#tbt SYMBOL-2R computer

This week is Preservation Week – an annual week devoted to raising awareness about the preservation needs of collections. Since I am the Digital Initiatives Archivist, I thought I would make this week’s throwback thursday about computer history here at Iowa State.

I’ve blogged previously about the Cyclone Computer and Electronic Records Day. Today I’m focusing on the SYMBOL-2R computer. In 1970, when the computer was purchased, people used terminals that connected to a central mainframe rather than each person having their own computer. Simultaneous users at multiple terminals were accommodated by timesharing – the rapid switching of the computer’s attention between different processing jobs. The claim to fame for SYMBOL was its use of specialized hardware processors that negated the need for layers of software. By doing so, it sped up timesharing.

“To prove that many “software” functions could profitably be transferred to hardware, SYMBOL-2R was built as a pure hardware implementation, not only of a high-level programming language, but of a multi-terminal timesharing system; operable in the complete absence of system software.”

– Hamilton Richards, Jr. “Controlled Information Sharing in the SYMBOL-2R Computer System” (doctoral dissertation, Iowa State University, 1976), page 3.

Although the library doesn’t have the actual SYMBOL-2R and has no digital files related to the system, the university archives is preserving the documentation, such as the manual shown above, that can be used to maintain the knowledge required to create the computer. To help preserve this material, the archives replaced the rubber band holding the note cards together with a soft cloth tie. The polaroid shown above was peeling and getting damaged, so we placed it in a protective sleeve. All materials are stored in a cool environment in protective acid-free boxes. If you’d like to learn how to care for your own materials check out “Caring for Your Treasures.”

Learn more about computing history at Iowa State at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and in RS 11/6 in the Special Collections and University Archives Department.

100 Years of Cyclone Wrestling


Last week marked the 100th anniversary of wrestling at ISU.  In celebration, the library presents “100 years of Cyclone wrestling” – a digital collection of images from the wrestling program’s past.

More images and other historic wrestling materials can be found in the following collections located in the Special Collections and University Archives Department (room 403, Parks Library):

CyPix: Winter dresses of 1920

"Winter Dresses." A selection from the Mary A. Barton Collection of Fashion Illustrations (RS 21/07/009)

“Winter Dresses” from The Designer, January 1920. Part of the Mary A. Barton Collection of Fashion Illustrations (RS 21/07/009)

When I woke up this morning, the news stations were reporting that with the windchill, it was 9 °F outside. I don’t know about you, but the stylish winter fashions above don’t look nearly warm enough!

The image above, and others like it, are available online in the Fashion Plates digital collection.

Check out the following to see some of the other fashion-related collections held at the Iowa State University Special Collections and University Archives Department:

CyPix: New Year’s Eve 1944

A page from Lorris Foster's scrapbook commemorating New Year's Eve 1944. (RS 21/7/147)

A page from Lorris Foster’s scrapbook commemorating New Year’s Eve 1944. (RS 21/7/147)

2015 is rapidly winding to a close, so I thought it might be nice to see how students of years past celebrated. We have an extensive collection of alumni scrapbooks to choose from. At left is a page from Lorris Foster‘s scrapbook of her time as an undergraduate (Child Development ’48).

Lorris saved her train tickets, a note about a mistaken meeting spot, and a paper beanie in cardinal and gold from New Year’s Eve 1944. The annotation under the paper hat reads “New Years in Chicago with girls from college and Jerry.” 1945 would prove to momentous – Lorris met her future husband, Jim Foster, in fall of 1945 after he returned to his studies following V-Day.

Wherever your travels take you at this time of year, we wish you a safe and happy journey.

CyPix: World Soil Day


The video above documents the types of activities found in soils and farm crop courses at Iowa State University. Check out another of our YouTube videos on soils: “Grass Roots in the Soil” Part One and Part Two.

2015 is the International Year of Soils and World Soil Day will be celebrated on December 5th. The goal is to raise awareness about the “importance of soil as a critical component of the natural system and as a vital contributor to human wellbeing.” (International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS), 2002) In 2013, the UN General Assembly declared the 5th of December World Soil Day (A/RES/67/206). This year’s theme is “Soils a solid ground for life.”

Image of soil layering from a site in North Dakota

Arthur A. Klingebiel Papers (RS 21/7/80, box 9, folder 5)

Special Collections and University Archives holds the papers of several soil scientists and soil conservation societies. Here are some examples:

Albert A. Klingebiel Papers (RS 21/7/80)

Hugh Hammond Bennet Papers (MS 164)(pdf link)

Soil Science Society of America Records (MS 567)

Iowa Soils Conservation Districts Records (MS 264)

Wallis R. Tonsfeldt Papers (MS 558)

Find more collections by searching our holdings at the search box on our home page.

Learn more about World Soil Day at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations campaign site.

"Where Food Begins" - World Soil Day, 5 December


CyPix: International Students on Holiday

"Foreign students leave on Thanksgiving holiday," 1968. (University Photographs box 1618)

Original caption: “Foreign students leave on Thanksgiving holiday,” 1968. (University Photographs box 1618) Click to see the set of images.

As of September 9th, 2015 Iowa State University (ISU) was home to 4,041 international students from 116 countries (pdf link). International students have been a part of Iowa State for much of its history. The image at left, from the university photographer, is part of a set of photographs documenting international students boarding a bus for a group trip in 1968. Click on the image to see the set in context.

The International Students and Scholars Office still puts together group trips.

For more records documenting the experiences of international students at ISU, see collections in the 22/3 record group. One example is the records of the Cosmopolitan Club, which we’ve blogged about previously.

