Celebrate World Food Day! @WorldFoodDayUSA #WFD2016

Today is World Food Day, established in 1979 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). World Food Day  celebrates the creation of the FAO. On October 16, 1945, FAO was created in Quebec, Canada, in order to end hunger and manage the global food system.

Special Collections & University Archives (SCUA) would like to highlight the Norman E. Borlaug Papers in honor of World Food Day.

In 1959, Borlaug joined the FAO. Four years later, in 1963, with inspiration from Mexican President Lopez Mateos and funding from the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, Borlaug was involved in the development of the Mexico-based International Center for Maize and Wheat Improvement (CIMMYT) and served as the director of its wheat program.

During the 1960s, Borlaug began to look beyond Mexico to Southern Asia, where food shortages were reaching crisis proportions. He trained scientists in the production of high-yield dwarf wheat and warned them of the potential for disaster in wheat rust. For this work, in recognition of his contribution to saving the lives of millions, Borlaug was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970.

roof file with photo of Normal Borlaug sitting at desk, his signature on photo, 1977. Filed as "Off-Campus Personalities" Negative Number 77-261 with notes "now copy negs in Spec Coll file"

Proof file with photograph of Norman Borlaug in 1977 (Norman H. Borlaug Papers, box 23, folder 5).

Borlaug joined the FAO in 1959 and founded the World Food Prize in 1986. The 547 is a $250,000 international award given annually to recognize those that agricultural scientists who have worked to end hunger and improve the world’s food supply. This collection consists primarily of Borlaug’s correspondence files, which include paper records as well as some photographs. These papers include materials from six continents relating to the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford Foundation, Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maiz y Trago (CIMMYT), Instituto Nacional de Investagaciones Agricolas (INIA), Central Institute for Agrochemical Support of Agriculture (CINAO), several U. S. universities, the Crop Quality Council, DeKalb Agriculture Association, FAO, and the International Rice Research Institutes (IRRI). One highlight is a photocopy of Borlaug’s September 7, 1970 (six weeks before winning the Nobel Prize) letter to William Paddock where he reacts to the highly critical We Don’t Know How and defends the Green Revolution.


Meet Petrina Jackson, New Head of Special Collections and University Archives.

If you would have told me that when I graduated from Iowa State University in 1994 with my MA in English that I would return twenty-two years later, I would have never believed you. However this past April, that is exactly what I did. Much has happened during those years to prepare me for my homecoming to ISU.

After I graduated from ISU, I began my career as an English professor at Elgin Community College in Elgin, Illinois. During my time there, I learned a great deal about teaching, student success, and what makes good writing good. It was a positive experience overall, but with a five minimum course load per semester and endless papers to grade, I knew that I would not retire from that field. Seven years in, I decided to change careers and become an archivist. Becoming an archivist required going back to school, so sixteen years after I graduated from ISU, I earned my Master of Library and Information Science with a specialization in Archives and Records Management from the University of Pittsburgh.

The road to being an archivist has taken me to several incredible academic universities, including Cornell University’s Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections in the Carl A. Kroch Library, where I served as a senior assistant archivist and made connections with students, alumni, and community members, teaching the importance of preserving their historical records and planning events to spotlight those records. From Cornell, I moved on to the University of Virginia (U.Va.) and served as head of instruction and outreach for the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library. At U.Va., I created an instruction program that increased the number of class sessions using special collections materials by 170%. After eight years at U.Va., I wanted the challenge of overseeing and growing an entire Special Collections’ program. When the opportunity arose to apply for ISU’s Head of Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA), I went for it.

My goal at ISU is to make SCUA central to Iowa State’s curriculum. ISU is a student-centered research university, and part of the goal of the Library is to help prepare students to become strong researchers, which includes learning to do the deep detective work of navigating through primary sources to find the answers to their research questions. This type of work goes far beyond performing Google searches. It requires critical thinking, patience, and stamina to look for information in its rawest, unadulterated form. Acquainting and immersing undergraduate and graduate students to primary sources research through coming to SCUA with their classes, using primary sources in their course assignments, and researching for their own scholarly project in our reading room are ways to build and flex these skills. Our main goal is to make SCUA a vibrant place for the ISU community, Iowans, and all who seek further knowledge in our research areas, be it for a middle schooler’s history day project, a retiree’s family genealogy, an undergraduate’s class assignment, a graduate student’s thesis or dissertation, or a faculty member’s publication. So come over to Special Collections and University Archives and dig into our rich resources, or just stop by and say hi! We would love to meet you.

Photograph of Petrina Jackson by Rachel Seale, Outreach Archivist, 6 September 2016.

Photograph of Petrina Jackson by Rachel Seale, Outreach Archivist, 6 September 2016.


Getting ready for WelcomeFest! @ISU_Library @ISU_SAC

In 1916 the tradition of freshman beanies began. Freshman had to wear the official freshman beanie from the first day of the school year through spring, from 8 am to 6 pm daily except Sunday. The beanies were then burned in a spring bonfire when freshmen became sophomores. This tradition ended in 1934.

