Sneak Peek! Exhibit Preparation

On Monday and Wednesday afternoon this week, HIS 481X was busy in 405 Parks working on the layouts for their exhibit cases. Staff from the Conservation Lab created mounts and reproduced original materials, selected for the exhibit, so that students could play around with the layout design for the exhibit cases.

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The exhibit opens on January 18. Stay tuned for more updates!


Drop by and see our current exhibits! We’re open Monday-Friday from 9-5.

Behind the Scenes – Homecoming 2016

Have you ever wondered what it takes to put together a pop-up exhibit? Last Friday, Special Collections & University Archives (SCUA) exhibited about two dozen items for three hours for Iowa State’s Homecoming. The temporary exhibit was open to the public, but our focus was alumni visiting for Homecoming. Today’s post is about our process.

Dry Run

Back in mid-August, we invited the Alumni Center to drop by and see what items we thought we’d include in the October Homecoming exhibit. This dry run entailed staff from the department brainstorming on what items would be best to put on exhibit and what order they should be displayed. Labels were made and the classroom was rearranged into an exhibit space. Heather Botine, Associate Director for Constituent Engagement, dropped by and gave us feedback on how we set the room up and what kinds of materials may engage alumni more. We also discussed what reproductions SCUA could provide for digital display over at the Alumni Center.

Heather Botine, Associate Director for Constituent Engagement, looks at our oldest book with Amy Bishop, Rare Book and Manuscripts Archivist. University Archivist, Brad Kuennen, and Collections Archivist, Laura Sullivan, in background.
Heather Botine, Associate Director for Constituent Engagement, looks at our oldest book with Amy Bishop, Rare Book and Manuscripts Archivist. University Archivist, Brad Kuennen, and Collections Archivist, Laura Sullivan, in background (Photo by Rachel Seale)

Two weeks out

We made sure to promote our Homecoming event in the library and in our social media. We enlisted the help of Monica Gillen, the Communication Specialist for the library, and Jody Kalvik, Instruction, Program Coordinator. Monica helped get the word out and Jody designed flyers, posters, a banner, and our signage.

The week before before Homecoming

We did one last practice run. We tweaked our list of items on display and took into account Heather’s set-up advice. We also invited Sonya Barron, Conservator, to drop by. Sonya ensured our items were sturdy enough to display, offered to provide mounts, and advised us how to safely display materials. We also made final decisions on what would be in the temporary exhibit and what order we wanted to display items, there was some rearrangement.  Pictures were taken of materials so we’d know how to set up the following week.

Two of our rare books propped up in book cradles (Photo b Rachel Seale)
Two of our rare books propped up in book cradles (Photo by Rachel Seale)

The week of Homecoming

Now that we had our exhibit finalists, we had to finish drafting and mounting the labels.

Friday of Homecoming!

We spent the morning setting up and our doors opened at 1 pm. We were so pleased at the opportunity to show off our treasures.

Thank you to everyone who visited us last Friday at 405 Parks Library. To those that missed seeing our treasures on display, drop by and see us sometime. We’re open from 9-5, Monday-Friday.

Brothers in conservation: Frederic and Aldo Leopold

Leopold family portrait. Frederic is on the lower right, Aldo on the upper left. Brother Carl and sister Marie are also shown with their mother Clara. Frederic Leopold Papers, MS 113, Box 6, Folder 1.
Leopold family portrait. Frederic is on the lower right, Aldo on the upper left. Brother Carl and sister Marie are also shown with their mother Clara. Frederic Leopold Papers, MS 113, Box 6, Folder 1.

If you are familiar with conservation or American nature writing, you have probably heard of Aldo Leopold. Author of A Sand County Almanac, he has been called the father of wildlife management. Born in Burlington, Iowa, in 1887, he worked for many years for the U.S. Forest Service before accepting a position at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in Game Management, the first such position in the country.

