American Archives Month

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:

If you’re working in an archives or cultural heritage institution and would like ideas on how to celebrate visit:



Rare Books Highlights: Books from the Index librorum prohibitorum

This week is Banned Books Week, an annual celebration of the freedom to read. Book banning and censorship have gone on for centuries, and one of the most prominent vehicles for such activity in the Western world was the Index librorum prohibitorum, the list of books banned by the Roman Catholic church for spreading heretical ideas. The Index made its first appearance in 1559 under Pope Paul IV, and it carried broad restrictions, including all books by heretical authors and printers, and books without identifiable authors or printers. The Pauline Index was not readily accepted because of the severity of its restrictions, and so it was replaced in 1564 by the Tridentine Index, coming out of the Council of Trent, the Roman Catholic church’s 19th ecumenical council convened in response to the Protestant Reformation. This Index followed more narrow rules for prohibiting books. For example, books of a non-religious nature by a heretical author were not necessarily prohibited. The Tridentine Index laid the foundation for later editions of the Index. In 1571, the Sacred Congregation of the Index was established to oversee and periodically update the Index and to investigate particular cases of denounced writings. The final 20th edition of the Index appeared in 1948, and it was officially abolished by Pope Paul VI in 1966.

This post highlights two famous astronomy books from our collections that spent time on the Index.

Nicolaus Copernicus. De revolutionibus orbium coelestium. Basileae, Ex Officina Henricpetrina, 1566. Call number: QB41 .C79d

Nicolaus Copernicus. Portrait from Toruń, beginning of the 16th century.

Copernicus overturned the long-held idea of an earth-centered universe in his De revolutionibus. He demonstrated mathematically that the Earth and the other planets revolve around the sun, and that the moon revolves around the Earth, as shown in the diagram below.

Page showing a diagram of the heliocentric solar system model from Copernicus’s De Revolutionibus.

The book was not censored immediately upon publication. Though the work received criticism for being in conflict with Joshua 10:13 from the Bible, in which the Sun is commanded to stand still in the sky, thus indicating that the Sun circles the Earth, it took over 70 years for the book, first published in 1543, to come under consideration by the Congregation of the Index, due in large part to the astronomical work of Galileo (see more below). In 1616, the Congregation placed the work on the Index “until corrected,” and in 1620 ten specific corrections to the text were outlined that were designed to make heliocentricism appear to be theoretical only and not a description of a natural phenomenon.

Some copies of the book were “corrected” by hand, especially copies owned by people living in Roman Catholic countries. The ISU copy is, perhaps unfortunately, not corrected. Check out this blog post from University of Rochester River Campus Libraries for examples of a corrected copy.

Coat of arms stamped in gold leaf on brown leather.

Coat of arms on the cover of ISU’s copy of De Revolutionibus.

Although lacking the corrections, the ISU copy does have some interesting elements. Check out the coat-of-arms on the binding. A note pasted inside the front cover indicates that this coat-of-arms was used by the “eldest son during father’s lifetime” of the Berkeley family, a family from the English nobility from a long-running Saxon line.



Galileo Galilei. Dialogo di Galileo Galilei. Fiorenza i.e. Napoli, 1710. Call number: QB41 .G35 D5x 1710

Justus Sustermans’ Portrait of Galileo, 1636. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.

The writings of Galileo and Copernicus are closely linked in their relation to the Index. In fact, he wrote as early as 1597 to both Johannes Kepler and a former colleague named Jacopo Mazzoni, sharing his support for Copernicus’ model of the solar system. Galileo’s work at this time focused largely on mechanics, but with the invention of the telescope in 1608, he turned his attentions to improving it. In 1610, Galileo took his improved telescope and starting looking to the heavens. Galileo made a number of famous discoveries, including four moons of Jupiter, which he published in a book titled Sidereus nuncius. His made later discoveries, including the phases of Venus, that removed objects to the Copernican system, and in 1613 he published Letters on Sunspots, in which he first spoke openly in favor of the Copernican system. Later than same year, theological objects to the Copernican system were raised, and Galileo rose to its defense. He wrote on the necessary separation between scientific investigation and theological issues, and he even went to Rome in late 1615 to advocate against the suppression of the Copernican system and to clear himself from any condemnation. Galileo failed to stop the 1616 edict against De revolutionibus, and while no actions were taken against him or his works, he was instructed to no longer defend Copernicanism.

