#TBT On the Farm @ISUExtension

Two farmers lifting hay bales on the farm, (year?). University Photographs, box (#)

Two farmers lifting hay bales on the farm, undated. University Photographs, box 1349

There is so much I love about his photo: the angle, the light and dark contrast, the windmill, the depiction of farm work in the early-to-mid 20th century.  It also looks a bit like a storm is building, but that may just be blue sky that looks extra dark with the overall dark tone of the photo. This is one of several photos taken at farmsteads around Iowa by the Extension Service.

Stop in sometime to see more photos depicting rural life in Iowa!


Rare Book Highlights: Micrographia

Illustration of Hooke's microscope, from Micrographia.

Illustration of Hooke’s microscope, from Micrographia.

Last month, I highlighted Nehemiah Grew’s Anatomy of Plants, published in 1682, in which an English physician turned his microscope to the world of plants. This month, I am going backwards–not too far, only about 20 years–to the book that inspired Grew’s microscopic research. That book is Robert Hooke‘s Micrographia, published in 1665.

Micrographia was the first book to delve deep into microscopic observations, and its publication reached far and wide. Isaac Newton read it, and Hooke’s observations of light inspired his experiments in Book 2 of Opticks. The great 17th century London diarist Samuel Pepys writes that he sat up reading it till 2 am, and called it “the most ingenious book that ever I read in my life.” The entry for the book in The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine bibliography states that the book “had an impact rivalling that of Galileo’s Sidereus nuncius,” Galileo’s 1610 pamphlet describing his telescopic observations of the Moon and four moons of Jupiter (Norman 1092).

Looking at its plates, you can see why. The book is particularly famous for its large, and perhaps alarming, illustrations of the flea and louse (above).

Illustration of cork under magnification, from Hooke's Micrographia

Illustration of cork under magnification, from Hooke’s Micrographia.

The book is noted for its first use of the word cells in describing the structure of cork, although Hooke did not understand the nature of what biologists later termed cells in the structure of plants and animals. Hooke made other observations published in the book that contributed to or are associated with other scientific theories. His observation of charcoal, for instance, includes his theories on combustion, an area of scientific work in which three other men (Robert Boyle, Richard Lower, and John Mayow) were actively engaged at the same time. Hooke’s observations of insects formed the first studies of insect anatomy.

Hooke began his observations with inanimate objects, including various types of cloth, the point of a needle, and the edge of a razor, which he discovered to be “a rough surface of a very considerable bredth from side to side, the narrowest part not seeming thinner then the back of a pretty thick Knife” (4). [Note that spelling peculiarities in quotations here and below are from the original work and indicate variations in spelling from the time period.] From there, he moved on to plants and to animals, specifically insects.

I was particularly struck by his observations of the sting of a bee, which he notes,”seems to be a weapon of offence, and is as great an Instance, that Nature did realy intend revenge as any” (163). He describes its structure as consisting of a sheath and a sword. The sheath he describes as being:

“arm’d moreover neer the top with several crooks or forks (pqrst) on one side, and (pqrstu) on the other, each of which seem’d like so many Thorns growing on a briar, or rather like so many Cat’s Claws; for the crooks themselves seem’d to be little sharp transparent points or claws, growing out of little protuberancies on the side of the sheath, which, by observing the Figure diligently, is easie enough to be perceiv’d; and from several particulars, I suppose the Animal has a power of displaying them, and shutting them in again as it pleases, as a Cat does its claws, or as an Adder or Viper can its teeth or fangs” (163-4).

Stop by Special Collections and University Archives to read more of Hooke’s observations and view the impressive folding plates. We hope to see you soon!


#TBT Bicycle Club

Bicycle Club, circa 1898. University Photographs, box (#).

Bicycle Club, circa 1898. University Photographs, box (1644).

This weekend, one of Iowa’s biggest events begins. No, not the Iowa State Fair (that’s in August). Rather, it’s that huge bicycle ride across the state, RAGBRAI. RAGBRAI is a statewide event run by the Des Moines Register that began in 1973. Bicycle enthusiasts have been at Iowa State University since, judging by this photograph, at least the turn of the 20th century. ISU has had a student cycling club for years, currently called the ISU Cycling Club (in the 1970s, it was the ISU Bicycle Club).

Some information on the ISU Bicycle Club in the 1970s is available in the Iowa State University, Student Organizations, Recreation and Special Interest Groups General File, RS 22/7/0/1. Stop by sometime!


Instruction in the Archives!

On Monday, a class from the Iowa State University Office of Precollegiate Programs for Talented and Gifted (OPPTAG) visited Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA). The course was titled “Cook Your Way Through U.S. History.” In the SCUA classroom, I demonstrated how to find SCUA materials on their topic (cookbooks) and reviewed procedures and handling guidelines in our reading room. Amy Bishop, Rare Books and Manuscripts Archivist, reviewed different cookbooks from Rare Books and recipes from our Manuscript Collections & University Archives and provided students with context on the collections and books.

