#TBT WiSE

11-04-f-chemeng-835-03-08

(University Photographs box 835)

With the popularity of Hidden Figures, it is a great time to honor and remember Iowa State’s Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE).  This photo was taken in 1962 of a female graduate student working in the chemistry laboratory.  The photograph is labeled with a date, but the cat eye glasses would have been a clue for a time period as well!  To learn more about the WISE archive we have here, view our digital collection, search our archives collection, or stop by the reading room!

 


Spring is in the air

This month’s collaborative post highlights items from our Artifact Collection that remind us of spring. I know it’s probably a little premature to start thinking of spring, but tell that to this week’s forecast!

Baseball bat (Artifact 2005-R010)

1890s Silver Baseball Bat Trophy (Artifact 2005-R010)

Amy Bishop, Rare Books and Manuscripts Archivist

Nothing says spring like baseball! That’s why I choose this metal baseball bat from our archives collection for this post. This bat is a special one. It has nine engravings that indicate which schools won this special trophy bat over the course of ten years. In chronological order: Grinnell 1892, IAC 1893, IAC 1894, SUI 1895, Grinnell 1896, Cornell 1898, Grinnell 1899, SUI 1900, SUI 1901, and Grinnell 1902. SUI stands for State University of Iowa, our rivals in Iowa City, and IAC stands for Iowa Agricultural College, the name for Iowa State University from its founding until 1959. The bat also includes an engraved baseball game scene surrounded by a leaf border. What a fun piece of history from early higher education in Iowa!

Brad Kuennen, University Archivist

Spring is all about getting back outdoors and enjoying the return of sunshine and warm weather. And for some people, that means going out to the ballpark and enjoying a friendly game of baseball. Iowa State no longer has a baseball team, but this silver bat traveling trophy, dating from the 1890s, is a reminder of the excellent Cyclone teams of years past.

Becky Jordan, Reference Specialist

With major league pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training on February 14, my thoughts are with the coming season for my (reigning World Series Champions) Chicago Cubs.  As a result, the Silver Bat is the artifact that makes me think most of spring.  The bat was a trophy awarded to members of the Iowa Inter-Collegiate Base Ball Association.  The Association, formed in 1892, originally included Drake University, Iowa College at Grinnell (now Grinnell College), Iowa Agricultural College (now Iowa State University), and the State University of Iowa (now University of Iowa).  Cornell College joined in 1893.  The bat has an engraving of a baseball game in progress and the following inscriptions:  Grinnell 1902, SUI 1901, SUI 1900, Grinnell 1899, Cornell 1898, Grinnell 1892, Grinnell 1896, SUI 1895 on the handle; and on the end of the bat, IAC 1893, IAC 1894.

Woven picture “Bluebirds Herald Spring” (Artifact 2009-069.037)

Woven picture entitled "Bluebirds Herald Spring" by Shirley Held (Artifact 2009-069.037)

Woven picture entitled “Bluebirds Herald Spring” by Shirley Held (Artifact 2009-069.037)

Chris Anderson, Descriptive Records Project Archivist

This woven picture by Shirley Held is entitled “Bluebirds Herald Spring.” To me, it strongly resembles an Impressionist painting. Monet could have put these colors together. This nearly-abstract scene truly sings of Spring.

Shirley Held (1923-2014) earned a B.S. and M.S. in Home Economics and Applied Art at ISU before joining the faculty of the Department of Art and Design in 1953. She was promoted to full professor in 1975 and retired in 1990.

ISU Special Collections and Archives has the Shirley E. Held Papers (RS 26/2/53) in addition to dozens of textile artworks like this one. I’m making a mental note to learn a bit more about Held, her career, and her artistry.

Lithographic plate (Artifact 2000-105.002 )

 

Laura Sullivan, Collections Archivist

One of our artifacts which definitely makes me think of spring is the lithographic plate (Artifact 2000-105.002) of a bird’s nest with eggs, and then right next to it the hatched baby birds.  I also love that not only do we have the original plate, but also one of the prints which was made from the plate (2000-105.001).  Lithographic plates have always intrigued me since I first learned about them – who would have ever thought to create a print from stone and a water-resistant drawing substance such as wax?  This artifact comes from Iowa State University’s Iowa Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit Records (RS 9/10/04).

