New oral histories available online

We are pleased to announce the online availability of three new oral history projects. They include:

The Extension & Outreach project features oral histories conducted with staff members who have served more than 40 years at ISU. Staff members interviewed include: Cheryl Clark, Joel DeJong, Donna Donald, Russ Euken, Paul Lasley, Jack Steven Van Laar, and Barbara Woods,

The Mathematics project features interview with ISU Department of Mathematics faculty. To date, interviews have been conducted with James Cornette, A. M. Fink, and Wolfgang Kliemann. Additional interviews are in the works.

The Voces of a Pandemic project features oral histories conducted by the the ISU U.S. Latino/a Studies Program, focused on Latinx in Iowa, and as part of a consortium with the Voces Project at UT-Austin exploring the Stories of the Latina/o Community Affected by the Coronavirus. Interviewees include: Joanne Camacho, Pat Ferrusca, Luis Gonzalez, Giselle Guardado, Ryan Guerra, Maria Hernandez, Ernesto Jimenez, Caleb Knutson, Kenji Nakata, Abi Perdomo, Sonia Reyes, Andrea Rivas, Diego Rodriguez, and Laura Rodriguez. Additional interviews are in the works and supported by an ISU Miller Grant.

Two new oral history collections online

We are pleased to announce the online availability of two new oral history collections: the Department of Mathematics Oral History Project and the Extension and Outreach Oral History Project. The former includes interviews conducted with Department of Mathematics professors AM Fink, James Cornette, and Wolfgang Kliemann. Additional interviews are underway. The Extension and Outreach Oral History Project features interviews with staff members who have served more than 40 years at Iowa State. Interviewees include: Barbara Woods, Cheryl Clark, Donna Donald, Jack Steven Van Laar, Joel DeJong, Paul Lasley, and Russ Euken. Both collections have been captioned and are accessible via Aviary, a platform incorporating closed captioning, synching of captions with media, and full-text searching.

CEAH partnership

As part of our #COVID-19 Stories Project we’re happy to announce a partnership with the Center for Excellence in the Arts & Humanities (CEAH) to archive faculty responses to the pandemic. CEAH is offering mini grants of up to $250 to faculty to create a local record of their experiences during these trying times. We will work with Digital Initiatives to preserve and provide access to these narratives in the ISU Digital Repository. Read more on the CEAH funding site.

For more info about our COVID-19 Stories Project visit:

Happy 50th! The Origins of Special Collections and University Archives Part 2: Collection Highlights

2019 marks the Special Collections & University Archives’ (SCUA) 50th year in existence. This blog post is the second in a series of blog posts celebrating SCUA’s 50 years at Iowa State University. My first post in this series gave a brief history about the origins of SCUA. Today’s post will highlight a handful of items from our department that represent milestones for the library and also the university’s emphasis on innovation and technology.

top of image is quarts balance (glass) on wooden mount with illustration of a similar balance below.
Quartz microbalance made by Harry Svec while working at ISU during the Manhattan Project, circa 1942–1945. Artifact Collection 2003-203.03.

I selected the quartz balance because I wanted to highlight the Harry Svec Papers and Svec made the balance while working at ISU, during the Manhatta Project. Harry Svec came to Iowa State University (then Iowa State College) as a graduate student. World War II interrupted his studies and he, instead, worked on refining uranium in the Ames Laboratory on the Manhattan Project, working under the direction of Frank H. Spedding. At the conclusion of the Manhattan Project, Svec continued his graduate studies and built the first mass spectrometers at ISU. In 1950, he earned his Ph.D. and was granted faculty status. When Svec retired in 1983, he had been associated with ISU for 42 years.

Group of faculty and students in front of a chalkboard.
Photograph of Harry Svec and his research group on April 2, 1962. Harry J. Svec Papers, RS 13/6/53, box 20, folder 69.

Featured next are volumes that represent significant milestones for the University Library. Below is the title page of the book acquired as the ISU Library’s one-millionth volume, Trattato della pittvra di Lionardo da Vinci, purchased circa 1975. This is a first edition, written in Italian, and published in 1651.

Title page with engraved half-title illustration.
Title page for the one millionth volume. Leonardo da Vinci. Trattato della pittvra di Lionardo da Vinci. 1651. Rare Book Collection ND1130 .L5 1651.

