Iowa State University Library Special Collections Department has a small collection of artist’s books, particularly those created by Jill Timm. What is an artist’s book, you ask? It is a work of art that takes the shape of a book, often using different structures outside of the common book structure. These structures can take many different forms, as you will see by scrolling through the photographs below.

Jill Timm is an artist and graphic designer who has been making artist’s books for a number of years. In 1998 she founded Mystical Places Press, which publishes “limited edition, hand crafted books that celebrate the spirit and aesthetics of the natural environment.”

Below are a few of my favorite of Timm’s creations here in Special Collections.

Winter Elk

Two images of the book "Winter Elk." The left image shows the front and back covers extended like an accordion. The right image shows the cover board being slid out of the cover frame, revealing a landscape behind the cover.

Two images of “Winter Elk” by Jill Timm. Call number N7433.4.T554 W56x 2002.

Jill Timm. Winter Elk. Wenatchee, WA: Mystical Places Press, 2002. Call number N7433.4.T554 W56x 2002.

Winter Elk is a tunnel book, in which different layers of image create a 3-D effect. It is reminiscent of an early camera, with its accordion sides and front cover with slide-out board. Peering inside is like looking into a magical world.

Looking inside Timm's "Winter Elk" tunnel book, so see multiple layers of elk in various positions inhabiting a winter landscape with snow-covered mountains in the background.

Peering into “Winter Elk” by Jill Timm.

 Ocean Dunes

Timm, Jill. Ocean Dunes. Wenatchee, WA: Mystical Places Press, 2003. Call number N7433.4.T554 O33x 2003.

Ocean Dunes incorporates freely flowing beach sand into the cover, imitating the constantly-shifting dunes of the book’s title. Inside is an accordion-fold panoramic photograph of dunes from the Oregon coast.

Shows accordion-fold book with accordion opened to reveal panoramic photograph of ocean dunes. The cover shows a photograph of dunes with the words "Ocean Dunes" printed on it. Beach sand is encased in plastic over the cover image.

“Ocean Dunes” by Jill Timm. Call number N7433.4.T554 O33x 2003.

A few of the pages include advent calendar-style windows revealing hidden details in the landscape.

Close-up view of one of the pages showing a paper-window revealing a close-up of flowers blooming on a dune.

Close-up of one of the pages of Jill Timm’s “Ocean Dunes.”

The back pages show more details and scenic views.

Shows the reverse side of the accordion pages with image details and photographs of scenic views.

Reverse side of “Ocean Dunes.”

Fluttering Butterfly

Timm, Jill. Fluttering Butterfly. Wenatchee, WA: Mystical Places Press, 2005. Call number N7433.4 T554 F58x 2005.

Fluttering Butterfly is a one-of-a-kind book as the book’s colophon (a statement about a book’s creation, seen here on the right-hand panel) explains, shown below.

Shows a slipcover and title page and colophon for Fluttering Butterfly. Colophon reads, "This scene was hand painted on silk in China. The paintings backing is acrylic stained Tyvek. The font is Auriol. This book is handcrafted by Jill Timm and is a one-of-a-kind book."

Title page and colophon for “Fluttering Butterfly.” Slipcover at the top. Call number N7433.4 T554 F58x 2005.

Though the book is plain from the outside, it opens up to reveal a beautiful silk painting.

Shows two side-by-side panels of silk unfolded to reveal image of flowers with a butterfly in the upper left corner.

Inside of “Fluttering Butterfly,” revealing image on painted silk.

I hope you have enjoyed this sneak peek at some of these beautiful and whimsical pieces of art. To see more artists’ books, stop in at Special Collections!

Posted by: bishopae | June 17, 2014

CyPix: Women’s military drill in front of Old Main

When Iowa State College (University) first opened its doors in 1869, military training was mandatory for all male students, based on the terms of the Morrill Act. Iowa was the first state in the country to accept the terms of the Morrill Act, under which the state would receive land to sell to raise funds for the establishment of a college of “agriculture and mechanic arts.” These schools included compulsory military training–but not for women.

Women's military drill at Old Main ca 1894

Group of women participating in military drill outside of Old Main, circa 1894.

