“Our trip…will long be remembered”: Following the Trail of a Bird Watching Road Trip

Last Thursday our new exhibition, “Our trip…will long be remembered”: Following the Train of a Bird Watching Road Trip, opened. This exhibition follows the route of birders Walter M. Rosene, Sr., and Walter Bennett during their 1924 trip from Sioux City, Iowa, to East Central North Dakota as documented in Rosene’s travel journey. Detailed notes taken on the trip represent some of the earliest observations of birding areas that are now well-known for their value to ornithological study. The exhibition will be available now through fall 2020 in Parks Library Room 403.

Detailed bird observations and poetic descriptions of fascinating accounts enable visitors to see the beauty of nature through Rosene’s eyes. Excerpts from his journal are complimented by photographs and hand-colored lantern slides taken on the trip, and maps and supplemental materials place the road trip in the larger context of environmental and social concerns of the Great Plains in the early 20th century.

Rosene, the first president of the Iowa Ornithologists’ Union, and Bennett, a biological investigator and bird life lecturer, dedicated most of their lives to conservation and bird study, and their 1,600-mile journey remained a memorable and important experience throughout their birding careers.

Many of the documents and photographs are from the Walter M. Rosene, Sr. Papers and are available digitally as part of the Avian Archives of Iowa Online (avIAn) – a newly launched web portal of Iowa ornithological primary sources supported by a grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The avIAn project documents nearly 100 years of bird study in Iowa and includes materials from some of the Midwest’s most prominent conservationists.

Pictured above are staff from Iowa State University Printing and Copy Services installing the window decals for the new exhibition.

Join us at the exhibition reception to learn more

What: Following the Trail of a Bird Watching Road Tip: A Curators’ Journey

When: 7-8 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 24

Where: Ames Public Library Farewell T. Brown Auditorium, 515 Douglas Ave, Ames IA 50010

Join us to learn behind the scenes details about the creation of the exhibition and its connection to the recently completed Avian Archives of Iowa Online (avIAn). Attendees will have the unique opportunity to hear from exhibition curators Erin Anderson and Amy Bishop as they discuss their findings and the impact it has on local and national communities.

This talk marks the opening of the exhibition. Admission is free and hors d’oeuvres and beverages will be served.

We would like to give special thanks to the following exhibition partners: Iowa Young Birders, Iowa Ornithologist’s Union, Ames Historical Society, the ISU Department of Natural Resource Ecology & Management and Wild Birds Unlimited of Ames

Contact information

Rachel Seale, University Library Special Collections and University Archives Outreach Archivist ­­515-294-5311 or rmseale@iastate.edu

Nacuya Rucker, University Library External Relations Director 515-294-2155 or nrucker@iastate.edu


Activist Agriculture: Farm Protest in Iowa, 1929-1969

Next Wednesday, our new exhibition, Activist Agriculture: Farm Protest in Iowa, 1929-1969, opens. From 10:45 – 12:15 July 18, our exhibition team will talk about the exhibit process for the physical and online exhibits. The exhibition team at the Iowa State University Library includes staff from Special Collections & University Archives, as well as members of the Preservation Department & Digital Initiatives. Don’t miss out on a perfect opportunity to learn what goes on behind the scenes!

I thought it would be fun to ask the curators some questions about this exhibit. This exhibition is curated by Amy, Olivia, & Kim. Amy is our rare books & manuscripts archivist, and Olivia is our reference coordinator. Kim is the digital initiatives archivist.

What do you hope visitors get out of the exhibit?

Amy: In this exhibit, we highlight the stories of activism on the part of both farm owners and migrant farm workers in Iowa. Previous to working on the exhibit, I knew very little about the stories of migrant farm workers in Iowa, and I suspect that my case is not unusual. So, I hope visitors spend some time examining both of those elements in the exhibit, comparing and contrasting the motivations and experiences of both farmers and farm workers.

Olivia: I hope that visitors get a sense of the variety of actions taken by farmers in order to influence policy and prices.  The farmers and various farming groups did not take a “one size fits all” approach to activism.

Kim: I would like visitors to think critically about agency and its relationship to activism. I think this exhibit will show both activism to secure economic and political agency, as well as activism facilitated by social and cultural agency. I would also like visitors to be more aware of the desperation and difficult lived experiences that led farmers and farm workers to take powerful and controversial action. I also hope that visitors just find the exhibit interesting and might be inspired to learn more about the topics presented here.