Link for collection:  http://www.add.lib.iastate.edu/spcl/arch/rgrp/9-10-4.html

.

VEISHEA button (Artifact 2012-120.001)

button gray background with orange swan and orange dots above swan's tail, splashes of dark gray and yellow in background, white text says "VEISHEA" then 2012 in black text.

VEISHEA button (2012-120.001)

Olivia Garrison, Reference Coordinator

This button reminds me of spring for a couple of reasons.  VEISHEA, of course, was celebrated in the spring.  This button invokes memories of the parade, cherry pies, and dirt dessert from the Agronomy department.  While there are many VEISHEA artifacts, photographs, and documents in the archives, I chose this button because of the depiction of one of ISU’s swans.  Spring is a great time to walk around our beautiful campus; and specifically, take a break by Lake LaVerne to visit Lancelot and Elaine.  To learn more about VEISHEA, see our online exhibit or by visiting the archives to look at RS 22/12: VEISHEA.

Hand Fan (Artifact 1993-002)

Rachel Seale, Outreach Archivist

This hand fan was presented to Martin Jischke, Iowa State University’s 13th president, in May 1993. The hand fan includes birds and butterflies.  It makes me think of spring because of the artwork on the fan. Of course, a fan also comes in handy as the temperatures heat up in spring.” This fan is associated with the Martin C. Jischke Papers (RS 2/13).


#TBT Putting the “Can” in “Canning”

Did you know it’s National Canned Food Month? Canned food may not be the most glamorous of edibles, but the canning process can be deceptively tricky (exploding fruit, anyone?). There are countless guides on how to can various foods on the internet, including these from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Educating the public on canning procedures is nothing new for Extension – they were giving demonstrations on that 90 years ago! Below are some photos from such demonstrations:

Process of canning beans, 1928. University Photographs, RS 16/3/F, Box 1368.

Process of canning beans, 1928. University Photographs, RS 16/3/F, Box 1368.

Canning demonstration, 1938. University Photographs, RS 16/3/F, Box 1396.

Canning demonstration, 1938. University Photographs, RS 16/3/F, Box 1369.

Canned meat from a canning demonstration, 1934. University Photographs, RS 16/3/F, Box 1369.

Canned meat from a canning demonstration, 1934. University Photographs, RS 16/3/F, Box 1369.

Canned vegetables from a canning demonstration, 1938. University Photographs, RS 16/3/F, box 1369.

Canned vegetables from a canning demonstration, 1938. University Photographs, RS 16/3/F, Box 1369.

Want to learn more about canning? The Gertrude L. Sunderlin Papers contain studies on canning dating back to the 1920s. We also have a wealth of Extension publications, some of which may contain tips on canning and recipes. Stop by sometime!


Chocolate-Covered Traditions

How do you plan on showing your sweetheart that you care about them this Valentine’s Day? Flowers are a popular choice, poetry is always nice, but why not embrace the little known Iowa State Tradition of giving a 5 pound box of chocolate!  Iowa State students during the 1940s and 1950s announced monumental events in their lives by exchanging different sizes of boxed
chocolate. Pinning, the act of a Greek man giving his fraternity pin to his steady girlfriend, was celebrated by exchanging a 2 pound box of chocolate while engagements called for a 5 pound box, wedding announcements came with a 10 pound box, and pregnancies were announced by a 15 pound box (RS 0/16/1, Traditions and Myths of Iowa State, box 1, folder 5).

So where would all of this chocolate go? It would be passed out during a ‘pound party’ where women would surprise their sorority sisters or floor-mates with their announcement. Women planned out this surprise party down to the very last details; some women planned lunches, ordered embroidered napkins and photo holders, and even used color schemes to represent the couple’s fraternity or sorority colors.

