Say “Hello!” to our new Reference Coordinator!

Olivia is our new Reference Coordinator. She will be responsible for managing our reference desk as well as assessing how we can best orient new researchers to our reading room.

New employee, young woman, sitting at table in reading room, reading book in cradle.

Reference Coordinator, Olivia, learning about ISU history so she can be super awesome in her new position!

Olivia has a history and political science degree from the University of Iowa.  In her senior year, she took a library research class designed for history students.  The librarian who taught the course suggested that Olivia look into library school after graduation. Olivia followed that advice all the way to the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.  While in graduate school, she worked and volunteered in the History, Philosophy, Newspaper Library working on digital humanities projects.  She also worked at the Illinois Fire Service Institute Library, which provided reference help and information for Illinois firefighters in training.

After graduating with her Master of Library Science (MLS), Olivia worked at the public library in Boone as the Adult Services Coordinator and jack-of-all-trades.  She is very excited to be the Reference Coordinator in Special Collections and University Archives at Iowa State University.  She has a passion for helping people find information sources they may never have known existed, and the archives is a perfect place to do just that.

While Olivia is of course a fan of books, you may be surprised to know that she is unashamed of her love of all things Real Housewives (Beverly Hills and Orange County are favorites, but really, any city will do).  She also spent the summer between her years in graduate school keeping a blog where she reviewed romance books that featured librarians as main characters.


Rare Book Highlights: the oldest book

Large books sits in an open box with sides raised at angles to support the book when it is opened.

Quaestiones de veritate sitting in its cradle box specially designed by a former intern with the library’s Preservation Department.

Saint Thomas Aquinas. Quaestiones de veritate. Colonie: Johann Koelhoeff de Lubeck, 1475. Call number: XI 1475 T36.

It is certainly not the oldest book in the world, but it is the oldest book at Iowa State University Library. This copy of St. Thomas Aquinas‘s work, known in English as Disputed Questions on Truth and originally written in the 13th century, was printed by Johann Koelhoeff de Lubeck in 1475 in Cologne, Germany.  It is what is referred to as an incunabulum, or “incunable,” a book printed in Europe before the year 1501. “Incunabula” is a Latin word that translates to “swaddling clothes,” and it refers to books from “the cradle of printing” period–the first 50 years of printing following Gutenberg‘s invention of moveable type and the printing press. These are the first European books that were made in a mechanized fashion, after centuries of scribes in monasteries painstakingly copying books by hand.

With its designation as ISU’s Oldest Book, this Aquinas sees a lot of use. We trot it out for visiting VIPs getting a tour of the library. We show it to alumni, and occasionally to eager groups of students who heard something about a really old book. And this book is worth seeing. Not only because it is “really old,” but because it demonstrates a lot about how early books were made.

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The cover shows signs of being quite ornamental. Leather was stretched over wooden boards, and the leather was stamped with hot metal tools. These tools created diamond patterns and stamps of what looks like a deer, birds, fleur de lis, and other floral and geometric shapes. There are holes in four corners and in the center that likely once held bosses (click here for another blog post featuring bosses), and there are signs of clasps at the edges of the front and back covers.

Shows an open book. On the left side is a sheet with two columns of handwritten text.

Manuscript leaf used to attach the covers to the book.

Opening up the book, there are more interesting things to see. Above, you can see a manuscript leaf (a page that has been written by hand) that had been used as a front endpaper covering the wooden board of the cover. It was a common practice for early bookbinders to use manuscript waste or print waste in this way. Here is a close-up view of the manuscript writing:

Close up of the manuscript inside the front cover of the book.

Close up of the manuscript inside the front cover of the book.

The inside back cover is similar, but here, a strip of the paper has been torn away to reveal the cords laced in the board. The pages of a book are sewn onto a series of cords. These cords are then attached to the boards, as can be seen below. On the spine, you can see evidence of the cords hidden underneath the leather in what are known as raised bands.

Looking into the pages of the text itself, we see that the pages of the printed text look very similar to the manuscript pages lining the boards. In both the  manuscript and printed leaves, the page layout is very similar with two columns of text and wide margins that was commonly used for medieval manuscripts. The typeface was designed to resemble the form of letters in medieval scripts.

