Posted by: Stephanie | July 8, 2014

CyPix: Coming soon…

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.

Dwight Ink

Dwight Ink, getting some work done on the road, circa 1958-1965 (Box 2, Folder 13)

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.

Posted by: bishopae | July 4, 2014

July 4th

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.

This photograph shows a view of Morrill Hall, possibly as seen from the Campanile. In the foreground is the flagpole and behind Morrill Hall is the Hub and the athletic field.

Morill Hall, circa 1911.

For more photos of Morrill Hall, see our Flickr page, and for more information, check out the Buildings and Grounds Records (RS 4/8/4).

ISU Special Collections wishes everyone a fun and safe 4th of July!

Posted by: Whitney | July 1, 2014

CyPix: Dinkey Tracks

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.

Dinkey tracks between Ames and campus with flood waters, undated.

Dinkey tracks between Ames and campus with flood waters, undated.

More information on the Dinkey can be found in RS 4/8/4 and in this online exhibit. Also, take a look at our Flickr site for this and more Dinkey photos. Stay dry, readers!

Posted by: Whitney | June 27, 2014

An Archivist in Conservationland

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.

A box made to keep this geisha doll and her enclosure safe.

A box made to keep this geisha doll and her enclosure safe.

A box specially made for this pin.

A box specially made for this pin – note the piece created to stick the pin through.

Special housing created for a Daytime Emmy.

Special housing created for a Daytime Emmy.

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.

An attendee vacuuming a small mammal.

An attendee vacuuming a small mammal.

Bird feet ready for cleaning!

Bird feet ready for cleaning!

My attempt at cleaning dust from the eye of a bird.

My attempt at cleaning dust from the eye of a bird.

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.

Moldy books found in Longwood University's Greenwood Library in 2013. Photo from

Moldy books found in Longwood University’s Greenwood Library in 2013. Photo from

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.

Posted by: hahollinger | June 25, 2014

Greetings from a recent addition!

Salutations blog-readers!

I’m Hillary H., the new Silos and Smokestacks intern working in the ISU Special Collections. I’m here for the summer from the School of Library and Information Science at UNC-Chapel Hill where I’m working on my MS in Library Science (concentration in  Archives and Records Management). I’ve worked with rare books previously, and have several years experience in the used book business.

In my work here, I’ll be putting together an online collection about the early Extension work in Iowa. It will have a special emphasis on the agricultural work done by the Extension Service and the impact it had on the lives of Iowa’s farmers.

Lots of progress has been made already. Thus far I’ve gone through nearly one hundred folders of material, and not only have I found dozens of pieces that have potential to make it into the digital collection, I have also found several references I never anticipated seeing anywhere outside of my hometown. For instance, Walter Hines Page was a name I’d only ever seen in relation to my high school (it’s named after him), but I recently found a few comments about Page and comments about one of the national committees he had served on. It is definitely not what I had expected to find in Iowa, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

In addition to the aforementioned findings, there has already been some preliminary designing of the website, and conservation work is set to begin in the next day or so.

Expect another update from me soon!

Hillary H.


Posted by: Whitney | June 24, 2014

CyPix: A Steam Powered Tractor

Fans of steampunk and fans of tractors should find this interesting. Below is a photo of a small Case tractor with a steam engine and steel wheels. I, for one, never knew steam powered tractors existed until I came upon photos of them on our Flickr site! Case made these tractors from 1869-1924, according to this informational pamphlet. Instead of the red body we know today, Case’s early steam tractors were black with red on the wheels.


A small Case tractor with steel wheels, undated

Small  steam powered Case tractor with steel wheels, undated. RS 9/7


For more information on tractors and other farm machinery, check out our guide on Agricultural Collections – Engineering and Technology. Any of our other agricultural collections may be of use as well, so feel free to take a look at our other agriculture-related subject guides and our collections from the Department of Agriculture and Biosystems Engineering. We also have a couple of collections involving steam engines, such as the Warren H. Meeker Papers, RS 11/10/15, and the Howard Healy Steam Traction Engines Collection, MS 442, the finding aid of which is available in the department.

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.

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