A “wonderful glacial erratic”: Charles S. Gwynne and a campus landmark

…I would like to say that I have seen an uncounted number of glacial erratics, but I have never seen one that had so many interesting features as this one does. – Charles S. Gwynne (RS 13/8/12)

Charles S. Gwynne in front of the boulder. undated. (University photographs, RS 13/8, box 1057)

Charles S. Gwynne in front of the boulder, possibly during transport to its current location. undated. (University photographs, RS 13/8, box 1057)

If you’ve been in the vicinity of Science I, you may have seen an unusual boulder. It stands approximately 6 feet high and is criss-crossed with bands of a lighter rock. It’s what is known as a glacial erratic – “Glacially transported rock whose lithology shows that it could not have been eroded from the local country rock.”1

This is a diagram (not to scale) of the southwest face of the boulder at the southeast corner of the Science Building. The rock is mostly granite with some inclusions.

From “The Boulder.” Box 6, folder 6. Charles S. Gwynne Papers, RS 13/8/12.

Charles S. Gwynne was a geology professor at Iowa State from 1927-1970. He used the boulder in his teaching by taking students to the rock regularly as part of class field trips.

According to Gwynne, the boulder was originally located on what became the campus golf course. Various efforts to move the boulder were made over the years, but Gwynne always objected as he “remained strongly committed to the idea that the boulder should be left where the glacier put it.”2

Eventually it was decided that the boulder was at risk from potential vandalism and the inevitable widening of Stange Road. Gwynne gave his unofficial blessing and it was moved to its present location by the geology students.

A story on the boulder from Inside Iowa State. The original page is no longer available on the live web, but can be accessed via our web archives. Click on the picture to see the preserved website.

A story on the boulder from Inside Iowa State. Click on the picture to see the preserved website via our web archives.

Interested in seeing the erratic for yourself? You may want to participate in this earthcache about the boulder. See the rest of the Gwynne papers (RS 13/8/12) for more on geology in Iowa and the midwest.

1. “erratic” in Michael Allaby. A Dictionary of Geology and Earth Sciences, 4th Edition. Oxford Paperback Reference. Oxford University Press, 2013. QE5 D54 2013

2. “The Boulder.” Box 6, folder 6. Charles S. Gwynne Papers, RS 13/8/12. Iowa State University Special Collections and University Archives, Iowa State University.

CyPix: Late Night Get-together

[Eight home management students catch up on the events of the day.] (1953)(University Photographs box 946)

[Eight home management students catch up on the events of the day.] (1953)(University Photographs box 946)

The University Photographer added this to the back of the above photograph:

Every evening just about 10, you might see a gathering just like this in each of the four home management houses on the campus. For this is the time to get together to talk over the days happening and have an evening snack.  Left to right, seated, are Bonnie Rae Kundel, home economics education senior; Thelma Roos, home economics education, senior, Holland; Phyliis Sliron, textiles and clothing senior, Chicago; Marcia Wagner, home economics education senior, Muscatine; Lois Wilson, Child development senior, Beresford S.D.; and Ruth Littlefield, house advisor. Standing, Eleanor Peterson, household equipment senior, Eagle Grove, and Doris Follett, home economics senior, Nevada.

To learn more about home management houses at Iowa State, check out the collections we have in record group RS 12/5 (Department of Family Environment) and the Home Management House Program administrative files (RS 12/5/5). We’ve also posted previously on home management “house babies” and the establishment of Domestic Economy program.

#ERecsDay 2015

Electronic Records Day logo

October 10th is Electronic Records Day – time to take stock of what we are doing to handle our digital records and time to figure out what help we need to do so.

Electronic records can become unreadable very quickly. While records on paper have been read after thousands of years, digital files can be virtually inaccessible after just a few. – Council of State Archivists, “10 Reasons for E-Records” (2015).

This #ERecsDay you can take a step towards helping your own digital photographs survive into the future – make sure you describe them. Adding tags or other description is a simple step that will help people in the future identify what’s in each file.

For more on personal digital archiving, check out last year’s post on Electronic Records Day 2014.

Alumni Spotlight: Fan-Chi Kung (1926)

Fan-Chi Kung studying in his room, undated. (RS 21/7/49)

Fan-Chi Kung studying in his room, undated. (RS 21/7/49)

Here in Special Collections we have a number of alumni scrapbooks and photograph albums. These materials provide insight to what it was like to be a student at Iowa State University across the decades. Fan-Chi Kung was a Horticulture student (B.S. 1926) originally from Beijing (then Peking). His scrapbook is full of pictures of himself and friends both on campus, around Ames, and travels around the United States.

“Days at Ames” – Fan-Chi Kung and friends posing in front of a house, possibly 410 Welch Avenue. (RS 21/7/49, undated)

Chinese students currently comprise about half of the international student population at ISU. Enrollment and admission statistics were not kept for international students during the time Kung attended, but we do know that ISU’s chapter of the Cosmopolitan Club started forming in 1907. The “Cosmo Club,” as it was known colloquially, was founded to “encourage friendship, respect and understanding among men and women of all nationalities.”

Cosmopolitan Club, 1924. (University Photographs RS 22/3, box 1617) [Bonus: there's some remnants of

Cosmopolitan Club, 1924. (University Photographs RS 22/3, box 1617)[Bonus: there’s some remnants of “Beat Drake” graffiti on the columns behind the group]

While at ISU, Kung was President of the Cosmopolitan Club and President of the Ames Chinese Students’ Club. He held international service roles as Secretary of the Chinese Association for Advancement of Science, American Branch, and the Agriculture Society of China, American Branch.

Kung was tragically killed in an automobile accident in 1929. He is buried in the Iowa State University Cemetery. His grave marker reads “Above all nations is humanity,” the motto of the Cosmopolitan Club.