Two facing pages of a book. Each page has two columns of text. There are large red initial capital letters and other red markings added to the text by pen.

Inside pages of Quaestiones de veritate.

What also stands out are the red initial capital letters at the beginning of sections of the text. These features were also brought into printing from the medieval manuscript tradition. These initials could be decorated in various ways, and could sometimes contain elaborate figures and scenes. Here they are simple red letter forms, but I find them no less appealing for their simplicity.

The pages also contain numerous other red markings in the text. This is referred to as rubrication and is usually used to indicate the end of one section of text and the beginning of another, and sometimes to announce the subject of the section or its purpose. The word “rubrication” comes from the Latin rubrico, meaning “to color red.” A completed text was given to a special scribe known as a rubricator who would add the additional red markings. Here we see this early printed work following a similar process.

Thanks for coming on this tour of our oldest book in the collection. Now you can see why it gets so much attention!


#TBT A Painting Party @ISUDesign

This weeks #TBT photo comes from the College of Design. Pictured here is a group of students working on their projects for an art class. While the photo is undated, it looks like it was taken in the 1950s (note the hair and clothing styles, not to mention the saddle shoes!). For more information on the College of Design (which wasn’t a formal college until 1979), take a look at some of our collections! We also have many more photos of students in art classes, as well as photos of students’ art pieces.

Students working on their art projects, undated. University Photographs, RS 26/2/F, Box 2076.

Students working on their art projects, undated. University Photographs, RS 26/2/F, Box 2076.

 


Coming soon: Avian Archives of Iowa Online (avIAn)

Black and white photograph of baby chipping sparrow sitting on a tree branch with its mother feeding it.

Photograph of chipping sparrows from Walter Rosene Papers, MS 589. Back of photo reads, “Meal time in the chipping sparrow family. This youngster is 9 days old.”

We are very pleased to announce that Iowa State University received a 2016 Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives Award from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). This grant will fund a two-year project to establish a web portal for digital Iowa ornithological primary sources dating from 1895 to 2012. The Avian Archives of Iowa Online (avIAn) will include material from eight collections from Special Collections and University Archives. These collections  document over one hundred years of bird study in Iowa and encompass some of the Midwest’s most influential conservationists.

Handwritten journal page reads, "Saturday June 14, 1924. Left Sioux City at 3:45 p.m. Speedometer reading 16998. Photo of us by car at start (spoiled). Red wing - Dickcissel - Meadowlark. Mourning Dove - Flicker - Barn Swallow...

Journal from Iowa, Minnesota, and North Dakota bird watching trip, 1924. Walter M. Rosene, Sr. Papers, MS 589, Special Collections Department, Iowa State University Library, box 13, folder 1.

The selected collections include:

Once completed, avIAn will present the items as both archival materials and as scientific data, expanding its potential user base.

For more information, see the Library’s news release.

 


Report of foreign seeds and plants received at Ames, 1907 to 1914

One of my duties is cataloging old bachelors theses in the University Archives. I have worked my way up to 1916 with lots more to go. At some point ISU stopped generating so many theses at the bachelor level of study, but there’s no end in sight for me, so it’s a good thing some of the theses are interesting. I have blogged about them before: see my July, 2016 item entitled In 1913, students had designs on the Campanile’s chimes.

In 1915, a horticulture student named John Hampden Allison wrote his thesis on efforts to bring plants from around the world to Ames. I was intrigued to learn of the existence of the “Ames Plant Introduction Garden.” Receiving shipments of plants was just the beginning since the point was to grow and study them for a variety of reasons. I had not realized there was such a thing as the United States Office of Seed and Plant Introduction, either. “Invasive species” come to mind when I think about such matters from my non-farmer, non-horticulturalist perspective 100+ years after Allison submitted his thesis. In fact these plant introduction activities were admirably thoughtful. We use plant matter for innumerable purposes from food to medicine to building materials. It stands to reason that science and commerce would benefit from ongoing systematic programs of this type.

