Recently Processed: Champaign County Extension Services Collection

Last weekend was the University of Illinois Extension’s Garden Walk, an event which showcases local private and public gardening spaces. Cooperative Extension Services have a rich history, dating back nearly 100 years in Champaign County. I recently finished processing the records of the Champaign County Homemakers’ Extension Association, known at various times as Champaign County Home Bureau (1924-1945), Champaign County Home Economics Extension Services (1946-1989), and Champaign County Homemakers’ Extension Association (1991-1994).

Extension programs were federally organized as part of the land-grant college system under the Smith-Lever Act of 1914. The intent was to provide agricultural and home-economic instruction to individuals not enrolled in universities. The guiding principle which governs Extension services is that a well-organized home can create a better community and world. What began as an opportunity to instruct members on proper food preservation techniques quickly expanded to include other domestic activities such as baking, sewing, gardening, and larger initiatives such as rural electrification. Eventually, the role of women in the home and community became a focus of Extension Organizations at large. This can be seen in the educational focus of Extension work: an emphasis on childhood health and nutrition; improvements in crop production and livestock health; instruction in consumer rights and responsibilities; and implementing technological training for farmers and those living in rural areas.

The first home improvement association in Champaign County was established in 1918; by 1924, twenty Illinois counties had established home bureau organizations. At that time, leaders of various county groups consolidated under the statewide Illinois Home Bureau Federation. They elected officers, drafted a constitution, and established committees to guide the group’s work and education focus, which had previously been determined by individual units. In the next 70 years, membership steadily grew to support over 30 groups in towns across Champaign County. Extension services also provides instruction and support to local 4-H Club activities and organizations.

This collection contains the executive records of Champaign County Extension from 1919-1992, including financial materials and council meeting minutes. Also included are scrapbooks from both regional units and the county unit. They collect ephemera, program materials, and news clippings about Extension services at the international, national, regional, and local levels, documenting the organization’s work over time. There is also a photograph series, which has been partially digitized and is included in an Archives’ Flickr album.

-Sarah L., Archives Assistant