Since the beanies were usually burned, you can imagine that many have not survived for posterity. In Special Collections & University Archives (SCUA), we do have a freshman beanie (pictured below) in our Artifact Collection .

Freshman Beanie from the SCUA Artifact Collection

Freshman Beanie from the SCUA Artifact Collection

Next week at the University Library table at WelcomeFest, SCUA staff will be wearing beanies while greeting new ISU Freshman. The talented Science & Technology Librarians Kris Stacy-Bates & Heather Lewin, and Head of Stacks, Kathy Parsons,  constructed the beanies for us and they did wonderful work! Our beanie makers constructed the beanies without any pattern. They couldn’t deconstruct the original beanie and use that as a model, because it is an artifact. They had to develop their own pattern and technique for creating the new beanies. They did a fantastic job!

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Below are the library staff responsible for creating the facsimile beanies.

(L-R): Kris Stacy-Bates, Heather Lewin, and Kathy Parsons wearing facsimiles of freshman beanies they made

(L-R): Kris Stacy-Bates, Heather Lewin, and Kathy Parsons (Photo by Megan O’Donnell)

A round of applause to Kris, Heather & Kathy! We’ll see you next week at the library’s WelcomeFest table. Drop by and get your picture taken! We will be there with our beanies on.

In 1913, students had designs on the Campanile’s chimes @isucarillon

Today let’s look at an old (1913) bachelor’s thesis housed in the University Archives. Cataloging them is one of my duties, and some of them are quite interesting. I doubt many ISU undergraduates write theses these days, but they used to write quite a few. The theses are unpublished hardbound typescripts. Most are little more than essays: our subject today consists of 13 leaves, of which seven leaves are photos and blueprints. Others are substantial volumes with multiple authors (students were allowed to collaborate, and often did). Blueprints of technical drawings, etc. are typically bound in after the text. The blueprints are often much larger than the theses, so they’re folded as many times as necessary to fit between the covers.

Ample abbreviations were fashionable.

Ample abbreviations were fashionable.

You can read about the “Margaret Chimes” and their namesake, Margaret MacDonald Stanton, here and read about Iowa State’s Campanile here. (If you’re interested in learning more, contact us at Special Collections.) For our purposes today, it’s enough to know that the Margaret Chimes are a set of ten bells and that the 110′ tower was constructed to house them. The Campanile’s carillon and other renovations came later.

Flash back to 1913. Electrical engineering students Don H. Kilby and Joseph J. Shoemaker have become aware that ringing the ten chimes by means of ropes is problematic. They write that the operator must pull with a force of between 20 and 50 pounds (depending on the size of the bell). “This makes it practically impossible to maintain musical cadence. At present the system is in very bad order and on average one bell rope is broken each day.” Kilby and Shoemaker conclude that an electric remote control system would be relatively simple. It would cost an estimated $657.40 including labor ($15,952.64 adjusted for inflation). Their system’s “keyboard” and bell-clapper system would require far less maintenance. Perhaps more importantly, it would make better music: the operator could choose a “light, medium, or hard stroke” with predictable delay-times between striking keys and the sounding of chimes. I’m not an electrical engineer, but I am a musician, and their system looks good to me!

ApparatusKilby and Shoemaker did not get to install their system in the Campanile, but they did test it. At left see the counter-balanced clapper, acted upon by a magnet, to which is sent either no current (key off) or one of three voltages (light, medium, or hard stroke). Adjustable spring tension allows for fine calibration.

I applaud these students’ ingenuity. If you want to see their 1913 thesis in person, please visit us here in Special Collections at your earliest convenience.

Magnets: how do they work?

Magnets: how do they work?


Unlike the earlier images, this blueprint involves all ten chimes.

Unlike the earlier images, this blueprint involves all ten chimes.

All quotes herein are excerpted from, and images scanned from:

Electric Remote Control System for the Margaret Chimes by D. H. Kilby and J. J. Shoemaker (1913).

The Dinkey’s 4th of July debut #Flashback Friday @IowaStateU

The Ames & College Railway, better known as “the Dinkey,” made its first run between Ames and the ISU campus on July 4, 1891.

Ames & College Railway Dinkey circa 1900s

Undated photograph of the Dinkey (University Photographs box 233)

To learn more about the history of the Dinkey drop by the archives! We’re open Monday-Friday from 10-4. Except for this upcoming Monday — we’ll be closed for the 4th of July!

Welcome Freshman! #TBT @IowaStateU

Freshman Orientation kicked off this week. Let’s celebrate the arrival of future Cyclones with a picture from the past! The photograph below is from Freshman Days in 1946. “Freshman Day” was first instituted at Iowa State College (University) during the fall quarter of 1926. The next year the program was expanded to three days.

Freshman Days 1946. Lee Bradish photographing freshmen during Freshman Days (University Photographs box 454.1)

Lee Bradish photographing freshmen during Freshman Days (University Photographs box 454)

In 1960, two significant changes occurred in regards to Freshman Days. One was the change of name from Freshman Days to Orientation Days. The other was the creation of a summer orientation program. The summer program was in addition to the fall program. The summer orientation program eventually became the main orientation program for students in the coming years.

