July 19, 2010

Class taking photos, documenting Cairo buildings

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Cairo is abuzz with activity this week as students and faculty from “Cairo: Then and Now,” Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Preservation Summer 2010 class, take to the streets in their ongoing effort to work with local residents to preserve, restore and revitalize the community.

From now through Wednesday, July 21, from 9:30 a.m. until about noon each day, 17 University students will be documenting and photographing the buildings in downtown Cairo. Leading the project are Rachel Malcolm Ensor, Preservation Summer director and history department lecturer, and Daniel Overturf, professor of cinema and photography.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and news crews are welcome to cover the ongoing project in downtown Cairo. Students from Southern Illinois University Carbondale will be photographing and documenting buildings in the downtown area from about 9:30 a.m. until noon daily through Wednesday, July 21. In case of rain, the work may continue beyond that date. For more information contact Rachel Malcolm Ensor at 618/201-7435.

The photographs will serve a tri-fold purpose, Ensor said. They will document the existing structures in the town for an ongoing Illinois Historic Preservation Agency survey. In addition, two facets of the project will utilize the images. As part of the Google 7.0 “Museum Without Walls” project, people will be able to use handheld media to access photos of the town’s historic sites through Google. It essentially provides a self-guided tour of historic Cairo.

In addition, history undergraduate student and REACH award winner Lana Gosnell of Naperville, will use the pictures in conjunction with her ongoing project to document the history and happenings associated with each lot in Cairo on the “Cairo: Then and Now” website (http://cairo.siuc.edu.) The work in progress includes mapping Cairo and its businesses dating to the 1890-1916 era.

Ensor is also continuing her own research project on “Black Power in Cairo, Illinois 1862-1890.” She is documenting the African American experience in the Cairo area and their significant contributions to the community. She said the population of Cairo grew quickly after the Civil War with blacks and whites both contributing to the growth.

In the event of rain, the work will continue this week until completed.

The University’s work with Cairo began in 2006 when the School of Architecture’s Cairo Urban Studio classes worked with citizens and community organizations to assess needs and set goals for revitalization of the city. The partnership has grown and continued since, including the School of Architecture, the Department of History, and Black American Studies, along with Cairo Vision 20/20, the Cairo Chamber of Commerce, the Cairo Public Library and other community organizations and individuals.