A Student’s Perspective of Special Collections

As a part of this year’s Archives Month, I asked my student employees if they would like to write a post about working here in Special Collections.  Below is a description by Melissa, sophomore here at ISU.  One of the many things, and possibly one of the more interesting tasks, I have asked my student employees to do is help get our legacy paper finding aids retyped so that they can go online.  During this process, they often look at the collections to make sure the finding aid is accurate.  Melissa wrote about a collection she recently worked with, and some of the wonderful discoveries that can happen during this process.  We now have a substantial number of these legacy finding aids completed, but there are still quite a few left to do.  Our student employees help us get a lot of work done here – I am not sure what we would do without them!

As a double major in anthropology and history, working in Special Collections offers some great opportunities. It has been a blast to work with collections that have old documents and photos, because let’s face it, I’m a history nerd who thinks it’s fun to rifle through someone’s personal correspondence (and not get in trouble for it).

The most recent collection I’ve worked with is the Ralph Hugh Moore Family Papers, a collection of photographs, news clippings, and correspondence written by and about the family from 1899-1973. There are even poems and compositions included that were written by family members. The patriarch, Ralph Hugh Moore, moved to the dusty town of Traer, Iowa in the late 1870’s just after it had been founded. He was sent by his employer to open a new bank and later became partner and president of the Brooks & Moore Bank which stood until the late 1970’s when it was torn down and replaced by a medical clinic.

Ralph Hugh Moore

Ralph’s wife, Mavor, was a creative spirit. She wrote beautiful poetry; a book of hers, entitled To Grow New Beauty, published in 1938, is included in the collection. The book includes pasted additions and other editorial markings.  It is a compilation of her poems that she published after repeated requests from friends and family. The first poem in the book is entitled Mushiknava (The Musk-Deer), a Legend of India. It tells the story of a deer who wanders the earth following a sweet musk fragrance, only to find at the end of his travels that it comes from within him. There is also a news article accompanying the book that gives more details about Mavor’s life after the death of her husband in 1913.

The Moore Family

Also, this collection includes correspondence between Nadine Moore Goldsworthy and the wife of a Mesquakie painter, Frank Pushetonequa. Apparently, Nadine’s husband, W.A. Goldsworthy, commissioned a painting from Frank. In their correspondence, Mrs. Pushetonequa mentions that Frank’s family knew Nadine’s father, Ralph Moore, and regarded him as an honorable man and progressive in his view that “the white man and the Indian were equal.” The painting that the Goldsworthy’s commissioned is available in Special Collections. For more information about Mesquakie art, check out the Christian Petersen Papers, also available in Special Collections. The renowned artist, whose work is displayed all over campus, was a big fan of Mesquakie art.  [note: A selection of Petersen’s Mesquakie (Fox) related materials can be found in Digital Collections.  To only look at the materials relating to the Mesquakie (also known as the Fox), click on the Advanced Search option, limit the search to the Christian Petersen Papers, and search for the word “Fox”.]

My favorite part about working with collections like this one is that you get to enter into someone else’s life through their letters and photographs. It could be someone who lived a hundred years ago or someone still living today – a kinship is born when you read someone’s personal letters and spend time looking at the marked up drafts of their writings. Another thing that I always find interesting is the evolution of journalism in America. When I was reading some of these newspaper articles from the early 1900’s, I couldn’t help but think that it sounded more like town gossip than hard-hitting facts, but it’s fun to watch the progression.

For all the other history nerds out there (and you normal people too), the R.H. Moore Family papers and tons of other collections like it are available in Special Collections.

2 thoughts on “A Student’s Perspective of Special Collections

  1. Pingback: Iowa State University’s Archives Month Blog Posts « Consortium of Iowa Archivists

  2. Pingback: Reliving Old Memories « Iowa State University Special Collections Blog

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