In 1623, Pope Urban VIII was appointed in Rome. Galileo met with the new pope in 1624, and over the course of several meetings, the pope granted Galileo permission to write about the Copernican system, so long as he presented it as a theory. The result was Galileo’s Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. The book took the form of a conversation between a spokesman for Copernicus, a spokesman for the Ptolemy and Aristotle (who promulgated a geocentric model of the solar system), and an educated layman for whose support the other two are vying. The follower of Ptolemy and Aristotle is named Simplicio, which looks suspiciously like a double entendre for a simple-minded person, since the Italian for simple is semplice. While on the surface Galileo remains uncommitted to the Copernican system, the course of the book systematically disproved the geocentric model of the universe. He also put the arguments used by Pope Urban VIII himself in conversations with Galileo into the mouth of Simplicio, which seems to have caused great personal offense to the pope. Upon publication of the Dialogo in 1632, copies were sent to Rome, and before long Galileo was ordered to appear before the Inquisition.

Galileo’s Dialogo was written as a conversation between three speakers, but it proved many mathematical points, as illustrated by the diagram on the right page.

The results of Galileo’s trial are well-known. He was found guilty of heresy in his support of the Copernican system and was forced to abjure those views. He was sentenced to imprisonment, but due to health issues the sentence was commuted to house arrest for the remainder of his life. Finally, the Dialogo was placed on the Index.

Galileo continued to write while under house arrest, publishing an important work in physics, Discourses and Mathematical Demonstrations Relating to Two New Sciences, in 1638. Because the publication of any of Galileo’s works had been banned, he had to have the manuscript smuggled out and published in Holland by Elzevir.

ISU’s copy of the Dialogo is a large-paper copy of the second vernacular edition, meaning the edition that was printed in Italian, rather than the original Latin. Published in 1710, almost 80 years after the first edition and 68 years after Galileo’s death in 1642, it was still a prohibited work. Perhaps that is why there is no publisher indicated and there is a disguised printing location–the title page says Florence, but bibliographic scholars have identified that it was actually published in Naples. This edition is important in that it contains, in addition to the Dialogue, several other related texts that were not available at the time of the first edition. Notably, it includes the first Italian printing of Galileo’s Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina, in which he argued for the independence of science from religion, and a reprint of Paolo Foscarini’s Lettera, which was the first Italian work defending the Copernican theory. This last work was banned in 1616 at the same time as Copernicus’ De revolutionibus, and existing copies were burned. Also of interest is the Inquisition’s sentence of Galileo and his abjuration.

Both works by Galileo and Copernicus remained on the Index until 1835, when the Catholic Church abandoned its official opposition to heliocentrism.


This post was written with help from:

Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems.” Wikipedia. 30 August 2017.

De revolutionibus orbium coelestium.” Wikipedia. 9 September 2017.

Dictionary of Scientific Biography. Charles Coulston Gillispie, ed. Scribner, 1981.

“Galileo Galilei.” Wikipedia. 18 September 2017.

Index Librorum Prohibitorum.” Wikipedia. 28 July 2017.

“List of authors and works on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum.” Wikipedia. 23 June 2017.

“Nicolaus Copernicus.” Wikipedia. 18 September 2017.

Two New Sciences.” Wikipedia. 21 September 2017.

#TBT Engineer’s Campfire

Tomorrow is the first day of fall, so let’s look back at an Iowa State fall tradition of days gone by.


Page from the 1927 Bomb

The text on the page reads “One of the most picturesque occasions of the Fall Quarter is the Engineer’s Campfire held in a natural theatre in North Woods.  During the afternoon a regular “Side-show” provides entertainment, while at night two big fires light up a stage for student vaudeville stunts.  The Engineers are knighted by St. Patrick by the light of the two big “torches.”  Norman Brown was St. Patrick this fall, and Margaret Erickson was “Engineer’s Lady.”

The Engineer’s Campfire was suspended in 1929 due to falling revenue and the unpredictability of the fall weather in Iowa.

As the weather gets colder (or at least, will eventually!), take time to learn about other ISU traditions that have been left in the past. After you do that, the entire run of the Bomb has been digitized, and all are encouraged to contribute to helping transcribe the pages in order to make the text search more accurate.

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.


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.


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

History of the Library, Pt. 4

This is the fourth and final post in our series on the history of the library at Iowa State University.  Need to catch up? Read our first, second, and third posts.