But you may not have heard of his younger brother, also a conservationist, Frederic Leopold. Frederic was born June 16, 1895, nine years after Aldo, and he grew up looking up to his eldest brother. Their father was an outdoorsman and would take his sons on trips into the country, teaching them to identify birds and plants and to observe nature. Frederic writes of his older brother’s already developed sense of ethics while hunting:

Frederic Leopold, undated. From Frederic Leopold Papers, MS 113, Box 6, Folder 2.
Frederic Leopold, undated. From Frederic Leopold Papers, MS 113, Box 6, Folder 2.

“…Aldo never shot sitting game with anyt[h]ing but a 22 rifle. His first scatter gun was a single barreled one to teach him to aim each shot with care because he would have only one chance.

“Game birds were shot on the wing. In case a downed bird was c[r]ippled, every effort was made to find that bird before going on hunting.” (from “Historical Development of the Land Ethic,” speech given to Student Wildlife Conclave, Ames, Iowa, March 9, 1974, MS 113, Frederic Leopold Papers, Box 7, Folder 14).

Wood duck nesting in one of Leopold's duck houses, 1966. Box 6, Folder 9.
Wood duck nesting in one of Leopold’s duck houses, 1966. Box 6, Folder 9.

As an adult, Frederic worked for the family business, the Leopold Desk Company, first serving as vice president under his brother Carl, and later taking over as president. With the example of his conservationist brother Aldo, however, it is not surprising that he was also active in conservation efforts and wildlife ecology. Specifically, he became concerned with the survival of the wood duck, which had become threatened with extinction during the early part of the 19th century. He designed wood duck houses and spent almost forty years studying the mating and nesting habits of wood ducks, many of which made their home in his Burlington backyard. In 1951 he published “A Study of Nesting Wood Ducks in Iowa” in the scientific journal The Condor.

Page from vol. 1 of Frederic Leopold's wood duck nesting records, 1951. MS 113, Box 9, Folder 1.
Page from vol. 1 of Frederic Leopold’s wood duck nesting records, 1951. MS 113, Box 9, Folder 1. (Click for larger image.)

Frederic received recognition throughout the state of Iowa for his important contributions to conservation, including an Honorary Doctor of Science from Iowa Wesleyan College, the Iowa Wildlife Conservation Award in 1966, and the Iowa Academy of Science Centennial Citation in 1975.

The Frederic Leopold Papers (MS 113) here in Special Collections document Frederic’s wood duck studies, travels, and relationship to his brother Aldo and other family members. More information on Aldo can be found by consulting the Aldo Leopold Archives in the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections.

Earth Day: Louis Pammel and Iowa state parks

Iowa was one of the first states in the United States to adopt a state park system, and it did so in large part due to the efforts of Iowa State professor of botany Louis H. Pammel.

Louis Pammel (right) with Carl Fritz Henning, custodian at Ledges State Park, 1926.
Louis Pammel (right) with Carl Fritz Henning, custodian at Ledges State Park, 1926.

In 1917, the Iowa General Assembly created the State Board of Conservation for the purpose of making recommendations for acquiring land for state parks and to administer the parks. Pammel served as the Board’s first chairman from 1918-1927. Under his tenure, Iowa acquired 38 state parks.

Pamphlet, "State Parks of Iowa," RS 13/5/13, Box 76, Folder 8.
Pamphlet, “State Parks of Iowa,” RS 13/5/13, Box 76, Folder 8 (click for larger image)

In an article titled, “Iowa Keeps Nature’s Gift: What the State is Doing to Preserve Plant Life and Scenic Beauties,” Pammel makes a case for the beauty of the Iowa landscapes set aside in state parks:

Photo of Palisades on the Cedar River in Linn County, later Palisades-Kepler State Park, Box 51, Folder 4a.
Photo of Palisades on the Cedar River in Linn County, later Palisades-Kepler State Park, RS 13/5/13, Box 51, Folder 4a.

