Weird, Wacky, Wonderful

One of the great benefits of answering reference questions is all the stuff I discover in the special collections and archives along the way.  Anyone who has done research in an archive can tell you how easy it is to get off track when you spot that new interesting document or photo that leads you down a new research rabbit hole.

Since I have the great opportunity to dig through the archives, I am excited to start this occasional blog series to share the interesting, funny, shocking, weird, or just plain fun things I stumble upon in the special collections and archives.

To kick things off, while searching for some student group photos, I came across a couple of images from a Milk Maid contest.  I was drawn in by the cow sporting a lovely lei crown and was inspired to learn more.

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One of the things required of contestants was to show affection for the cows. University Photo Box 1657

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University Photo Box, 1657

The Milk Maid contest was hosted by the Dairy Science Club.  There would be dozens of contestants and thousands of spectators to these contests.  The participants were judged on “the amount of milk they collect, their costume, their display of affection for the cow and the amount of audience support” (Iowa State Daily, 10/4/1979).

There was a parallel contest for men that included milk chugging, milk can rolling, and goat dressing.

goat dressing

Photo from Iowa State Daily article, 4/10/1975. RS 22/5/0/1, box 5, “Dairy Science Club”

To learn more about the Milk Maid contest or to find a research rabbit hole of your own, visit the SCUA Monday-Friday, 9-5.



#TBT Bicycle Club

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University Photos box 1644

In honor of RAGBRAI coming to Ames on Tuesday the 24th, here’s a picture of the women of the Bicycle Club in 1898.  The scan is taken from a glass slide with some deterioration which is why there is some fading (but hey, the photo is 120 years old!)

Good luck to all the RAGBRAI riders next week, and feel free to make the archives one of your stops while you’re in Ames!


SCUA 104

Thanks for coming back to the blog!  This is the 4th post in a series about using the Special Collections and University Archives at ISU.

Today I’m going to talk about your options if you need reproductions of our materials.  While we highly encourage researchers to visit us to see our collection, we understand that sometimes that is just not possible due to distance or other factors. Don’t fear—there are still some options for those who can’t come to the archives in person.

We can make photocopies through our document delivery program.  These are low-resolution photocopies we make on our overhead scanner.  Depending on the size of the order, we can have these copies sent to you via email or through the “snail” mail in about 2-4 weeks, though it can take longer for large or complicated orders.

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Our Bookeye overhead scanner. The black pads fold up to create a book cradle!

We are also able to make publication quality high-resolution scans of our images.  Depending on your use, you may also need to fill out a request to publish form when you order your images.  There are fees for both document delivery and image reproduction; please consult our website or send us an email to learn more!

Of course, we must comply with copyright law when making scans and reproductions.  Unfortunately, this sometimes blocks us from being able to make reproductions of things that we do not have rights to, are not in the public domain, or whole volumes.  While copyright law is extremely complicated, a good place to start learning about what is and is not allowed is the library’s page on copyright issues.

Have any questions about any of these services? Feel free to email us at archives@iastate.edu. Want to know more about SCUA?  See our previous posts in this series about our reading room rules, what happens when you visit the reading room, or finding student records in the archives.

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Our Cy and baby Cys would love to see you, but we understand that sometimes that’s just not possible. Photo credit Olivia Garrison, taken 6/19/18


#TBT Studying in the Library

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University Photos, box 389

The photo wasn’t dated, but I would guess this was taken in the 1950s.  Dead Week is the perfect time to share a photo of students studying in the Library Rotunda in front of our Grant Wood murals.

During Dead Week in 2018, the Rotunda is more suited for a relaxing break than studying since we will have some four-legged friends visiting for Barks @ Parks.

Study hard and good luck with finals next week!


Visiting SCUA 103

Hello again! This is the third entry in the blog series about visiting special collections and archives from the perspective of someone who is pretty new.