We left off last time after the second library addition in 1969.  Thus far the story of the library has been about expansion, and this post is no different.  Continuing with the trend, the library was acquiring materials rapidly to help meet the expanding student population and growth in programs at ISU.  In 1967, the library had 680,027 bound volumes.  About a decade later, that number had nearly doubled to 1,180,951 volumes.  This does not include the other collection items such as serial titles, microfilm, and maps.

Between the 2nd and 3rd addition, the library also established the Special Collections Department and the Media/Microforms Center.  The library collections were growing, straining the space in the existing library.  Additionally, with a continuously growing student population, reading and study space in the library was also quite limited.  Thus, the library needed to expand again.

The third expansion of the library was completed and opened on August 15, 1983, and largely transformed the library into what it looks like today.  The addition took place in two stages: first was the addition and second was renovating the existing building.  For example, the Periodical Room was restored while retaining its 1920s design.  Overall, the third addition added a little over 70,000 square feet of usable space.*

One major change that came about with the third addition that anyone who has seen Parks Library will recognize is the glass front of the library.


Library 3rd Addition, University photos, box 259

You may be wondering why the library is known as the Parks library.  The University President at the time of the second and third expansions was W. Robert Parks.  He and his wife (Ellen Sorge Parks) were big supporters of the library and believed a strong library was essential to a strong university.  President Parks was instrumental in securing funding for the expansion and renovation of the library.  In order to honor his and his wife’s efforts, the library was dedicated as the Parks Library in a ceremony on June 8, 1984.  A portrait of Mr. and Mrs. Parks hangs in the library; you can see it on the first floor on your way to Bookends Cafe.


Library staff putting up the Parks’ portrait in 2000, University photos, box 2043

Of course, these history of the library posts have focused on changes to the building, but a whole other set of posts could be devoted to changes in staffing, automation, and countless other changes and improvements the library has had over the years.  If you are interested in exploring more, please visit the reading room!

*Post written with the help of “A Short History of the Iowa State University Library 1858-2007” by Kevin D. Hill.



#Flashback Friday – Iowa State vs. Iowa

Tomorrow is the Iowa State vs. Iowa football game. Wednesday’s post detailed the history behind the rivalry. Today’s Flashback Friday photograph is of an Iowa versus Iowa State football game in Ames at Clyde Williams Field.

Photograph of an Iowa versus Iowa State football game in Ames at Clyde Williams Field.

Drop by our reading room to look at more football photographs in our University Photograph collection. We’re open Monday-Friday from 9-5.

The Great ISU-Iowa Football Rivalry

This Saturday, the Iowa State Cyclone football team will meet up with their in-state rivals from Iowa City in the 65th meeting between the two teams. In a rivalry that dates back to 1894, the Cyclones have had some memorable wins in the series, such as the triple-overtime victory in 2011, as well as some pretty forgettable losses, such as last year’s 3-42 drubbing. Through all the wins and losses the two teams continue to play annually, taking turns hosting the big game. But it wasn’t always this way.

Between 1894 and 1934 the Cyclones played the Hawkeyes 24 times, racking up eight wins during that stretch. Then came the great hiatus. After the 1934 game, the two teams would not meet again on the gridiron for over 40 years. Why did the series stop? And why, starting in 1977, did the two teams resume playing each other every year since?

Photograph of members of the 1894 team at their 40th year reunion in 1934.

This photographs shows members of the 1894 Iowa State football team, winners of the first meeting between Iowa State and Iowa in 1894, at their 40th reunion in 1934. They were present to see Iowa State defeat Iowa in the 1934 game–the last game the two teams would play for 43 years. [University Photograph Collection, RS 24/6/D, Football, Box 1865]

Newspaper reports leading up to the 1977 game offer many hypotheses, but nobody apparently knew exactly why the two schools stopped playing each other in football–and in most other sports for that matter. Up until 1934, it is true that there were accusations of cheating or having unqualified players on each other’s teams–some of these claims proved to be true. Some claimed that Iowa State’s surprising and resounding win in the 1934 contest, and the resulting gloating by Iowa State fans, played a role in Iowa canceling and then not scheduling any further games with Iowa State. Some felt that Iowa’s membership in the prestigious Big 10 meant that scheduling its “little brother” over in Ames only lent legitimacy to that program and didn’t offer the University of Iowa any advantages. Others stated that the University of Iowa did not want to be responsible for anguish amongst family members who rooted for opposing teams. Whatever the reason, the University of Iowa refused to include Iowa State on its football schedule for over 40 years despite numerous requests from Iowa State to renew the series.