The images below are of the title pages for the University Library’s two millionth volume, purchased in 1994. The title is a two-volume treatise on mathematical concepts by Italian mathematician Maria Gaetana Agnesi.

This is the University Library’s three millionth volume, purchased in 2016.  This volume includes Galileo’s defense of heliocentrism and led to his heresy trial and subsequent house arrest for the remainder of his life.  This is a copy of the second vernacular edition in Italian.

Title page of Galileo Galilei. Dialogo di Galileo Galilei (for full title see caption). Stains on pages due to age and illustration beneath title text.
Galileo Galilei. Dialogo di Galileo Galilei. Rare Book Collection, QB41 G35 D5x 1710.

What items do you think would best represent Special Collections and University Archives’ 50th anniversary?

Reflecting on a Year’s Worth of Writing for Curation Services by Cassandra Anderson

Photograph of white female student, long hair with glasses, close-up in a library office setting (cubicle & book shelves filled with books visible in the background).
Photograph courtesy of Cassandra.

This post was authored by Cassandra Anderson, Curation Services student writer.

Looking at my calendar, I can’t believe that almost an entire year has passed since I started my position as Curation Services Student Writer. I was just looking through my blog post, “Reflecting on a Semester’s Worth of Writing About Special Collections & University Archives,” and it feels like I wrote it just yesterday! Throughout the year I have discovered more about the history of Iowa State University than I ever thought possible, and I have developed a deep love for Special Collections and University Archives.

The other day, my friends and I went to the University Bookstore to pick up our cap and gowns for the graduation ceremony that is now just a few short weeks away. Soon the class of 2019 will fill the seats at Hilton, like many of the classes before us. Getting ready for graduation has inspired me to do some reflecting on the past graduations at ISU. Check out these photos of the class of 1985 and the class of 1994 graduation ceremonies.

Students at Iowa State University are working towards a goal, and part of their individual goals are to obtain degrees in their majors. Each major is within a certain department, and each department has a unique history here at ISU. The University Archives are full of boxes related to various departments on campus. I am graduating with a degree in English, so sometimes I like to look through the English Department boxes when I have a chance. Check out this photo of members of the English Department in 1923, 50 years before Ross Hall was built in 1973!

Black and white photo of the Iowa State University English department professors meeting with their students in a shared office space in 1923.
English professors and their students from University Photographs, box 1073.

As the Curation Services Student Writer, I have been writing blog posts, news updates, and social media posts for Special Collections and University Archives, Preservation, Digital Initiatives, and the Digital Repository. When I am not writing for Special Collections and University Archives, usually I am writing for the Preservation Department. Working with the members of the preservation lab has been so incredibly interesting, and writing about the different treatments they do is so cool! If you haven’t checked out their blog, here is the link:

Overhead photo of collections conservator Sonya Barron working on a drawing from a comic from the Underground Comix Collection.
Here is a photo of the Collections Conservator Sonya Barron working on a sketch from the Underground Comix Collection, MS 0636.

Working as the Curation Services Student Writer has been an incredible experience. Each department has helped me grow in ways I never could have imagined, and I am so grateful to everyone here at the library who helped to give me this chance. As I finish up my last few weeks as an ISU student, I am going to try and take in as much as possible, because I want the memories and friends that I have made here during my time at ISU to last a lifetime. After graduation I will be moving to Boston to continue my education at Simmons University, where I will study history and library science, so that I can work towards my dream career of becoming an archivist. Thank you Iowa State University, and thank you Special Collections and University Archives, for helping me work towards my goals. The University Library will always be a second home to me, and I hope to be back to visit often. Check out this photo of the library shortly after being built!

Black and white photo of the Iowa State University library in 1925.
University Photographs, box 258.

AAPI History Month: David Teh-Yu Kao, former Dean of the College of Engineering

Note: It is unclear whether Dr. Kao is still alive (I suspect he is), but I have chosen to refer to him and his accomplishments in the past tense, as he seems to have moved on from his position at ISU some time ago. It is therefore this period of affiliation that I am referring to in past tense, and not Dr. Kao himself. 

