History At Home: Community Archival Film Screenings at Amana!

Iowa State University Library Special Collections and University Archives and Preservation have partnered with the Amana Heritage Society Museums, Living History Farms, and the Norman Borlaug Heritage Foundation to share local stories by screening archival agricultural films from our collections. 

This project is inspired by the work of film archivist Jane Paul (January 19, 1958–November 13, 2018). Paul spent her career collecting, curating, and presenting film content tailored for regional and multicultural New Zealand audiences.

Event this week

Thursday, June 20, Amana Heritage Auditorium, 705 44th Avenue, Amana, Iowa, starts at 7 p.m.

We are screening our production Landmarks in Iowa History #2: Amana, originally aired on February 3, 1959, and Iowa Perspectives, a news story that aired on January 10, 1979.

Peter Hoehnle’s presentation, “Just When You Thought You Had Seen It All…” follows. Hoehnle is a historian from Fire Creek Historical Consulting and an Iowa State alum. He will discuss never before seen images from the Amana Heritage Society and Museum, that were preserved through a grant with the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs Historical Resource Development Program. These images provide a new window on life in Amana.

Save the date for our day at Living History Farms!

Thursday, September 12, Living History Farms, 11121 Hickman Rd., Urbandale, Iowa

Last week

Last Wednesday we visited the Norman Borlaug Heritage Farm and did a screening in the New Oregon #8 school house.

History At Home: Community Archival Film Screenings is funded, in part, by the Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area General Grant Program. This program funds projects dedicated to telling America’s agricultural stories.


History At Home: Community Archival Film Screenings

This summer, we are kicking off our pilot project History At Home: Community Archival Film Screenings. Iowa State University Library Special Collections and University Archives and Preservation have partnered with the Amana Heritage Society Museums, Living History Farms, and the Norman Borlaug Heritage Foundation to share local stories by screening archival agricultural films from our collections.  This project is inspired by the work of film archivist Jane Paul (January 19, 1958–November 13, 2018). Paul spent her career collecting, curating, and presenting film content tailored for regional and multicultural New Zealand audiences.

Next week!

Wednesday, June 12, at the 1915 barn on the Norman Borlaug Heritage Farm, 20399 Timber Avenue, Lawlor, Iowa, from 1 – 3 p.m.

We are bringing two productions: Norman Borlaug – Revolutionary (1971), a film about the Green Revolution, produced by the National Agricultural Chemicals Association, and Dimension 5: World Food and Hunger with Norman Borlaug, a television panel discussion about pesticides and wheat varieties. The Borlaug Foundation also provided untitled home movie footage from Borlaug’s time in Mexico.

In two weeks!

Thursday, June 20, Amana Heritage Auditorium, 705 44th Avenue, Amana, Iowa, starts at 7 p.m.

We are screening our production Landmarks in Iowa History #2: Amana, followed by a presentation by Peter Hoehnle, from Fire Creek Historical Consulting and an Iowa State alum, on the images the Amana Heritage Society & Museum preserved through a grant with the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs Historical Resource Development Program.

Save the date for our day at Living History Farms!

Thursday, September 12, Living History Farms, 11121 Hickman Rd., Urbandale, Iowa

History At Home: Community Archival Film Screenings is funded, in part, by the Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area General Grant Program. This program funds projects dedicated to telling America’s agricultural stories.


LGBT+ History Month: “Early LGBT+ Student Activism / Activismo Estudiantil Temprano LGBT+” by Research Assistant Luis Gonzalez-Diaz

The following post was written by Luis Gonzalez-Diaz, who is working at SCUA this year as an Undergraduate Research Assistant (URA). His project centers around historical LGBT+ communities on the ISU campus. The post today builds upon his previous post, which can be accessed via a link in the text below.

-Rachael Acheson
Assistant University Archivist


Early LGBT+ Student Activism / Activismo Estudiantil Temprano LGBT+

[TRIGGER WARNING: This blog post, or pages it links to, contains information about sexual assault and/or violence which may be triggering to survivors.]

[Advertencia: Este artículo, puede contener material sobre asalto sexual o violencia que podría ser desencadenante para algunos sobrevivientes.]

