#ERecsDay 2015

Electronic Records Day logo

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

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

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

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


Upcoming: You know you want to #AskAnArchivist

Information desk in Iowa State College library. Ida Robertson, cataloger, helps student look up reference in card file. Kathryn Renfro, cataloger, at information desk looks up some information in a reference book, 1945. University Archives Photograph Collection, box 2046.

Information desk in Iowa State College library, 1945. University Archives Photograph Collection, box 2046.

Have a burning archives question? Always wondered just what it is we do around here, anyway? Want to know how to do your own personal digital archiving or take care of those treasured family documents? Well, you’re in luck because #AskAnArchivist Day is just around the corner!

On October 1, the archivists here at Iowa State University Special Collections and University Archives will be joining our colleagues around the country on Twitter to answer your questions about any and all things archives. This day-long event, sponsored by the Society of American Archivists, will give you the opportunity to connect directly with archivists in your community—and around the country—to ask questions, get information, or just satisfy your curiosity.

To participate, just tweet a question and include the hashtag #AskAnArchivist in your tweet. If you want to reach us, include our Twitter handle (@ISU_Archives).

We hope to see you there! It’s going to be awesome!



Happy 20th birthday Reiman Gardens!

Bird house in Reiman Gardens (RS 5/7/3/0/5, box 1, folder 1)

Bird house in Reiman Gardens (RS 5/7/3/0/5, box 1, folder 1)

 

Educate, enchant, and inspire an appreciation of plants, butterflies, and the beauty of the natural world.

– Reiman Gardens Mission Statement

Reiman Gardens turns 20 this year. The university’s old horticultural garden (est. 1914), the predecessor to Reiman Gardens, was greatly expanded and moved to its present location to serve as an attractive entrance to the Iowa State University campus. Construction began in 1994 and the garden was officially dedicated on September 16, 1995.

Reiman Gardens is the largest public garden in Iowa.

Read More


Happy Founders Day!

Today (March 22, 2015), Iowa State University is 157!

North-east from Main, 1888. (DOI: 04-08-K_AerialViews_0359-01-002)

An early view of campus – northeast from Main, 1888. (DOI: 04-08-K_AerialViews_0359-01-002)

Iowa State University (then the Iowa State Agricultural College and Model Farm) was officially established on March 22, 1858 when the charter act establishing a state agricultural college became law. It took approximately 9 years before the first classes began.

A brief timeline of Iowa State University’s founding:

  • March 22, 1858 – The Iowa State Agricultural College and Model Farm was established via the legislature of the State of Iowa
  • June 21, 1859 – a 648 acre farm in Story County was selected as the site for the campus
  • 1861 – construction was  completed on the Farm House (the first building on campus)
  • 1862 – Iowa was the first state in the nation to accept the provisions of the Morrill Act, ensuring funding for ISU (then College)
  • March 17, 1869 – the inauguration of the College and the installation of the president and faculty
The first faculty meeting minutes every recorded. RS 8/3/3, Ledger 1.

The first faculty meeting minutes ever recorded at Iowa State University. (RS 8/3/3, Ledger 1.)

The Special Collections department helped celebrate the 150th anniversary of the founding in the 2007-2008 academic year by initiating an oral history project to document “Cyclone stories” – interviews with alumni, staff, students, faculty, and any other Cyclones. Some audio and transcription excerpts are available online.  Learn more about ISU’s founding at our Sesquicentennial exhibit: “1858-2008, 150 Years of Excellence” and the associated campus timeline.


March 4 Event: “Early Natural History Texts: The Roots of American Environmentalism”

Audubon Birds of America_plate28

Snowy Owls from John James Audubon’s Birds of America, 1840 (call number QL674, Volume 1, plate 28)

We are pleased to announce that next week we will be holding a special event showcasing a number of our natural history texts.  This is one of several Center for Excellence in the Arts and Humanities events being held this year.  Matthew Sivils, associate professor of English and the 2015 CEAH Fellow in the Arts and Humanities, will provide a brief overview of the texts which will be displayed, which includes works by influential eighteenth- and nineteenth-century naturalists such as Mark Catesby and John James Audubon.