Local Ames businesses, such as Your Treat Shop formerly on Lincoln Way, would advertise their candy shops in Iowa State’s newspapers by announcing the engagements of couples who purchased pounds of candy at their shops.

Advertisement in the March 1950 Iowa State Scientist. Image of a smiling couple at a candy counter, ad reads "Your Treat Shop salutes Mary Alice Connolly and Neil Hansen who announced their engagement with five pounds of chocolate from Your Treat Shop for your five or ten pound party or for any occasion, buy the best of candies at Your Treat Shop, 2526 Lincoln Way.

Your Treat Shop advertisement in the March 1950 Iowa State Scientist (RS 0/16/1, Traditions and Myths of Iowa State Records, box 1, folder 5).

Although this tradition died out in the late 1960s, sorority women still celebrate engagements and pinning with candle passings, often still a surprise to the chapter.

If you find yourself alone this Valentine’s Day, you can also celebrate with what students called a “lemon party,” where women who spent the four years unattached would share a box of lemon drops instead of chocolate.

Today’s blog post was written by Madison Vandenberg, our student assistant. You can read her other blog posts here: https://isuspecialcollections.wordpress.com/author/madiepatie/. You can read an earlier post on sweet traditions at Iowa State here: https://isuspecialcollections.wordpress.com/2016/02/11/cypix-sweet-tradition/.


Formation of the Black Student Organization at ISU

For this look back at the 1960s I’ve decided to explore the origins of the Black Student Organization at ISU (now the Black Student Alliance). Not only is it a story that is not well-known to me, but I suspect it is not familiar to most people now at Iowa State. It seems almost all Iowa Staters are familiar with the story of George Washington Carver, Iowa State’s first African American student and faculty member, and the tragedy of Iowa State’s first black athlete, Jack Trice. After doing some research into our student organizations files here in the archives, I found that the story of the formation of the Black Student Organization at ISU is just as interesting and incredibly relevant to students on campus today.

The 1960s at Iowa State started off much as the 1950s left off. Strict rules were still in place regulating conduct and social interaction of women students. Students were separated into different dormitories with men on one side of campus and the women on the other. However, as the 1960s wore on, student perceptions began to change. Like in much of the country, students began to question the war in Vietnam, female students began to push back against gender barriers, and students of color began to speak out against racism and prejudice.

In the summer of 1967, the faculty and staff newspaper, News of Iowa State, ran an article reporting on a study completed by two ISU journalism students regarding the racial climate at Iowa State. The findings, authored by Pat Alford, identified as a “Negro coed from Charlotte, N.C.,” and Maurine Foster, simply identified as a Weldon, Iowa native, were both journalism students at Iowa State. The results of their study found that the racial climate at Iowa State at that time was “relatively favorable.” During those years, the University attempted to eliminate overt discrimination. Students interviewed in the study didn’t believe they would be denied membership to student groups, but with an enrollment of around 125, black students largely felt they were being left out of the mainstream of college life. (This may help explain why it is so difficult to find a photograph in our collections of an African-American student at Iowa State prior to 1970 unless he was involved in athletics.)

kic-image-0001

Article from the Iowa State Daily, April 6, 1968, reporting on the demonstration by a group of students at the Memorial Union the previous day.

This favorable view of campus race relations abruptly changed following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1968. The following day, black students on campus held a demonstration in the Commons of the Memorial Union. According to a report by the Iowa State Daily (April 6, 1968), a group of approximately 40 students filed into the Union, toasted to “black unity on campus” and then dropped and shattered their drinking glasses on the floor, overturned their tables and chairs, and quietly left. Following the demonstration, a statement was issued and signed by the “Afro-American Students of Iowa State University,” a group that formed the night before under the leadership of student Bruce Ellis. The students adopted a constitution on April 23, 1968 and officially became the Black Student Organization.