When the Hawks and Cyclones finally did agree to play again, it didn’t exactly go smoothly. According to an article in the Ames Daily Tribune from January 29, 1977, the 1977 and 1978 games were agreed to in the early 1970s before the new Cyclone Stadium (now known far and wide as Jack Trice Stadium) was even under construction. Because Iowa’s stadium at the time was twice the size of Iowa State’s Clyde Williams Field, it was agreed that the games would be held in Iowa City. Both athletic directors agreed to extending the series to a total of six games. When the contracts were signed, only one of those six games, the game in 1981, was originally scheduled to be played in Ames–and that was only if the Cyclones built a new stadium by that time.

Photograph of Lou McCullough, 1971

Photograph of Lou McCullough, Iowa State Athletic Director for much of the 1970s. [University Photograph Collections, 24/6/A, Athletics, Box 1758]

As the 1976 football season came to a close and attention turned to the revival of the Iowa-Iowa State game in the fall, many bitter feelings would be expressed. Iowa announced that they were giving Iowa State 5,000 tickets to disperse to its fans, a number that Iowa State officials felt was far too few and that Iowa officials felt was more than generous. The athletic directors on both sides were new since the original agreements were signed and Iowa’s Bump Elliott tried to cancel the final three games in the series. The state legislature had to step in and prevent that from happening. The Iowa State athletic director, Lou McCullough, wanted to revisit the contract and make it a home-and-home series due to Iowa State’s new stadium. Pretty soon everyone was getting involved. A state senator from Ames, John Murray, introduced a resolution in the state legislature that would require the renewal of the games to be played on a home-and-home basis; the Board of Regents discussed the games at their meetings that spring; and even Governor Ray told the two schools to settle things or he would get the legislature involved.

Photogrpah of Iowa State football player carrying the ball during the 1977 ISU-Iowa football game.

Photograph from the first game in the renewal of the rivalry between Iowa and Iowa State at Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, on September 17, 1977. [University Photograph Collection, RS 24/6/D, Football, Box 1880]

In the end, Iowa would send more tickets, around 7,800 total, for the Iowa State ticket office to disperse. The schedule, however was not changed. Five of the first six games in the renewed series were played in Iowa City. Iowa State did end up winning four of those six games, but despite coming into the season ranked 19th in the country, the Cyclones fell to the Hawkeyes by a score of 10-12 in that first game held on September 17, 1977. In a way, Iowa State did get what it had wanted–since 1981, Iowa and Iowa State have played every year on a home-and-home basis. Though some Hawkeye fans may still grumble about having to play the Cyclones each year, I imagine most people in Iowa are glad the game is played. So as you watch the game this weekend, remember all the hard work that went into renewing this rivalry and don’t forget, no matter the outcome, it’s only a game!

The Special Collections and University Archives has a large collection of records related to Iowa State football, including media guides, programs, posters, photographs, film, and other archival materials. Anyone is welcome to stop by and do some research–we would be happy to see you!

“Faithful friend of my girlhood”: the diary of Celestia Lee Barker

“I believe I will write a journal, said sister A. a few days ago,” Celestia Lee wrote in the first entry of her diary on July 5th, 1863. “It will be so novel like, and good to refer to, when I get old. That’s just it; I want to begin now; I will too said I; it will be so nice.”

Barker describes her decision to begin a diary.

First entry in Celestia Lee Barker’s diary, dated Thursday, July 5th 1863

The diary is part of the Celestia Lee Barker Papers (MS-246). Celestia Lee was born April 23, 1846, in Springwater, Livingston County, New York. In April 1855, when she was nine years old, her family moved to Macksburg, Madison County, Iowa. She began writing her diary when she was 17, and so perhaps it is not surprising that within the first few pages, we hear a description of a “beau” of hers:

Wm [William] accompanied me home from church yesterday. He did not come in but said if it was agreeable he would call in the evening. I consented and he went off. …Towards dark I was fixing up a little of course, and E. began about his coming. She had her own fun about it, and said she intended to sit up as long as I did. I told her I did not care, and perhaps C. would come too. She did not think he would; but time proved quite to the contrary, for soon there appeared to [sic] young men who took a beeline for our house….E. and C. were quite bashfull [sic] and did not have  much to say, but Wm. and I had a real time.