OPPTAG students viewing cookbook from Rare Book Collection

OPPTAG students viewing cookbook from Rare Book Collection

The students then came into our reading room and looked for historic recipes they plan to cook this week. You should come into our reading room too and check out our cool cookbooks! We’re open Monday-Friday from 10-4! You can also check out some selected cookbooks online in the Library’s Digital Collections.



Staff Pick!

Today’s post puts the spotlight on a staff member and she puts the spotlight on a collection. Meet Whitney Olthoff. She is a Project Archivist here in Special Collections and  University Archives.

Project Archivist Whitney Olthoff (standing far right) during a SCUA workshop for the 4-H Youth Conference this July

Project Archivist Whitney Olthoff (standing far right) during a SCUA workshop for the 4-H Youth Conference earlier this month

How did you get started in Special Collections & University Archives at Iowa State University?

I graduated with my MLS (Master of Library Science) degree from Indiana University – Bloomington in May 2012. After moving back to my parents’ house (about 30 miles from Ames), I continued my full-time job search while working part-time at a public library. This job (project archivist position) popped up, and I was lucky enough to get it! It took just over a year of job searching, but I got hired at my undergrad alma mater – I was pretty excited. I’ve been here for almost three years now, and I’ve gained experience in several aspects of the archival profession during that time. So far, so good!

What do you do?

Primarily what I do is process archival collections. This means that I go through a given collection and organize it – sometimes I physically rearrange the files and sometimes files are rearranged intellectually, that is, in the finding aid, while maintaining original order physically. Depending on the collection, I will re-folder materials, give new and improved titles to folders, number boxes and folders, sleeve photographs and negatives, and enter descriptive information into finding aids. This way, the materials are accessible to researchers. There’s a lot to archival processing, so for more information, take a look at a post one of our former project archivists, Stephanie, wrote a couple years ago: https://isuspecialcollections.wordpress.com/2014/01/10/3379/

I also contribute to our blog, handle the occasional reference request, and archive the university’s websites. Not to mention various other things that are asked of me as needed. I keep pretty busy around here.

What collection would you like to highlight?

This is tricky… it’s difficult to choose just one! I guess I’d like to highlight something lesser-known.  In the Elizabeth “Betsy” Hoffman Papers, there is a series devoted to, oddly enough, Russian WWI photographs and materials  – the   Andrew Kalpaschnikoff Memoirs and Photo Albums. Kalpaschnikoff was Hoffman’s grandfather. Hoffman was Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences here at Iowa State, as well as Professor of Economics. Eventually, she served as Executive Vice President and Provost of Iowa State University and is currently a Professor of Economics here.

Kalpaschnikoff led quite an exciting life. He was raised in Imperial Russia’s upper class, served as Ambassador to the United States, was a member of the Russian Army during WWI, and spent time in a Communist prison after the Bolshevik Revolution. Eventually he escaped and returned to the U.S. He also encountered notable figures including Czar Nicholas II and Leon Trotsky. Kalpaschnikoff’s materials include two photo albums depicting the Russian army in WWI (available to view online here and here), loose photographs, and memoirs.

Why’d you pick this collection/item to highlight?

This was the first collection (well, part of a collection) I ever wrote about for our blog. It was my first-ever post for our blog, as a matter of fact. The materials were newly processed back in 2013. Kalpaschnikoff’s story is fascinating and the photos give you a rare glimpse into life in the Russian army in WWI (fair warning: a few of the photos depict wounded and dead soldiers, some of which are graphic). For whatever reason, I like to highlight collections that most would not expect to find in the ISU archives – I also wrote blog posts on our science fiction and Underground Comix collections. Russian WWI materials and photographs certainly fall under that “unexpected” category in my opinion. Of course, this is just one of many collections worthy of highlighting. Anyone who wants to know what else we hold should check out our website and/or ask us!

Any other comments you’d like me to include?

I’ll end with one of my favorite quotes about libraries and archives:
“To me every trip to a library or archive is like a small detective story.” – Erik Larson


Iowa State University Library #TBT @ISU_Library

Today a group of library staff, including University Archivist, Brad Kuennen, and myself, took a tour for library staff given by library staff member Mark Forbis (pictured below).

Mark Forbis at the beginning of our library tour

Mark Forbis at the beginning of our library tour

The tour focused on the original library building and the purposes for which rooms were originally designed, as well as their subsequent uses. Some interesting spaces that no longer exist or are used for different purposes include: a janitor’s apartment in the basement of the library, currently used for storage; a basement-level loading dock in what is now the front of the library; and Bookends Cafe occupies space that used to be a ladies’ lounge!

Mark also talked about where the different library additions met the original building. Photographs, floor plans, and information culled from The Library at Iowa State helped tell the story. Mark and some other library staff attending the tour were also able to fill in some blanks.

The photographs below show the different views of the library from 1925 through 1999. These photographs can be found online in the University Library’s Digital Collections in University Photographs. You can also drop by the reading room to see more photographs of the library and other historical ISU pictures. We’re open from 10-4!