Continuing the narrative of LGBT+ History Month, an aspect of LGBT+ history that greatly influenced campus life for the community was the activism from the various groups on campus in the 1970s. The first presence of LGBT+ activism on campus started in 1971 with backlash to the controversial play “Boys in the Band” being presented at Iowa State. For more information on that particular event, check out my last article.

Continuando en la narrativa del mes de historia LGBT+, un aspecto de historia que gran mente influenció la vida estudiantil en la universidad, fue el activismo de varios grupos en los 1970’s. La primera presencia de activismo LGBT+ en la universidad, empezó en 1971 con la repercusión causada por la obra teatral controversial “Boys in the Band” siendo presentada. Para más información, verifica mi último artículo.

Boys in the Band Photos, RS 13/23/3, Box 17. / Fotos de “Boys in the Band”, RS 13/23/3, Caja 17

Boys in the Band Photos, RS 13/23/3, Box 17. / Fotos de “Boys in the Band”, RS 13/23/3, Caja 17

Nonetheless, on October 8th, 1974, students from the Gay People’s Alliance and the Lesbian Alliance might have demonstrated one of the biggest acts of activism and resistance in the decade, when they appeared in a local tv station in Ames called WOI-TV. The invitation to participate in the program arose from a controversial episode of Marcus Welby M.D. titled “The Outrage” aired by ABC TV. In the fictional drama, a mother discovers that her teenage boy was sexually assaulted by one of his school teachers when they were out at a camping trip. The teenager nonetheless was too ashamed to admit it to her mother but eventually confessed that it was his male science teacher that had done it.

No obstante, el 8 de octubre de 1974, estudiantes del “Gay People’s Alliance” y el “Lesbian Alliance” demostraron uno de los actos más grandes de activismo y resistencia en la década, cuando aparecieron en una estación de televisión local en Ames llamada WOI-TV. La invitación ocurrió a causa de un episodio controversial de un programa llamado Marcus Welby M.D titulado “The Outrage”, televisado por ABC TV. En el drama ficticio, una madre descubre que su hijo adolescente fue asaltado sexualmente por uno de sus maestros en un viaje estudiantil auspiciado por la escuela. Sin embargo, el niño adolescente estaba demasiado avergonzado para admitirlo ante su madre, pero finalmente confesó que era su maestro de ciencias lo que lo había hecho.

Luis_TheOutrage_IMDBscreenshot

Screenshot of IMDB page for this episode, accessible at the following URL: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0641970/?ref_=ttep_ep16

The airing of this episode caused much outrage for LGBT+ communities nationwide because of the perpetuation of negative light over the community, in a time where LGBT+ activism was just starting. The airing of the episode was a direct attack on the activism that was present at that time. The episode was pulled from communities in Boston and Philadelphia.

La emisión de este episodio causó mucha indignación para las comunidades LGBT + en todo el país debido a la perpetuación de la luz negativa sobre la comunidad, en un momento en el que el activismo LGBT + apenas estaba comenzando. La emisión del episodio fue un ataque directo al activismo que estaba presente en ese momento. El episodio fue retirado de comunidades en Boston y Filadelfia.

Blurry screenshot of an article from the New York Times, October 6, 1974, page 19. To read a clearer digitized copy of this article, visit the following URL: https://www.nytimes.com/1974/10/06/archives/pressure-groups-are-increasingly-putting-the-heat-on-tv-television.html

Blurry screenshot of a New York Times article dated October 6, 1974, page 19. To read a clearer, digitized copy of this article, visit the following URL: https://www.nytimes.com/1974/10/06/archives/pressure-groups-are-increasingly-putting-the-heat-on-tv-television.html

In Ames, the Gay People’s Alliance and the Lesbian Alliance wanted it to be pulled, but WOI-TV was not doing it. The TV station nonetheless, invited both groups to participate in Betty Lou Varnum’s “Dimension Five” program that aired in central Iowa at 10PM. 

En Ames, el “Gay People’s Alliance” y el “Lesbian Alliance” querían que se retirara, pero WOI-TV no lo estaba haciendo. No obstante, la estación de televisión invitó a ambos grupos a participar en el programa “Dimensión Cinco” de Betty Lou Varnum que se emitió en el centro de Iowa a las 10 P. M.