Nowadays we are beginning to take genetic engineering of plants and animals for granted. It still seems futuristic, but genetic engineering is a well-established means of modifying organisms’ traits to better suit human needs. In 1915 genetic engineering was science fiction; selective breeding and the acquisition of desirable variants or alternative species were the only games in town. Hence the existence of seed “banks” and “libraries” and places like the Ames Plant Introduction Garden.

Report of Foreign Seeds and Plants Received at Ames, 1907 to 1914 / J. H. Allison. 1915.

Report of Foreign Seeds and Plants Received at Ames, 1907 to 1914 / J. H. Allison. 1915. Page 7. ISU Spec. Coll. and Univ. Archives. Call no. C Ob 1915 Allison.

As you can see from the photo caption above, a major area of interest was how various species would respond to Iowa’s climate. It is unclear whether the 1911-1912 winter low temperature of -35° should be interpreted as Fahrenheit or Celsius, but either one would be lower than expected. Weather Channel data for Ames (as found at Wikipedia) states that the “highest recorded temperature was 102° F (39° C) in 1988 and the lowest was −28° F in 1996.” For comparison a list entitled Des Moines Climate 1878-Present gives a lowest daily minimum of -30 [sic] on January 5 of 1884. Not having time for further research into this subtopic, I conclude that Allison’s cited reading of -35° is Fahrenheit and is plausible, but only as a record-breaking historical anomaly.

Allison contextualizes the photo further on page 6. He describes Amygdalus davidiana as “a wild peach native to China” that came to Ames by way of Chico, California. The story is that the Ames Plant Introduction Garden had a “peach orchard of hardy native varieties [that] was practically killed out” by the extreme winter lows of 1911-1912 but that the Chinese peach trees (Amygdalus davidiana) “withstood the temperature like oaks.” Good to know.

Other topics are covered in Allison’s book as well – greenhouse versus outdoor cultivation results, characteristics of fruit, potential for hybridization, et cetera. The text is not particularly scientific in itself, but I can see its usefulness as a readable summary of its subject matter.

Working with this book (and then blogging about it) is a good example of what it’s like to be a cataloger in special collections. There is no time for me to learn about all the diverse topics that I encounter. I have to learn enough to create bibliographic descriptions, and maybe the occasional blog entry, but if I spend too much time learning about unfamiliar subjects my productivity suffers. In conclusion, I hope I have done justice to J. H. Allison’s thesis and related topics. As always, readers should feel free to comment. Share your knowledge or life experience in relation to my themes.

UPDATE: In comments, reader Brian Mayer provided information about the North Central Regional Plant Introduction Station and a link to its website. It’s gratifying to know that the NCRPIS and affiliated organizations remain committed to “preserving and providing plant genetic resources for agriculture since 1948.” Thanks, Brian.

 


Working the Corner of Yesterday and Tomorrow

When I was a kid schoolteachers used slide projectors quite a bit. Slides and transparencies are very easy to use. Film projectors and reels are a little trickier, but those were commonly used as well. Some instructors were still using these media when I was earning my degrees (roughly 1995 to 2007). Doing so could make sense: not all topics are subject to change, and if the teaching aids and apparatus are durable, why not use that slide show on Renaissance art for 20 years?

Working in archives often means working with outmoded technology and information-bearing media. It’s interesting that while archivists are not stuck in the past — we use cutting-edge tools, we collect and preserve modern stuff — archivists can never forget about the old media, machinery, methods, and materials. All that is donated to (and actively collected by) institutions like archives, museums, and special libraries.

Today I will blog about glass slides and the projectors that love them. ISU Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) has more than one set of glass slides, but our largest set of them is part of the Warren H. Manning Papers (manuscript collection MS 218). Manning (1860-1938) was a giant in the realm of landscape architecture. Photography was one of his favorite tools. Among other things, SCUA’s Manning collection includes over 2000 glass “lantern slides” and over 1000 photographic prints made from the slides. Take a look — 1554 images are online here. Quite a few are of scant interest to laypeople, but there are interesting and beautiful ones too:

218-ls-489

Taken at Ishpeming, Michigan. William G. Mather house before planting. No date. Manning lantern slide #489. Image ID 218.LS.489.