E. and C. were quite bashful and did not have much to say, but William and I had a real time. I wonder what A. will say about E's beau.

Barker describes she and her sister “E” meeting with their beaux in the evening.

By September, she writes about an unexpected change in her life. She has left home to attend a school (“seminary,” as she calls it) in Indianola. “A., H & [?] had been talking of coming here but I did not think as I could come till ma said I could if I wanted to. At first I thought it was impossible for there was so much to do at home but she argued it all away & the consequence was that I am here ready to begin studies,” she writes in her entry for Sept. 15, 1863.

She continues to keep in touch with William. On Sept. 18 she writes, “Rec’d a letter from Wm. this morning. He is most well & will start for the Reg’t before long.” As you might have noticed, she began keeping her diary during the Civil War.

She writes about school… “I like the Teacher very well & the scholars too, & had several new ones this week. One young man named Shepherd. Mattie calls him brother. He is real good looking.” (Sept. 22, 1863)

Have just returned from the Seminary and had very good sessions. I like the Teacher very well and the scholars too, and have several new ones this week. One young man named Shepherd Mattie calls him brother. He is real good looking.

Barker describes her school experiences.

…and social life… “Mat & I called on the other ‘old maids’ the other eve. O we had a splendid time pulling candy.” (Oct. 10, 1863)

…and loneliness… “O why do I feel so lonely & forsaken today as if I was alone from home & among strangers who cared nothing for me nor I for them. My thoughts turn to the past like a troubled dream & then to the future with appears so dark.

“I was out to the [?] last night & that accounts for it. It is the way with me generally after I have been so gay & they had music & dancing there. Farewell to fashionable society. I think I have witnessed you for the last time as a participator. I am sick of it. It is nothing but deceit adorned with gaudy trappings.” (Oct. 21, 1863)

Celestia kept her diary for about four years. In 1866, she got married to her beau William Barker. Her entry of May 10, 1866, begins, “Dear Journal how you are neglected of late & you have been such a faithful friend of my girlhood & these days will soon be over then this volume will be done & another begun then what will be the record.” Further on she continues, “We are to be married the 6th of Sept. & so much to do before that I intend to get the house plastered & things comfortable for ma before I leave her. That is my only grief & fear nothing in the future for myself. Wm. is as devoted as I could wish when we are alone but in public he hardly notices me & I hardly like such a marked difference but it is his way I supposed. He says he can’t understand me yet I am so different from others & I surely don’t understand him but I do not doubt his love.”

Journal entry states that she has neglected her journal lately, that she is looking forward to marriage, but that her fiance neglects her in public but is affectionate in private.

Entry for May 10, 1866 in which she describes her hopes for marriage.

There follows several blank pages before there are some poems.

She took up her diary again with an entry from April 23, 1881, that begins, “Well well here I am 35 ys. old today. What an old lady I am to be sure but don’t know as I feel any older than I did at 20 & people do say I have not changed much in looks. I do believe a great deal depends on keeping the heart young to keep our looks young & my life seems such a happy one with such a good man & 4 good smart children.”

Well well here I am 35 years old today. What an old lady I am to be sure, but don't know as I feel any older than I did at 20 and people do say I have not changed much in looks.

Entry dated April 23, 1881 on her 35th birthday.

Further pages include pasted clippings of poems and periodic diary entries. Her final entry is dated Apr 23d 1904, and begins, “Dear old journal it has been long long since I have written & now this is my 58 birthday & how busy I have been.” She writes that they now live in Denver, Colorado, “& have a beautiful home far nicer than I ever dreamed of having.” She reflects back on her life, noting,

How much I have to be thankful for & how often I have proved the old song I have always loved, ‘Ever down to old age all my people shall prove my sovereign eternal unchangeable love And when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn Like lambs they shall still in my bosom be borne.’ Blessed promise blessed hope but it seems as if I am getting only as I look in the glass for I am most always so old.”

Celestia Lee Barker diary 0006

Barker’s final entry dated April 23, 1904, in which she looks back on her marriage and thinks about aging.

A bittersweet reflection for one who was only (at least from a modern perspective) 41 years old. But all-in-all this diary presents a remarkable look at the life and reflections of a 19th century Iowa woman from youth through adulthood.