Carrie Chapman Catt was an early ISC student, attending from 1877 to 1880, who later became a prominent women’s suffragist and political activist. She was instrumental in the movement to establish women’s military drill on campus. Women’s voluntary drill began in 1879 and continued until 1897, and the women even joined the men as part of the Iowa delegation to the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.

More information about early military training can be found in the Department of Military Science Subject files (RS 13/16/1). See the Carrie Chapman Catt Papers (RS 21/7/3) and related items in the Digital Collections for more on this early Iowa suffragist.

Posted by: Stephanie | June 13, 2014

Full Moon, Friday Night: Fick Observatory’s History

Today is a Friday the 13th and will be accompanied by a full moon, which seemed like a good time to talk about lunar history at Iowa State University. Namely, the university’s history related to space observation.

A photo of the Mather telescope. "Splendor of the Iowa Skies" calendar, RS 13/20/6

A photo of the Mather telescope. “Splendor of the Iowa Skies” calendar, RS 13/20/6

ISU’s original observatory, along with its telescope, were donated by the family of Milo Mather of Clarksville, Iowa. Mather was an accomplished amateur astronomer who had earned a degree in mechanical engineering from ISU in 1907. When he passed away in 1960, his 24-inch telescope became the university’s only astronomical equipment. The telescope had a 300 pound mirror, with an eight-foot focal length and a four inch-thick lens.

In 1966, with support from the National Science Foundation and the University Research Grants Committee, Iowa State moved forward with plans to move the observatory from the greater Ames area to the Boone area and improve its capabilities, adding features such as a sliding roof to improve star viewing and study. The observatory, on a 50-acre site, was completed in 1970. Its namesake, Erwin Fick, was a former member of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who crafted refractor and reflector telescopes in his retirement. Fick donated generously to the ISU Foundation in his later years though he never visited Ames, despite being a lifelong resident of Davenport.

The moon, as seen from the Mather telescope at Fick Observatory. This photo illustrates the changing color as well as the features of the moon. "Splendor of the Iowa Skies" calendar, RS13/20/6

The moon, as seen from the Mather telescope at Fick Observatory. This photo illustrates the changing color as well as the features of the moon. “Splendor of the Iowa Skies” calendar, RS 13/20/6

The telescope at ISU has been upgraded over time, with a charge-couple device (CCD) camera installed in 1990, though the Department of Physics and Astronomy refers to it as a “first-general direct descendent” of Mather’s instrument. Information gathered using this telescope complements data obtained by larger observatories, which can provide fine detail but have difficulty observing wide areas of the sky.

For more information about the history of the Mather telescope and the Fick Observatory, come see us in Special Collections! We have materials on the observatory building itself (in RS 4/8/4, Buildings and Grounds Records), as well as Fick Observatory administrative records (RS 13/20/6).

Posted by: Stephanie | June 10, 2014

CyPix: Corn Season

This is my first summer here in Ames – and in Iowa – and I have been watching corn sprout in the fields with interest and excitement. Special Collections and University Archives, however, is no stranger to the plant – we are home to a number of collections regarding the farming and sale of corn.

Corn Trophies

 J.E. Prowdfoot with his champion ten ear of corn samples and trophies. From the Cooperative Extension Service in Agriculture and Home Economics photograph collection, RS 16/3

 Other corn-related collections here include Garst and Thomas Hybrid Corn Company Records, MS 173; Iowa Corn Growers Association Records, MS 473; and Iowa Corn Promotion Board Records, MS 495. We also hold a number of collections from Iowa State professors who had interest in the scholarly study of corn: the papers of Perry G. Holden, RS 16/3/11, the first superintendent of Extension Services who pioneered the seed corn gospel trains; Harold D. Hughes, RS 9/9/52, who helped initiate the state corn yield test; Arthur Thomas Erwin, RS 9/16/16, who supported extension work relating to crop growth; and Joe L. (Joseph Lee) Robinson, RS 9/9/57, who was involved in the hybrid corn movement in Iowa and an employee of ISU for forty years.

