Don’t shade the corn

Historic corn field next to the UGL.

The plants are busily soaking up sun! (Photo courtesy UIHistories Project)

You’re all UGL regulars (we hope!), or are at least familiar with the location of the UGL on campus (we really, really hope!), but do you know why it’s underground? Today, we thought we’d tell you that story while also showing you some ridiculously awesome resources you can use for your own research and projects!

You might have heard that the reason the UGL was built underground is to protect our very cool next door neighbor, the Morrow Plots. Legend has it that the library was dug down into the earth so the building didn’t cast a shadow onto the corn being grown in the Plots. The Morrow Plots – dedicated as a National Historic Landmark in 1968, just a year before the UGL opened for business – are the oldest continually active agricultural experimentation fields in the country, and the second oldest in the world! There, researchers have worked for 150 years to study corn growth, crop rotation, soil quality, and more. So you can see why it might be pretty vital not to cut all the sun off from those fields.

And yet it seems that the UGL’s unique design cannot solely be attributed to the needs of the corn. Although that story is super fun to tell, especially to all your friends who don’t go here, the corn is only part of the reason for the underground nature of the UGL. The more pertinent reason that the UGL finds itself under the earth is that the Campus Master Plan, which dictates the design of central campus, calls for open space behind Foellinger Auditorium to create a feeling of balance on the quad. Hence, no tall building for the UGL.

How do we know all this stuff? There are a lot of places to look for information on the history of U of I. We especially recommend – and are excited about helping you use – the UIHistories Project, Subject Research Guides like the “History of the Undergrad,” and the Student Life and Culture Archival Program (and University Archives in general).

Want to learn more about the UGL? Check out the “History of the Undergrad” Subject Research Guide (or LibGuide) which brings together 40 years of our history. You might have seen and/or actually used one of these guides before: they’re an easy-to-use tool where we librarians pull together suggested resources and other helpful information for classes, such as Communications 101, and topics, such as Campaign Finance Reform. They’re really handy! You could use the “History of the Undergrad” guide to support an Ethnography of the University project or other type of research, or just kill time.

If combing through these resources still doesn’t satisfy your appetite for corn, we highly recommend doing a little YouTube search for the song “Morrow Plots,” made famous by The Other Guys, a division of UIUC’s Varsity Men’s Glee Club. While it might not be the most factually correct (hey, that’s what we’re for!), it’ll be sure to boost your Illini Pride!

As always, need help or want to know more about what you see here? Shoot us a comment or Ask-A-Librarian!


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