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About the Blackwell

In 1965 a group of NIU faculty members in the College of Education decided to create a resource library to support original research by students. They contributed books, documents, and artifacts to form the core of a research collection. In 1979 Ruth Blackwell, a teacher in South Dakota one-room school during the 1930s and 1940s, expanded the holding significantly through a large donation of books and artifacts from her personal collection. Ruth and her husband, Harold, a World War I veteran and attorney, also provided a substantial endowment to support the continued growth of the library and collections.

Mission Statement

The mission of the Blackwell History of Education Museum is to acquire and preserve artifacts and printed materials representing the history of American education and to present them in ways that forge meaningful connections between our educational history and modern communities.

The Library and Collections

The Blackwell currently holds over 10,000 textbooks that were used in schools and in teacher preparation during the 18th 19th and 20th centuries. Several hundred books are considerably older, as much as 500 years. The museum also has numerous artifacts representative of American education including hornbooks, battledores, samplers, student work samples, and a variety of other documents. 

The Blackwell Technology Collection and the Association of Educational Communications and Technology Archives contain artifacts and documents tracing the development and use of technology in classroom and teacher education

The Milan Township District #83 schoolhouse is a reconstructed one-room school containing original and replica artifacts depicting education in the late 19th and early 20th-century country schools. The schoolhouse is available for educational field trips by schools and other groups.

The Blackwell is also home to the Prairie School Oral History Project, a collection of interviews with men and women who either attended one-room schools or taught in them.

Programs and Services

The Blackwell's extensive library, with exhibits that present various topics in education and its history, is opened to NIU students, faculty, and the public on a daily basis. Hours vary by semester. As part of its education mission, the Blackwell makes its books, artifacts, and documents available, by appointment, to university faculty, students, and researchers both in and beyond the NIU community. Tours of the library facilities and the Milan Township District #83 schoolhouse are also available by appointment and the schoolhouse is the setting for educational field trips for schools and other organized groups.

Contact Us

Blackwell History of Education Museum

The Learning Center
Northern Illinois University
DeKalb, IL 60115
Tel: 815-753-1236
Fax: 815-753-1258


By appointment

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