NHPRC Update: Getting Started

As you may have read in Laura’s previous post, Special Collections and University Archives was lucky to receive a grant from the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration’s National Historical Publications & Records Commission (NHPRC). The grant funds a two year project to move our finding aids into a new archives management system – a specialized database for descriptive information about our archival collections. In our case, we are using the CuadraSTAR Knowledge Center for Archives (SKCA).

This system will allow for better access to the collections for researchers, through improved searching capabilities through our website, as well as through converting our finding aids into EAD (Encoded Archival Description) format, an XML standard which will let us share our collections more widely. We will also be able to collect all of the information about each archival collection in one place, connecting accession reports to the finding aid to conservation assessments. Later on in the project we will also be improving the subject headings attached to each finding aid, and linking items in our digital collections directly to the archival collections that they came from. The new system will go live November 1, 2018, and we look forward to sharing more as the project continues.

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Old School: The bookshelves with binders of printed finding aids in our reading room.

I recently moved to Ames from Ann Arbor, Michigan, and I have found that moving to a new state has served as a useful analogy for this project. However, rather than moving boxes, we are moving descriptive metadata, which is much more exciting! In my own move, I had about a month in which I needed to create a plan, execute the logistics of how this was going to happen (by which I mean make dozens of phone calls), and then finally, pack.

Although I will fully admit that my own move was in reality less organized than I am portraying here and my packing was motivated by more than one trip to get ice cream, the steps have been relatively the same with the finding aid migration. First, working off of the grant requirements and timeline, I made a schedule with start dates and deadlines. This also included prioritizing which finding aids would be completed first.

Second, the logistics of how the information is going to go from its current state – a word document with structured tables – into the database entry form needed to be determined. Rather than phone calls to the utility company, I created a manual for the student assistant that would be working on the project, as well as a system for assigning and tracking where collections are in the process. I worked with the other archivists to determine possible problems that some of the finding aids might pose, due to content or formatting, and started resolving those issues.

Third, is the figurative packing and just getting the work done. Since the beginning of July, a student assistant and I have been doing the manual labor of entering the finding aids into the database. There are a lot of different approaches to this process depending on the particular system that is being used and the existing format of the finding aids, but the combination of SKCA and our Word document tables means that there is no way around copying and pasting a lot of the information. A major upside of this is that I get to read almost all of the finding aids. I have learned a lot more about rural life and agriculture than I ever expected, which I have really enjoyed (check out the Iowa Cow War of 1931).

At this point we are almost four months in, and have been entering finding aids for about three of them. Two key points have stuck with me:

-Deadlines are helpful, but so are start dates. Pick a go date, and stick with it.
The logistics can be easy to get carried away with, and one thing that I am really glad about looking back is that the student assistant starting on July 5th provided a hard date that the preliminary planning and preparation needed to be done. While certainly some of the more complicated things were not finished by that date, the things he needed to know to get started were. While functionally this was a deadline for me, thinking of it as a start date for one phase of the project was more motivating.

-Plan for getting behind, but also getting ahead.
The timeline for the project was based on educated guesses about how long it would take to move an individual finding aid, and in hindsight the amount that was planned for was overly generous (by several months, oops!). While it is always good to not be behind, getting ahead comes with its own need for contingencies. Luckily with the workflow tracking that was in place, I was able to communicate the progress that had been made to others involved so that there were no surprises, and adjust the schedule to fit the new realistic timeframe. There were also smaller tasks that could be moved from elsewhere in the schedule to allow for more flexibility between the larger tasks.

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This project has been generously funded by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).


Rare Book Highlights: Eclipse!

Do you have plans to watch the eclipse today? I do! As you read this, imagine me already stationed within the path of totality.

If you are experiencing eclipse fever, you may be interested, like I was, to know what books we have in Special Collections related to eclipses. A quick search of the library’s catalog brought back the following book with the subject heading, “Solar eclipses — Mathematics”:

Petrus Elvius. Exercitium mathematicum eclipsiographiam solis leviter adumbrans… Upsaliæ : Literis Wernerianis, 1710. Call number: QB541 E48x 1710.