We think of a park as a place where there are trees like the maple and the basswood or the stately elm and the sycamore or white pine and cedar, the oak and the ash and they are all beautiful, but let [us] not forget that in Iowa at least we should have pride in the Prairie Park where the lily and gentian, the golden rod and aster, the blue stem and the switch grass, the pasque flower and Johnny-jump-up vie with each other in brilliant array, for it is to the prairie that we owe all of our greatness as a corn state. (Louis H. Pammel Papers, RS 13/5/13, Box 41, Folder 4)

More than just beauty, however, Pammel was concerned with the resources state parks offered for science, history, and recreation:

The persons who framed the [Iowa state park] law had in mind the preservation of animals, rare plants, unique trees, some unique geological formations, the preservation of the Indian mounds, rare old buildings where Iowa history was made….The framers of this law wished to show generations yet unborn what Iowa had in the way of prairie, valley, lake and river. It was felt that a part of this heritage left to us was not only for the present generations, but that its citizens of the future had a just claim on this heritage. (Box 41, Folder 6)

Program from the dedication of Pammel State Park, 1930. Box 76, Folder 8.
Program from the dedication of Pammel State Park, 1930. RS 13/5/13, Box 76, Folder 8.

On June 30, 1930, Pammel’s contributions to Iowa state parks were honored with the re-dedication of Devil’s Backbone State Park near Winterset in Madison County as Pammel State Park.

Celebrate Earth Day by visiting an Iowa state park or other state park near you. Find out more about Pammel’s fascinating life (including his interactions with ISU alum George Washington Carver!) in the Louis Hermann Pammel Papers, RS 13/5/13.


An Archivist in Conservationland

On June 6th, I attended the Iowa Conservation and Preservation Consortium’s SOS (Save Our Stuff) conference with colleagues Hilary Seo, Head of Preservation, and Mindy Moeller, Conservation Technician. Mindy’s take on the conference can be found on the Preservation Department’s blog, as well as a feature by Hilary on the taxidermy session. I’m here to provide an archivist’s perspective on the conference. Being an archivist, I know a bit about preservation and conservation, but I am not trained in and therefore don’t perform the intensive preservation and conservation work that some records need, so I was interested in learning more about the view from the other side of the fence, so to speak.

The first session I attended was “Thinking Inside the Box” lead by Kären Mason, Curator, and Janet Weaver, Assistant Curator, of the Iowa Women’s Archives. All of the creativity and effort that goes into boxes made for storing items that require special housing is amazing. I imagine it would be a fun, but challenging, task. During the session, we got a brief tour of the archives and were given a chance to look at all of the different rehousing solutions that have been created for the IWA over the years. Some were quite intricate and highly specialized, and others were “make-do” solutions (for example, storing plaques in record center boxes or creating housing for a large, fragile photo from archival cardboard). In both cases, a great deal of creativity and resourcefulness was clearly involved. Below are some examples of the more intricate solutions created.

A box made to keep this geisha doll and her enclosure safe.
A box made to keep this geisha doll and her enclosure safe.
A box specially made for this pin.
A box specially made for this pin – note the piece created to stick the pin through.
Special housing created for a Daytime Emmy.
Special housing created for a Daytime Emmy.

The next session was “Taxidermy Care and Cleaning” with Cindy Opitz, Collections Manager of the UI Museum of Natural History. This one I attended out of sheer curiosity. I have never worked with taxidermy animals, and I suppose I’m not likely to unless I someday work in a museum. All the same, it was fascinating, and the best part was we got to do some hands-on work on cleaning some animals. We learned about equipment used, equipment and chemical solutions not to use, how to use equipment, and ideal and non-ideal conditions for storing taxidermy animals. Should taxidermy animals ever come into my possession, I now know how to care for them! Below are examples of the specimens we got to work with and the cleaning that was performed.

An attendee vacuuming a small mammal.
An attendee vacuuming a small mammal.
Bird feet ready for cleaning!
Bird feet ready for cleaning!
My attempt at cleaning dust from the eye of a bird.
My attempt at cleaning dust from the eye of a bird.

