Steady Dating Librarians: Thompson-Riehl Archives

If you have a rich family history. If you have an Elder who holds the history of your locale and region. Don’t let it slip through your fingers. Don’t let that lore die when they do. It’s history. And, as my father likes to say, “History belongs to everyone.” With great generosity he continues to document the history during his lifetime and from earlier generations. His unique format is the photo documentation book.

Since 2005 it’s as if I’ve set up a nonprofit foundation: “The Thompson-Riehl Heritage & Lineage”. We’ve been jamming for the last five years with 1) three published books–including a gold medal prize-winner; 2) public workshops, talks, and readings; 3) Thompson Music group at our local nursing home; 4) archiving our family and regional stories, papers, photos and music at libraries and historical societies.

My sister Julia Thompson began this work with Pop before she died. They published several books and established the Thompson-Riehl archive at the University of Illinois.

Last fall, as part of my father’s 95th birthday celebration, we began “steady dating” librarians. Twice a week for a month librarians came to visit us at Pop’s to discuss either establishing a new collection or expanding existing collections.

Western Illinois University We set up a new archive at the Western library that includes books, manuscripts, letters, music, CDs, and DVDs. Our books are also available in the general collection. My mother and my brother graduated from Western–both with teaching degrees. My parents have established a revolving loan fund at Western honoring my mother’s parents.

Alton Hayner Library–Illinois Room As Hayner expands The Illinois Room into it’s new space it is expanding into the Illinois Collection. We’d already donated many items to their collection, but as they expand we’re expanding our offerings to include sheet music and more papers. Our books and audio book are also available in the general collection.

University of Illinois My sister Julia set up this first archive. My grandparents Anna Riehl and J. Arthur Thompson went to school here in the early 1900s. Their letters home from university sketch a picture of life at that time. Their letters from Korea as missionaries are included along with many other letters, papers, and books.

Lewis & Clark Community CollegeOur books and audio book are now available in their library. My father has established a revolving loan fund that covers basic necessities– such as gas and books–that allows students to remain in school.

Jersey County Historical Society & The Jerseyville LibraryOur property defines the corner border of Jersey County that runs along the Mississippi. Whenever my father creates another photo documentation booklet, or publishes a new book, off it goes to Jersey and Calhoun Counties.

Madison County Historical Society We have a strong relationship with this group, and make sure they receive the most recent copies of our work.

The Riehl family has lived on the bluffs above the Mississippi on Evergreen Heights since the 1860s. But, you don’t have to have that depth of presence in a place to explore archiving your family history.

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