In early May, students and administrators were interviewed by the Iowa State Daily (May 3, 1968) for an article on campus race relations. One of those students was Pat Alford, the student from Charlotte. The article identifies some of the common forms of discrimination blacks faced at Iowa State. These included overt forms such as insensitive signs and symbols used by student groups and the denial of access to certain student groups based on skin color. It is interesting that these statements seem to conflict with what was reported a year earlier. The article noted the psychological burdens of being a person of color in a community where the vast majority of students and faculty are white. Black students also felt they were missing out on social interactions at Iowa State. According to one estimate, black male students outnumbered black female students at Iowa State 15 to 1, resulting in many black male students traveling to Des Moines to find a date.

bomb1968page119 0001.jpg

1967 Iowa State football team (Bomb, 1968, page 119)

Within weeks, the Black Student Organization would take their concerns to University administration. On May 20, 1968, the black athletes of Iowa State, with the full support of the Black Student Organization, issued eight grievances to the Athletic Council. The students asked for racial representation in the coaching staff and administration of the athletics department, reprimands or removal of three coaches and trainers they accused of discriminatory treatment of black athletes, more leniency for all athletes in terms of academics and living requirements, an allowance for black athletes to seek employment while on full scholarship, and a request that the ISU community use the words Black Students or Afro-Americans in place of the term Negro.

The initial response from the Athletic Council, signed by council chairman John Mahlstede, did not exactly impress the students. Dated two weeks later on June 5, the response was carefully worded, but it was clear that the Council did not find any evidence of discriminatory actions by the coaches or in its hiring practices. Not surprisingly, this announcement did not end the controversy.

kic-image-0001

The first page from a letter, dated May 20, 1968, submitted to the Athletic Council on behalf of the black student athletess. (See file labeled Black Student Organization – Athletic Council Issue in RS 22/3/0/1, Multicultural Student Affairs)

By the end of June, President W. Robert Parks asked that the University Human Relations Committee conduct a separate investigation into the grievances. This report, presented just two weeks later, recognized that discrimination almost assuredly existed on campus and that “the need for change in behavior on the part of individual members of the University community is crucial.” The report did not charge any individuals with discriminatory actions. It did, however, strongly encourage the hiring of a black football coach, a recommendation that coach Johnny Majors fulfilled when he hired coach Ray Green in the spring of 1969.

These actions did not satisfy everyone. At least seven students carried through on their promise to leave Iowa State if and when the Athletic Council did not comply with the eight grievances. Bruce Ellis, president of the Black Student Organization, was one of these students along with two football players. Though these students did not immediately effect the change they hoped to, their actions did initiate a conversation about race and inclusivity that in many ways continues today. They also helped foster a growing awareness among members of the ISU community that racism and discrimination were present on the Iowa State campus and that the entire community was responsible for addressing the concerns raised by black students of Iowa State.

More information on the early years of the Black Student Organization (now known as the Black Student Alliance) is available in Special Collections and University Archives in collection RS 22/3/0/1, Multicultural Student Organizations. Unfortunately, the black student experience at Iowa State is largely underrepresented in the archives. Most of the materials that are available to historians and researchers consist of newspaper clippings or files from campus administration. These records are often incomplete and leave gaps in the historical record. We welcome collection materials (i.e. photographs, letters, flyers, etc.) from alumni that might help document the experience of black students at Iowa State.


Rare Book Highlights: the oldest book

Large books sits in an open box with sides raised at angles to support the book when it is opened.

Quaestiones de veritate sitting in its cradle box specially designed by a former intern with the library’s Preservation Department.

Saint Thomas Aquinas. Quaestiones de veritate. Colonie: Johann Koelhoeff de Lubeck, 1475. Call number: XI 1475 T36.

