“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) 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.
As the cold days of winter have settled in for many of us, state parks are probably not on many plans for the coming months. However, there is now an additional option to learn about the history of Iowa’s state parks from the comfort of the indoors. As mentioned in a previous post, the Special Collections and University Archives has an exhibition on display through the end of the year which tells the story of the early state parks movement here in Iowa: “This movement for a more beautiful Iowa”: The Early Years of Iowa’s State Park System. Unable to visit the exhibition in person? There’s now an alternative! Digital Initiatives and SCUA are excited to announce that the online version of the state parks exhibit is now available, along with the accompanying Iowa State Parks Digital Collection (which contains digitized materials used in the physical exhibit along with additional materials from SCUA’s collections).
The online exhibit extends the focus of the physical exhibit to include additional information on the parks system as a whole, the people behind the park names, the role of the Civilian Conservation Corps, and a broader history of the parks’ design, construction, and the natural areas they preserve. There is only so much space for the physical exhibits, so it was satisfying to see some of what we were not able to include in the physical exhibit incorporated into the online version. As one of the curators of the physical exhibit, I was able to work on both the physical exhibit and then the online exhibit. It was a great experience to see how the online exhibit became a companion to – and expanded on – our physical exhibit.
In addition to the images and textual content, the online exhibit also includes some fun interactive aspects including a StoryMap (created using Knight Lab’s StoryMap) which gives a tour of all 55 Iowa State Parks in 2017, in the order of their founding:
…and “quizzes” (but the fun kind – no grading involved!). The fill-in-the-blank and true/false examples pictured below are from the page on Backbone State Park.
We were also able to add footnotes to the Drupal-based exhibit – which was exciting for us to learn about and to be able to incorporate into the text. For details on how this was done, visit Lori Bousson’s blog post over on the Digital Initiatives and Scholarship blog, DSI Update.
A lot of work goes into the creation of exhibits – both the reading room and online versions, and we hope that at least a few of you have been able to visit it here on the 4th floor of Parks Library. Thanks to the help of people from across the library, we have been able to make the research, design and work of the physical exhibit available online for people to view across the world – with no closing date!
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 second post commemorating the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 and this week I’m highlighting some finding aids for our collections related to noted local and regional radio broadcasters.
John D. “Jack” Shelley was born in Boone, Iowa on March 8, 1912. He graduated from Boone High School (1929), and earned a Bachelor of Journalism Degree from the University of Missouri at Columbia (1935). After a short stay with the Iowa Herald in Clinton, Iowa, Shelley went to work for WHO radio in Des Moines, Iowa. He was assistant news director for five years, then became news director for both radio and television until he left in 1965. Shelley was a war correspondent in Europe and the Pacific covering World War II. He interviewed hundreds of combat soldiers in both theaters. Shelley recorded one of the first broadcast interviews with crew members of the airplanes that dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. He was aboard the battleship U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay to cover the Allies’ acceptance of the unconditional Japanese surrender, and was one of twenty reporters chosen to cover the atomic bomb tests at Yucca Flats, Nevada (1953). The tape recorder Shelley took along to record the event was one of the few to withstand the shock of the blast.
In 1965, Mr. Shelley joined Iowa State University as an Associate Professor of Journalism, then served as Professor until his retirement in 1982. Iowa State University honored him for his academic contributions with an Outstanding Teacher Award and a Faculty Citation from the Iowa State University Alumni Association.
Jack Shelley helped found the Iowa Broadcast News Association, an organization that honored him by establishing the Jack Shelley Award in 1971. He is a past president of the International Radio-Television News Directors Association, which he helped found, and of the Associated Press Radio and Television Association. He was president of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council (1981) and a member of a committee appointed by the Iowa Supreme Court to advise it on the use of cameras and tape recorders in court trials. He received the Broadcaster of the Year Award (1980) from the Iowa Broadcasters Association.