Headshot of Betty Lou Varnum. Screenshot from the video entitled Dimension 5: Gay People Alliance, time 0:30. Varnum is introducing the segment. Follow URL in the caption to see this moment in the video.

Dimension 5: Gay People Alliance, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=heUZADGz66w&t=1882s, 0:30. Betty Lou Varnum is introducing the segment.

The panelists were Carolyn Czerna, Karen Moore, Kay Scott, Connie Tanzo, Steve Court, Jim Osler, David Windom, and Dennis Brumm.

Los panelistas fueron Carolyn Czerna, Karen Moore, Kay Scott, Connie Tanzo, Steve Court, Jim Osler, David Windom y Dennis Brumm.

Screenshot from the video entitled Dimension 5: Gay People Alliance, time 1:39. Carolyn Czerna, Karen Moore, Kay Scott, Connie Tanzo, Steve Court, Jim Osler, David Windom, and Dennis Brumm being introduced. Follow the URL in the caption to see this moment in the video.

Dimension 5: Gay People Alliance, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=heUZADGz66w&t=1882s, 1:39. The panelists are being introduced.

The program talked mostly about the Marcus Welby M.D. episode, as well as many questions that the host had. Further along the night, the phone line was opened for callers, and many people called quoting Bible verses at them, which represented how the LGBT+ community was being perceived in Ames. The segment was viewed so frequently that it had brought back to life the ratings for the show. This broadcast, furthermore, represented how student activism here at Iowa State University has influenced and shaped the views on the LGBT+ community in Iowa, and how they refused to stay silent in the midst of an injustice. The interview is conveniently available to you at the Special Collections and University Archive’s YouTube channel, under “Dimension 5: Gay People Alliance Tape 1”.

El programa hablaba principalmente del episodio de Marcus Welby M.D. así como de las muchas preguntas que tenía el anfitrión. Más a lo largo de la noche, se abrió la línea telefónica para las personas que llamaban, y muchas personas llamaron a citar versículos bíblicos, lo que representaba cómo se percibía a la comunidad LGBT + en Ames. El segmento se veía con tanta frecuencia que había devuelto a la vida las calificaciones para el programa. Además, esta transmisión representó cómo el activismo estudiantil aquí en “Iowa State University” ha influido y configurado las opiniones sobre la comunidad LGBT + en Iowa, y cómo se negaron a permanecer en silencio en medio de una injusticia. La entrevista está disponible para usted en el canal de YouTube de Colecciones Especiales y el Archivo de la Universidad, bajo “Dimensión 5: Gay People Alliance Tape 1“.

Additionally, we have the original Dimension 5 notes for that specific broadcast in the Betty Lou Varnum papers at SCUA [RS 5/6/53].

Además, tenemos las notas originales de Dimensión 5 para esa emisión específica en los documentos de Betty Lou Varnum en SCUA [RS 5/6/53].

Broadcast notes from collection RS 5/6/53

RS 5/6/53

If you have any other materials regarding LGBT+ student life here on campus, please feel free to reach out to the Special Collections and University Archives at ISU to talk about how you can possibly preserve and help us develop the history of the community in the university.

Si tiene cualquier otro material relacionado con la vida estudiantil LGBT + aquí en el campus, no dude en comunicarse con las Colecciones Especiales y los Archivos Universitarios en ISU para hablar sobre cómo posiblemente puede preservar y ayudarnos a desarrollar la historia de la comunidad en la universidad.


In Celebration of 2018 World Day for Audiovisual Heritage “Your Story is Moving” #AudiovisualHeritage #WAVHD

Iowa State University Special Collections and University Archives brings you a compilation of ISU Athletics from our Audiovisual (AV) Collection, in observance of UNESCO’s World Day for Audiovisual Heritage. Enjoy! #AudiovisualHeritage #WAVHD

 

This year the theme of the World Day  for Audiovisual Heritage is “Your Story is Moving”. Here is the CCAAA Board’s official statement about this year’s theme:

Every year millions of people record stories of all varieties on audiovisual media, ranging from narratives of everyday life to historic events. These moments are chronicled and stored each day on multiple formats and media, whether they are digital or analogue. How do we ensure that this ever-growing corpus that is our cultural history today is preserved and exists in the future? And how do we guarantee that this rapidly accumulating, collective moving story of ours is not lost, as much of our history on these fragile media has been over the past 150 years?