It is certainly not the oldest book in the world, but it is the oldest book at Iowa State University Library. This copy of St. Thomas Aquinas‘s work, known in English as Disputed Questions on Truth and originally written in the 13th century, was printed by Johann Koelhoeff de Lubeck in 1475 in Cologne, Germany.  It is what is referred to as an incunabulum, or “incunable,” a book printed in Europe before the year 1501. “Incunabula” is a Latin word that translates to “swaddling clothes,” and it refers to books from “the cradle of printing” period–the first 50 years of printing following Gutenberg‘s invention of moveable type and the printing press. These are the first European books that were made in a mechanized fashion, after centuries of scribes in monasteries painstakingly copying books by hand.

With its designation as ISU’s Oldest Book, this Aquinas sees a lot of use. We trot it out for visiting VIPs getting a tour of the library. We show it to alumni, and occasionally to eager groups of students who heard something about a really old book. And this book is worth seeing. Not only because it is “really old,” but because it demonstrates a lot about how early books were made.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The cover shows signs of being quite ornamental. Leather was stretched over wooden boards, and the leather was stamped with hot metal tools. These tools created diamond patterns and stamps of what looks like a deer, birds, fleur de lis, and other floral and geometric shapes. There are holes in four corners and in the center that likely once held bosses (click here for another blog post featuring bosses), and there are signs of clasps at the edges of the front and back covers.

Shows an open book. On the left side is a sheet with two columns of handwritten text.

Manuscript leaf used to attach the covers to the book.

Opening up the book, there are more interesting things to see. Above, you can see a manuscript leaf (a page that has been written by hand) that had been used as a front endpaper covering the wooden board of the cover. It was a common practice for early bookbinders to use manuscript waste or print waste in this way. Here is a close-up view of the manuscript writing:

Close up of the manuscript inside the front cover of the book.

Close up of the manuscript inside the front cover of the book.

The inside back cover is similar, but here, a strip of the paper has been torn away to reveal the cords laced in the board. The pages of a book are sewn onto a series of cords. These cords are then attached to the boards, as can be seen below. On the spine, you can see evidence of the cords hidden underneath the leather in what are known as raised bands.

Looking into the pages of the text itself, we see that the pages of the printed text look very similar to the manuscript pages lining the boards. In both the  manuscript and printed leaves, the page layout is very similar with two columns of text and wide margins that was commonly used for medieval manuscripts. The typeface was designed to resemble the form of letters in medieval scripts.

Two facing pages of a book. Each page has two columns of text. There are large red initial capital letters and other red markings added to the text by pen.

Inside pages of Quaestiones de veritate.

What also stands out are the red initial capital letters at the beginning of sections of the text. These features were also brought into printing from the medieval manuscript tradition. These initials could be decorated in various ways, and could sometimes contain elaborate figures and scenes. Here they are simple red letter forms, but I find them no less appealing for their simplicity.

The pages also contain numerous other red markings in the text. This is referred to as rubrication and is usually used to indicate the end of one section of text and the beginning of another, and sometimes to announce the subject of the section or its purpose. The word “rubrication” comes from the Latin rubrico, meaning “to color red.” A completed text was given to a special scribe known as a rubricator who would add the additional red markings. Here we see this early printed work following a similar process.

Thanks for coming on this tour of our oldest book in the collection. Now you can see why it gets so much attention!


#TBT A Painting Party @ISUDesign

This weeks #TBT photo comes from the College of Design. Pictured here is a group of students working on their projects for an art class. While the photo is undated, it looks like it was taken in the 1950s (note the hair and clothing styles, not to mention the saddle shoes!). For more information on the College of Design (which wasn’t a formal college until 1979), take a look at some of our collections! We also have many more photos of students in art classes, as well as photos of students’ art pieces.

Students working on their art projects, undated. University Photographs, RS 26/2/F, Box 2076.

Students working on their art projects, undated. University Photographs, RS 26/2/F, Box 2076.

 


Coming soon: Avian Archives of Iowa Online (avIAn)

Black and white photograph of baby chipping sparrow sitting on a tree branch with its mother feeding it.

Photograph of chipping sparrows from Walter Rosene Papers, MS 589. Back of photo reads, “Meal time in the chipping sparrow family. This youngster is 9 days old.”

