2023 Regional History Conference

NIU Libraries Regional History Center will host the inaugural Northern Illinois Regional History Conference on Saturday April 22, 2023 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Holmes Student Center Heritage Room on NIU's campus in DeKalb. The conference theme is "At the Crossroads of the Urban-Rural Divide" and the program will feature panel sessions with presentations on a variety of topics and projects related to Northern Illinois' changing communities, evolving land-use, and how history influences regional identity. The purpose of the conference is to engage a wide audience of scholars, practitioners, students, enthusiasts, and community members to examine the rapidly changing urban-suburban-rural dynamic of the region through a historical lens. As an inaugural event, the goal is also to identify a community of interest and provide an annual event to highlight the research, creative work, and initiatives around local and regional history at the institutional and individual levels. 

The conference keynote speaker is Raphael Wahwassuck of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation Tribal Council, who will discuss the Potawatomi Nation's history in the area and recent efforts to reclaim ancestral tribal land near Shabbona State Park in DeKalb County that was illegally auctioned by the U.S. government in 1849.

Program Schedule

  • 8:30am

    Doors Open

  • 9:00am - 9:10am


  • 9:10am - 10:10am


    • The Potawatomi in DeKalb County, Raphael J. Wahwassuck, Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation
  • 10:20am - 11:35am

    Session 1: Views of Urban and Rural Life

    • Keeping A Village Relevant in the 21st Century, Russell D. Kaney, Winnebago Community Historical Society
    • The Contributions of a Rural Northern Illinois Finntown, Dr. Diane Rodgers, Northern Illinois University
    • Reacting to the Loss of Green Space in Northern Illinois: Environmental Activism and Prairie Restoration Since the 1960s, Dr. William C. Barnett, North Central College
  • 11:45am - 12:30pm

    Pre-Lunch Session: Film and Discussion

    • Film and Discussion: Dairies to Prairies: The Land Has A Story to Tell, Elizabeth Marston, Elgin History Museum
  • 12:30pm - 1:30pm
  • 1:30pm - 2:45pm

    Session 3: Race and Housing in the Suburbs

    • West Leyden High School: A History of Demographic Change in the Suburbs, Daniel Chaidez, Loyola University Chicago
    • Housing Discrimination in DuPage County, Zachary Bishop, Aurora University
    • The History of Housing Discrimination in Our Communities, Jeanne Schulz Angel and Dr. Andrea Field, Naper Settlement
  • 3:00pm - 4:15pm

    Session 4: Collecting, Teaching, and Researching Local History

    • The Imagined South in NU Banjo and Mandolin Clubs, 1885-1900, Daniel Atwood, Northwestern University
    • Place-Based History Education in Illinois, Dr. Megan VanGorder, Governors State University
    • ISHS Memoir Writing Program, 1946-1969, Dr. John Hallwas and William Furry, Illinois State Historical Society
  • 4:15pm - 4:30pm

    Closing Remarks


The Northern Illinois Regional History Conference is free and open to public but attendees are encouraged to RSVP by April 15, 2023. For more information, please contact Special Collections and Archive Department Head Bradley J. Wiles via email or 815-753-9392.

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