Finally, I attended a session entitled “Mold Incidents and Response” presented by Nancy Kraft, Head of Preservation and Conservation at the UI Libraries. This was particularly practical for me since mold is something I have come into contact with and likely will again. While I already knew a bit about mold in books and archival materials and how to handle them, I didn’t have a good grounding in how they are actually treated. Again, unless it’s something simple and not too risky, we outsource preservation work to conservators, as they are trained to deal with these things. It was interesting to learn a bit more about what actually goes on and how things should be handled. Some topics covered were the proper initial response to mold, identification of mold (for example, active or inactive), how to get rid of mold, how best to choose a vendor for treatment if needed, and some basic safety precautions. There were no examples of moldy items passed around – a bit of a health hazard – so a photo of mold found on library books in another university is featured below.

Moldy books found in Longwood University's Greenwood Library in 2013. Photo from
Moldy books found in Longwood University’s Greenwood Library in 2013. Photo from

Overall, I think the conference was valuable even though I don’t personally perform these duties, at least not to the extent conservators do. In our increasingly collaborative field, it’s important to know about and understand what the people we commonly work with do and their opinions on issues. This helps us to better communicate with each other and to prioritize issues to be resolved. Someday I may be the only archivist at a small institution with an even smaller budget, in which case I may find this information especially useful, for example in determining questions like the following: What can I reasonably do myself? To whom should I outsource things that I can’t do? What’s a creative and cost-effective way to solve this preservation problem? We archivists always have preservation in mind when we organize and make materials accessible, but conservators greatly help us to extend – and often save – the lives of our materials.

For Earth Day 2012: Frederic Leopold Papers

Earth Day 2012 is just around the corner, coming up this Sunday, April 22.  The Special Collections Department contains many collections related to the environment and sustainability.  This year, we would like to highlight the Frederic Leopold Papers for an Earth Day related post.  Why Frederic Leopold, you may ask?

Frederic Leopold (at front of boat) with John Hale near Two Key Island (from Frederic Leopold Papers, MS 113, box 14).

Conservationists Aldo and Frederic Leopold were both born and raised in Iowa.  Many have probably heard of conservationist, forester, wildlife ecologist, and author Aldo Leopold, but his younger brother Frederic Leopold was also very much involved in  conservation efforts and wildlife ecology.  Both Frederic and Aldo grew up in Burlington, Iowa.  Staying in Burlington and running the family’s Leopold Desk Company, Frederic became concerned about the survival of the wood duck.

The wood duck was close to extinction in the early part of the 20th century.  Frederic Leopold developed a design for wood duck houses and conducted extensive studies on the wood ducks’ mating and nesting habits.  Some of these studies were done in his own back yard in Burlington, overlooking the Mississippi River and its bluffs.  Included in the papers are his detailed wood duck notes and studies, including a large number of photographs he took of the wood ducks and their nests.

A wood duck perched atop one of Frederic Leopold’s wood duck houses in 1965 (box 6, folder 7).

Frederic kept wonderfully detailed records, and his travel journals are a great example of this.  For instance, in his journal of a trip to Quetico Provincial Park (the Canadian side of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area) with his wife Edith, the first page of notes contains the first date of the trip (June 6, 1936), the number of people (2), the number of days (13), and a listing of food and supplies (often including amount and cost).  Also included are lists of camping clothes, cooking utensils, equipment, and a couple pages of brief recipes (including cocoa and tortillas!).  The final list is a tally of the amount of gas and oil bought – including where – and the beginning and ending mileage is also noted!

Leopold checking one of his wood duck houses in 1960 (box 6, folder 7).

Do the Frederic Leopold Papers contain anything on Earth Day?  Leopold was very much alive on that first Earth Day (April 22, 1970), and there may be correspondence, a diary entry, or other material within the collection documenting Leopold and Earth Day.  While finalizing the papers for public use, I did not come across anything on Earth Day, but my job was to make the collection available for researchers to use.  If you are curious, please come up to the Special Collections Department and look through Frederic Leopold’s Papers to see if there is anything on Earth Day or any other research area you are interested in which the papers might shed light on!