Even without having met the man personally, I can say it would be difficult to describe Dr. David Teh-Yu Kao as anything less than an absolute credit to Iowa State University, where he served as the Dean of the College of Engineering from 1988 through 1994, and then as the Glenn Murphy Professor of Engineering from 1994 to approximately 1997. He is currently listed as a Professor Emeritus on the department’s website. I have not been able to verify that Dr. Kao was for certain the first Asian American dean of this college, let alone the first first-generation immigrant to hold the position, but the resources I have examined suggest that both are probable. Regardless of these distinctions, his influence left an enduring impact on the College of Engineering, and his leadership style speaks of a visionary with many diverse talents. 

Headshot of Dean Kao, University Photographs, 11/1/A, Box 813
Headshot of Dean Kao, University Photographs, 11/1/A, Box 813

Excerpt from memo entitled "Regents Approve Kao As new ISU Engineering Dean." RS 11/1/16, Box 1, Folder 1. Text reads as follows: "recieved varied grants and contracts and 10 patents and has provided technical consulting services to 15 public and private organizations. A Native of Shanghai, China, kao is a U.S. citizen. He and his wife, the former Theresea S. Yang, have three children. (Editors Note: Kao is pronounced 'gow,' rhyming with 'cow.')."
Excerpt from memo entitled “Regents Approve Kao As new ISU Engineering Dean.” RS 11/1/16, Box 1, Folder 1

Long before his time at ISU, Dr. Kao had distinguished himself as a gifted engineer. He earned his B.S. in civil engineering from National Cheng-Kung University, Tainan, Republic of China, Taiwan, in 1959. He then went on to receive his M.S. in civil engineering from Duke University in 1965, and his Ph.D. in civil engineering from the same institution in 1967. His research specializations included hydraulics and fluid mechanics, hydraulic transport of solids, and hydraulic machinery. For his work in these areas, Science Digest named him one of the Top 100 Innovators of 1985. 


Headline from The Ames Daily Tribune, Thursday, June 16, 1988. RS 11/1/16, Box 1, Folder 2. Headline reads as follows: "Dean: At top of his field in US (continued from page one)."
Headline from The Ames Daily Tribune, Thursday, June 16, 1988. RS 11/1/16, Box 1, Folder 2

Contrary to stereotypes about folks gifted in STEM fields, however, Dr. Kao also seems to have been naturally out-going, very much a people-oriented person, and consequently a talented and attentive teacher. In his previous positions at University of Kentucky, he won the Outstanding Teacher Award in the Kentucky college of Engineering three times and the R. E. Shaver Award for Excellent Teaching twice, in addition to receiving the Western Electric Fund Award for Excellence in Instruction of Engineering Students and the Great Teacher Award of the University of Kentucky Alumni Association.

Article from Visions journal, published by the ISU Alumni Association. Undated. RS 11/1/16, Box 1, Folder 2. Title of the article reads as follows: "Kao Brings 'Inner Strength' To College of Engineering." Photo of Dean Kao. Caption on the photo reads as follows: "Chinese-born David Kao credits Eastern philosophies for his cosmopolitan views of education."
Article from Visions journal, published by the ISU Alumni Association. Undated. RS 11/1/16, Box 1, Folder 2

In his position as Dean of the College of Engineering at ISU, Dr. Kao also earned a reputation for having a uniquely philosophical approach to outreach and problem-solving. 

Article from Connections newsletter, vol. 9 no. 1, September 1988. RS 11/1/16, Box 1, Folder 1. Title of the article reads as follows: "Philosophy comes to engineering." To read the entire article, please contact ISU Special Collections and University Archives.
Article from Connections newsletter, vol. 9 no. 1, September 1988. RS 11/1/16, Box 1, Folder 1

Among his many accomplishments during his 5 and a half years as dean, Dr. Kao lead the development of the College of Engineering’s first strategic plan, doubled student scholarship funds ($224,000 in 1987 to $430,000 in 1994), quadrupled private donations ($2 million in 1988-89 to $9 million in 1991-92), and advocated for the Women in Science and Engineering program. While it is nowhere explicitly linked to his efforts, it is also interesting to note that SCUA’s Archives of Women in Science and Engineering was established during his final year as dean. He also advocated for more balance in faculty teaching and research development, innovative teaching methodologies (which, at the time, meant an emphasis on collaborative learning), and established outreach programs that reached children as young as kindergarten. 

