Virtual Access to Digital Records

The Special Collections & University Archives department has been closed to the public since March 18. That’s 47 (as of 5/21) business days and counting without researchers being able to visit and use our collections. It became clear early on that we would not be returning to campus any time soon, and we needed to provide virtual access to our collections as much as possible. So we are!

Since we don’t currently have a way to share born digital records, we’re creating an access copy of the original files and saving these to This method of access is only temporary, and will change once we find a long term solution.

How to Find Digital Records

Not all of our collections have born digital records. To see what is available, navigate to our catalog, CARDinal; from the SCUA homepage scroll to the bottom and click on the large icon for CARDinal.

The CARDinal icon, found at the lower left hand corner of the Special Collections & University Archives website.

CARDinal will open in a new window. Click on the Advanced Search button in the top yellow bar. Type “Digital Records” in the Titles field, and select the “series” option under Parts(“levels”) of Description; click Search.

Note: If you search for “Digital Records” in the Quick Search, your results will include descriptions without links to digital records. Only results with the title Digital Records will have any records for you to view online.

Search criteria are shown highlighted in red.

Once you have found a collection within the results list that interests you, click on the Display Finding Aid link right under the collection name.

The Display Finding Aid button is highlighted in red.

The finding aid will open directly to the Digital Records series. You will find information about how many digital files are available, a brief description of what they are, how they are arranged, and most importantly, a link to the actual digital records.

The link to digital records in the Electronic Resources section is highlighted in red.

Clicking on the link in the Electronic Resources section will take you directly to the folder in Here you will be able to view any born digital records for the collection, but will not be able to download them.

A preview of the digital records available.

A few extra notes about digital records:

  1. We are still adding links to collections as fast as we can, so please continue to check back.
  2. Some files do not preview well in Box. If you find a record you cannot preview, please email with the details (collection number, folder name, file name) so we can troubleshoot.
  3. The process we’ve used here does not follow our digital processing and preservation work flow, however the original materials are still being preserved and have not been altered.

I hope all our readers are doing well and staying healthy! If you have any feedback or need assistance finding digital records please email us at

CEAH partnership

As part of our #COVID-19 Stories Project we’re happy to announce a partnership with the Center for Excellence in the Arts & Humanities (CEAH) to archive faculty responses to the pandemic. CEAH is offering mini grants of up to $250 to faculty to create a local record of their experiences during these trying times. We will work with Digital Initiatives to preserve and provide access to these narratives in the ISU Digital Repository. Read more on the CEAH funding site.

For more info about our COVID-19 Stories Project visit:

ISU Stories – Kaelyn Swetala

I feel like the coronavirus was on my radar earlier than most people, at least in the US. I knew people who had been in Wuhan, China over the summer and I, personally, had gone to Vietnam during that time. I made friends there and I had seen some of their experiences before it occurred here in America. When I first heard about it, though, I was confused. My parents own a dog daycare and they have required shots that dogs need to have before coming in. One of them is for a version of the coronavirus, also known as kennel cough.

I can remember a phone call with my parents around the beginning of January. They mentioned the coronavirus and said they weren’t sure why, but they were more concerned about this disease than others they’ve heard on the news in the past. They weren’t necessarily worried, they were just more aware of it. I am a part of an organization called International Friendship Connection, so after this call, I talked to my friends in this group. There are a few people from China in that group and others from different Asian countries. I talked with them over the course of January and February about their families at home and how they’ve been affected. Most of their families have been safe, even up until now, so that has been good news.

I was also planning on going to China this summer for a research internship. That was the first thing to get canceled. This happened before the coronavirus really hit America. I was already missing out on experiences before people here really understood what was going on.

Then it came to America. It had seemed like we were going to be fine for a little bit and then all of a sudden we were not. I kept hearing about more and more cases in the US. Suddenly it was all anyone ever talked about. I got really tired of talking about it. I still hadn’t known anyone personally affected by the disease and I had seen a lot of different information on the low death rates. Even though I knew there was a high infection rate because of the incubation period, I thought the reaction was a little over the top. I didn’t understand the point of flattening the curve at first, but I soon learned its importance.