Checking the shelves I found a small pamphlet bound in blue paper wrappers that have become entirely detached. It is kept in this protective four-flap binder:

The Elvius pamphlet in its four-flap binder. Written on the front cover is “Elvius et Milberg 1710”.

The title page begins with the line, “Auspice DEO!” (Under the auspices of God!). Although this was published early during the Age of Enlightenment, we can surmise that it took some time for the influence of religion on science to recede.

Auspice Deo! Exercitium Mathematicum Eclipsiographiam solis leviter adumbrans, quod consentiente ampliss. Facult. Philos. in Regia Academia Upsaliensi, Praeside viro celberrimo, Mag. Petro Elfvio, Math. Super. Profesi. Reg. & h. t. Fac. Phil. Decano Spectabili, Aequitori Bonorum Censurae modeste submittit

Elvius pamphlet title page.

Written in Latin, the Eclipsographia solis, as it is also known, contains an explanation of the mathematical calculations of eclipses, including their duration. At the beginning, after the dedication, there is this delightful fold-out set of diagrams:

Four black ink diagrams showing various angles across portions of a spear labelled with numbers and letters. One diagram includes a sun with a nose and mouth.

Diagrams in Elvius pamphlet.

What did people know about eclipses, or even the solar system in general, when this pamphlet was published in 1710? People have been awed by–and therefore have studied–the phenomenon of eclipses for millennia. The astronomer Gerald Hawkins contended in the 1960s that Stonehenge was used to predict eclipses. Eclipses were studied by the ancient Babylonian, Chinese, Arabic, and Greek astronomers. Anthony Aveni writes in his book In the Shadow of the Moon, “Beginning about the sixteenth century, eclipse observations of a scientific nature begin to enter historical records on the European continent” (p. 137). In 1543, with the publication of his book De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres), Nicholas Copernicus revolutionized European astronomy by demonstrating mathematically that the Sun, rather than the Earth, was at the center of the universe. Galileo later defended the Copernican system in his 1632 publication Dialogo sopra i due massimi sistemi del mondo (Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems), which got him in trouble with Pope Urban VIII and led to his house arrest. Johannes Kepler improved on the work of Copernicus with his work on the laws of planetary motion, elucidated in his Astronomia nova (New Astronomy) published in 1609. Isaac Newton in 1687 published his Principia, in which he stated his laws of motion and universal gravitation. He also showed how Kepler’s laws followed the same principles as his law of gravity, proving that the same laws of motion govern objects both on the earth and in space.

It would seem by 1710, when our pamphlet was written, that European astronomers knew quite a bit about the solar system and the movement of the planets. In reality, it took some time for the new ideas about the solar system to be fully accepted. (Remember the “Auspice DEO!” of the title page?) Petrus Elvius, the author of our pamphlet, was a Swedish professor of astronomy at Uppsala University and lived from 1660 to 1718. According to his entry in the Swedish Biographical Dictionary (Svenskt biografiskt lexikon), his position on the Copernican system was not clear, and he expressed doubt over the validity of Newton’s law of universal gravitation in a letter 1711 letter to Emanuel Swedenborg, calling it “abstraction” and not physics.

Interestingly, this book was published 5 years before the May 3, 1715 total solar eclipse that crossed central England and Northern Europe. Edmond Halley, famous for calculating the orbit of the eponymously named Halley’s Comet, predicted the path of the eclipse with a very high degree of accuracy (within 4 minutes) and drew a map of its path across England. This map helped to promote popular interest in eclipse-watching (much like today), and it also set off a period of increasingly accurate eclipse mapping.

Happy eclipse day, everyone!

Work Cited

Aveni, Anthony. In the Shadow of the Moon: The Science, Magic, and Mystery of Solar Eclipses. Yale University Press, 2017.


