A spooky visit to Special Collections

Halloween is almost upon us, so I thought I would highlight a few spooky things that can be found at Iowa State Special Collections and University Archives.

Sometimes it is surprising what types of ephemera show up in archival collections. (“Ephemera” is the word archivists use to describe things that are made for a limited period of use, like flyers, advertisements, and brochures. You might save some ephemera items, yourself, like the movie ticket stub from your first date with your significant other.) Some Halloween ephemera shows up in the Rath Packing Company Records, MS 562, the records of a meat packing company that operated in Waterloo, Iowa, from 1891 to 1985. Apparently around 1971, the company used the holiday to promote its meat. Our collection includes a promotion sheet with instructions for how to display the free trick or treat bags they sent along with every case of hot dogs.

Treat or treat bags and flyer, circa 1971. Promotional material from the Rath Packing Company Records, MS 562, Series 8, box 29, folder 116.

Treat or treat bags and flyer, circa 1971. Promotional material from the Rath Packing Company Records, MS 562, Series 8, box 29, folder 116.

Are you throwing a party for Halloween? No party is complete without festive food, right? Well, never fear because the ISU Tea Room Records (RS 12/9/4) have you covered! The Tea Room is a non-profit, learning laboratory that has been serving meals to faculty, staff and students at Iowa State since the late 1800s. It is supported by the Hotel, Restaurant and Institution Management Program and is operated entirely by students in the Quantity Food Production Management class. The collection includes recipe cards that students used to prepare food to serve to Tea Room customers. One of these recipes is an “Owl Salad for Halloween,” which makes use of another recipe for fruit salad dressing. Here are the recipes below, if you wish to recreate these owl-shaped delights:

Recipe cards from the Tea Room Records, RS 12/9/4, box 4.

Recipe cards from the Tea Room Records, RS 12/9/4, box 4. [click for larger image]

Librarians, contrary to popular belief, like to party like its 1999…especially when it is 1999. The Library Staff Association Records (RS 25/7) document a Halloween-themed office decorating contest from–you guessed it–1999! Here’s one of the winners, showing a “librarian” assaulted by a pile of books! (Don’t worry, no librarians were harmed in the taking of this photograph.)

Winner of the Funniest category for the office decorating contest, 1999. Library Staff Association Records, RS 25/7, box 4, folder 2.

Winner of the “Funniest” category for the office decorating contest, 1999. Library Staff Association Records, RS 25/7, box 4, folder 2.

Librarians also sometimes dress up in clever, frequently book-themed costumes. Check out the Librarians in Costume tumblr (not affiliated with ISU) to see some of the other high jinks librarians get up to.

Still trying to decide what to dress up as, yourself? If you’d like some historical costume ideas, the Department of Textiles and Clothing History of Costume Collection (RS 12/10/5) has fashion plates representing many periods and cultures, including early Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cultures, as well as European and American fashions through many centuries. They are fun and fascinating to browse through! Get some ideas for next year!

Iowa State campus is not without its tales of haunted places. See the Hauntings folder in the Traditions, Songs, and Cheers Collection (RS 0/16/1) for stories of student and staff encounters with unexplained phenomena in ISU buildings. Allegedly haunted buildings on campus include the Farm House Museum, Fisher Theater, Linden Hall, and Freeman Hall, among others. If you are interested in exploring haunted places beyond campus, Special Collections has several books on ghosts in Iowa.

Of course, Special Collections has plenty of spooky reading material to offer for those who like a fright, such as this pocket-sized edition of Rudyard Kipling’s The Phantom Rickshaw, and My Own True Ghost Story (PR4854 P45 1920).

Title page of The Phantom Rickshaw, PR4854 P45 1920.

Title page of The Phantom Rickshaw, PR4854 P45 1920.

We also have several ghost and horror comic book series, including Halloween Comix from the Underground Comix Collection (MS 636) that Whitney shared last month. We also have classic titles from the 1950s and 60s such as Shock Suspenstories, Nightmare, Vampirella, Creepy, and Vault of Horror.

Creep on down to Special Collections and University Archives for a taste of Halloween spookery! Have a safe and fun holiday.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s