University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Arthur E. Bestor Research Collection on Communitarianism (Digitized Content)

The digitized content of the Arthur E. Bestor Research Collection on Communitarianism consists of photographs taken in the 1930s and 1940s of community sites and buildings in New England, the Mid-Atlantic, and the Midwest by Professor Arthur E. Bestor, as part of his study of American Utopian movements.

Arthur E. Bestor (1908-1994), a historian and professor whose career spanned multiple universities across the United States, joined the faculty of the University of Illinois in 1947 and left in 1962. While at Illinois, Bestor published Backwoods Utopias (1950), his major work on American Utopian movements that were antecedents to the Fourierist movement of the 1840s. He particularly focused his research on Robert Owen and his utopian goals in New Harmony, Indiana.

The digitized content contains photographs taken by Bestor in his research of utopian communities from 1937 to 1946. The images depict structures, scenery, and sites in more than twenty communities in the eastern and midwestern United States and in Quebec, Canada. The photographs were digitized from the original nitrate negatives.

The Illinois History and Lincoln Collections unit at the University of Illinois Library manages the physical items of the Arthur E. Bestor Research Collection on Communitarianism (MS 468). The collection was partially digitized in 2018. For more information, contact an archivist at