Herbert Plambeck was born February 29, 1908 and raised in Scott County, Iowa. He graduated from Iowa State University with a major in agriculture (1936). He began his professional career as a USDA College (University) County Extension employee, but in 1935 he became Farm Editor for the Davenport (Iowa) Times Democrat. In 1936, he was named Farm Director for WHO-Radio in Des Moines, a position he held until 1970. Plambeck was then appointed assistant to the U.S. Secretary for Agriculture where he focused on public affairs. Plambeck was a member of the U.S. Agricultural Delegation to the Soviet Union in 1955, where he made the first farm broadcast report from Russia. He repeated this feat when he delivered the first farm broadcast from China in 1976.
John C. Baker was born in 1909 in Brazil, Indiana. He received his B.S. (1930) in agriculture from Purdue University. He began farm broadcasting at the Purdue radio station WBAA from 1930-1931. He also worked stints in farm broadcasting in Massachusetts, Chicago, and in the radio service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where he participated in the National Farm and Home Hour on NBC and The American Farmer on ABC. In the 1950s and 1960s, he worked as an information officer in the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Census Bureau. He published Farm Broadcasting: The First Sixty Years with Iowa State University Press in 1981.
Amy N. Worthen: The World in Perspective, August 22 – December 17, 2017, Brunnier Art Museum, 295 Scheman Building, Iowa State University
Is there a book you’ve had a conversation with over the course of your life? Has its meaning changed each time you return to it? Has it influenced your own work?
Here is an opportunity to see such a conversation play out in the works of an artist.
About a year ago, I was contacted by Adrienne Gennett, Assistant Curator of Collections and Education at Iowa State University Museums, about the possibility of Special Collections and University Archives loaning some early printed books for an exhibition featuring a locally-based printmaker to help illustrate the history of printmaking. I had never been involved in an exhibition loan, but I was excited by the idea of our collections reaching an audience outside the library’s walls. As I met first with Adrienne, and joined later by the artist, Amy Worthen, the ideas for the book portion of the exhibit began to take shape.
Amy Worthen sent me a list of books with prints that had been influential to her–both as an art historian and as an artist. Since she lives for part of the year in Venice, Italy, she also listed some of our early books printed in Venice.
As Amy and Adrienne paged through books here in Special Collections, I got a peak behind the curtain, listening to their curatorial conversations as they determined the interplay of historical to contemporary prints.
After the final selections were made, other library staff contributed to getting the books ready for their exhibition debut. The library’s conservator, Sonya Barron, reviewed the items to identify any needed repairs. Preservation department staff member Jim Wilcox built the cradles to support the books. Finally, the books were ready for packing up and installation, completed by Sonya in collaboration with Museums curator Adrienne.
When I visited the exhibit, it was satisfying to see the final results. As Rare Books and Manuscripts Archivist, I was delighted to see some familiar faces in a new setting, and viewing the results of Amy Worthen’s “conversations” with the early prints was illuminating.
One of the first cases you see when you enter the room lays the foundation for the exhibit. Two volumes are displayed side-by-side in a case. One is entirely text–the entry from Denis Diderot’s French Enlightenment Encyclopédie on “Gravure,” or engraving. To its right is one of the encyclopedia’s plates volumes, opened to an illustration of engraving tools. When you turn to your left, you see a corresponding case of engraving tools and a copper plate, etched with fine lines by the artist. Hanging above it on the wall is Worthen’s framed artist’s proof of Strumenti d’ Incisione (Engraving Tools), 1995, a true counterpart to the Encyclopédie‘s illustration–she created it to illustrate her entry on printmaking for the Grove Dictionary of Art.
Another example of Amy Worthen’s prints in conversation with earlier pieces can be seen in the pairing of a print from Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s Le antichità romane (1756) (call number NA1120 .P664a), with the artist’s Catacomb. The accompanying label reads, “When she was in college Worthen first saw original Piranesi etchings. She was greatly inspired by his approach to architecture – part documentation, part exaggeration, and part fantasy.” Both of the prints feature Roman catacombs, or underground burial sites.