In short, ISU is a better place for Dr. Kao’s having worked here. We are immensely privileged to have benefited from his talents. 

Headshot of Dean Kao, University Photographs, 11/1/A, Box 813
Headshot of Dean Kao, University Photographs, 11/1/A, Box 813

Women’s History Month: Pilar Angeles Garcia

On March 2, 2018, a group of Iowa State University students presented at the 2018 Iowa State Conference on Race and Ethnicity (ISCORE). In their presentation, “Lost Stories: Women of Color at Iowa State University,”the students listed accomplishments of women of color at ISU and encouraged the university to recognize the achievements of women of color who have contributed to the success and innovation of the university. Their session included the story of Pilar Garcia, who had worked at Iowa State in the Department of Food and Nutrition from 1950-1991. I had come across this collection by accident in my first year here as outreach archivist and noted it because Garcia was born in the Philippines, like my mother. In honor of Women’s History Month, I wanted to put a spotlight on Pilar Garcia and her papers.

Pilar Angeles Garcia was born on November 4, 1926, in Manila, the Philippines. Her father, Gaudencio Garcia, served as a professor of international and political law, and her mother, Maria Paz Angeles Garcia, was a high school biology teacher. She is the second oldest of ten children.

Garcia’s high school education was interrupted by WWII. There is a note she wrote and included in her papers, when describing photographs from her childhood (RS 12/6/53, box 4, folder 2):

All earlier records were destroyed during WWII when our family home burned to the ground.

Pilar Garcia graduated from the University of the Philippines at Manila, in 1949, with a B.S. in pharmacy. During this time she earned the Barbour Scholarship, which sent her to the University of Michigan. This prestigious scholarship celebrated it’s 100th anniversary last year. One year later she earned the Master of Science degree in botany at the University of Michigan.

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Garcia then relocated to lowa State University, where she completed her studies in nutrition and worked as a graduate assistant. After she completed the M .S. and Ph.D., in 1952 and 1955 respectively, she immediately served as research associate in the Department of Food and Nutrition at ISU.

In 1957, Garcia became an assistant professor at ISU and in 1961 she was promoted to associate professor. It was not until 1974 that she was promoted to full professor. Throughout her academic career, Garcia spent her time researching and teaching courses about the effects of nutrition on people, primarily women. In 1978, she took a six-month faculty leave at the University of the Philippines at Los Banos College, Laguna, in order to conduct research on nutritional conditions of the rural, elderly poor. She earned a faculty citation from the lowa State Alumni Association in 1970 and won the Amoco Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award in 1986. Pilar Garcia retired in December 1991. In a letter written by Garcia she stated, in regards to her time at Iowa State, that (RS 12/6/53, box 1, folder 1 ):

Teaching undergraduate courses and interacting with students gave me the greatest joy and satisfaction

To read more about Pilar Garcia’s life and work at ISU, drop by the reading room! We’re open Monday-Friday, 9-5.

Digital Exhibit on Iowa’s State Parks System Now Available!

As the cold days of winter have settled in for many of us, state parks are probably not on many plans for the coming months.  However, there is now an additional option to learn about the history of Iowa’s state parks from the comfort of the indoors. As mentioned in a previous post, the Special Collections and University Archives has an exhibition on display through the end of the year which tells the story of the early state parks movement here in Iowa: “This movement for a more beautiful Iowa”:  The Early Years of Iowa’s State Park System. Unable to visit the exhibition in person?  There’s now an alternative! Digital Initiatives and SCUA are excited to announce that the online version of the state parks exhibit is now available, along with the accompanying Iowa State Parks Digital Collection (which contains digitized materials used in the physical exhibit along with additional materials from SCUA’s collections).

Swimming scene (1903) from what would eventually become Ledges State Park. (from University Photograph Collection, box 377, folder 13)

The online exhibit extends the focus of the physical exhibit to include additional information on the parks system as a whole, the people behind the park names, the role of the Civilian Conservation Corps, and a broader history of the parks’ design, construction, and the natural areas they preserve. There is only so much space for the physical exhibits, so it was satisfying to see some of what we were not able to include in the physical exhibit incorporated into the online version. As one of the curators of the physical exhibit, I was able to work on both the physical exhibit and then the online exhibit. It was a great experience to see how the online exhibit became a companion to – and expanded on – our physical exhibit.