What was the most interesting thing you learned doing this exhibit (can be Farm Protest related or exhibit process related)?

Amy:  I spent the most time researching and selecting items to tell the story of the National Farmers Organization (NFO) holding actions, and I was struck by the whole development of the organization and its activism in the 1960s. It is a period of American history known for its general unrest and activism on many fronts–Civil Rights, the anti-war movement, Counterculture. It is interesting to look at the activism of NFO as a piece of this broader tapestry of activism, but it is an important story on its own and one that is not widely known.

Olivia: It was interesting to see the range of factors that can affect a farmer’s ability to make a living.  Of course, weather would usually be the first thing to come to mind.  However, there are so many other forces including legislation and who gets the money when farm commodity prices increase (is if the farmer or the grocery store?)  What I learned about the exhibit process is just how much work goes into making an exhibit.  Of course there’s the fun part of choosing artifacts, but there’s a lot of research to do ahead of time and thinking about how the different interesting artifacts fit together to tell a larger story.

Kim: I was surprised by the sheer numbers of people who turned out at the blockades and strikes. I also learned how to use some new software – QGIS for building the map (with KML encoding that I learned at a workshop last year), and building timelines from scratch in Adobe Illustrator.

What is your favorite item in the exhibit (online or physical)?

Amy: I particularly like all the NFO milk holding action photos because they are visually powerful. One in particular stands out. It shows a family walking through a field in which a lot of cars are parked, heading towards a gathering of people in the distance. Six children are walking with their father, and two kids at the front of the group are carrying a sign that reads, “We like farming but can’t do it for fun alone. Support NFO.” It evokes the sense of just how much entire families were involved in the protests–and how the whole families’ livelihoods were at stake.

Olivia: My favorite item is the political cartoon of the cow sitting on her tail so that the veterinarian can’t test her for tuberculosis.  It is lighthearted, but sends a strong message.  Oh yeah, and the cow is pretty cute, too!

Kim: This is an easy one – I’ve been enamored of the Al Loveland campaign comic book since we found it. It adds a splash of color to the exhibit and some of the panels work really well as tiny vignettes of depression-era and New Deal farm experiences. We’re displaying it open to a particular page in the physical exhibit, but visitors can read the entire comic book online.

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As exhibition coordinator, I keep track of deadlines and move the process forward. There are many moving parts to the exhibition process, and I coordinate them so that other parts of the exhibition team can complete the work they need to do in order for the exhibition to open on time. My favorite part of this process is the installation of the window display. Since our Pammel Court exhibition in 2017, we have partnered with ISU Printing Services to include our department windows in our exhibits. Curators select images and with the much appreciated assistance of Jody Kalvik , program coordinator in the Library’s Instruction department, develop graphics for the window. Then it is sent over to Printing Services and after each window is printed, they take 24 hours to dry. Then I schedule a time for the Printing Services team, managed by Lorraine Petersen, to install the windows. The installation of the windows is my favorite part because it marks the beginning of a new exhibition and also is a prominent piece of the exhibit. When it is done, I am able to breathe a sign of relief.

Please drop by Wednesday, July 18, and check out our new exhibition! The exhibition team will be on hand from 10:45–12:15 to answer questions & show off the digital exhibit also in 405 Parks.


“Do[ing] Their Bit”: Iowa’s Role in the Great War opening Wednesday, January 17!

This week and next we’re installing our next exhibition, “Do[ing] Their Bit”: Iowa’s Role in the Great War, which opens Wednesday, January 17. This exhibition commemorates the 100th Anniversary of the United States involvement in World War I. The exhibition will remain open through the spring semester.

Lorraine and the rest of the Printing Services team installing our window display (Photograph by Rachel Seale).

The opening reception is Wednesday, January 17, from 6:30 to 8 p.m in 198 Parks Library. Guest speakers, Jack Lufkin and Mark Heggen will show and discuss, Deeds Not Words, their historic video about the World War I Black Officers Training Camp at Fort Des Moines. Jack Lufkin is the curator at the Fort Des Moines Museum and Education Center.  Mark Heggen is an independent filmmaker and ISU alumnus.

"Do[ing] Their Bit": Iowa's Role in the Great War. Opening reception, January 17, 2018, 6:30 p.m.in 198 Parks Library. Refreshments courtesy of Iowa State University Diversity and Inclusion

Contact Rachel Seale for questions about the exhibition or the reception.


“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.