We are very pleased to announce that Iowa State University received a 2016 Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives Award from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). This grant will fund a two-year project to establish a web portal for digital Iowa ornithological primary sources dating from 1895 to 2012. The Avian Archives of Iowa Online (avIAn) will include material from eight collections from Special Collections and University Archives. These collections  document over one hundred years of bird study in Iowa and encompass some of the Midwest’s most influential conservationists.

Handwritten journal page reads, "Saturday June 14, 1924. Left Sioux City at 3:45 p.m. Speedometer reading 16998. Photo of us by car at start (spoiled). Red wing - Dickcissel - Meadowlark. Mourning Dove - Flicker - Barn Swallow...

Journal from Iowa, Minnesota, and North Dakota bird watching trip, 1924. Walter M. Rosene, Sr. Papers, MS 589, Special Collections Department, Iowa State University Library, box 13, folder 1.

The selected collections include:

Once completed, avIAn will present the items as both archival materials and as scientific data, expanding its potential user base.

For more information, see the Library’s news release.

 


Report of foreign seeds and plants received at Ames, 1907 to 1914

One of my duties is cataloging old bachelors theses in the University Archives. I have worked my way up to 1916 with lots more to go. At some point ISU stopped generating so many theses at the bachelor level of study, but there’s no end in sight for me, so it’s a good thing some of the theses are interesting. I have blogged about them before: see my July, 2016 item entitled In 1913, students had designs on the Campanile’s chimes.

In 1915, a horticulture student named John Hampden Allison wrote his thesis on efforts to bring plants from around the world to Ames. I was intrigued to learn of the existence of the “Ames Plant Introduction Garden.” Receiving shipments of plants was just the beginning since the point was to grow and study them for a variety of reasons. I had not realized there was such a thing as the United States Office of Seed and Plant Introduction, either. “Invasive species” come to mind when I think about such matters from my non-farmer, non-horticulturalist perspective 100+ years after Allison submitted his thesis. In fact these plant introduction activities were admirably thoughtful. We use plant matter for innumerable purposes from food to medicine to building materials. It stands to reason that science and commerce would benefit from ongoing systematic programs of this type.

Nowadays we are beginning to take genetic engineering of plants and animals for granted. It still seems futuristic, but genetic engineering is a well-established means of modifying organisms’ traits to better suit human needs. In 1915 genetic engineering was science fiction; selective breeding and the acquisition of desirable variants or alternative species were the only games in town. Hence the existence of seed “banks” and “libraries” and places like the Ames Plant Introduction Garden.

Report of Foreign Seeds and Plants Received at Ames, 1907 to 1914 / J. H. Allison. 1915.

Report of Foreign Seeds and Plants Received at Ames, 1907 to 1914 / J. H. Allison. 1915. Page 7. ISU Spec. Coll. and Univ. Archives. Call no. C Ob 1915 Allison.

As you can see from the photo caption above, a major area of interest was how various species would respond to Iowa’s climate. It is unclear whether the 1911-1912 winter low temperature of -35° should be interpreted as Fahrenheit or Celsius, but either one would be lower than expected. Weather Channel data for Ames (as found at Wikipedia) states that the “highest recorded temperature was 102° F (39° C) in 1988 and the lowest was −28° F in 1996.” For comparison a list entitled Des Moines Climate 1878-Present gives a lowest daily minimum of -30 [sic] on January 5 of 1884. Not having time for further research into this subtopic, I conclude that Allison’s cited reading of -35° is Fahrenheit and is plausible, but only as a record-breaking historical anomaly.

Allison contextualizes the photo further on page 6. He describes Amygdalus davidiana as “a wild peach native to China” that came to Ames by way of Chico, California. The story is that the Ames Plant Introduction Garden had a “peach orchard of hardy native varieties [that] was practically killed out” by the extreme winter lows of 1911-1912 but that the Chinese peach trees (Amygdalus davidiana) “withstood the temperature like oaks.” Good to know.