When I first heard the news of schools being cancelled, I was in disbelief. I wasn’t aware at the time that my Vietnamese friends had already had their schools cancelled for a month at that point. I thought it was crazy that our university would go online for two weeks. It blew my mind that other schools were already doing that for the rest of the semester. As I thought about it more, I realized it would probably happen with our school too.

I think it finally hit me when my spring break trip was cancelled. I was going on a roadtrip to CA with people who had been living in Ames (there were no confirmed cases in Ames at that point) and we would be camping outdoors for the trip. That was such a low-risk trip compared to how spring break could be. But it was through the school, and they made their decision. They really

held out on giving us that verdict, though. I didn’t find out until 2 days before it was cancelled. That’s when I started realizing how serious it might be. I decided to go to Indiana with some friends just to do something rather than nothing for the break. Every day on that trip, I was learning about more closures and developments. We even had tocome home early because we heard Illinois might be closing its borders.

I made the decision to bring my plants home from my college apartment when I went back to Minnesota for the rest of spring break. I also brought all of my clothes home and my more important items. I’m glad I did becauselater I found out school would be online for the rest of the semester. I haven’t been back to Ames since spring break. I still have a lot of things I left behind and will need to get at some point.

The things I miss the most are the clubs I’m a part of. I am very involved in campus life and it’s been hard not being able to do them, especially because I’ve been doing most of them since Freshman year. I choreographed a dance for Orchesis II and the show got cancelled. I can redo it next semester, but all of my dancers were graduating seniors except for 2. It won’t be the same. I have continued to keep contact with people on Zoom calls, but that’s still not the same.

Now, I’m finally adjusting to working at my parent’s home. I tend to have the “it’s just a break” attitude because I’m only ever home when I’m on a break. Classes haven’t been too terrible online, but it’s hard to concentrate when you have a dog jumping on your laptop and your family is having fun while you need to work.

It’s also hard to do labs. The best part of labs are putting theories into practice and now all I do is watch videos of it and do technical report write-ups. I chose mechanical engineering because it was more hands-on, so this has been a bit of a letdown. My professors and TAs are doing the best they can, however, and I am grateful for the chance to complete them this semester. I already am graduating a semester later due to a co-op. It would be such a bummer to have to push it back even farther. I never thought I would say this, but I am glad that I didn’t graduate this semester. I would’ve missed out on a lot of last moments as a college student and I wouldn’t be able to walk for my graduation ceremony.

ISU COVID-19 Stories Project

We are pleased to launch the ISU COVID-19 Stories Project to  document and preserve the ISU communities’ experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic.  ISU students, faculty, staff, and community members are invited to share their experiences and thoughts during this unprecedented time. All stories are welcome.  The Archives will gather these materials and create a digital collection, as a contribution to the historical documentation of these events. 

For more information visit our website, which includes instructions, links for uploading stories or linking independent projects, and a sign up for oral history interviews. Questions can be sent to

See also our Tell Your Story Project to see how Library student workers are responding to the pandemic.

Learning with Primary Sources: April Edition

Welcome everyone! This is my second post in our Learning with Primary Sources series. This series focuses on teaching primary source literacy and includes primary sources available online. I will include digitized materials from our collections and collections available from other institutions.

What are primary sources?

Primary sources are first hand accounts of events. They come in a variety of formats including, but not limited to, photographs, meeting minutes, correspondence, newspaper articles, diaries, social media posts, autobiographies, oral histories, and news clips. They do not have to be historic events —documenting one’s every day life provides evidence of how we live now to future generations. Think of how much life has changed from when you were a kid to now, much less the lives of older generations.

Why should primary sources be included in the curriculum?

Using primary source materials

  • improves critical thinking and research skills,
  • engages students by making historical events more personal which helps them view history as a sequence of human events instead of distant historical events, and
  • encourages students to use evidence for their research.

