CyPix: Earth Day in the ISU Library

In the fall of 1969, Senator Gaylord Nelson from Wisconsin called for environmental teach-ins on college and university campuses throughout the country during the following spring. Nelson also called for a nationwide teach-in on April 22, 1970. With this movement, Earth Day was born.

Iowa State University Library supported the environmental teach-in movement, as we can see in this photo from the 1970s. Two students are holding a book entitled Man: An Endangered Species? from the Environmental Teach-In Collection.


Two students hold a book entitled "Man: An Endangered Species?" amid the low shelves of the Environmental Teach-In Collection, while other students sit in the chairs near the collection.
Two students hold a book from the ISU Library’s Environmental Teach-In Collection, circa 1970. RS 4/8/H Library, Box 148.

Beginning in the 1970s, there have been many student environmental groups on campus, such as Ecodefenders (RS 22/4/0/1), Emerging Green Builders (RS 22/7/0/1), Engineers for a Sustainable World (RS 22/10/0/1), the Student Environmental Council (RS 22/4/0/1), among others. Collections for these groups are listed along with other environmental collections in our Environment and Sustainability Collections Guide. Come in and check out how ISU has been involved in the environmental movement!

Happy Earth Day!

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]

New collection: Team PrISUm Records

1997-1999 Team PrISUM and solar car:  Phoenix

2011 is the third year of President Geoffroy’s Live Green! initiative, and last week was the third annual Symposium on Sustainability here on the ISU campus. Iowa State also has a wide variety of sustainability related research projects, departments and organizations and the University Archives holds the records of a variety of these.

Recently, the Iowa State University solar car team, Team PrISUm, donated their records to the University Archives. You may have seen examples of the solar cars the team has constructed throughout the years displayed at various university events. Now you can visit Special Collections to do research and find out more about the development of these cars and past activities and projects carried out by Team PrISUm!

Team PrISUm constructing a solar car.

Team PrISUm is a student-run organization that started in 1989. The team designs, builds, and races solar powered electric vehicles in the American Solar Challenge (previously known as Sunrayce). Teams have two years between races to design, construct, and test their cars. The team is composed of students from a variety of backgrounds including engineering, design, and business. Team PrISUm also focuses on outreach projects and education to raise awareness about solar energy and efficient transportation and displays the cars at events on campus and throughout the state.

Team PrISUm at the 1997 Sunrayce event with the solar car ExCYtor

The records contain information documenting the activities of Team PrISUm, including news clippings, proposals, design notes, statistics, fundraising information, brochures, solar car and race information, and videotapes. There also hundreds of photographs in the collection documenting the various incarnations of the ISU solar car, solar car construction and racing, outreach projects, and team members. The team’s newsletter, “The Sundial”, consists of valuable information regarding the development of each car. The collection also includes documents relating to Sunrayce and the American Solar Challenge such as correspondence, proposals, race regulations, and route books.

The finding aid for the Team PrISUm Records is available at:

Environment and Sustainability Subject Guide

In April we celebrated two separate days dedicated to the environment:  Earth Day and Arbor Day.  Even though this post is coming out belatedly at the end of April, we thought we should still let our readers know about the recently compiled subject guide listing our collections and rare books related to the environment and sustainability.  The subject guide was created in support of Iowa State University’s campus-wide Live Green! Initiative.

The rare books and collections listed demonstrate an ongoing concern with the environment throughout the twentieth century, particularly in the state of Iowa. The department holds a variety of collections related to sustainability and the environment in both the university archives and manuscript collections, covering such topics as soil and water conservation, alternative and efficient energy usage, recycling, wildlife protection, ecology, and sustainable agriculture. Included are records of the Environtology Council, Citizens United for Responsible Energy, National Association of Conservation Districts, Iowans for Returnable Beverage Containers, and records related to the Live Green! Initiative. The department also holds individual’s papers such as conservationist and botanist Ada Hayden, ornithologists Walter Rosene and Philip DuMont, and soil conservationist Hugh Hammond Bennett.

Above is a photograph from the collection of the National Association of Conservation Districts Records showing a once better than average farmstead in Colorado which was abandoned during the dust storms of the 1930s. The collection of the National Association of Conservation Districts documents its efforts to prevent the environmentally damaging farming practices which contributed to the Dust Bowl.

In addition to the environment and sustainability subject guide, the department holds numerous other subject guides listing and briefly describing our collections related to specific subject areas including agriculture, aviation, genealogy, and natural history.  We also have a subject listing of our manuscript collections.

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