#TBT Art Class @ISUDesign

Students practice their skills in a drawing class, 1934. University Photographs, box #.

Students practice their skills in a drawing class, 1934. University Photographs, box 2081.


Although the College of Design at Iowa State is relatively young (est. 1979), art classes existed on campus long before that. This photo from 1934 illustrates – so to speak – just that. More information on art and design at ISU can be found in the College of Design collections, and additional photographs can be found in University Photographs, RS 26. Come in and have a look!




Youth dive into history!

“Dive into History: Solve a Mystery in the Archives” was the name of the workshop Project Archivist, Whitney Olthoff, and I conducted on June 30th for the Iowa 4-H Youth Conference. “Dive to New Depths” was this year’s conference theme, and that’s exactly what 4-Hers got to do in our workshop. We provided 30 students from grades 9-12 hands-on experience using primary sources from our collections. They had to “dive in” to selected collections, look for clues, and answer questions. Our goals were to give them a snapshot of the kinds of materials we have here and to show them that conducting research in special collections and archives is not the same as researching something on the Internet.


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We look forward to conducting more instruction sessions that show students how to handle and evaluate primary sources!  Contact us if you are interested in having your class come in and use materials from Special Collections & University Archives.

This post was written by Rachel Seale and Whitney Olthoff.

#TBT On the Farm @ISUExtension

Two farmers lifting hay bales on the farm, (year?). University Photographs, box (#)

Two farmers lifting hay bales on the farm, undated. University Photographs, box 1349

There is so much I love about his photo: the angle, the light and dark contrast, the windmill, the depiction of farm work in the early-to-mid 20th century.  It also looks a bit like a storm is building, but that may just be blue sky that looks extra dark with the overall dark tone of the photo. This is one of several photos taken at farmsteads around Iowa by the Extension Service.

Stop in sometime to see more photos depicting rural life in Iowa!

#TBT Bicycle Club

Bicycle Club, circa 1898. University Photographs, box (#).

Bicycle Club, circa 1898. University Photographs, box (1644).

This weekend, one of Iowa’s biggest events begins. No, not the Iowa State Fair (that’s in August). Rather, it’s that huge bicycle ride across the state, RAGBRAI. RAGBRAI is a statewide event run by the Des Moines Register that began in 1973. Bicycle enthusiasts have been at Iowa State University since, judging by this photograph, at least the turn of the 20th century. ISU has had a student cycling club for years, currently called the ISU Cycling Club (in the 1970s, it was the ISU Bicycle Club).

Some information on the ISU Bicycle Club in the 1970s is available in the Iowa State University, Student Organizations, Recreation and Special Interest Groups General File, RS 22/7/0/1. Stop by sometime!

Instruction in the Archives!

On Monday, a class from the Iowa State University Office of Precollegiate Programs for Talented and Gifted (OPPTAG) visited Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA). The course was titled “Cook Your Way Through U.S. History.” In the SCUA classroom, I demonstrated how to find SCUA materials on their topic (cookbooks) and reviewed procedures and handling guidelines in our reading room. Amy Bishop, Rare Books and Manuscripts Archivist, reviewed different cookbooks from Rare Books and recipes from our Manuscript Collections & University Archives and provided students with context on the collections and books.

OPPTAG students viewing cookbook from Rare Book Collection

OPPTAG students viewing cookbook from Rare Book Collection

The students then came into our reading room and looked for historic recipes they plan to cook this week. You should come into our reading room too and check out our cool cookbooks! We’re open Monday-Friday from 10-4! You can also check out some selected cookbooks online in the Library’s Digital Collections.

Staff Pick!

Today’s post puts the spotlight on a staff member and she puts the spotlight on a collection. Meet Whitney Olthoff. She is a Project Archivist here in Special Collections and  University Archives.

Project Archivist Whitney Olthoff (standing far right) during a SCUA workshop for the 4-H Youth Conference this July

Project Archivist Whitney Olthoff (standing far right) during a SCUA workshop for the 4-H Youth Conference earlier this month

How did you get started in Special Collections & University Archives at Iowa State University?

I graduated with my MLS (Master of Library Science) degree from Indiana University – Bloomington in May 2012. After moving back to my parents’ house (about 30 miles from Ames), I continued my full-time job search while working part-time at a public library. This job (project archivist position) popped up, and I was lucky enough to get it! It took just over a year of job searching, but I got hired at my undergrad alma mater – I was pretty excited. I’ve been here for almost three years now, and I’ve gained experience in several aspects of the archival profession during that time. So far, so good!

What do you do?