The word “lantern” in “lantern slides” sounds a bit archaic, doesn’t it? When I think of lanterns, I think of wicks and flames, not light bulbs. Similarly, some people — Brits, possibly others — refer to flashlights as “electric torches” or just “torches,” a usage I find appealing. Lantern slide projectors use bulbs, but they are descended from magic lanterns. The basic idea is very old and requires nothing more than a source of light (the brighter the better) and something to shine it through (not necessarily a photograph: stained glass invites comparison). In this way it reminds me of the camera obscura. What could be simpler, and yet so pregnant with possibilities?

dilineascope-side-2

A Spencer “Delineascope” glass slide projector, one of several that SCUA owns. Made in the 1920s. Was used for instructional purposes at ISU.

Of course, making glass slides with photographic images on them is a 19th century development. While archives and collectors should take good care of the slides, and maintain some projectors of the same vintage, we have an interest in reformatting the images. Glass slides are heavy and fragile. The projector pictured above is very heavy (take my word for it). Most people do not need to use the originals; photographic prints and digitized versions are usually better options. We pursue the same strategy when we offer facsimiles of rare books and manuscripts. Certain researchers need to see the real artifacts, and within reason we love to show them off.

The work of reformatting information resources takes as many forms as there are types of media. Consider that some things can be viewed with the naked eye, while others require an intermediary device (such as a projector). Computer programs and data storage are an extreme case; since the “goalposts” have moved so quickly, meeting requirements for preserving and accessing legacy digital resources is a daunting challenge.

Being a musician I am tempted to digress into digital audio reformatting and related topics, but I’ll save those thoughts for another time.

 


“For Married Students”: Building a Community in Pammel Court, 1946-1978

This slideshow documents a little bit of the massive amount of work that went into the exhibition opening tomorrow, “For Married Students”: Building a Community in Pammel Court, 1946-1978.” This project is the culmination of a collaboration between the Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) and Preservation departments in the University Library and the Department of History. Students in Asst. Prof. Mark Barron’s Public History class (HIS 481X) spent the 2016 fall semester in the SCUA Reading Room and the library general collection conducting research.

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The opening reception is tomorrow, January 18, 6-8 p.m. in 198 Parks Library. Refreshments will be provided by the Department of History. The exhibition will be available for viewing tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. on the 4th floor of Parks Library. If you are unable to attend the opening, the exhibit will be available through the 2017 spring semester.

This blog post authored by Rachel Seale and Monica Gillen.


Basketball: Iowa State versus Kansas 60 Years Ago #TBT

Wilt Chamberlain (Kansas #13)

From University Photograph Collection, 24/5/G, box 1817

This Saturday, January 14th, marks the 60th anniversary of a well-remembered game in Iowa State’s basketball history: Iowa State versus Kansas. Both teams had players which would go on to have major professional basketball careers:  Gary Thompson (Iowa State, #20) and Wilt Chamberlain (Kansas, #13). In the photograph above, Chamberlain is attempting to make a basket while Thompson guards on the floor.

It was an exciting game, with Iowa State beating Kansas, 39-37. At the very end, Don Medsker made the winning basket. The game was Chamberlain’s first loss in college basketball. In celebration of the win, Iowa State fans invaded the Armory’s floor after the game.

A number of images documenting the game are now available in Digital Collections. Although we don’t have a program from the game (please contact us if you’d be willing to donate one!), we do have news clippings from that year in RS 24/5/0/0, box 1, folder 1, a folder of materials on Gary Thompson (RS 21/7/1), and the book “Gary Thompson, All-American” by Gary Offenburger.  Additional men’s basketball records are also available in the University Archives.


Looking Back on the 1960s

This is the first in a series of posts about Iowa State University during the 1960s.

Exploring The Chart: Rules and Regulations for Women

This past semester I had the pleasure of assisting a history class interested in studying student life during the 1960s here at Iowa State. For this type of research there are many great places to start in the archives. The Bomb, Iowa State’s yearbook, and other student publications like the Iowa State Daily and the Iowa Homemaker offer lots of opportunities to explore college life throughout the years. For some reason, maybe due to the relative lack of formal rules imposed upon my youth, I find myself fascinated by the regulations that governed student conduct on campus. The best place to find these rules for Iowa State students of the 1960s is in the student handbook, which at this time was called The Chart.

