Wayne “Breezy” Jones was a technical glassblower for the Chemistry Department here at Iowa State University, taught and trained by Harry Svec. Even though Svec is without his characteristic bow tie in this photo, it most certainly is him. Svec learned his glassblowing craft from George Pickel of John Carroll University, who learned the craft in Europe, and Ed Thomas, who learned his skills at St. Louis University. After arriving at Iowa State in 1941, Svec took over as the glass technician, replacing George Harrison, who left for another job. Later on, Svec trained Jones, a house painter who became adept at the technique of joining metal elements to glass. He, in turn, trained another technician, who then trained the next generation. Svec liked to say that all of the glass technicians at Iowa State are direct descendents of Pickel and Thomas.
Forty-two years of involvement with Iowa State University is impressive in itself, but add in the fact that those years included work on the Manhattan Project, being a founding editor of a scientific journal, being the namesake of scientific reference material, extensive research and awards for that research, and an ever present bow tie, and those 42 years become even more remarkable. Dr. Henry J. Svec did just that, all while getting married and being father to nine children. He must have had excellent time management skills!
Svec was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1918. After graduating magna cum laude from John Carroll University, he went to graduate school at Iowa State College (University) in 1941, where he studied chemistry. During this time, he became the glassblower for the Chemistry Department, creating diffusion pumps and other items for research. Two of these diffusion pumps are included in the collection.
Before long, the US entered World War II, and Svec was recruited to work on the Manhattan Project under Dr. Frank Spedding. Information on the Manhattan Project at Iowa State can be found in previous blog posts here and here. After that project, Svec was appointed to the Ames Laboratory/Institute for Atomic Research and earned his Ph.D. in 1950, at which point he gained faculty status. He served as Chemistry Department faculty until his retirement in 1983, when he was granted Professor Emeritus status.
Over the course of his career, Svec taught classes, conducted and published research, and was actively involved in professional organizations, such as the American Society for Mass Spectrometry. He was a Fellow of what is now the Royal Society of Chemistry, and was a founding editor of the International Journal of Mass Spectrometry and Ion Physics (now the International Journal of Mass Spectrometry). Mass spectrometry was his main area of study, and in fact Svec was an early contributor to the field of laser mass spectrometry. He even built the first mass spectrometers at Iowa State, components of which are included in the artifact collection. Mass spectrometer blueprints are also included in his collection in a map case folder.
After his retirement in 1983, Svec finished writing a history on Iowa State University’s Chemistry Department, which was published by that department in 2006. He also received the American Chemical Society’s Zimmerman Award for Environmental Science in 1984 for his work in developing the resin extraction and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) methods for removing organic pollutants in water. He certainly had a productive career, of which anyone would be proud.
All of this and much more information can be found in his collection, the Harry J. Svec Papers, RS 13/6/53. Be sure to check out the artifacts too, including an early twentieth century Christian Becker Chainomatic two-pan balance not unlike these (top of the page, with dials). Curious about the Ames Laboratory or the Chemistry Department in general? Come see our collections on them! We’ll be happy to help.
It is official – the three Project Archivists who arrived last summer will all be celebrating a one-year work anniversary at Special Collections in the next month or so. To celebrate the occasion, I give you a photo from this March 1948 luncheon celebrating the 90th anniversary of Iowa State College (University)’s founding. For more information on the 90th Anniversary collection, see its finding aid.
Our one-year anniversary is not quite as noteworthy as the University’s 90th; we will probably commemorate ours with high-fives. But we have been hard at work here and would like to share some of our accomplishments.
The Project Archivists’ primary duty is processing collections, which is to say, arranging, describing, and housing collections and creating finding aids and other outputs that allow people to find items in our collections more easily. In the past year, we have worked with 28 collections and have processed approximately 960 linear feet of materials. To imagine this more clearly: a banker’s box sized carton equals 1.3 linear feet. So we have handled roughly 740 cartons of materials this year. Whew!
When processing, we frequently rehouse materials to condense them or weed items that are present in duplicate or have minimal research value in order to free up space for new collections. So far, we have “found” 150 linear feet through processing; 115 record cartons can now fill that space. And more “found” room is on its way as we continue our work! Archivists get very excited about shelf space, so this is a coup for Special Collections.
In addition to our processing duties, the Project Archivists have also published nearly 75 posts on this blog; tallied around 600 hours on the reference desk helping patrons; attended a Midwest Archives Conference meeting together; and presented at an ISU librarian meeting.
Now on to year two! Since we are acclimated to the administrative processes involved in our work and have become more conversant in Iowa State’s subject areas and institutional history, it promises to be another banner year. Watch this space for more posts about the wonders that our collections contain and the work we’re doing to make them more accessible to the university community, Iowa, and the world.
Turned on a light recently? If you live in a rural area, chances are you have an electric cooperative to thank!