Some of my favorite pieces in the exhibition are those with elements of whimsy and humor, such as The Department of Agriculture, depicting a cow seated at a desk inside the State Capitol building addressing a group of animals including 2 pigs and a litter of piglets, a rooster, and a big-horn sheep. I laughed out loud when I saw Worthen’s Self-Portrait as a Pineapple:
This is only a sneak peek at the exhibit. You’ll want to visit in person to see the eight books from Special Collections and more than one hundred prints, sketchbooks, and printing plates.
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.
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.
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.
In light of tomorrow’s Homecoming 2017 Pop-Up Exhibition, today’s post is a #Throwback Thursday to last year’s pop-up exhibition. Below are pictures from October 28, 2016.
Last year I wrote a blog post about the preparations for Homecoming 2016 to show everyone how much work went into an exhibition, even a temporary one. This year we worked just as hard to put together an exhibit that we hope will evoke nostalgia for visiting alumni and pique the interest of current students, faculty, & staff at Iowa State University.
Please drop by tomorrow to check out what we’ve selected for display. We look forward to seeing you there!
In 2016, the Iowa State University Library completed a six-year project to digitize an entire run of the campus yearbook, the Bomb. Comprised of nearly 45,000 pages, the digital versions are not easily searchable due to the wide variety of fonts and graphic elements used throughout the decades. Just look at the text from one page of the 1911 Bomb. The font and layout are unique, making the automated transcription process nearly impossible.
With that in mind, in its inaugural “Unsolved Histories” Project the Iowa State Digital Initiatives Unit has launched a crowd sourcing transcription project entitled, “Transcribe the Bomb.” It is our hope that by transcribing these yearbooks a wider audience can explore and find memories of themselves, their families and friends, favorite campus moments, and world events through the Iowa State University lens. Transcribing takes place online, found here:
You can try your hand at transcribing ISU yearbooks at the “Bomb” Transcribe-a-thon on Wednesday, October 25th, noon- 4:00 p.m. in Room 134. University Archivist, Brad Kunnen, will speak on the history of the yearbook and its importance as a historical record.
Come learn about the Bomb and how to transcribe its content. A quick tutorial is all it takes to get started! The event is free and open to the public, including beginners, and will provide a fun opportunity to learn about ISU history.
Participants may come and go at any time during the afternoon. Sponsored by the University Library Digital Scholarship and Initiatives department
The Bomb Transcribe-a-thon, Wednesday October 25th, Noon- 4:00 p.m.
Room 134, Parks Library
American Archives Month began in 2006 and is an opportunity for archivists to promote their collections and the profession.
This month you have many opportunities to engage with your Special Collections & University Archives staff and collections!
- #AskAnArchivistDay! Tomorrow, October 4th, archivists around the country will take to Twitter to respond to questions tweeted with the hashtag #AskAnArchivist. Tweet your questions to @ISU_Archives and include #AskAnArchivist.
- The Bomb Transcribe-a-thon on October 25, 12-4 PM, 134 Parks Library. Hosted by Digital Initiatives, and featuring Brad Kuennen, University Archivist, who will talk about the history of the The Bomb.
- Homecoming Pop-up Exhibition on October 27, 1-4 PM, 405 Parks Library. Check out our unique items on Iowa State history & student life in the 1960s.
- Halloween Exhibition & Trivia on October 31, 11 AM – 2 PM, 405 Parks Library. Check out what chilling & thrilling items we’ll have on display, answer some trivia questions, and win some prizes.
Other ways you can celebrate Archives Month with us:
- Like us on Facebook
- Follow us on Twitter
- Stop by and visit us on the 4th floor of the Parks Library (403 Parks) and check out our current exhibition “This movement for a more beautiful Iowa”: The Early Years of Iowa’s State Park System.
- Check out your local historical repository, in person or on-line! Some suggestions below:
If you’re working in an archives or cultural heritage institution and would like ideas on how to celebrate visit: https://www2.archivists.org/initiatives/american-archives-month-the-power-of-collaboration.
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.
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.
This project has been generously funded by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).
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 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.
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:
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!
Aveni, Anthony. In the Shadow of the Moon: The Science, Magic, and Mystery of Solar Eclipses. Yale University Press, 2017.