Other topics are covered in Allison’s book as well – greenhouse versus outdoor cultivation results, characteristics of fruit, potential for hybridization, et cetera. The text is not particularly scientific in itself, but I can see its usefulness as a readable summary of its subject matter.

Working with this book (and then blogging about it) is a good example of what it’s like to be a cataloger in special collections. There is no time for me to learn about all the diverse topics that I encounter. I have to learn enough to create bibliographic descriptions, and maybe the occasional blog entry, but if I spend too much time learning about unfamiliar subjects my productivity suffers. In conclusion, I hope I have done justice to J. H. Allison’s thesis and related topics. As always, readers should feel free to comment. Share your knowledge or life experience in relation to my themes.

UPDATE: In comments, reader Brian Mayer provided information about the North Central Regional Plant Introduction Station and a link to its website. It’s gratifying to know that the NCRPIS and affiliated organizations remain committed to “preserving and providing plant genetic resources for agriculture since 1948.” Thanks, Brian.

 


Working the Corner of Yesterday and Tomorrow

When I was a kid schoolteachers used slide projectors quite a bit. Slides and transparencies are very easy to use. Film projectors and reels are a little trickier, but those were commonly used as well. Some instructors were still using these media when I was earning my degrees (roughly 1995 to 2007). Doing so could make sense: not all topics are subject to change, and if the teaching aids and apparatus are durable, why not use that slide show on Renaissance art for 20 years?

Working in archives often means working with outmoded technology and information-bearing media. It’s interesting that while archivists are not stuck in the past — we use cutting-edge tools, we collect and preserve modern stuff — archivists can never forget about the old media, machinery, methods, and materials. All that is donated to (and actively collected by) institutions like archives, museums, and special libraries.

Today I will blog about glass slides and the projectors that love them. ISU Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) has more than one set of glass slides, but our largest set of them is part of the Warren H. Manning Papers (manuscript collection MS 218). Manning (1860-1938) was a giant in the realm of landscape architecture. Photography was one of his favorite tools. Among other things, SCUA’s Manning collection includes over 2000 glass “lantern slides” and over 1000 photographic prints made from the slides. Take a look — 1554 images are online here. Quite a few are of scant interest to laypeople, but there are interesting and beautiful ones too:

218-ls-489

Taken at Ishpeming, Michigan. William G. Mather house before planting. No date. Manning lantern slide #489. Image ID 218.LS.489.

The word “lantern” in “lantern slides” sounds a bit archaic, doesn’t it? When I think of lanterns, I think of wicks and flames, not light bulbs. Similarly, some people — Brits, possibly others — refer to flashlights as “electric torches” or just “torches,” a usage I find appealing. Lantern slide projectors use bulbs, but they are descended from magic lanterns. The basic idea is very old and requires nothing more than a source of light (the brighter the better) and something to shine it through (not necessarily a photograph: stained glass invites comparison). In this way it reminds me of the camera obscura. What could be simpler, and yet so pregnant with possibilities?

dilineascope-side-2

A Spencer “Delineascope” glass slide projector, one of several that SCUA owns. Made in the 1920s. Was used for instructional purposes at ISU.

Of course, making glass slides with photographic images on them is a 19th century development. While archives and collectors should take good care of the slides, and maintain some projectors of the same vintage, we have an interest in reformatting the images. Glass slides are heavy and fragile. The projector pictured above is very heavy (take my word for it). Most people do not need to use the originals; photographic prints and digitized versions are usually better options. We pursue the same strategy when we offer facsimiles of rare books and manuscripts. Certain researchers need to see the real artifacts, and within reason we love to show them off.

The work of reformatting information resources takes as many forms as there are types of media. Consider that some things can be viewed with the naked eye, while others require an intermediary device (such as a projector). Computer programs and data storage are an extreme case; since the “goalposts” have moved so quickly, meeting requirements for preserving and accessing legacy digital resources is a daunting challenge.

Being a musician I am tempted to digress into digital audio reformatting and related topics, but I’ll save those thoughts for another time.