Reliably, thousands of archivists, librarians and preservationists around the world strive to make our world’s cultural heritage accessible and safeguard it for the future. In addition to their daily efforts to provide access to historic collections housed in established archives, archivists actively rescue collections in danger of loss or destruction due to poor climates, less than ideal storage conditions, political unrest or the economic challenges that many countries are confronted with daily.

Our stories are moving in many ways. First, they move through the very act of playing this unique material on the original equipment that transports the object as part of viewing or hearing it, whether it is motion picture film, a vinyl record, an audio cassette or a videotape.

Second, as physical objects, made of organic material, these items are constantly and naturally moving through an ongoing state of decay, are deteriorating, and moving towards inaccessibility as they travel through their own timeline. This constant deterioration serves as an even stronger argument for supporting the ongoing efforts of the world’s archivists to preserve our audio-visual heritage.

Third, in countries and institutions with resources available to digitize collections, the rate at which our stories can now quickly move around the globe, thanks to the newest digital communication technologies now allows us to share our stories faster and ever more widely to more locations around the world than ever before.

Lastly, of course, stories move us emotionally. We see this every year on Home Movie Day, an event that provides a moment for publics around the world to bring their visual cultural heritage to archives and libraries, to view, sometimes for the first time in decades.  As they see lost family members, loved ones and ancestors long gone come to life on the screen, tears flow, emotions are high, and these moments of our captured history transport us to new heights as our histories unfold before our eyes. History too comes to life through the power of the moving image and in  sound recordings which connect us personally with those events and moments in time which have shaped our memories and who we are.

On October 27, please join us in celebrating our audio-visual heritage, and help us acknowledge the  work done every day to preserve our stories so that they will endure for future generations.


The Limits of Looking: Landmarks in Iowa History and the White Gaze

By Katie Prout

As the AV and Film Preservationist for ISU’s Special Collections and University’s Archives, I often come across visual and aural content I am tasked to preserve that is beautiful, interesting, and insightful. But sometimes content is the opposite of all those things. So when I came across Herb Hake’s episode Landmarks in Iowa History: Spirit Lake Massacre, a kinescope 16mm black-and-white print, I felt compelled to provide a rebuttal of its narrative. To that end, I am very excited to introduce Katie Prout as my guest blogger. Katie is a writer and graduate of the University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program. She’s currently working on a book about addiction, inheritance, and ghosts. You can read more about her take on Spirit Lake at LitHub. -Rosie Rowe

“If you go to Antigua as a tourist, this is what you will see.” This is the opening line of Jamaica Kincaid’s searing book-length essay A Small Place, and this is what echoed in my head as I watched and then re watched “Landmarks in Iowa History: Spirit Lake Massacre.” Kincaid’s book, an anti-tourist travelogue and history of her native Antigua, reverts the gaze of power by putting the white tourist, the white colonizer, under her critical lens. You think you can know a people just by looking? Fine. Let me take a look at you.

The people doing the looking in “Landmarks in Iowa History: Spirit Lake Massacre” are the tourists in this scenario, though perhaps they wouldn’t see themselves that way, and it’s through their gaze that we, the viewers, are invited to look at an event known as the Spirit Lake Massacre. This short film is one of a series produced by WOI-TV and Iowa State Teachers’ College designed to be a supplemental educational tool for teaching Iowa history in public schools. This film, then, is the official narrative, The Facts of What Happened not to be questioned. It’s easy to imagine children bent over their desks, tongues in the corners of their mouths as they strain to recall what they learned from “Landmarks” for their teacher’s test. The facts, loosely, are this: The winter 1857 was a time of starvation in northwestern Iowa, both for the white settlers who were homesteading beyond federally determined borders and for the native peoples who had first called that land home. That March, members of the Wahpekute Dakota raided the settlers for food, possibly also for revenge for loved ones who died by the hands of white settlers and soldiers—those of Inkpaduta (the man leading the raid) not the least among them. At the three day’s end, over thirty settlers were dead; four white women were kidnapped and held for ransom. Among those four was a girl; a thirteen year-old named Abbie Gardner.