In addition to the images and textual content, the online exhibit also includes some fun interactive aspects including a StoryMap (created using Knight Lab’s StoryMap) which gives a tour of all 55 Iowa State Parks in 2017, in the order of their founding:

…and “quizzes” (but the fun kind – no grading involved!).  The fill-in-the-blank and true/false examples pictured below are from the page on Backbone State Park.

We were also able to add footnotes to the Drupal-based exhibit – which was exciting for us to learn about and to be able to incorporate into the text. For details on how this was done, visit Lori Bousson’s blog post over on the Digital Initiatives and Scholarship blog, DSI Update.

A lot of work goes into the creation of exhibits – both the reading room and online versions, and we hope that at least a few of you have been able to visit it here on the 4th floor of Parks Library.  Thanks to the help of people from across the library, we have been able to make the research, design and work of the physical exhibit available online for people to view across the world – with no closing date!

Howard P. Johnson donates World War II letters

As the University Archivist, I frequently hear from loyal Iowa Staters from across the country who inquire about donating materials to the University Archives. Often people are trying to find an appreciative home for some Iowa State memorabilia or seeing if there is any interest in a future donation of materials. This past fall I received a call from an Iowa State alum and former ISU professor regarding a small collection of materials in his possession that he was ready to part with.

Portrait of Howard P. Johnson in his military uniform, 1943
Howard P. Johnson, 1943 (Box 8, Folder 95 of the Howard P. Johnson papers, RS 9/7/15)

Howard P. Johnson, three-time graduate of Iowa State University (we were just a College at the time he received his degrees) and former Professor and Head of ISU’s Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Department, was contacting me regarding some World War II letters that he had. Dr. Johnson explained that he grew up on a farm near Odebolt, Iowa, and in 1943 was inducted into the military like many young men at that time. He served as a technician in the 69th Infantry Division and entered the war in Europe at the end of the Battle of the Bulge in January 1945. All during his military training and his service in Europe, young Pfc. Johnson wrote to his family back home in western Iowa–often several times a week–and his family wrote back. Howard would describe his daily routine, the duties he was assigned during training, and his experiences in Europe. His parents and siblings would respond with stories of family and community events, activities on the farm, and, of course, the weather.

Letter from Howard Johnson to his folks, June 12, 1944.
Letter from Johnson to his parents dated June 12, 1944. In this letter he writes home about some of his training experiences in Mississippi–including accidentally sleeping through a first aid training session. (Box 7, Folder 51 of the Howard P. Johnson papers, RS 9/7/15)

As Dr. Johnson was explaining this to me over the phone, he questioned whether anyone would be interested in this collection of letters–nearly 400 in total. Although I recognized that these letters would not hold the same meaning to others as they do to him, I assured Dr. Johnson that people will certainly be interested in reading these letters for generations to come.

Letter from Howard P. Johnson, May 20, 1945
This note, written on a piece of birch bark that Johnson found near his encampment on May 20, 1945, provides a brief description of his location.  (Box 8, Folder 43, Howard P. Johnson papers, RS 9/7/15)

It is not every day that I am privileged to speak with a World War II veteran, nor is it often that such a complete collection of letters with so many connections to Iowa State and rural life in Iowa are offered to the department, so I was thrilled to accept the donation. The Johnson family letters offer an intimate snapshot of one Iowa farm family’s experience during a major turning point in American history. Similar stories played out thousands of times across the state and the country, but relatively few of those stories are so well documented.

Today, as we mark the 73rd anniversary of the D-Day landings in France, it is important to reflect upon those men and women who bravely served in World War II. Some names, like Eisenhower and MacArthur, will forever be associated with  winning the war for the Allies. There are many more thousands of names, names like Howard P. Johnson, whose contributions are often overlooked. At least in this case his story will be preserved in the archives.

The Johnson family World War II letters are part of the Howard P. Johnson papers, RS 9/7/15, located in the Iowa State University Library Special Collections and University Archives. The department is open to researchers from 9am-5pm, Monday through Friday. Part of our mission is to preserve the history of Iowa State University and the stories of its faculty, staff, and alumni. If you have questions about whether we are the right home for your Iowa State story, give us a call, we would love to hear from you.

“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.

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