Did you know…? #Friday Facts

Did you know that a student group called the “Six Foot Club” once existed at Iowa State University with a requirement that members be at least six feet tall? The group counted ISU President Albert Boynton Storms (pictured below) as a member.

Portrait of Albert Boynton Storms (University Photographs RS 2/6).

Drop by the Reading Room to discover other interesting facts about Iowa State University. We’re open Monday-Friday from 9-5.


A Welcome to Shaina Destine, Our Residency Librarian

Shaina is our new Residency Librarian.  She will be rotating through various departments in the Library learning about their roles and responsibilities as well as working on selected projects for those departments.

Shaina hails from the South Bronx in New York City.  She has a Sports, Entertainment & Event Management degree from Johnson & Wales University in North Miami.  She spent the next ten years in medical administration as well as in development, donor relations and fundraising.  While researching graduate programs, her path crossed with a group of dynamic archivists in the Washington, DC area.  It changed everything for her.  She became really interested in how libraries and archives can supplement grassroots movements and in highlighting previously silenced voices in history.  Ultimately, Shaina was awarded the Spectrum Scholarship by the American Library Association and entered the University of Maryland’s School of Information.

While working on her MLIS (Master’s of Library & Information Science), Shaina worked as the Graduate Coordinator for LGBTQ Student Involvement & Advocacy in the Multicultural Involvement & Community Advocacy Office at the University of Maryland (UMD).  This opportunity gave her a chance to create space for a marginalized community on the UMD campus as well as assist them in advocating for themselves through finding resources for them and interpreting the information received from the administration on their behalf.  Her ability to work with student populations was greatly developed in those two years.  In her time in the DC-area, she has interned at the National Archives – where she worked on subject guides about the women of the Black Panthers organization and digitized Bayard Rustin’s archives – and volunteered at the Library of Congress.

Shaina loves reading (Octavia Butler is her favorite author), walking (she’s a native New Yorker), travelling and eating (she is enjoying the Iowa bacon).  She is new to the area and is collecting tips on what to expect, where to go, and what to see.  Please stop by and say hello.


A Welcome to Caitlin Moriarty, Our NHPRC Project Archivist

We’re happy to announce that Caitlin Moriarty started with us June 1st.  As announced in a previous blog post, Caitlin will be working on our National Historical Publications & Records Commission (NHPRC) grant project to migrate our finding aids from Microsoft Word documents and HTML into our new archives management system (AMS), CuadraSTAR’s Star Knowledge Center for Archives (SKCA).

Caitlin

Caitlin comes to us from Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she gained a wide variety of experiences in archival work. Caitlin has had a variety of experiences processing, describing, and providing reference assistance in different archival settings at the University of Michigan and the Dickinson College Archives and Special Collections. Most recently, she was worked as a reference assistant for the University of Michigan’s Bentley Historical Library, and as an archives assistant at the University of Michigan’s Special Collections Library. In addition, she worked for Garrett Scott, Bookseller in Ann Arbor to process, inventory, and catalog manuscripts and rare books.  She majored in Russian and political science at Dickinson College and graduated from the University of Michigan School of Information in 2016 with a Master of Science in Information, specializing in Archives and Records Management.

Please join us in welcoming Caitlin!


Celebrating 100 Years: Iowa’s State Parks

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Thanks to the efforts of Iowa leaders over 100 years ago, including people here at Iowa State, state parks were established within the state of Iowa just a few years after legislation for national state parks was passed.  This year marks the 100th anniversary of Iowa’s General Assembly passing state park legislation. The Special Collections and University Archives is excited to announce a new reading room exhibition to celebrate this achievement:  “This movement for a more beautiful Iowa”: The Early Years of Iowa’s State Park System.” Iowa’s landscape of native prairie, forests, and wetlands was rapidly disappearing by the early part of the 20th century due to an expanding population and growing agricultural operations. Individuals from across Iowa advocated for the legislature to set aside land to conserve Iowa’s dwindling natural landscapes, resulting in the passage of Iowa’s state parks bill on April 12, 1917. Iowa State played a central role in establishing the state park system and the state of Iowa soon became a national leader in the state park movement.