In 1872, when the Board of Trustees of Iowa State College (University) decided to create a Department of Domestic Economy, there was no precedent for how to begin such a curriculum. No other land grant institution was teaching in this field, and there were no textbooks. Mary Beaumont Welch, wife of the first ISC president, Adonijah S. Welch, was suggested to head up the department.

“With fear and trembling I finally decided to try,” Mary Welch later reminisced in an essay on “The Early Days of Domestic Science at I.S.C.” for The Alumnus for June 1912, “after telling the committee frankly that I was without experience in that sort of teaching, that there were no established precedents to guide me and no classified courses for me to follow.”

Portrait of Mary Beaumont Welch, wife of Iowa State College President Adonijah Welch. Undated photograph circa early 1900s.

Mary Beaumont Welch, wife of Iowa State College (University) President Adonijah Welch, undated.

In spite of her professed fear, Welch dove in to the task and forged a way ahead. Before she began teaching classes, she took a course at Juliet Corson’s School of Cookery in New York, and later on, she traveled to London to attend the South Kensington School of Cookery, from which she received a certificate.

The London school was established to train young women to go into domestic service for the English upper classes. Welch remembered:

“It was incomprehensible to the English mind that a women, apparently a lady, whose husband was, as my letters of introduction proved, at the head of an important institution of learning, should be anxious either to learn or to teach cooking. The question was often asked me what family I was engaged to work for when I received my certificate.”

On April 2, 1920, Welch answered a note from Elizabeth Storms, then a junior in Home Economics and Agriculture at Iowa State College, asking about “the early days of the Home Economics Department.” In her reply, she writes, “There was very little method of formality in my manner of conducting those early classes. My lectures were intimate talks on the ways and means I had found useful in my own home. …One thing we did to make our work practical was to cook a dinner for a table of eight in the College Dining Room, three days in each week. We were given the same materials from the kitchen that were used for all the tables, but allowed to cook and serve them as we pleased, and I can assure you each table awaited its turn for our dinner with eagerness.”

Welch wrote some of her lectures on domestic economy in a notebook. These lectures covered subjects such as ironing, management of domestic help, cooking, and household accounts. Her no-nonsense approach is apparent in this passage from one lecture: “Avoid primness in your surroundings. Be orderly and neat, but be sensible at the same time. There is nothing more disagreeable than a housekeeper who follows husband, children, and guests about with a broom and dustpan or a floor cloth.”

In 1884, she published a cookbook called Mrs. Welch’s Cookbook, which can be viewed in the Digital Collections.

Not only did Welch teach the basics of home management to ISC students, but she also lectured to women’s groups around the state. Around 1882-1883, she gave six lectures to a group of 60 women in Des Moines, in this way embarking on the first Extension activity in the area of home economics.

Wlech resigned from ISC in 1883 but continued to lecture to various women’s groups. In 1992, she was inducted into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame.

Find out more from the Mary Beaumont Welch Papers in Special Collections.

Posted by: Whitney | June 3, 2014

CyPix: National Dairy Month

Cheese-lovers and ice cream aficionados rejoice! It’s National Dairy Month! To celebrate, here’s a photo of the source of these wonderful things, a dairy cow.

A farmer with his dairy cow in front a sign that reads: "Dairy Cattle Congress: National Belgian Show," 1927. RS 16/03/G

A farmer with his dairy cow in front a sign that reads: “Dairy Cattle Congress: National Belgian Show,” 1929. RS 16/03/G

Dairy has been studied at Iowa State University since 1880, both in the respects of breeding and caring for dairy cows and of food production. Of course, cheese and ice cream aren’t the only things that dairy cows have given us. Thanks to these creatures we have milk, yogurt (frozen, Greek, etc.), gelato, lattes, milk chocolate, and much more. For more information on dairy cattle and dairy foods, we have several collections for you to peruse. The best bets include the Department of Food Technology Laboratory Manuals, Earl Gullette Hammond Papers, Richard L. Willham Papers, Wise Burroughs Papers, Damon Von Catron Papers, the Iowa State Dairy Association Records, and various collections within the Cooperative Extension Service in Agriculture and Home Economics. Also be sure to check out Flickr for more dairy-related photos. Enjoy!