ISU Lecture Series

The ISU Lecture Series is a collection that includes political debates, academic forums, and cultural events. It includes performances — music, art, dance, and film. These lectures are from the Iowa State Lecture Series that continues today.


Have students listen to a lecture. Ask them to note names, terms, phrases, and any other language they are not familiar with. Have group discussion with students discussing lecture.

*If you do not have the means to facilitate online discussions, you can use the questions for students to submit writing prompts.*

  • What was it about?
  • What did they learn?
  • Any questions?

Then let students google names and any other terminology they had noted that they were not familiar with. Then you can have another discussion on having contextual information affects their understanding of the lecture.

  • How does the additional information affect their initial conclusions?
  • What other questions are raised with this more complete picture?
  • How does this topic relate to what is happening in the world today?
  • What would be lost if this lecture had not been recorded?

If conversation is lagging, brainstorm words that describe the lecture and topic of the lecture. Use these words to brainstorm possible research topics. Or, you can use those words to connect to current events and discuss those current events.

The Equal Rights Amendment

This is a set of primary sources that have been digitized and are hosted by the Digital Public Library of America. They come from a variety of institutions. There are tips for each resource on what students should focus on. A teacher’s guide and links to additional resources are also included.


This is a resource that includes digitized historical documents from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). This site also has document analysis tools and interactive activities for teachers to use with their students. I have just started to experiment using this site but I can tell you there is a lot of material that has been scanned. American history will be the emphasis here because the NARA preserves the historical records of the U.S. government. An account is not required in order to access the historical documents, analysis tools, and activities that have already been created by the educators from NARA. However, you must create an account to create your own activities. It is free to create an account and very little personal information is collected.


Iowa State University Library Special Collections and University Archives Audiovisual Collections

Digital Public Library: Primary Source Sets

DocsTeach: the online tool for teaching with documents, from the National Archives


Learning with Primary Sources

Since many students are engaged in virtual learning, I am starting a new blog series that shares digitized primary sources that can be incorporated into class lessons.  I am including digitized material from our collections, but am using collections and lessons from Library of Congress and Digital Public Library of America also.

What are primary sources

Primary sources are first hand accounts of events. They come in a variety of formats including, but not limited to, photographs, meeting minutes, correspondence, newspaper articles, diaries, social media posts, autobiographies, oral histories, and news clips. They do not have to be historic events —documenting one’s every day life provides evidence of how we live now to future generations. Think of how much life has changed from when you were a kid to now, much less the lives of older generations.

Why should primary sources be included in the curriculum?

Using primary source materials

  • improves critical thinking and research skills,
  • engages students by making historical events more personal which helps them view history as a sequence of human events instead of distant historical events, and
  • encourages students to use evidence for their research.

Bomb (Iowa State University’s Yearbook)

The Bomb was Iowa State’s yearbook from 1893–1994 and the digital collection includes the full run of yearbooks.

  • Take 10 minutes flipping through a yearbook, any year (though you can also assign a year if that fits in with other lessons). Pick out another yearbook, at least 2 decades apart from first yearbook and spend 10 minutes browsing.
    • What did the yearbooks have in common? What was different? Give 3 possibilities that explain the differences.
    • What do the yearbooks tell you about student life at Iowa State? What information about student life is missing that you would be interested in knowing about?

Rosa Parks: A Primary Source Gallery

This is from the Library of Congress and is appropriate for students of all ages.This gallery highlights pieces from the Rosa Parks Papers and includes teaching ideas, a primary source analysis tool, and access to additional teaching guides for analyzing primary source materials.

Lyrical Legacy: 400 Years of American Song and Poetry

This is from the Library Congress and includes songs and poems represented by digitized primary source documents from the Library of Congress’ collection, along with historical context for the songs and poems. This site includes analysis tools and activity ideas.

The United Farm Workers and the Delano Grape Strike

This set of primary sources comes from the Digital Public Library of America. It contains digitized material from various institutions and includes additional online resources and a teaching guide.

My selections for today’s primary source sets and collections is random because I want to give you all an idea of the various subjects and types of materials that are available. Stay tuned for my next installment in April!