Drop by the reading room to check out other historical University Photographs! We’re open Monday-Friday 10-4.

Ephemera in Archives

Tiger rake front

Lawrence Skromme Agricultural Machinery Literature Collection (RS 11/07/227), box 20, folder 39.

A few months ago I took a phone call from a farmer in another state. The man and his son were restoring a piece of farm equipment made in the 1890s. His dilemma was not knowing what color(s) to paint the machine. His research led him to our website, where he found an inventory for a collection of agricultural literature, including advertisements and brochures put out by the manufacturer of the machine being restored. I told him I would get back to him soon, hopefully with evidence of the machine’s original paint-job.

Drill front

Lawrence Skromme Agricultural Machinery Literature Collection (RS 21/07/227), box 20, folder 40.

I began examining the companies’ ephemera. Most of it was illustrated in black and white: nice, precise work, probably supplied to the printer as engravings. The brochures, pamphlets, etc. were very wordy by modern advertising and marketing standards, but none of them mentioned the products’ color.  Everything imaginable was detailed, except color and finish!

Later, I was relieved to find a few cards featuring color illustrations (shown above; the backs carry text). The farmer was pleased with the information I gave him. I thanked him for pointing me in the right direction at the outset; the work had gone quickly. Now he had at least some evidence to consider when painting his piece of 1890s farm equipment. Ephemera in an archive had been the key.


Archives collect and preserve ephemera, among other things. It’s a pretty word that, outside of archives, I’ve encountered most often as the adjective “ephemeral.” It comes to us from the Greek for “lasting only a day.” There are ephemeral things that literally last one day; for example, an old medical text refers to “that Feaure [fever] which we call Ephemera, not exceeding foure and twenty houres.” Nowadays the noun form is typically used the way archives use it, and for this, Wikipedia gives an adequate definition: ephemera is “any transitory or printed matter not meant to be retained or preserved.”

A crucial distinction, then: it is the ephemera’s intended use or purpose that is ephemeral. The item itself could be saved indefinitely. But why would someone save “such things as a bus ticket, a circus poster, a Christmas card or a Valentine, a police summons, […] a train timetable, or a travel brochure,” after their intended purposes are fulfilled?

The most general answer is that human beings repurpose things. It’s nice to know why something was made, by whom and for what purpose—we can’t fully understand the thing without such knowledge—but we’re free to use things (and ideas) differently. We decide what’s significant and how; we decide what it all means.

Perhaps most ephemera should be recycled. So much ephemera is produced that saving it all is not an option, but where do we draw the line?… I’m raising questions that I cannot begin to answer. I do know that experts are best-prepared to assess the significance of ephemera related to their areas of expertise. I know that ephemera is never enough in itself. A historian, for example, needs other sources, sound methodology, and a great deal of creativity. That being said, ephemera is indispensable.

The subject is a deep one that I plan to explore further. I hope to have inspired you to think about the ephemera in your life. You don’t have to save it, but what if you did? What could it be used for, other than the obvious?

(Except as noted, quotations are from Ephemera: a a book on its collection, conservation and use by Chris E. Makepeace. 1985.)

National Nutrition Month!

National Nutrition Month® is a nutrition education campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and held annually in March.

What better way to kick off National Nutrition Month than to take a look at the Food Science and Human Nutrition history here at Iowa State University.

The Food and Nutrition curriculum was a part of the domestic economy courses of 1872. Mary B. Welch was the organizer and head of the Department of Domestic Economy at Iowa State from 1875 to 1883. Mrs. Welch taught from her life experiences and self-study, as well as from her study of cosmetic science at various institutions. She was also the wife of Adonijah Welch, the first president of Iowa State College (University). You can view some of her papers and her cookbook online in our Digital Collections.

Mary Beaumont Welch (University Photographs box 50).

Mary Beaumont Welch (University Photographs box 50).

The Department of Household Science was established in 1918. Food and Nutrition first appeared in the college catalog in 1924-25 under the Home Economics program.


page 176 from the 1924-25 college catalog

Vitamin research lab 11/13/1928 from box 961 University Photographs

Vitamin research lab 11/13/1928 (University Photographs box 961).

The name was changed to the Department of Food and Nutrition in 1953. The Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition was created in 1991 as the result of the merger of the Departments of Food and Nutrition in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences and Food Technology in the College of Agriculture. The merged department was jointly administered by both Colleges. The department offered courses in consumer food science, dietetics, food science and technology, and nutritional science.

Box 961 from University Photographs

Dietetics senior trip to Rochester (University Photographs box 961).

On July 1, 2005, the College of Education and the College of Family and Consumer Sciences combined to become the College of Human Sciences. The planning phase of the combination was completed in the fall of 2004. The department continues to be jointly administered by the College of Human Sciences and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Box 968 from University Photographs

Nancy Peck, Food and Nutrition graduate, teaches course in food preparation (University Photographs box 968).