This much is true. It’s also true that tourism has long figured into the economy of  Iowa; indeed, the Gardner family cabin—the essential heart of the Spirit Lake Massacre, the state’s last indigenous-settler conflict in Iowa—later became the state’s first tourist attraction. But is this the truth the film is directing us to see? What does the camera’s lens hide, and what does it really reveal?

From the beginning, “Landmarks in Iowa History: Spirit Lake Massacre” is, knowingly or not, is concerned with who is looking at who and the limits of what can be known through that gaze. The viewer watches the tv (or in my case, the laptop screen). After the opening credits, the camera shows us a white man looking through another camera in turn. We watch him watch nothing. This man is teacher and historian Herb Hake, one of the show’s two co-hosts, and he’s pretending to do that time-honored tourist tick—take photos of a historic site. After a beat, Hake straightens up and winds his camera as he smiles sheepishly into ours. “Well boys and girls, it’s another beautiful day to take pictures, isn’t it?” Dressed in a jacket and cap, as though he’s greeting us from the Iowan outdoors, the host in fact stands on a studio stage. Behind him, a not-quite life-sized backdrop of the Gardner Cabin gleams, shiny with shellacked light. “Today, we’re going to take pictures of this Gardner cabin. You see it here in the background,” Hake says, gesturing to the blown-up photograph behind him. The studio lights invoke sunlight, the photograph of the cabin is a facsimile of the real thing, and the cabin itself is a stand-in for Abbie Gardner, the only survivor of the family who once called the cabin home, and from whose memoir much of the information shared on “Landmarks in Iowa History: Spirit Lake Massacre” is obtained. “As the announcer said, we are in the Great Lakes region today.” As Hake speaks, the gaze of the camera stays narrow enough to hide the stage wiring from our view, but not so narrow that we can’t see co-host Irving Hart’s elbow waiting in the lower left-hand corner of the screen. Specific locations in the Great Lakes region are named to further assist the construction of our belief.

With this, the viewer enters the white imagination, but that imagination is presented as fact. Hake-as-host is grave and charming, a kind of history-loving Mr. Rogers, but the imaginative play presented before us is no game. When dealing with the magic of television, how are we to understand the reality of the warfare described? What are the young students, for whom this film was originally intended, to take away? The film goes on to present more facsimiles, reproductions, artifacts that are similar and or closely related to the real thing, but that thing they are not. In “Landmarks,” the viewer is caught in the strange place of being asked to believe but also to do the work of creating a thing to believe in. We’re to take as fact what we see, but what we see is itself a stand-in, a reproduction, a retelling of the real thing.

Here’s why this matters. In an era of fake news, the more difficult work is in looking at an incident of violence not as an isolated aberration, but as a complex response to a chain of events that stretches back and forth in time. This film was made in the 1950s, but historians should know that in any decade. The hosts of “Landmarks,” describe the violence perpetrated by the Wahpekute against the settlers in detail, with words like “ruthless,” and “dragged,” but they don’t explain that the federal government was terribly late on annuity payments to the tribe, payments that might’ve been able to keep the tribes from having to choose between raids and starvation. Hake describes Inkpaduta a “big, ugly-looking Indian,” inviting the viewer to imagine all kinds of racist caricatures, but he doesn’t explain that this “ugliness” comes from horrific smallpox scars, a European disease sometimes deliberately introduced to indigenous populations by colonizers as a method of biowarfare. The camera eventually shows us a picture of a memorial near the Gardner cabin, constructed in memory of the settlers who died; the memory of the Wahpekute is represented to the arrow-shaped stone at the top of the memorial, reducing them to nothing more than weapons, objects of death.