In 1936, Congress passed the Rural Electrification Act (REA) to provide federal loans to rural communities to cover the cost of developing their own electrical distribution systems. Commercial power companies by that time had provided electricity to the majority of city dwellers, but they felt that it was not cost-effective to run electric lines through the rural areas. Because of this, farmers were not able to take advantage of electrical power in their work. Nor were their wives able to use the newly burgeoning market of electrical appliances for the home.
Rural communities in Iowa joined thousands of others across the country in developing power cooperatives with the help of REA loans. Members jointly owned and ran the cooperatives and shared the benefits. In 1942, the Iowa Rural Electric Cooperative Association was founded to represent the state’s rural electric cooperatives, and later changed its name to the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives (IAEC). The IAEC came to represent 41 cooperatives throughout the state of Iowa and is still operating today. I recently processed the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives Records (MS 40), and you can check out the finding aid here.
The IAEC supports its member cooperatives in a number of ways, including legislative representation at the state and national levels, safety programs, education and training programs, electrical promotion programs, and youth activities. To learn more about the IAEC, stop by Special Collections.
With RAGBRAI less than a week away, it seems like a perfect time to take a look at bicycle riding at ISU. Say hello to these dapper members of the 1898 Bicycle Club of Iowa State College, posing in front of Morrill Hall.
The 1890s saw a bicycle craze in America, with Iowa State students–both men and women–joining in. Makes you want to grab your bike and take it for a spin, doesn’t it? To find out more about other student organizations, check out their collections page, or peddle on over to Special Collections.
As promised, we’re talking here on the blog today about ISU alumnus Dwight Ink. This is not his first time in the spotlight, even in Iowa State-created publications. In 2010, the Iowa State Daily wrote a three-part series about Ink’s roots in Iowa, his relationship with Iowa State, and his long government career. The ISU Alumni Association’s magazine VISIONS, as part of its two-year tour of Iowa, met up with Ink in 2013 at his Virginia home and wrote a two-piece series about their conversations. Since so much has recently been written about Dwight Ink’s life and career, this blog will focus on aspects of Ink’s more than 40-year career that might escape public notice in 2014.
One of my favorite parts of the collection is a bit esoteric – records relating to nuclear-powered ships and submarines that were commissioned in from 1958-1965, a period that saw the build-up of the “Nuclear Navy.” My parents were both officers in the U.S. Coast Guard so I’ve attended a number of events like these, but I did not spend time examining the invitations or programs. After seeing this collection, though, I wish I had paid more attention. As a staff member at the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), Ink received a number of items from ceremonies launching new vessels. These act as colorful advertisements for the new members of the Navy’s nuclear fleet, as you can see in the photograph below. While naval-centric items make up a small portion of materials from Ink’s twenty years at the AEC, they are a colorful and informative memento of the military’s relationship with alternative power sources.
Ink’s papers also document more calamitous moments in American history. I mentioned the Good Friday earthquake in Tuesday’s preview post, but it bears more in-depth examination. On March 27, 1964, Good Friday in the Christian liturgical calendar, a 9.2 magnitude earthquake struck the Alaskan coast between the city of Anchorage and the town of Valdez. This earthquake, which remains the second largest in recorded history, was so powerful that it set off a tsunami that damaged Japan’s Pacific coastline; Ink kept tabs on damage to the town of Niigata and made a trip there, which is documented in the collection. In April 1964, President Lyndon Johnson selected Ink as the Executive Director of the Federal Reconstruction and Development Planning Commission, and he spent six months coordinating emergency relief and rebuilding efforts in the towns that populate Alaska’s southern coastline. This experience led Ink to write about emergency relief in the wake of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, the perceived mismanagement by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and lessons from Alaska’s 1964 reconstruction that could be applied to modern relief practices. Documentation of the earthquake’s aftermath, economic and engineering rebuilding efforts, and overall coordination of relief efforts are all included in the Dwight Ink Papers and provide insight into just how profound the damage and resulting rebuilding efforts were.
Ink’s career hopped from nuclear power to emergency management to… public art pieces. For three months, March to June 1985, Ink was the Acting Administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) while the next Administrator was being confirmed by Congress. It is merely a quirk of timing that Ink came to play a role in a controversy surrounding Tilted Arc, a sculpture that was installed in a courtyard in front of the Jacob K. Javits Federal Office Building in New York City. The sculpture, by artist Richard Serra, was commissioned by the GSA in 1979, assembled in front of the Javits building in 1981, and contested in a three-day hearing in 1985. After years of court battles, Tilted Arc was removed and put in government storage in 1989. As acting Administrator, Ink had the final word in removing the work, and so was named in Serra’s lawsuit to keep the artwork in place. Tilted Arc‘s removal was hotly debated in the pages of The New York Times as well as People magazine.
The Dwight Ink Papers contain something for nearly everyone since they document 40 years working in approximately eleven public administration-related roles within the federal government and the education sector. Ink, who will celebrate his 92nd birthday this September, is currently working on a memoir that I, for one, would love to read. In the meantime, check out the finding aid for RS 21/7/241, the Dwight Ink Papers, and come visit Special Collections to learn more.