This diary can be viewed online in Digital Collections.



#TBT New School Wardrobe


University Photos, box 454, n.d.

For today’s Throwback Thursday post, we see some students showing off their new school wardrobes.  Styles may change, but the tradition of getting new clothes for a new school year remains.

I hope everyone has had a great first week of classes! Need a break during your busy week? Stop by Special Collections and University Archives and browse other pictures of student life from days gone by; we are open 9-5, Monday-Friday.

Artifacts in the Archives: School Days Memories

This collaborative post is about artifacts that remind Special Collections & University Archives (SCUA) staff of their school days. Welcome back to school Cyclones!

Marching Band Uniform Jacket

Heavy white jacket for marching band uniform. It has a white overlay on front with a red strip that has "Cyclones" embroidered in white. On the red cuffs are embroidered "Iowa State" in white thread. The collar and shoulders are red. Underneath the overlay are 6 gold embroidered bars with 2 gold buttons on each bar. On back of jacket is embroidered "ISU" in red and gold.

Artifact # 2012-010.002

Olivia Garrison, Reference Coordinator

This marching band uniform jacket reminds me of school (and particularly of the start of a fresh school year), because I remember hearing my high school’s marching band practice in the early hours before school started.  Now I get to hear the band after work!


Marching Band Uniform Jacket

 is maroon wool jacket with gold collar, trim, and stripe on sleeve. Embroidery on collar spells "I.S.C." in maroon thread.

Artifact # 2008-094.006

Laura Sullivan, Collections Archivist

The marching band uniforms always remind me of school, and one of my favorite aspects of high school, in fact, when I was in the marching band.  However…the heavy, wool uniforms (as this one is), were not my favorite.  I learned later that wool was considered far better than acrylic because of its breathability, and ability to theoretically keep you cool in the hot summers and warm when fall came around.  Despite the crowds and long lines for coffee, I love when fall semester comes around and I’m reminded of the beginning of school – the excitement and expectation of new classes, seeing fellow classmates again, and band practices preparing for upcoming football games.



Artifact # 2005-095

Amy Bishop, Rare Books & Manuscript Archivist

“Don’t you love New York in the fall?” Joe Fox writes to Kathleen Kelly in the movie You’ve Got Mail. “It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.”

I’ve always agreed that fall weather and fresh, new school supplies go together, and there is something about the crisp, cool days of early fall that makes me feel a nerdy anticipation of a new year of learning. So, although we are still enjoying the warmth of summer, I reveled this morning to feel a cool hint of autumn in the air this morning, fitting for our first week of fall classes.


3-ring binder

Rachel Seale, Outreach Archivist

3-ring binders remind me of school when I was a kid. I had a backpack filled with a binder or two, usually I could fit up to 3 subjects in a binder. I had lockers in Jr. High and High School so could swap text books in between classes but always had my binders in my backpack. When I processed collections, I had a love-hate relationship with binders. I usually appreciated the organization within the binders, but they took up much needed space within a box.

Board game

Wooden board with 18 wooden pegs, three circles and 3 triangles each with three holes for pegs

Artifact # 2001-220.002

Chris Anderson, Descriptive Records Project Archivist

Our files describe this artifact as a board game, but I’m not so sure. What would the rules be? In any case, it reminds me of preschool or kindergarten. I majored in Shapes with a minor in Colors. That’s a joke, but there’s an element of truth to it. When I went to school, I resisted learning to read. My mother read books to me in the early years, and I guess that reading in school seemed less appealing than quality time with mom. She said that I didn’t see the point, at first. Once I tried reading for myself, it became clear that I already knew how to do it at the first or second grade level.



red Iowa State Cyclones drawstring bag that has Cy at center & Iowa State Cyclones printed around Cy.

Brad Kuennen, University Archivist

I chose a red Iowa State Cyclones drawstring bag that is handed out to students during summer orientation. The bags are easily recognizable and seeing a student wearing one, which some do during the beginning of fall semester, almost instantly identifies the student as a freshman. Seeing them reminds me of a tradition from a century ago when freshman students wore beanies. Fortunately, freshman today are not required to wear the drawstring bags nor is there a special bonfire at the end of the year to burn the bags as happened with beanies all those years ago. When I see those bags start to appear, I know a new schoolyear is just right around the corner!