Iowa State University Library Digital Collections

Library of Congress: Teachers

Digital Public Library: Primary Source Sets


Weird, Wacky, Wonderful: “Adulting” is Hard

I’m back with another interesting thing I found while helping answer reference questions. When doing some research on the houses at Pammel Court, I came across an amusing description of the lack of “adulting” skills of some of the residents:

Page 162 from “The First 100 Years of Residential Housing at Iowa State University 1868-1968” by J.C. Schilletter

The Pammel Court houses were first occupied in 1946, and, as this book was published in 1970, we can assume this story took place in that twenty-five(ish) year span. To my fellow Millenials, here is some ammunition for the next time someone decries our generation; it seems that even the Greatest Generation endured some growing pains when entering adulthood and running their homes. As we see so often in history, it seems that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

#TBT June Wedding

Bridesmaid, wedding, day and two visiting dresses all with large bustles. (published by Les Modes Parisiennes:Peterson's Magazine 1883)

June is a perennially popular month for weddings, so today we are taking a glance at the wedding attire of days gone by. Today’s Throwback Thursday image is from our fashion plate collection and is from an issue of Peterson’s Magazine in 1883. The two dresses on the far left are a bridesmaid’s dress and a wedding dress. As you can see, the tradition of wearing a white dress must date back from at least the late-19th century. It looks like it was also popular to have the bridesmaids wear a brightly colored dress for the occasion.

If you’re interested in seeing more fashion images, please visit our digital collection. You can also visit the archives to see the originals in the Mary Barton Fashion Illustration Collection.

HBCU Connections at Iowa State University

By Shaina Destine, Residency Librarian

Archives, all across the United States, have historically been venues that excluded the voices of marginalized communities.  That is problematic for many reasons but most importantly future generations will not have a full picture of history as it happened.  When multiple segments of a story are discarded, the story is far from reality and can be distorted in any way that suits the desired narrative.  That is a powerful and dangerous weapon.  My calling as an archivist is to fill in those gaps. More than accuracy, archives are a stamp that someone was here.  Archives are a stamp that someone did something. It is a tool of empowerment.  Representation is a necessity for communities that have been silenced for generations.

The HBCU Connections at ISU, a wiki featuring black ISU alumni who learned and worked at historically black colleges and universities (HBCU), was a labor of love and of duty.  It was my responsibility.  Black students have been here at Iowa State.  They have accomplished things that people at the time – and people now – could not even imagine.  However, there was very little evidence of them in our archive, so I began to research.  In the early part of the 20th century, black people were suffering, living and dying under Jim Crow laws but still had this resilient spirit and desire to give back to their communities through education.  HBCUs were in their infancy, but were essential in this endeavor.  Through my research, I found that many black people, who passed through Iowa State for undergraduate or graduate degrees, went on to – or in some cases, back to – HBCUs to build the school and, in essence, the black community.

This project covers any black Iowa State alumni from 1900 to 1950 who went on to serve at an HBCU in any capacity.  It features professors to presidents. It is meant to be a living platform that can be updated as additional information becomes available and uncovered.  *If you have any updated information to add to this project, please email it with sources to

HBCU Atwood

Screenshot of “Rufus B. Atwood,” HBCU Connections. Iowa State University.

This project is also meant to bridge the gap between the Iowa State University archives and the archives at the various HBCUs with whom I communicated.  HBCU archives are traditionally under-funded and under-resourced.  My hope is that this bridge is helpful to them in some way.  Lastly, my hope is that this project is helpful to future scholars who need to see the stamp of their ancestors and follow the breadcrumbs that they left us on how to help raise up the community.

I am extremely proud of this project.  I am glad that the Special Collections and University Archives at Iowa State University Library gave me the opportunity to create it.  I am glad that there is more research and platforms like this on its way (stay tuned!). I’m so happy that I had a mentor like Harrison Inefuku, scholarly publishing services librarian, to teach me so much in the process.  And lastly, I’m glad that I have created my stamp on the archives and brought these stories to the fore.  Please enjoy: