This week the Dr. Jo Ann Rayfield Archives is unveiling a new exhibit at the Normal Community Activity Center showcasing daily life and activities of the former Illinois Soldiers and Sailor’s Children’s School (ISSCS).

Along with the four permanent cases at the center that have been refreshed with new memorabilia, artifacts, and photos, the new display features a set of donated ISSCS auditorium seats and a campus bicycle.

Originally known as the Illinois Soldiers Orphans Home, the school was founded in 1865 to provide housing for orphans of community members killed in the Civil War. Due to the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, the school changed its admittance policies and took in children orphaned or left without care by that conflict. In time, the school also began accepting children of non-veteran parents, a trend that would increase and continue through the life of the school until its closure in 1979. Control of the property was given to the Town of Normal in 1996, and remaining facilities were turned into private homes, businesses, and a community center.

The entire exhibit was created by Aindrea Delaney, current ISU Archives exhibit intern. Delaney spent several weeks researching the ISSCS Collection, which is held at the ISU Archives. In this collection, Delaney looked for photographs, stories, and mementos to showcase in the exhibit. Most of the materials in the collection were donated by former ISSCS residents as a way to preserve their memories of their cherished school. The materials Delaney chose covers several topics on life at ISSCS including residents, sports and athletic activities, staff members who helped support the campus, and scouting by campus residents.

In the past, former residents have left materials at the exhibit to be donated to the ISU Archives and the ISSCS collection. We are asking that with this new exhibit, anyone wishing to donate materials contact the ISU Archives directly at (309) 438-3546 or email us at

The exhibit is open to the public during the same hours of operation for the Normal Community Activity Center. Visit the center’s website to see hours of operation.