While not necessarily for Earth Day, the following brief excerpt from one of his speeches is just one of many examples within the collection of Frederic Leopold’s concern for the Earth:

“I am asked to speak on Iowa’s Conservation Heritage, which I feel is Iowa’s problem of the day…We are here because we know that unless we change our present wasteful consumptions of our natural resources we face a future calamity…”  (1970s speech from Frederic Leopold Papers, box 5, folder 8).

You can find a listing of many of our environment and sustainability related collections through our subject guide.  Interested in Gaylord Nelson and the beginning of Earth Day?  The Wisconsin Historical Society has made available online some of the records in the Gaylord Nelson Papers related to Earth Day.

Collections for Earth Day: soil conservation

Earth Day will officially be celebrated this Friday, April 22.  Earth Day, which promotes an appreciation for the Earth’s environment and an awareness of environmental problems, was first celebrated April 22, 1970.  The Special Collections Department holds a wide variety of collections related to environmental issues, conservation, and sustainability.  Many of these are listed in our Environment and Sustainability Collections Guide and Natural History Collections Guide.

Soil conservation has been a concern in the past, just as it still is at the present time.  You can find a variety of collections and publications here in Special Collections related to soil conservation since soil conservation is very much related to agriculture, one of our main collecting areas.

Above is an example of soil erosion the Soil Conservation Service (now the Natural Resources Conservation Service) tries to prevent – a buried tractor near Carlton, Colorado in 1953.  The caption reads “This tractor and drill was used to plant wheat fields.  Wheat has blown out and blown soil has difted around the machinery.  Non-resident is farming the field and was not watching the land to protect it from blowing.”  [from MS 460, Box 23, Folder 14]

We recently made available online the finding aid to the United States Soil Conservation Service Oral History Collection (MS 198).  Douglas Helms, Historian for the Soil Conservation Service, conducted a series of oral history interviews in 1981.  The interviewees were all long-time employees of the Soil Conservation Service.  The collection consists of the interview transcripts, which contain a wonderful variety of memories and stories of these early pioneers of soil conservation here in the United States.  For more information on this collection, please take a look at the collection’s online finding aid.

In addition to the oral history collection, another collection we hold related to soil conservation is that of the National Association of Conservation Districts (MS 460).  The National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) was formed in 1946 in order to provide national leadership to state and district conservation associations.  Soil conservation districts had been set up nationwide beginning in 1937 and came from the desire to involve more farmers at the local level in soil and water conservation.  The collection contains a wide variety of materials documenting the efforts of the NACD including reports, correspondence, meeting materials, publications, newsletters, speeches, bills and legislation related to conservation, speeches, and photographs.  Included in the collection is correspondence and reports from at least one of the people from the oral history collection described above – Gordon Zimmerman.

One of many photographs  (above) within the collection, this shows a once better than average farmstead in Baca County, Colorado which was abandoned during the dust storms of the 1930s.  One of the many goals of the National Association of Conservation Districts is to prevent the year after year crop failures which occurred during the Dust Bowl.  [from MS 460, Box 21, Folder 1]

Before and after photographs are included in the collection, showing land improvements due to conservation efforts:

Philipsburg, Montana in 1880 [from MS 460, Box 23, Folder 14]

Philipsburg, Montana in 1880 [from MS 460, Box 23, Folder 14]

Despite the hard work of many organizations, soil erosion and other conservation issues are still a problem to this day.  A recent report, Losing Ground, issued by the Environmental Working Group and based on studies by Iowa State University scientists, reports that farmland soil erosion in Iowa is much higher than government estimates.  (For more on this report, visit the Environmental Working Group’s Losing Ground website).

And, finally, our department holds many, many collections related to conservation – including soil conservation both nationally and here in Iowa.  These include the Hugh Hammond Bennett Papers (considered the father of soil conservation), Iowa Soil Conservation Districts Records, and Wallis R. Tonsfeldt Papers.  If you would like to take a look at some of these, for Earth Day or any other time, please come visit us in Parks Library!

