Lewis University has a history that goes back to 1932, but the Howard and Lois Adelmann Regional History Collection was established only in 1983, when John Lamb donated his I&M Canal and local communities collections to the university. Mr. Lamb began building his collections in 1964, and in subsequent years augmented them with donations of records from organizations and papers from individuals. In 2009, the collection changed its name from the I&M Canal Regional History Collection (hereafter, the Adelmann Collection). The major portion of the collection is housed on the second floor of the Lewis University Library, with some additional research materials housed in the Fitzpatrick House south of the university campus on Route 53.
The Adelmann Collection is staffed by Lewis University librarians and is administered by the Lewis University History Center: Urban, Cultural and Catholic History of the Upper Midwest. The Center strives to preserve and promote the region's heritage (with a special focus on the Illinois and Michigan Canal) through the collection of historic documents and materials and promotion of research and activities involving core areas of public history. The History Center is headed by a director who receives guidance from the History Center Advisory Board.