Images of America “East St. Louis”

Arcadia Publishing’s latest addition to the “Images of America” series has roots close to home. Dr. Andrew Theising, associate professor of political science at SIUE’s College of Arts and Sciences (CAS),  collaborated with Bill Nunes, an East St. Louis native, to produce “East St. Louis,” a collection of historical images from the city of the same name.

Theising currently wears several hats at SIUE, as well as serving as an associate professor. Theising is also the director of the Institute for Urban Research and assists the interim provost with policy and communications. His co-author Bill Nunes is a retired social studies teacher for the Edwardsville school district and a known local expert on East St. Louis history. Theising also credits Dr. Steve Kerber, the university archivist, who was instrumental in accessing SIUE’s extensive collection of East St. Louis artifacts, photos, and documents.

The “Images of America” series showcases smaller towns around America that might not get as much historical attention as some larger cities.

“Yes. You can say ‘I’m from the St. Louis area’ but really the St. Louis area is this big hundred fifty-mile-wide circle and it has all kinds of pockets and small neighborhoods,” Theising explained.

The series takes materials from private collections that might not normally be seen and attempts to place them in the public view. Because of the series highly visual nature, Theising believes it can remain accessible to audiences of all ages and education levels while still being written to academic standards.

“Good photography is just something that is widely appealing,” Theising said.

The images for the book were pulled from the SIUE archives. Many of the images were dedicated by Theising himself after completing his dissertation on the East St. Louis area. The images presented in the book were chosen based on three primary criteria. Nunes and Theising wanted to emphasize images that had not been previously published in other works. They also tried to emphasize subject matter that was familiar or recognizable, buildings that were still standing or pictures of events that heavily influenced the area. Their third goal was to include some of the famous or iconic images from the area.

“They’re famous because they are meaningful,” Theising said.

If nothing else, Theising would like audiences of his book to take away the awareness of archives like the ones at SIUE and what an amazing resource they are for students.

“In the digital age, libraries are all becoming the same,” Theising said. “What’s going to set libraries apart are the special collections.”

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