Posted by: Stephanie | May 30, 2014

150 years of Professor Anson Marston

May 31, 2014, marks the 150th anniversary of legendary engineering professor and department head Anson Marston’s birth. On campus, Marston still looms large – the original Engineering Hall was renamed Marston Hall in his honor in 1947 and Marston Water Tower bears his name. Ames has also recognized this distinguished professor with Marston Avenue.

Anson Marston, 1925

Anson Marston in 1925

Marston is renowned locally for good reason; he was the first Dean of the Division of Engineering and also spent twenty-five years as Professor and Head of the Department of Civil Engineering. He designed the water tower that bears his name, along with the sewage disposal system for the campus. He initiated the construction of the engineering building that now bears his name. He supervised the construction of the Campanile and the restoration of Lake LaVerne in the 1930s, both beloved icons of the Iowa State campus even today. Christian Petersen designed the Anson Marston Medal, which annually recognizes an ISU alumnus for achievements in the field of engineering. You can see digital images of the coin via our Digital Collections site.

We recently mentioned Marston in a post about the 100th anniversary of the Iowa Department of Transportation. If you will recall, Marston established the early version of this group, the Iowa State Highway Commission. But Marston’s contributions were not to Ames and Iowa alone. He consulted on engineering projects from California to Florida, from Chicago, IL, to the Panama Canal.

In addition to providing information about his professional work, the Anson Marston Papers (RS 11/1/11) gives us insight into the man who accomplished these feats – his values and his life outside of Iowa State. In a 1938 remembrance of President Beardshear, Marston recounted the values he prized in Beardshear:

[A] first impression of strength was deepened by acquaintance with the man. Dr. Beardshear possessed in eminent degree that most essential qualification of a great college president, the ability to inspire young men…What he insisted upon was the great essential that every student should be an honestest gentlemen or lady, and many a one owes all he has become in life to one of [Beardshear's] vigorous, searching, heart to heart talks… – “President Beardshear and the College,” 1938

This compliment to the man who hired him provides insight into Marston’s personal leadership ideals.

Even more information about Marston as a man away from the college is gleaned from family correspondence included in his collection. Dr. Marston was an engineering giant, but he was also a son and brother. “Dear Bro,” his brother Charles writes in 1906. “I can raise half of Mother’s [mortgage payment] if you send raise the other half.” Then, as now, the siblings were working together to care for their elderly parents. The letter goes on to discuss possible bull and stallion purchases that Charles is considering.

Letters from Mrs. Marston, his mother, are also familiar in their parent-child discussions. A January 1906 letter from Mrs. Marston details recent severe weather in her home in Winnebago, Illinois, and the observation that “according to the paper, you must have had a greater amount of snow…there was more rain and sleet here.” I think I had this conversation with my parents at least a few times this winter, 112 years later. A few more letters from wife Alice and to his sister Mary are included in the collection as well.

Marston Water Tower Construction, 1897

Marston Water Tower being constructed in 1897 using Marston’s design

For more insight into Marston’s many contributions to the field of engineering, his leadership at Iowa State, or his life during the first half of the 20th century, take a look at the finding aid for the Anson Marston Papers. Let us know if you have any questions or come by to explore the work of Dr. Marston in person.

Posted by: bishopae | May 27, 2014

CyPix: Iowa State Soldiers in World War I

Memorial Day, while marking the unofficial beginning of summer, is a holiday to honor those that have died while serving in the Armed Forces. In honor of Memorial Day yesterday, here is a circa 1919 photograph of Iowa State College students at a memorial service for ISC students who were soldiers in World War I. The monument, erected in the College Cemetery, reads “To our 117 dead.”

A row of women dressed in white dresses and carrying flowers processes through the college cemetery past a monument that reads, "to our 117 dead." A row of soldiers is at the right of the picture, and a general stands under a tree in the middle of the image, facing toward the monument.

Memorial services at College Cemetery for soldiers of World War I, circa 1919.

When the United States entered the war on April 6, 1917, Iowa State College threw itself into the war effort. Five hundred students left campus — 200 joined the military, and 300 served in war employment. Even college President Raymond Pearson went to Washington, D.C., to serve as an assistant secretary of agriculture, though he returned to finish his tenure at the college after the war ended. Thirty-six students served in the war as part of the Ames Ambulance Unit.