Towards the end of the film, the camera lingers on a picture Hake tacks up to an easel. The picture is of one of the cabin’s inside walls. On this wall, an oil painting hangs, depicting burning cabins, teepees, and cold snow. Again, we have our gaze directed to another reproduction, but this one was created by a survivor who was there. Remember Your History, Gardner admonished. She painted these words on the bottom of a painting much like this one, one of a series of scenes from the memories that haunted her. This film brought to my mind Kincaid’s A Small Place, but Gardner, a very different woman, also wrote down her observations of a land and its history; first as a settler, then as a captive of the people who her kind forcibly replaced:

“In [writing this memoir], I hope to benefit myself, pay a lasting tribute to the memory of those whose lives were consecrated to civilization, and save from oblivion the historical matter within these pages.”

History, as is so often said, is written by the victors, and it seems that educational television programming is too.  While Gardner was absolutely a victim, it is her written testimony of the conflict that has been preserved and saved, and it is this version that is preserved and uplifted by “Landmarks.” Nowhere in her above sentence, quoted from the beginning pages of her memoir, is there mention of the lives of the Wahpekute; their version of history is not the “historical matter” Gardner is concerned with saving from oblivion. Working to recognize indigenous experiences and perspectives alongside those of white settlers would undoubtedly lead to another kind of conflict; an ideological one, with educators and historians striving to understand who shares what responsibility in violence, and why, and what can be done to repair that violence rather than replicate it again. This kind of history would create programming less easily reduced to symbols, more uncomfortable for some viewers to look at, but perhaps it would show us something more true.


Ralph Ellison, Film, Jazz, and Cultural Memory Gaps

On 18 March 1970, Ralph Ellison spoke at ISU as part of the University’s Lecture Series program. Mr. Ellison was a 20th-century, African American author, whose first and only novel, Invisible Man, won the National Book Award. In spite of his renown, the lecture was not recorded (or, if it was, apparently did not survive). Nor have I been able to locate any documentation about his lecture. I’m left wondering how he would have engaged with the Iowa State audience. I wonder whether he spoke about his love of jazz and how music influenced his writing.

Ralph copy

WOI TV News Clip 452 (AV07469) 16MM single perf  image of  Ralph Ellison 1970

Charles ‘Buddy’ Bolden (1877-1931) was a well-known, African American coronet player and a progenitor of the jazz movement in New Orleans. His trombonist claimed that at least one cylinder phonograph was made of Bolden’s music at the turn of the century by a local New Orleans saloon owner, but no known recordings have survived. Major music industry labels – Edison, Columbia, and the Berliner – regularly paid white artists to record Black music. In fact, the earliest known jazz recording is a 1917 album by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, an all-white group. So, despite its apparent uniqueness, labeling the Original Dixieland Jazz Band recording as a foundational document of jazz would be a misrepresentation of American history. In doing so, we would be ignoring the racism of the music industry that refused to record Black musicians and erasing the people and communities who were the actual creators of this American art form.

The loss of early jazz recordings – probably through neglect and mishandling – is one of the greatest examples we have of a cultural memory gap.

Cultural memory gaps within memory institutions are why modern archiving practices are slowly shifting toward intentionally collecting and prioritizing records of marginalized communities. This is why Black Archives, and other archives focused on marginalized communities, are so important. But we shouldn’t rely solely on these dedicated institutions to do ALL the collecting, prioritizing, and describing of these records. All archives must be responsible for hiring staff that can properly identify and interpret the records of marginalized communities. And as archivists, all of us share in the responsibility of preserving them.

Film and audio-visual (AV) records already have notoriously patchy documentation. What records have been collected have often not been effectively described. Combine that inherent lack of information with institutional and societal-level systems that, whether intentionally or unintentionally, erase the work of marginalized groups, and we are left with a huge cultural memory gap. We have little film and sound recordings from marginalized communities at ISU.

The scarcity of these records makes the ones that we DO have even more valuable. I happened upon one of those valuable records while wrangling the Iowa State University Film Collections.

What we do know about Ralph Ellison’s visit to ISU is that Dorcas Speer, a WOI TV reporter, interviewed him before his lecture. That the interview was filmed, and that I was able to find it. This footage is from the WOI Radio and Television collection (more information about this collection is here). We are working towards making WOI TV’s film collection more discoverable for researchers in the near future.  To see the interview, watch  here.


Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Public Broadcasting Act #PubMedia50 @amarchivepub: Audiovisual Preservation

Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) have joined the American Archive of Public Broadcasting’s month-long celebration of the Public Broadcasting Act’s 50th Anniversary by posting content throughout the month of November to celebrate the history and preservation of public broadcasting! This is our fifth and last post commemorating the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 and this week I’m highlighting some recent actions we’ve taken to preserving our audiovisual collections, which includes our collections related to public broadcasting.

For our current initiatives, we’ve been focused on audiovisual preservation. Last spring, we hired Rosie Rowe, our Audiovisual Preservation Specialist. This is a new position, charged with providing guidance on our audiovisual preservation and access workflow.

AV digitization workstation 1

Video Preservation Rack (Courtesy of Brad Kuennen).

AV digitization workstation 2

Audio Preservation Rack (in process) (Courtesy of Brad Kuennen).

Through the acquisition of equipment from other campus units and purchasing other needed tools, Rosie has constructed a Video Preservation Rack. She has developed a digitization workflow and is currently training students to assist with some of that work. She is in the process of constructing an audio preservation workstation. Through her initiative and in collaboration with other department staff, she has developed an audiovisual access policy based on principles of best practices for preservation, identified priority collections for digitization, and improved intellectual control over collections. This work will greatly benefit our audiovisual collections so that they can be better preserved, managed, and shared.

This post was co-written by Rachel Seale, outreach archivist, & Brad Kuennen, university archivist.

 


Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Public Broadcasting Act #PubMedia50 @amarchivepub: Iowa’s First Educational Television Station

Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) have joined the American Archive of Public Broadcasting’s month-long celebration of the Public Broadcasting Act’s 50th Anniversary by posting content throughout the month to celebrate the history and preservation of public broadcasting! This is our fourth post commemorating the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 and this week we’re focusing on Iowa’s first educational television station, WOI-TV, to showcase the variety of public broadcasting programs we are preserving.

This photograph shows Exhibit Hall at Iowa State University in 1953. The signal tower is in the background. A sign on the door says: WOI-TV Studios. A women is walking to the door. Snow is on the ground.

Exhibit Hall. The signal tower is in the background. A sign on the door says: WOI-TV Studios. (University Photographs, RS 4/8/I).

WOI-TV first aired in central Iowa in February 1950. The station was owned and operated by Iowa State University (at the time known as Iowa State College) until it was sold to a private company in 1994. WOI-TV has the distinction of being the first commercial television station owned by a public institution of higher learning and it is thought to be the first television station in the nation dedicated to educational programming.

During the 1950s, WOI-TV developed a diverse schedule of local programming. It was one of the first television stations to broadcast college-level courses. It also developed children’s programming, including The Magic Window, which would become one of the longest-running programs in the history of television. WOI-TV provided viewers an opportunity to explore the state’s history through a series called Landmarks in Iowa History starring Herb Hake, a professor from the University of Northern Iowa. It brought the citizens of Iowa into some of Iowa’s state institutions, such as the prison system and the mental health facilities, in the award-winning series In Our Care. Viewers could learn from Iowa State faculty as they presented programs on entry-level German in Eins Zwei Drei or beginning chemistry in Chemistry 101. The station also broadcast programs on current affairs and, this being Iowa, on agriculture.

Black-and-white photograph of woman with ahir in updo, wearing dark dress, holding a puppet on her left hand (Betty Lou [McVay] Varnum) on the set of The Magic Window on WOI-TV in 1957. Betty Lou is standing next to a desk and there is another puppet on the desk.

Betty Lou (McVay) Varnum on the set of The Magic Window on WOI-TV, 1957 (University Photographs, RS 5/6).

One of the more successful early programs resulted from a $260,000 grant from the Ford Foundation’s Fund for Adult Education. The resulting project was a series of public affairs programs called The Whole Town’s Talking. The programs, directed by Charles Guggenheim, aired in 1952 and illustrated some of the challenges rural Iowa communities were facing, including school consolidation, juvenile delinquency, and paying for community infrastructure projects. The programs centered around town hall meetings featuring members of the community discussing possible solutions to their community’s needs.

