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!


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