Primarily what I do is process archival collections. This means that I go through a given collection and organize it – sometimes I physically rearrange the files and sometimes files are rearranged intellectually, that is, in the finding aid, while maintaining original order physically. Depending on the collection, I will re-folder materials, give new and improved titles to folders, number boxes and folders, sleeve photographs and negatives, and enter descriptive information into finding aids. This way, the materials are accessible to researchers. There’s a lot to archival processing, so for more information, take a look at a post one of our former project archivists, Stephanie, wrote a couple years ago: https://isuspecialcollections.wordpress.com/2014/01/10/3379/

I also contribute to our blog, handle the occasional reference request, and archive the university’s websites. Not to mention various other things that are asked of me as needed. I keep pretty busy around here.

What collection would you like to highlight?

This is tricky… it’s difficult to choose just one! I guess I’d like to highlight something lesser-known.  In the Elizabeth “Betsy” Hoffman Papers, there is a series devoted to, oddly enough, Russian WWI photographs and materials  – the   Andrew Kalpaschnikoff Memoirs and Photo Albums. Kalpaschnikoff was Hoffman’s grandfather. Hoffman was Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences here at Iowa State, as well as Professor of Economics. Eventually, she served as Executive Vice President and Provost of Iowa State University and is currently a Professor of Economics here.

Kalpaschnikoff led quite an exciting life. He was raised in Imperial Russia’s upper class, served as Ambassador to the United States, was a member of the Russian Army during WWI, and spent time in a Communist prison after the Bolshevik Revolution. Eventually he escaped and returned to the U.S. He also encountered notable figures including Czar Nicholas II and Leon Trotsky. Kalpaschnikoff’s materials include two photo albums depicting the Russian army in WWI (available to view online here and here), loose photographs, and memoirs.

Why’d you pick this collection/item to highlight?

This was the first collection (well, part of a collection) I ever wrote about for our blog. It was my first-ever post for our blog, as a matter of fact. The materials were newly processed back in 2013. Kalpaschnikoff’s story is fascinating and the photos give you a rare glimpse into life in the Russian army in WWI (fair warning: a few of the photos depict wounded and dead soldiers, some of which are graphic). For whatever reason, I like to highlight collections that most would not expect to find in the ISU archives – I also wrote blog posts on our science fiction and Underground Comix collections. Russian WWI materials and photographs certainly fall under that “unexpected” category in my opinion. Of course, this is just one of many collections worthy of highlighting. Anyone who wants to know what else we hold should check out our website and/or ask us!

Any other comments you’d like me to include?

I’ll end with one of my favorite quotes about libraries and archives:
“To me every trip to a library or archive is like a small detective story.” – Erik Larson

Iowa State University Library #TBT @ISU_Library

Today a group of library staff, including University Archivist, Brad Kuennen, and myself, took a tour for library staff given by library staff member Mark Forbis (pictured below).

Mark Forbis at the beginning of our library tour

Mark Forbis at the beginning of our library tour

The tour focused on the original library building and the purposes for which rooms were originally designed, as well as their subsequent uses. Some interesting spaces that no longer exist or are used for different purposes include: a janitor’s apartment in the basement of the library, currently used for storage; a basement-level loading dock in what is now the front of the library; and Bookends Cafe occupies space that used to be a ladies’ lounge!

Mark also talked about where the different library additions met the original building. Photographs, floor plans, and information culled from The Library at Iowa State helped tell the story. Mark and some other library staff attending the tour were also able to fill in some blanks.

The photographs below show the different views of the library from 1925 through 1999. These photographs can be found online in the University Library’s Digital Collections in University Photographs. You can also drop by the reading room to see more photographs of the library and other historical ISU pictures. We’re open from 10-4!

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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!

In honor of #NationalPollinatorWeek @ReimanGardensIA @ISUExtension

It is National Pollinator Week, and several groups at ISU are partnering with Reiman Gardens to celebrate Pollinator Fest tomorrow, June 25.

hummingbird and feeder

Hummingbirds are pollinators too! This ruby-throated hummingbird picture is from the Iowa Ornithologists Union Records (MS 166), box 12, folder 23.

More than a hundred years ago, Iowa State College Agricultural Extension recognized the importance of bees as pollinators. If more Iowans kept bees, they suggested, “the presence of such large numbers of bees would result in the better cross pollenization [sic] and fertilization of blossoms, which would indirectly add very much more in the production of fruits and seeds of various kinds” (Bee Keeping in Iowa, Extension Bulletin no. 11, March 1913, Bee Keeping Extension Publications, RS 16/3/0/17).

"Bee Keeping in Iowa," Extension Bulletin no. 11, March 1913. From Bee Keeping Extension Publications, RS 16/3/0/17.

“Bee Keeping in Iowa,” Extension Bulletin no. 11, March 1913. From Bee Keeping Extension Publications, RS 16/3/0/17.