Navigating Your Research Using Special Collections and University Archives Resources

Crowds watching canoes navigate Lake LaVerne during the 1934 VEISHEA.

As American Archives Month draws to a close, we thought we would write one final post about how to find materials here in the Special Collections Department.  Our previous post provides examples of online resources for figuring out what archives are all about, but we thought we should provide you with something specifically for our department here at Iowa State!

We receive a whole wonderful variety of questions here.  Sometimes researchers know exactly what they want, and at other times only a general idea.  We sometimes receive questions such as “what do you have about the history of agriculture?” and “what do you have on the history of the university?” (the entire University Archives contains records and books documenting the university’s history).  However, more often than not they are more specific questions such as “what can I find out about the person Lake LaVerne is named after?”  Hopefully after reading this post everyone will be more familiar with the resources we have to help researchers find what they need in the Special Collections and University Archives!

LaVerne Noyes (from University Archives Photographs, Box 1532)

This post will focus on that last question:  what can I find out about the person Lake LaVerne is named after?  Let’s assume we do not know the LaVerne’s full name.  On our homepage, if you simply type “LaVerne” into the search box, the Laverne and Ida Noyes Collection is one of the first collections which appear.  After reading the finding aid for this collection (from which you will learn that LaVerne was a member of Iowa States first graduating class (1872)!), you may wonder about the history of Lake LaVerne itself.  Are there any photographs, films, or other records about Lake LaVerne?  One place you might want to take a look at are our subject guides, which can be found from our homepage (these are an especially good place to go if you just want to see the types of collections we may have on a certain topic; they often contain brief abstracts on the collection and its creator(s)):On the subject guides link, you will see a broad range of subject areas.  Once you click one that fits your research area, there will often be a variety of subject guides from which you can select.  For Lake LaVerne, the “ISU Campus Master Planning Resources in Special Collections” would be a good one to select.  There you will find that the Facilities Planning and Management, Buildings and Grounds Division Records (there you will find a folder on swans and ducks – which primarily contains news clippings on the Lancelots and Elaines which have graced Lake LaVerne since 1943). The Philip Homer Elwood Papers have a number of papers about the Iowa State campus, and you might find something in there about Lake LaVerne or about the campus planning which was going on at Iowa State in the early part of the 20th century.  (You will also find this mentioned in the Laverne and Ida Noyes Collection.  Box 1, Folder 10 has a letter which mentions the report written by the Olmsted brothers – for more on the Olmsted Report read this blog post.)

Landscape architecture students sketching at Lake LaVerne in 1942.

Another place to go for information on our collections and the history of Iowa State is our exhibits page.  For Laverne Noyes and the building and history of Lake LaVerne, a good place to go would be the Iowa State University Sesquicentennial Exhibit, where the second link on the right will bring you to Iowa State University Campus and Its Buildings, where you can go to the section about Lake LaVerne.

Interested in finding out about other alumni collections we may have, or finding other papers of people associated with Lake LaVerne?  (For those who are not aware, archives keep papers and records of creators together for a whole variety of reasons.  Here in the United States this is often called the “principle of provenance” and more on this can be found in the Society of American Archivist’s Glossary of Archives and Records Terminology).  People associated with Lake LaVerne include President Raymond Pearson (who was president during Lake LaVerne’s construction and his papers contain the Lake LaVerne-O.C. Simmonds report; Simmonds was the landscape architect Noyes hired to investigate possible improvements to the campus) or Anson Marston (Marston helped restore Lake LaVerne, and a number of documents relating to this are in his papers).  You can either search our website or look at the appropriate record series (arranged hierarchically) under our University Archives listing.

Looking for photographs?  You can visit our Flickr site.  Other sites can be found from here. On Flickr, if you type “Special Collections Department, ISU Photostream” into the search box and click on our name in the selection which appears, you can search the photographs we have upoaded.  You will then see all of the photographs of Lake LaVerne we have on Flickr (however, please note that we HAVE NOT scanned all of our over one million university photographs; if you would like to see more, please come and visit our department). Although most photographs are on Flickr, you might also find some (including documents) on the Digital Collections website.

Lake LaVerne area under construction in 1933, when attempts were made to reduce the silt and other sediment build-up in the lake.  This photograph, along with many others, can be found on our Flickr site.

How about films?  You can either search our Films subject guide available here, or just check out our YouTube channel (however, please note again, that this channel DOES NOT contain all of our university films, but only a small selection).  You will find a variety of films, such as this one from around 1946 which includes Lake LaVerne:

Or this one of campus scenes from around 1936 which shows the filling of Lake LaVerne:

In addition to the University Archives, our department holds manuscript collections.  Our manuscript collections contain records by creators not necessarily related to the university, but often are related to the university’s research strengths such as agriculture, science and technology.  In your search for collections related to Lake LaVerne, you may want to just search the search box on the manuscript collections listing page, or take a look at our manuscript subject guides and look under landscape architecture.

There is a lot to explore on our website, so please do so if you are interested!  Of course, you could also search the library’s search system (where you can find books, films, and other resources on Lake LaVerne…or your research topic) or come on up to the fourth floor of Parks Library to visit our department and/or ask us your question(s)!  If you are interested in finding out about our main collecting areas, you could also take a look at our mission and collecting policy, available online.

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