Even for those on campus, life took on more of a military character. Military drill had already been mandatory for male students, but now, in addition to the regular morning drill, many students also participated in an afternoon drill session on Central Campus. Many of the women on campus became involved with Red Cross activities. In April 1918, 500 soldiers came to ISC to train as auto mechanics, blacksmiths, and machinists.

In total, about 6,000 ISU students, alumni, and faculty served during World War I. The Memorial Union was built in 1928 to honor those who died in World War I. Its Gold Star Hall lists the names of 119 people from the Iowa State community who lost their lives in World War I.

For more information about the Iowa State experience of World War I , check out the Department of Military Science Subject Files (RS 13/16/1), and for other World War I collections, check out our World War I manuscripts collections subject guide.

Posted by: Whitney | May 23, 2014

Films in the Special Collections Department

Here in the Special Collections Department, we have all sorts of collections – university archives, manuscript collections, rare books, photographs, and the focus of this blog post, films. What kinds of films do we have, you ask? Primarily they are films produced by and about Iowa State University and its interests – agriculture, science, technology, home economics, etc. When I refer to films in this post, I refer to various motion picture formats:  VHS tapes, 16mm film, DVDs, U-Matic tapes, and so on and so forth. We have just about every format in existence and we are incredibly fortunate to have the equipment to play them on.


As some of you may know, Iowa State University ran the WOI-TV from its beginning in 1950 until 1994, when it was sold to Capital Communications Company, Inc. It was the first television station to be owned and operated by an institution of higher education in the United States. From 1951 to 1994, it was home to the popular television show Magic Window, hosted for its last 40 years by Betty Lou (McVay) Varnum. We do have some of these episodes on film (sadly, not all), so please contact us if you’d like to take a look at any. A few of the films can also be found on our Youtube channel, so be sure to check that out, too! Records of this program and others can be found in the WOI Radio and Television Records, along with lots of other information about the station.


In addition to WOI-TV films, we also have general university and university-related films, which were largely created by the university. These go back as far as 1927 (how cool is that??) and as recently as the 1990s. Films of Iowa State’s campus span the 1930s and 40s, a scene of which is pictured above, taken from our Youtube channel. Also included are farm films, football films, and instructional films. Another noteworthy set of films are those of Philip H. Elwood, Professor of Landscape Architecture, dating from the 1920s and 30s that showcase his travels around America. A screenshot of one of his films is featured below, also taken from our Youtube channel.


For more information on our collection of films, see our Film Collections webpage, which includes links to listings of many of our films and to our Youtube channel. Check it out: there is all sorts of fun stuff on there!


Posted by: bishopae | May 20, 2014

CyPix: The View from the Campanile

Last week, Whitney posted a picture of sheep in front of the Campanile. Today we’re taking a slightly higher perspective, and looking down from the Campanile itself.

View looking northwest from the bell tower of the Campanile, . Through the left window is visible the erection of Beardshear Hall with Marston Hall and Martson Water Tower in the background. Through the right window Morrill Hall can be seen. A bell can be faintly seen at the bottom.

View looking northwest from the bell tower of the Campanile. Through the left window is visible the erection of Beardshear Hall with Marston Hall and Martson Water Tower in the background. Through the right window Morrill Hall can be seen. One of the carillon bells can be faintly seen at the bottom. Photo first appeared in the 1908 Bomb.

Construction on Beardshear Hall, which can be seen through the window on the left, began in 1903, after fires burned down Old Main, which had originally occupied the spot. Construction was completely finished by 1908, although parts of the building had been occupied since 1906. The building was initially called the Central Building, but in 1938 it was renamed Beardshear Hall after President Beardshear, who presided over the proposal of its construction. The building initially provided space for multiple departments, including Mathematics, English, Botany, History, Modern Languages, Elocution, and offices for the President, Secretary and Treasurer, and Board of Trustees.

More information on these and other campus buildings may be found in the Iowa State University Facilities Planning and Management Buildings and Grounds Records, RS 4/8/4. More photos of Beardshear Hall can be found on Flickr.

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