You can find details on this event and others on the Center for Excellence in the Arts and Humanities website:

The seeds of America’s environmental identity were first planted by a handful of eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century naturalist-explorers. These naturalists—who were as much artists and poets as scientists—made it their mission to discover, record, and share North America’s natural diversity. These volumes, published by figures such as Mark Catesby, Alexander Wilson, and John James Audubon, contain powerful descriptions and stunning illustrations of the plants and animals that would come to define the land. Professor Sivils will provide a brief overview of some of the most influential of these texts, followed by a viewing of rare natural history volumes housed in the ISU Library’s Department of Special Collections.

Professor Sivils will give his talk in the 405 classroom adjacent to the Special Collections Department.  Following his presentation, there will be an opportunity to view a selection of our natural history texts in the Special Collections Reading Room.

“Early Natural History Texts: The Roots of American Environmentalism”
March 4, 7:00–8:00 p.m., Special Collections Department, Parks Library

Below is a sampling of what you will see if you’re able to attend the event next Wednesday:

The Aurelian. A natural history of English moths and butterflies, together with the plants on which they feed. Also a faithful account of their respective changes, their usual haunts when in the winged state, and their standard names as established by the Society of Aurelians. / Drawn engraved and coloured from the natural subjects. By Moses Harris. 1766. (QL542.4 H242a)

The Aurelian, 1766 (call number QL542.4 H242a)

The full title of the book pictured above is:  The Aurelian: A natural history of English moths and butterflies, together with the plants on which they feed. Also a faithful account of their respective changes, their usual haunts when in the winged state, and their standard names as established by the Society of Aurelians. / Drawn engraved and coloured from the natural subjects. By Moses Harris, 1766.  (Wondering what “aurelian” means?  It’s an older world for lepidopterist.  A lepidopterist studies or collects butterflies and moths.)

historia stirpium-pg52

De historia stirpium commentarii insignes… by Leonard Fuchs, 1542 (call number QK41 .F951d)

The “De Historia Stirpium, or Notable commentaries on the history of plants, contains 497 descriptions in Latin of plants, with woodcuts based on first-hand observation.  Early herbals often contained depictions of plants which were not based on actual specimens, but on depictions from other books.  As a result, these illustrations were often inaccurate.  The De Historia Stirpium was the first herbal to illustrate native plants from the Americas.  More on Leonhart Fuchs’ herbals can be found in our online exhibit.

We are looking forward to next week’s event (March 4, 7-8pm), and hope we will see you there!


Special Collections bids farewell to Stephanie

Stephanie Bennett, ISU Project Archivist.

Stephanie Bennett, ISU Project Archivist.

Here is a special post to announce some exciting news.

A little over a year ago, Stephanie introduced herself and the two other project archivists to our readers. Now, Stephanie will be the first of us to leave ISU as she moves on to a new Collections Archivist position at Wake Forest University Special Collection and Archives. Congratulations, Stephanie!!!

Stephanie’s many contributions to the Special Collections department can be quantified in numerable ways—from processing almost 400 linear feet of archival collections, to greeting and assisting patrons over hundreds of hours at our public services desk, to composing more than 30 interesting and informative blog posts. But there are many other ways that Stephanie has contributed to the department over the last year-and-a-half that will be greatly missed: her quick wit, her enthusiasm, and her insights on all things archival.

Thanks for the laughs and for all the hard work, Stephanie! ISU will miss you *sniff*, but we know you will rock your next job!

Stephanie’s last day is tomorrow, so please join us in wishing Stephanie all the very best in her new endeavors in a warmer climate.


#AskAnArchivist at Iowa State

As American Archives Month comes to a close at the end of October, the Special Collections Department here at Iowa State University, aka @ISU_Archives will be participating in a Twitter chat on Thursday, October 30, using the hashtag #AskAnArchivist.

If you have a Twitter handle, you can join in discussions about archives and special collections. Just send a tweet using the hashtag #AskAnArchivist to @ISU_Archives with your question and we will respond – even if it takes some time to go digging through the collections! If you prefer to use another medium, send your question via email to archives (at) iastate.edu.

No question is too silly, strange, or spooky (it is almost Halloween, after all) – the most eccentric or oldest or smallest bits of our collections, a specific question about the University that you have always wondered, or even what to do with your own historical objects, papers, or digital files. As folks who come into the reading room with reference questions can attest, we are always up to brainstorm ways to find a thorough answer.

Throughout the day, a number of Special Collections staff will be answering your questions – we’ll introduce ourselves as we pop onto Twitter.

  • Laura Sullivan, Assistant Head and Collections Archivist
  • Brad Kuennen, Assistant Archivist and resident audiovisual wrangler
  • Kim Anderson, Digital Archivist and electronic records wrangler
  • Stephanie Bennett, Project Archivist who has worked with ISU’s politics-related collections
  • Amy Bishop, Project Archivist with training in rare books
  • Whitney Olthoff, Project Archivist and Iowa State alum

So let us know what questions you have about the work that we do here or the collections that we preserve and provide access to here at Iowa State. Looking forward to hearing from some Cyclones (or anyone, really!) via @ISU_Archives and #AskAnArchivist on Thursday!


Cy’s Birthday!

October 16th, 2014 marks the 60th anniversary of Cy’s debut.

Cy in front of Hilton Coliseum

Here’s Cy at age 21 (1975)(via Flickr)

Cy, a large cardinal, is the mascot for Iowa State University. If you’ve been in Ames recently you may have seen some of the 30 unique Cy statues placed throughout the city. CyclONE City, running through December 5th, is a community art project celebrating the town-gown relationship between Iowa State University and the city of Ames. Read more at the Iowa State Daily and the Ames Tribune.

We’ve got a brand new Cy exhibit on display in the Special Collections reading room. We hope you’ll stop by! In the meantime you can read about him through the virtual exhibit we made ten years ago in honor of his 50th birthday: Fifty Years of Cy: Our Mascot


Celebrate American Archives Month

Special Collections staff hard at work, RS 25

Special Collections staff hard at work, date unknown, RS 25

Every October is American Archives Month – a time to celebrate the work of archivists and the physical and digital items that benefit from our care. There are as many ways to celebrate Archives Month (or #archivesmonth, on Twitter) as there are archival repositories. Larger archival institutions have a full range of activities to showcase their work. The National Archives and Records Administration profiles staff members and favorite items throughout the month on social media. Smithsonian Institute Archives covers its work through a number of virtual and in-person opportunities. Here at ISU Special Collections, we celebrate by working: accepting university records and donated materials relating to our collecting areas; working with donors; processing materials; answering questions from the wide variety of folks who enlist our help; educating students through tours and classroom talks; and providing access to our collections through our website and Reading Room.

The Society of American Archivists, our professional organization, is observing Archives Month, of course. The association president, Kathleen Roe, recently wrote a blog post and asked the question “Who have you met on your journey through archival records?” She posed her question in reference to people whom she met through the historical record – such as the faculty and staff, students, and alumni whose collections we hold.

Special Collections Open House

The Special Collections reading room and exhibit space in 1971, RS 25/3

But as I sit in the Reading Room with a researcher hard at work and one of our student workers making preservation reproductions, I think of the meaningful interactions and lessons that I learn from the living people that I interact with in and around the archives. For example:

  • Students of all ages, from middle school on up to retirees who are curious about something and have the time to pop in. And of course academic scholars from ISU as well as other institutions who seek the rare and unique information that we hold. Even the questions that they ask, about the archives or about their interests, teach me lessons about my work all the time!
  • Our student workers, who bring their perspectives and questions to work every week. It’s nice to hear what student life is like in 2014 when I’m used to fielding questions and handling materials that are often older than today’s students.
  • Donors who generously hand their memories, or their loved ones’ memories, over for care-taking. It is a privilege to assess a lifetime’s worth of accumulated materials and process them to allow others to benefit from all the knowledge within.
  • Colleagues who have fielded my questions, encouraged and mentored me, introduced me to other archives colleagues in their network, and so on and so forth through the six degrees of separation between me and Kevin Bacon. No, wait, between me and famed archivist Theodore Roosevelt Schellenberg.
  • Archivists of the wider world who I meet through graduate school, or at regional conferences, or at the SAA Annual Meeting – which was held with two other records-centric organizations this year. There is an unending supply of new people to meet, share stories with, and learn from.

Much appreciation goes out to all those who make our work as archivists possible – especially the archivists ourselves. You can celebrate American Archives Month by coming by to see our new exhibit on Homecoming, doing research, or checking out all the resources we have available through our [newly updated] website!