Louis Pammel (far left), Iowa State botany professor and leader in Iowa’s state park movement, with students at Ledges State Park.

The exhibit highlights Iowa State’s role in the state park movement, and includes individuals such as botanists Louis Pammel and Ada Hayden, forester G. B. MacDonald, and landscape architect John Fitzsimmons. A brief history of the work to establish state parks in Iowa opens the exhibit, followed by background on Iowa’s first state parks. The exhibit concludes with examples on how Iowa State has used state parks throughout the years, up until the present day – including a current student’s field notebook.

Why was this exhibit theme chosen?  In addition to celebrating an anniversary, it was a great way to highlight the work of Iowa State individuals in ways they are not often mentioned.  In fact, I was surprised to learn that a number of Iowa State administrators were involved – in addition to faculty and staff in botany, forestry, and landscape architecture. The quote from the exhibit’s title is from May H. McNider’s article “Women Want Iowa Scenery Preserved,” published in the 1919 Report of the State Board of Conservation. MacNider, who would later become president of the Board of Conservation, was a civic leader in the town of Mason City, Iowa.

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The development of exhibitions involve a variety of components, including staff from throughout the library.  This one was no exception.  The primary areas of responsibility for the exhibition’s curators (Becky Jordan, Brad Kuennen, and myself – Laura Sullivan) were: developing the exhibition’s themes, researching their assigned areas, selecting exhibition items, writing the exhibition’s text, designing the case layouts, and installing the exhibition.  In addition to the three curators who developed the exhibition, the preservation department helped on a variety of levels including conducting a preservation assessment, digitizing, and building the labels and display supports. We also received support for communications and the window display panels.  Digital initiatives is currently designing an online exhibit, which will be ready in a few weeks.

General Plan for the Landscape Development of Backbone State Park (Iowa’s first state park), 1925 (RS 13/5/13, tube 73)

In conjunction with the exhibit Heidi H. Hohmann, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture, will be giving a presentation on Tuesday, June 6th at 7 p.m. in the Farwell T. Brown Auditorium at the Ames Public Library. Hohmann’s lecture, “Designing State and National Parks,” will focus on Iowa State and the Department of Landscape Architecture’s influence and role in the development of national parks and Iowa’s state parks.

Whether you’re looking for summer excursion ideas, would like to immerse yourself in the history of state parks here in Iowa, or would like to take a look at the exhibit for any other reason – please visit us on the 4th floor of Parks Library. Most of the exhibit is located within the reading room, but if you’re only able to stop by after hours, the window displays and a few exhibit cases are available for viewing after the department is closed.  The exhibit will run through the end of 2017.

 

 

 

 


Best wishes for Becky Jordan!

Becky Jordan, reference specialist in Special Collections & University Archives (SCUA), is retiring and today is her last day. Becky is an ISU alumna, and she has been with SCUA since she graduated in 1975! She worked in the Parks Library as a student and began work in SCUA right after graduation. If you’ve ever had a research request or visited the archives, it is likely Becky Jordan provided you with assistance.

You can read more about Becky in our Staff Pick! post from last summer.

Please join us in congratulating Becky on her much deserved retirement. We will miss her very much and wish her well!


Say “Hello!” to our new Audiovisual Preservation Specialist!

Rosie Rowe is the Audiovisual Preservation Specialist for Special Collections & University Archives (SCUA)  at Parks Library. Rosie has more than 20 years of experience in audiovisual fields and has worked extensively with the preservation of analogue and digital media formats. In her previous role as the Audiovisual and Film Specialist at Archives New Zealand, she was responsible for building and maintaining a new audiovisual lab, where they preserved more than 20TB of at-risk, historical media for the national archives.

She aims to provide similar guidance and preservation workflow to the film and audiovisual collections at SCUA. We are very pleased she is here. Please join us in welcoming Rosie!