Gully caused by an eight inch rain on June 17, 1951 five miles southwest of Mapleton, Iowa. Notice the man standing in the Gully!  [from the Wallis R. Tonsfeldt Papers, MS 558]

Women’s History Month: Online Collections

March is Women’s History Month, and today (March 8th) marks the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day (1911-2011).  As the International Women’s Day press release states, “International Women’s Day is a global celebration of the economic, political, and social achievements of women past, present, and future.”

The Special Collections Department here at Iowa State University holds numerous collections documenting the history of women here at Iowa State, throughout Iowa, the United States and sometimes even the world.  A listing of selected collections related to women can be found in our subject guide found online.

Ada Hayden taking a photograph.

In the last few years, we have put a number of items related to women’s history from our collections online.  One of these is a scrapbook from the Ada Hayden Papers which contains beautiful black and white photographs, including brief captions, of prairie scenes and flora in Iowa.  In addition to being an Iowa State graduate, Ada Hayden was also an Instructor and Assistant Professor (1910-1950) of botany for many years here at Iowa State, and later Curator of the Herbarium (1947-1950).  In addition to studying Iowa’s prairies and flora, she devoted herself to prairie preservation.  Iowa State’s Herbarium was named after Ada Hayden, and contains many specimens collected by her.  For more on the Ada Hayden Herbarium, please visit the herbarium’s website.  You may also recognize her name from Ada Hayden Heritage Park on the north side of Ames.  The finding aid for Hayden’s papers can be found here.

The collection of quilt historian and Ames alumna Mary Barton is also available online through Digital Collections.  The Fashion Plates Collection (1776-2003) contains plates of general fashion dating back to the 18th century and continuing through the 20th century.

Mary Welch’s cookbook and several suffrage cookbooks can be found through the Cookbooks link on the Digital Collection’s homepage.  Mary Welch was the wife of Iowa State’s first president, Adonijah Welch and was the organizer and head of the Department of Domestic Economy at Iowa State from 1875 to 1883.  In addition to this cookbook, the Special Collections Department also holds Mary Welch’s papers.  The finding aid to her papers can be found online here.  Her collection contains interesting writings and lectures from an influential Iowa State woman from the early part of Iowa State’s history.

The online suffrage cookbooks (the originals are housed here in the Special Collections Department) in the library’s Digital Collections are also are also fun to look through.  The “Woman Suffrage Cook Book, containing thoroughly tested and reliable recipes for cooking, directions for the care of the sick, and practical suggestions, contributed especially for this work”  was edited and published by Mrs. Hattie A. Burr in 1886.  In addition to the normal sections of a title page still present today, I was surprised to find on the title page Hattie’s street address in Boston (or at least that is what I am assuming the address refers to)!

Catt’s graduation image

The final online suffrage cookbook in our Digital Collections, “The Suffrage Cookbook, ” was compiled by Mrs. L.O. Kleber and published in 1915.  In addition to the information and recipes this particular book contains, it also has additional value (sometimes referred to as “intrinsic value“) in that it was owned by our own suffragist Carrie Chapman Catt (Iowa State graduate and president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association).  The book was once owned by Carrie Chapman Catt, and according to the note at the front of the book by her niece to Dr. Hilton [Helen LeBaron Hilton] “Aunt Carrie checked some of the recipes she liked and sometimes wrote figures on the side to show cost.  Her own favorite desserts were cranberry souffle and strawberry shortcake-biscuit style.”  An example of one of these checked recipes (Inexpensive Spice Cake!) can be found on page 124.  Pie for a Suffragist’s Doubting Husband (page 147) is also an interesting read.

Last year we celebrated the 90th anniversary of the 19th amendment, giving women the right to vote and for which Carrie Chapman Catt had worked towards for many years.  Ninety years ago this year, the 1921 Bomb (Iowa State’s yearbook) was dedicated to Carrie Chapman Catt:

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