University News

Bishop Hill Historical Exhibit Coming to WIU's Macomb, QCs Campuses

February 4, 2019

Share |
Printer friendly version

MACOMB, IL -- The Department of History and University Libraries are pleased to announce Western Illinois University is hosting a new traveling exhibit on the history, heritage and impact of Bishop Hill, IL.

The exhibit, A Community on the Prairie: Bishop Hill, Illinois, will be displayed on the Macomb campus in the Garden Lounge of Malpass Library from Feb. 11-March 18.

"This exhibit will help to not only showcase Illinois history but also demonstrate the rich diversity that has shaped our state," said WIU Dean of Libraries Michael Lorenzen "The WIU Archives has even more information on Bishop Hill, and this exhibit is a great starting point to learn about it."

The exhibit will be celebrated with a public talk by School of Global Education and Outreach Executive Director Jeff Hancks at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 26 in the Garden Lounge of Malpass Library. Hancks's talk is titled "Searching for the Perfect Society: Illinois and the Nineteenth-Century Utopian Movement." 

"Dr. Hancks's talk will contextualize Bishop Hill in the development of Illinois and demonstrate the history of our region. I am delighted that he has agreed to share his research in conjunction with the Bishop Hill exhibit," said WIU History Department Chair Jennifer McNabb.

A Community on the Prairie: Bishop Hill, Illinois will move to the Quad Cities campus after its time in Macomb. There, it will be displayed in the WIU-QC Library from March 18-April 15. 

"We are thrilled to host A Community on the Prairie: Bishop Hill, Illinois at Western Illinois University-Quad Cities Library," said Tom Finley of the WIU-QC Library. "Many Swedish immigrants came to the Quad Cities, and their descendants are very much with us today. This will generate great interest." 

Bishop Hill Heritage Association (, in partnership with the Bishop Hill State Historic Site, has created this traveling exhibit about the formation of the Bishop Hill Colony. The Bishop Hill Colony was a religious communal colony founded in 1846 by Eric Janson and his followers. The Colony survived for only 15 years but left a lasting legacy in immigration history. 

By 1930, 20 percent of all Swedish people in the world lived in the U.S. Immigration experts agree that much of this Swedish exodus to Illinois and the United States can be traced to the impact of the Bishop Hill Colony. Because of Bishop Hill's importance to Swedish migration, not only is it a state historic site, but Bishop Hill is also a National Historic Landmark. In addition, 18 Colony buildings still remain and are in use today.

A Community on the Prairie: Bishop Hill, Illinois was produced by the Bishop Hill Heritage Association and the Bishop Hill State Historic Site with financial support from the Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation, the Swedish Council of America and the Illinois Arts Council Agency, a state agency.

The talk and the exhibit are open free to the public.

Posted By: University Communications (
Office of University Communications & Marketing