Later this week, I will be bringing you stories related to Iowa State alumnus Dwight Ink, whose collection has recently been made more accessible. Ink, who was raised in Madison County, Iowa, worked in a variety of federal government positions under seven consecutive presidential administrations, from Dwight D. Eisenhower to Ronald Reagan.
In addition to his formal positions within federal agencies such as the Atomic Energy Commission, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the General Services Administration, Ink also held short-term roles on other pan-governmental bodies. Notably, he spent six months in 1964 as the executive director of the Federal Reconstruction and Development Planning Commission for Alaska. This group, also known as the Alaskan Reconstruction Committee, was formed by President Lyndon Johnson in the wake of a 9.2 magnitude earthquake with an epicenter between Anchorage and Valdez. This earthquake, known as the Good Friday Earthquake since it fell on the Christian commemoration of Good Friday that year, remains the second-largest earthquake ever recorded.
Come on back Friday, where we’ll be discussing the Dwight Ink Papers, RS 21/7/241, in further detail.
In honor of Independence Day, we are giving you this patriotic photo of Morrill Hall, circa 1911, possibly as seen from the Campanile. In the foreground is the flagpole and behind Morrill Hall is the Hub and the athletic field.
ISU Special Collections wishes everyone a fun and safe 4th of July!
As you may know, railroad track remains were uncovered in Campustown last month. With that in mind, along with the large amounts of rain we’ve been getting recently, this photo struck a chord. Here is an undated photo of part of the Ames and Campus Railway’s (otherwise known as the Dinkey’s) tracks between Ames and the Iowa State College (University) campus, highlighted by flood waters on either side. Let’s hope the rain doesn’t result in something similar this year! The Dinkey operated as a steam train from 1891 until 1907, when it was replaced with an electric trolley system, also referred to as the Dinkey. This version ran until 1929.
On June 6th, I attended the Iowa Conservation and Preservation Consortium’s SOS (Save Our Stuff) conference with colleagues Hilary Seo, Head of Preservation, and Mindy Moeller, Conservation Technician. Mindy’s take on the conference can be found on the Preservation Department’s blog, as well as a feature by Hilary on the taxidermy session. I’m here to provide an archivist’s perspective on the conference. Being an archivist, I know a bit about preservation and conservation, but I am not trained in and therefore don’t perform the intensive preservation and conservation work that some records need, so I was interested in learning more about the view from the other side of the fence, so to speak.
The first session I attended was “Thinking Inside the Box” lead by Kären Mason, Curator, and Janet Weaver, Assistant Curator, of the Iowa Women’s Archives. All of the creativity and effort that goes into boxes made for storing items that require special housing is amazing. I imagine it would be a fun, but challenging, task. During the session, we got a brief tour of the archives and were given a chance to look at all of the different rehousing solutions that have been created for the IWA over the years. Some were quite intricate and highly specialized, and others were “make-do” solutions (for example, storing plaques in record center boxes or creating housing for a large, fragile photo from archival cardboard). In both cases, a great deal of creativity and resourcefulness was clearly involved. Below are some examples of the more intricate solutions created.
The next session was “Taxidermy Care and Cleaning” with Cindy Opitz, Collections Manager of the UI Museum of Natural History. This one I attended out of sheer curiosity. I have never worked with taxidermy animals, and I suppose I’m not likely to unless I someday work in a museum. All the same, it was fascinating, and the best part was we got to do some hands-on work on cleaning some animals. We learned about equipment used, equipment and chemical solutions not to use, how to use equipment, and ideal and non-ideal conditions for storing taxidermy animals. Should taxidermy animals ever come into my possession, I now know how to care for them! Below are examples of the specimens we got to work with and the cleaning that was performed.
Finally, I attended a session entitled “Mold Incidents and Response” presented by Nancy Kraft, Head of Preservation and Conservation at the UI Libraries. This was particularly practical for me since mold is something I have come into contact with and likely will again. While I already knew a bit about mold in books and archival materials and how to handle them, I didn’t have a good grounding in how they are actually treated. Again, unless it’s something simple and not too risky, we outsource preservation work to conservators, as they are trained to deal with these things. It was interesting to learn a bit more about what actually goes on and how things should be handled. Some topics covered were the proper initial response to mold, identification of mold (for example, active or inactive), how to get rid of mold, how best to choose a vendor for treatment if needed, and some basic safety precautions. There were no examples of moldy items passed around – a bit of a health hazard – so a photo of mold found on library books in another university is featured below.
Overall, I think the conference was valuable even though I don’t personally perform these duties, at least not to the extent conservators do. In our increasingly collaborative field, it’s important to know about and understand what the people we commonly work with do and their opinions on issues. This helps us to better communicate with each other and to prioritize issues to be resolved. Someday I may be the only archivist at a small institution with an even smaller budget, in which case I may find this information especially useful, for example in determining questions like the following: What can I reasonably do myself? To whom should I outsource things that I can’t do? What’s a creative and cost-effective way to solve this preservation problem? We archivists always have preservation in mind when we organize and make materials accessible, but conservators greatly help us to extend – and often save – the lives of our materials.