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This is an undated image of Linden Hall, originally built as a women’s dormitory. Photograph from box 487, Linden Hall, RS 7/4/I, University Photograph Collection.

The 1959/1961 issue of The Chart provides a clear picture of what was expected from students at Iowa State, especially women, during the start of the 1960s. At this time men and women were housed in separate dormitories on opposite sides of campus. There were also far more restrictions on women than men. In 1960, all undergraduate women had to live in residence halls or sorority houses except under special circumstances approved by administration. The Chart details very specifically the times when women must be in their residence halls. Freshman women had to be home by 9:00 pm most weeknights whereas sophomores and up were able to stay out until the wee hour of 10:00 pm. Friday and Saturday nights the women were granted leave until midnight and 12:30 am respectively. For special events women were allowed extended hours, but this was only for a handful of events such as Homecoming, VEISHEA, and annual dances.

07-04-i_lindenhall_box-0487

No car rides without a letter from your parents! This undated photograph shows several cars parked outside Linden Hall. Photograph from box 487, Linden Hall, RS 7/4/I, University Photograph Collection.

Another example of some of the strict rules for women involved visitations and travels. Any woman student intending to be away from the residence hall later than 6:00 pm had to “sign out” and any time a woman planned to leave town for any reason, she had to secure permission from the residence director. A letter of approval for out-of-town travel and for all car trips required a written letter of approval from the student’s parents! The handbook quite emphatically denied any women from entering the residence of a male student unless she was an immediate family member such as a mother or sister–and even then this was allowed only during certain times.

 

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This image shows members of Lowe House in Westgate Hall during the 1969 winter quarter. These women would be among the first at Iowa State to reside in a dormitory previously housing only men. Image taken from a Lowe House scrapbook located in Box 8 of the Union Drive Houses records, RS 7/4/4.

By the end of the decade, some of these strict rules started to soften just a bit. For one thing, in 1968 women and men started living in the same buildings, though still on separate houses/floors. Also, women were allowed as guests into men’s rooms, though hours restricted these visits to Saturdays and Sundays only. In a surprising twist they were allowed to meet with the door closed! An interesting rule that appears in the Guide to Resident Hall Living for 1969 that didn’t appear in the earlier Chart were regulations regarding the proper location for sun bathing.

chart1969

The student handbook, The Chart, for 1969-1971. Archives books call number LD2535.8 I58x

It’s important to note that these types of rules were not unique to Iowa State. In many ways these regulations were not much changed from those established at the school a century earlier. It wasn’t until the students themselves started agitating for greater equality and freedom that things started to change. The archives has many official and published records documenting student life in the 1960s at Iowa State, but relatively little from the individual students themselves. We are always interested in speaking with former students and alumni willing to donate materials documenting their personal adventure at Iowa State, so feel free to give us a call!


#TBT George Washington Carver

On this day in 1943, George Washington Carver, arguably Iowa State’s most famous alumnus, died. The iconic scientist’s research resulted in the creation of hundreds of products derived from plants. His products and his farming methods transformed the rural ecomony, helping farmers and their land flourish. Today, we honor him for his achievements and the impact they have made on the world.

George W. Carver I.A.C. Class '94. Taken in 1893. This was Carver's graduation picture, which appeared in the 1894 Bomb, Iowa State's yearbook. The same picture appears in the faculty section of the 1896 Bomb, when he was Assistant Botanist in the Agricultural Experiment Station from 1894-96.

Photograph of George W. Carver I.A.C. Class ’94. Taken in 1893. This was Carver’s graduation picture, which appeared in the 1894 Bomb, Iowa State’s yearbook. The same picture appears in the faculty section of the 1896 Bomb, when he was Assistant Botanist in the Agricultural Experiment Station from 1894-96.

To learn more about George Washington Carver, view the guide to his collection and come to Special Collections and University Archives in-person and see his papers in our reading room. To see a great selection of his papers, browse his digital collection. Learn more about Iowa State University Library’s digital collections. You will have guaranteed hours of enjoyment.

 

“There is no short cut to achievement. Life requires thorough preparation – veneer isn’t worth anything.” George Washington Carver