Today I will be talking about how to find student records at the archives. Often we have visitors who are interested in finding out information about their relatives who went to school at Iowa State sometime in the past. Or, perhaps you’re interested in information about one of Iowa State’s more famous alumni. We have quite a few resources with information about students (naturally). I will highlight just a few of the most fruitful areas of information.

A great source of information on students is the yearbook, The Bomb. All of the yearbooks have been digitized, and they are also available in the reading room. The Bomb covers every year from 1894-1994. Often, in the back of the yearbook every senior will be listed along with the activities they participated in while at Iowa State. Looking up information on the clubs a particular person participated in may also offer some clues and interesting information.

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Page 451, 1957 Bomb

A second helpful resource is the school directories. In the reading room, we have directories from 1901 to 2010. The directories list the majors, year in school, on campus address, and hometown. If you know the general time period that someone may have gone to school here, you can use the directories to pin down more exact dates.

A third resource are our alumni files. The alumni files can be rich sources of information, depending on the graduate. It’s also important to note that not every graduate will have an alumni file and there are some student files for individuals who attended but never graduated. The only way to find out if a student has a file is to have a member of SCUA staff take a look at the boxes in the closed stacks and check, which we are more than happy to do for you. If you want to know in advance whether you might find information on someone, you can always send us an email to archives@iastate.edu. Some of the alumni files have just an article or two while others are much larger.

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Members of the class of 1895, University photo box

There are a few alumni who have collections of their own. For example, we have collections for George Washington Carver and Carrie Chapman Catt. However, there are also collections for some lesser known graduates. You can browse the alumni and former student finding aids to see if we have a collection for the person you are interested in learning about.

These are all places to start your research on former students. You can always stop by the reading room or email us to see if we have any more suggestions for you!


#TBT March Fashions

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Fashion Plate, RS 21/07/009

For today’s Throw Back Thursday picture, we have the recommended March fashions from 1846.  Would you like wearing any of these dresses?

This image comes from a collection of fashion plates that you can learn more about here.  We also invite you to explore the rest of the digitized collection, provided by  University Library Digital Initiatives.  Maybe you’ll get some inspiration for a new spring or summer wardrobe!


Visiting SCUA 102

Hello everyone! This is the second in the blog series about visiting Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) from the perspective of someone who is pretty new.  In SCUA 101, I covered some of the reading room rules and why they exist. Today I will cover what will happen when you visit us here on the 4th floor of Parks Library.

If this is your first time to the archives during this calendar year, we will ask you to fill out a registration sheet.  We will also ask to see a photo ID (don’t worry—you can definitely use your ISU student ID).  We will also ask that you sign into the reading room, which is the only thing you will have to fill out for each subsequent visit.

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Rachel Seale ready to help a patron at the desk.

The friendly desk staff can help you with what you are looking for.  We can help teach you how to search for materials on our website and explain how to use a finding aid.  Throughout your visit, staff is happy to answer any questions you have; whether that be a question on how to handle a certain set of documents or suggestions for places you might look for further research.

When you are ready to request materials, you will fill out the form below so that someone on staff can retrieve the materials from our closed stacks.  The stacks are closed to the public for security reasons and also because our very special materials need to be kept in a certain temperature and humidity range.  You would definitely need a jacket if we kept the reading room the same temperature as the stacks!

Pull Slip

Before you look at materials you will need to store your bags, coats, umbrellas, etc. in the lockers or the closet.  Now you are ready to take a seat and wait for your materials.  When they come, SCUA staff will give you a brief handling demonstration; then you are ready to start your research!

Throughout your visit, please let us know if there is anything we can help with.  We know it can take some time to get used to the rules and feel comfortable handling the materials, and we want you to have the best experience possible.

The reading room is open from 9-5, Monday-Friday.  If you have more questions about visiting SCUA, feel free to email us at archives@iastate.edu or visit our tutorial pages on planning a visit and using our materials.

When you visit, be sure to allow yourself a few extra minutes to check out our latest exhibit: “Do[ing] their bit” Iowa’s Role in the Great War.