#HistoryOntheMove @IowaMuseum Traveling RV Exhibit

Last week, the “Iowa History 101” multimedia exhibit housed in a custom built Winnebago RV made its way to Iowa State University. The traveling exhibit comes from the State Historical Museum of Iowa. The RV was parked in front of the Parks Library all last week & library staff volunteered to serve as museum docents. I’ve included their comments and favorite things about the exhibit below.

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From Brad Kuennen, University Archivist

Spent two hours in the RV today. I spoke with one visitor who was surprised to learn that Iowa had a coal mining industry. Personally I enjoyed reading about the different aspects of Iowa history that are on display.

From Kris Stacy-Bates, Science and Technology, Associate Professor, Research and Instruction

I enjoyed learning that Iowa is the best thing since sliced bread—as the home of the patent holder for the first successful commercial bread slicer. My favorite artifact was the crayon-on-fabric prototype for the Iowa state flag. I did wish that exhibit had included a small graphic of the final flag, as a pair of visitors commented that they did not remember exactly how it looks now.

Bonus fact mentioned later in the week: I spotted a reference today to International Space Station news, noting the fact that Peggy Whitson, the Iowa astronaut mentioned in the Iowa History traveling exhibit, is currently on the space station and just completed a spacewalk yesterday:
https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/expeditions/expedition50/index.html
https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/2017/03/30/spacewalkers-successfully-connect-adapter-for-commercial-crew-vehicles/

Dr. Whitson has spent more time in space, and more time on spacewalks, than any other American woman.

From Linda Snook, Resource Sharing and Acquisitions Management, Library Assistant, Collections and Technical Services

The information in the RV display is interesting. I hope a lot of people take the chance to browse the display. I didn’t realize that more Iowans trace their heritage back to German ancestors than any other foreign country. Also, I discovered that the developer of the Eskimo Pie was an Iowan.

From Olivia Garrison, Reference Coordinator, Special Collections & University Archives

I think having a mini-museum on a Winnebago is such a great way to bring history to people who would otherwise not be able to make it to the museum. People don’t have to go out of their way, it’s brought to them!

From Lori Kappmeyer, Metadata and Cataloging, Associate Professor, Collections and Technical Services

One of my observations is that I didn’t realize that some things I grew up with are now considered appropriate for museums. I never imagined that a Cabbage Patch doll, a Game Boy, a Gateway laptop computer and a 1965 telephone would someday be on exhibit as “historic.” Another observation is that I hadn’t realized as a volunteer that we were going to be given so much responsibility for managing the opening and closing of this expensive vehicle on its maiden trip outside of Des Moines. I now know how to arm a security system and check a propane tank, something I had never done before.

From Greg Davis, Assessment and Planning, Assistant Director, Library Administration Services

I liked the “Rose of Sharon” pattern quilt made by Elsie Smith. One of my grandmothers, here in Iowa, was a quilter. I can remember going to her home and seeing her in her rocking chair, working on her latest quilt project. She’s passed on now, but the rocking chair is in my home with one of her quilts draped over it.

I also thought the exhibit about the Consolidated Coal Company in Buxton, IA, was a really good example of how diverse cultures, in this case African Americans and Euro-Americans, have lived and worked together in Iowa.

 

For more information on the traveling exhibit, visit: https://iowaculture.gov/history/museum/exhibits/history-on-the-move.


National Ag Day 2017

black-and-white photograph, young woman on tractor in field.

Extension photograph from University Photographs

Today is National Ag Day 2017. National Ag Day is organized by the Agriculture Council of America (ACA), you can check them out on their Facebook page. ACA is a nonprofit organization composed of leaders in the agricultural, food and fiber community. The ACA was founded in 1973, and their mission is:

To educate all American’s about the importance of American Agriculture.

In celebration of National Ag Day, check out some of our agricultural collections.

4-H boys and girls posing with their sheep

Extension photograph from University Photographs

Drop in some time to do some research. Our reading room is open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.