WOI-TV also produced a number of programs sponsored by National Educational Television (NET), the predecessor to PBS. These programs included some mentioned previously aimed at children and college-level instruction (The Magic Window, Eins Zwei Drei), but also other programs focused on international affairs, history, and literature. The Long Voyage brought classical literature to the small screen, Heritage of the Land discussed U.S. land usage and the environment, and Of Men and Ideas dealt with topics of a more abstract nature such as imagination, ethics, and governance.

By 1960, WOI-TV became the ABC affiliate of central Iowa and educational programming became less of a priority. Fortunately, many of these earlier programs survived on 16mm film and were eventually transferred to the ISU Library Special Collections and University Archives. Some of these programs have been digitized and made available online through the department’s YouTube channel. It’s interesting to look back and see how television has changed since those early shows were produced.

 


Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Public Broadcasting Act #PubMedia50 @amarchivepub: Educational Television

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National Educational Television presents The Magic Window program, 1956 [ISU Special Collections and University Archives, WOI-TV]

Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) have joined the American Archive of Public Broadcasting’s month-long celebration of the Public Broadcasting Act’s 50th Anniversary! We’re posting content throughout the month to celebrate the history and preservation of public broadcasting. This is our third post commemorating the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, and this week we are highlighting the longest-running, locally produced children’s educational television program ever made in America: The Magic Window.

 

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Intro title of The Magic Window, 1954 [ISU Special Collections and University Archives, WOI-TV]

“The Magic Window, which for forty years was hosted by a woman named Betty Lou Varnum. In every episode, Betty Lou would introduce a craft-making segment by announcing the materials needed. These were always kid-safe items that could be found around the house. But the kids had to find everything fast, really fast or Betty Lou would go on without them.” –The Girls from Ames: A Story of Women and a Forty-Year Friendship by Jeffrey Zaslow (Gotham, 2010)

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Frame still from The Magic Window, 1956 [ISU Special Collections and University Archives, WOI-TV]

Betty Lou Varnum was a TV personality at WOI-TV in central Iowa. She began her career in 1954 as host of a program for children, “The Magic Window.” She also hosted other WOI-TV programs “Dimension 5,” “Status 6,” and “Stringer’s Newscast.” Varnum was an announcer for a number of televised VEISHEA parades at Iowa State University and Iowa State Fair parades in Des Moines, Iowa. She retired from WOI-TV in 1994.

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Betty Lou Varnum, host of The Magic Window, 1955 [ISU Special Collections and University Archives, WOI-TV]

 


Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Public Broadcasting Act #PubMedia50 @amarchivepub: WOI Radio and Television Records

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) will be joining the American Archive of Public Broadcasting‘s month-long celebration of the Public Broadcasting Act’s 50th Anniversary by posting content throughout the month to celebrate the history and preservation of public broadcasting!

This week’s post will highlight our WOI Radio and Television Records (RS 5/6/3).

WOI-AM went on the air on April 28, 1922, with regular market news broadcasts. During the next 25 years, the scope of station programming expanded to encompass all areas of Iowa State‘s activities including agricultural programming, programs for homemakers, lectures, forums, and classical music. On July 1, 1949, WOI-FM became one of the first FM stations in Iowa when it started broadcasting. In 2004, WOI Radio became part of Iowa Public Radio.

Iowa State’s WOI radio room, circa 1920s (University Photographs RS 5/6).

WOI-TV went on the air in February 1950 and for several years was the first station in central Iowa to offer a regular schedule of programming. It was the first television station owned and operated by an institution of higher learning and was noteworthy for its early experiments in Kinescope recording techniques. WOI-TV was sold to Capital Communications Company, Inc. in 1994.

Photograph of Barbara McWhorter, the VEISHEA Queen of Queens for 1951, on WOI-TV (University Photographs RS 22/12).

This collection contains correspondence, news clippings, reports, brochures and other publications, and minutes from WOI Board meetings. The records also include information on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) licensing and the tax cases in which WOI was involved. In addition, the records include scripts and other documents for various WOI Radio and Television programs, such as “The Prairie Valley Intelligencer” and “The Homemaker’s Half-Hour.” There are also audience surveys, Nielson Ratings showing the station in comparison to other area stations, and programming schedules.