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In 1913, students had designs on the Campanile’s chimes @isucarillon

Today let’s look at an old (1913) bachelor’s thesis housed in the University Archives. Cataloging them is one of my duties, and some of them are quite interesting. I doubt many ISU undergraduates write theses these days, but they used to write quite a few. The theses are unpublished hardbound typescripts. Most are little more than essays: our subject today consists of 13 leaves, of which seven leaves are photos and blueprints. Others are substantial volumes with multiple authors (students were allowed to collaborate, and often did). Blueprints of technical drawings, etc. are typically bound in after the text. The blueprints are often much larger than the theses, so they’re folded as many times as necessary to fit between the covers.

Ample abbreviations were fashionable.

Ample abbreviations were fashionable.

You can read about the “Margaret Chimes” and their namesake, Margaret MacDonald Stanton, here and read about Iowa State’s Campanile here. (If you’re interested in learning more, contact us at Special Collections.) For our purposes today, it’s enough to know that the Margaret Chimes are a set of ten bells and that the 110′ tower was constructed to house them. The Campanile’s carillon and other renovations came later.

Flash back to 1913. Electrical engineering students Don H. Kilby and Joseph J. Shoemaker have become aware that ringing the ten chimes by means of ropes is problematic. They write that the operator must pull with a force of between 20 and 50 pounds (depending on the size of the bell). “This makes it practically impossible to maintain musical cadence. At present the system is in very bad order and on average one bell rope is broken each day.” Kilby and Shoemaker conclude that an electric remote control system would be relatively simple. It would cost an estimated $657.40 including labor ($15,952.64 adjusted for inflation). Their system’s “keyboard” and bell-clapper system would require far less maintenance. Perhaps more importantly, it would make better music: the operator could choose a “light, medium, or hard stroke” with predictable delay-times between striking keys and the sounding of chimes. I’m not an electrical engineer, but I am a musician, and their system looks good to me!

ApparatusKilby and Shoemaker did not get to install their system in the Campanile, but they did test it. At left see the counter-balanced clapper, acted upon by a magnet, to which is sent either no current (key off) or one of three voltages (light, medium, or hard stroke). Adjustable spring tension allows for fine calibration.

I applaud these students’ ingenuity. If you want to see their 1913 thesis in person, please visit us here in Special Collections at your earliest convenience.

Magnets: how do they work?

Magnets: how do they work?

 

Unlike the earlier images, this blueprint involves all ten chimes.

Unlike the earlier images, this blueprint involves all ten chimes.

All quotes herein are excerpted from, and images scanned from:

Electric Remote Control System for the Margaret Chimes by D. H. Kilby and J. J. Shoemaker (1913).


The Dinkey’s 4th of July debut #Flashback Friday @IowaStateU

The Ames & College Railway, better known as “the Dinkey,” made its first run between Ames and the ISU campus on July 4, 1891.

Ames & College Railway Dinkey circa 1900s

Undated photograph of the Dinkey (University Photographs box 233)

To learn more about the history of the Dinkey drop by the archives! We’re open Monday-Friday from 10-4. Except for this upcoming Monday — we’ll be closed for the 4th of July!


Rare Book Highlights: Mapping the terra incognita of plants

By which Your Majesty will find, That there are Terrae Incognitae in Philosophy, as well as Geography. And for so much, as lies here, it comes to pass, I know not how, even in this Inquisitive Age, That I am the first, who have given a Map of the Country.

From the Nehemiah Grew’s dedication to King Charles II in The Anatomy of Plants.

“…there are Terrae Incognitae in Philosophy, as well as Geography. And for so much, as lies here, it comes to pass, I know not how, even in this Inquisitive Age, That I am the first, who have given a Map of the Country.”

So wrote Nehemiah Grew in The Anatomy of Plants, published in 1682, in his dedication “To His Most Sacred Majesty Charles II, King of Great Britain, &c.” Looking at the beautiful and abstract plates illustrating the inner structure of plants, I sometimes feel I am peeking into a whole separate world, which is why Grew’s Anatomy of Plants (call number QK41 G869ap) is one of my favorite books in our collections.

Plate from Grew’s Anatomy of Plants illustrating a sumach branch under magnification.

Nehemiah Grew (1641-1712) was an English physician, son of the English nonconformist minister Obadiah Grew, whose oppositional religious and political views (he was a Parliamentarian during the English Civil War) frequently brought him into conflict with the authorities. Nehemiah, unlike his father, was not politically active, and, in fact, he was a member of the Royal Society, a scientific society that had been granted a royal charter by King Charles II in 1662.

Illustrations of the roots of the primrose, wood-sorrel, devil's bitt, tuberous iris, dandelion, dragon plant, and spring crocus.

Illustrations of various roots in Grew’s Anatomy of Plants.

Grew is famous for being among the first naturalists to use the microscope to study plant morphology. He was also believed that plants resembled animals in having organs that each had an internal function, and throughout the book he devotes chapters to the use of each of the parts of the plants that he identifies. This correspondence between animals and plants can be seen in his noted observations of the flower parts that he suggested correspond to male and female sexual organs.

Plate of St. Johns wort flower under magnification from Grew’s Anatomy of Plants.

Stop by Special Collections and University Archives to explore more of Grew’s “mappings” of the inner world of plants.