhotos), UIHistories, and UITours sites marked their first full year of service to the University of Illinois community. From providing the Springfield campus with a powerful resource for its marketing staff, to providing the publications staff at the Urbana-Champaign campus with the first complete collection of free imagery and historical biographies ever available for that campus, these assets have proven themselves to have tremendous institutional benefit to the University. Moreover, the scope and depth of the collections have had a profound impact on bringing campus to life for many students, staff, faculty, and alumni; helping them to learn about the campus of yesteryear, explore the hidden treasures of today, or simply keep connected with fond memories of their alma mater.

What began as an undergraduate senior thesis arisen out of a student's passion for his alma mater has evolved to become an incredible three-tiered collection of images and words recounting the University's past and recording its present. This inaugural Annual Report presents an overview of the UIPhotos, UIHistories, and UITours sites as they stood in their first full year of service to the University of Illinois community. The purpose of this report was not to mark any fundamental shift in the purpose or spirit of these projects, but rather to describe their impact on campus in their first year of operation. They will continue to offer their services to the University free of charge, as they have now for more than half a decade, and it is hoped that through this report, others will be encouraged to join us and help expand the scope of the projects to serve the University in an even greater capacity. Please contact Kalev Leetaru at with any questions, suggestions, or comments.

For over five years, the UIPhotos project has documented campus through the four seasons. Groundbreakings, open houses, student events, and even everyday life have been captured in this priceless archive for future generations. A focus of the site has been on capturing the underrepresented and the "ordinary", the "heartbeat" of campus. While throngs of photographers invariably cover major events, such as visiting celebrities or major athletic events, there are a myriad other events on campus each day that are held without a second thought to preserving them for posterity. While the "ordinary" may not seem worth preserving, we must recognize that it is often precisely the ordinary of today that is elevated to become the "extraordinary" of tomorrow.

The UIHistories project seeks to document the history of campus and make it accessible and interesting to today's students. By documenting more than 300 buildings and most of the historical collections, class gifts, and many other tidbits of student life through the years, combined with more than 70,000 pages of digitized historical material, we have hopefully created a resource that can serve as a set of strong starting points for others interested in the University's history.

The Phantasm site was created to set the groundwork for the creation of a single campus photographic repository that would address the immediate needs of campus for a comprehensive collection of campus imagery, while at the same time, providing a unique "photographic time capsule" for the future. However, photographs alone can only speak to the condition of campus today; they cannot shed light on how and why it has come to be the way it is. The purpose of the UIHistories project was to base those photographs in a rich tapestry of purpose. Though its pages, the story is told of where campus has been, while through the photos and tours site, the chronicle of its present is written.

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Kalev Leetaru, December 2005.