As we start another unusual semester at Iowa State, I wanted to highlight the ways you can still use Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) materials.

We are still open for appointments to see materials in person. Our hours are 10-12 and 1-3, Monday-Thursday. We do require appointments at this time to ensure enough physical distance in the reading room. Email to set up an appointment.

Of course, we understand that some simply aren’t able to or aren’t comfortable venturing to SCUA to do their research. Luckily there are many more ways to access our materials.

Digital Collections Digital Collections highlight works and collections from the Iowa State University Library. These materials include photographs, manuscripts, artifacts, books, and audiovisual formats.

Digital Repository Iowa State University Digital Repository provides free and open access to scholarly and creative works, research, publications and reports by Iowa State’s faculty, students, staff and administrative units. The repository is administered by the University Library, with support from the Office of the Vice President of Research.

For A/V materials, please see our collections on YouTube and in Aviary.

Archive-It Archive-It is a website preservation service provided by the Internet Archive. Browse historic websites created by Iowa State University or other organizations whose records we collect.

When you search our finding aids, if we have digital materials available, they will be linked in the finding aid, which is a great new feature to get you the information you need quickly. Not all collections have digital materials available, and you can learn how to find collections that do have electronic materials in this post. If there are electronic materials available, you will see them linked at the beginning of the finding aid.

Lastly, we can make copies of materials, though the wait time is longer than usual as we navigate the challenges of keeping staff, students, and the rest of our community safe.

CyPix: Winter dresses of 1920

"Winter Dresses." A selection from the Mary A. Barton Collection of Fashion Illustrations (RS 21/07/009)
“Winter Dresses” from The Designer, January 1920. Part of the Mary A. Barton Collection of Fashion Illustrations (RS 21/07/009)

When I woke up this morning, the news stations were reporting that with the windchill, it was 9 °F outside. I don’t know about you, but the stylish winter fashions above don’t look nearly warm enough!

The image above, and others like it, are available online in the Fashion Plates digital collection.

Check out the following to see some of the other fashion-related collections held at the Iowa State University Special Collections and University Archives Department:

Greetings from a recent addition!

Salutations blog-readers!

I’m Hillary H., the new Silos and Smokestacks intern working in the ISU Special Collections. I’m here for the summer from the School of Library and Information Science at UNC-Chapel Hill where I’m working on my MS in Library Science (concentration in  Archives and Records Management). I’ve worked with rare books previously, and have several years experience in the used book business.

In my work here, I’ll be putting together an online collection about the early Extension work in Iowa. It will have a special emphasis on the agricultural work done by the Extension Service and the impact it had on the lives of Iowa’s farmers.

Lots of progress has been made already. Thus far I’ve gone through nearly one hundred folders of material, and not only have I found dozens of pieces that have potential to make it into the digital collection, I have also found several references I never anticipated seeing anywhere outside of my hometown. For instance, Walter Hines Page was a name I’d only ever seen in relation to my high school (it’s named after him), but I recently found a few comments about Page and comments about one of the national committees he had served on. It is definitely not what I had expected to find in Iowa, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

In addition to the aforementioned findings, there has already been some preliminary designing of the website, and conservation work is set to begin in the next day or so.

Expect another update from me soon!

Hillary H.


George Washington Carver: Celebrating His 150th Birthday

Graduation image

Born a slave, George Washington Carver received two degrees from Iowa Agricultural College (now Iowa State University), and gained an international reputation during his career at Tuskegee University. Although the exact date of Carver’s birth is unknown, he was born around the year 1864 and many are celebrating this year as the 150th anniversary of his birth.

As an agricultural scientist, Carver’s research resulted in the creation of 325 products from a variety of food items such as peanuts, sweet potatoes, and hundreds more from a dozen other plants native to the South. These products contributed to rural economic improvement by offering alternative crops to cotton that were beneficial for the farmers and for the land.

The George Washington Carver Collection in the University Archives holds information on his life and work. In addition, Digital Collections at the Iowa State University Library maintains a digital collection which includes a selection of materials from the University Archives documenting his time here at Iowa State (primarily images) and his correspondence with Iowa State colleagues after he was at Tuskegee: The majority of correspondence is to Carver’s mentor, Dr. Louis Pammel, on a variety of scientific topics.

Only a portion of the George Washington Carver collection housed in the Special Collections Department is represented in the digital collection. The finding aid for the complete list of Carver materials available through Special Collections can be found here:

Iowa State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences will be hosting a George Washington Carver Life and Legacy Symposium on April 23, 2014 which will focus on encouraging future “George Washington Carver” students at Iowa State. The Special Collections Department will be participating in the Symposium, creating a booth which will highlight a selection of the diverse students who followed in Carver’s footsteps here at Iowa State. For more information about the Symposium, see

April Showers Bring May Flowers: Seed Catalogs for a Rainy Spring!

Iowa Seed Company-1913_cover

With the slow onset of spring this year, many are probably getting anxious to be able to get out into their gardens.  Most have hopefully already ordered their seeds…so what can one do while waiting through the next week of rain?  Or perhaps you are looking for some interesting historical resources to use as you finish up your projects at the end of the semester.  The Digital Collections site has a selection of our materials available, including a number of our seed catalogs.

The Seed Catalogs Digital Collection contains digitized copies of a variety of seed catalogs from the latter part of the 19th and early part of the 20th century.  Companies include C. W. Dorr, Iowa Seed Company, and Page and Kelsey.  The catalogs can be quite fun to look through, in addition to being a wonderful study on the varieties of seeds available at that time and the different ways companies promoted and described their seeds.  Catalogs include seeds and bulbs for flowers, trees, herbs, ornamental shrubs, vegetables, grains, grasses, and fruit.  In addition, the catalogs often also include gardening tools and implements.

Most of the seed catalogs are from the Iowa Seed Company.  What did the Iowa Seed Company’s catalog look like one hundred years ago, in 1913?

Curious about the types of corn they might have sold for a later season like the one we are having now? (page 48):

Iowa Seed Company-1913_corn

Or the “curious vegetables”, such as eggplant, sesame, ornamental mice, cotton and Egyptian lentils (page 16):

Iowa Seed Company-1913_curious vegetables

And, if one would like birds for their garden, the Iowa Seed Company has a variety to choose from (page 146):

Iowa Seed Company-1913_birds

Have any of these pages sparked your interested?  Interested in the flowers, grains, and other seeds available through these early seed catalogs?  If you would like, take a look at more seed catalogs available from Digital Collections, or visit our department to look at the originals.  We have other seed catalogs which can be find from the library’s webpage.  In addition, we have several related manuscript collections such as the Iowa Seed and Nursery Pamphlets Collection (MS 393), and a wide variety of publications and archival collections related to agriculture.

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