Carl Menzer broadcasting at the University of Iowa, ca. 1925-1930
A recent post at the Smithsonian’s Paleofutures blog — “A history of the future that never was” — cites the University of Iowa’s W9XK as the first American university station to broadcast TV. Read about this failed experiment to bring free education to the masses below.
Predictions for Educational TV in the 1930s
Today most universities offer online courses that allow students to study and take tests without physically being on campus, but in the 1930s the distance learning technology of the future was television.
Both radio and television were initially envisioned as methods for point-to-point communication, but once radio broadcasting became mainstream in the 1920s universities saw the potential of the medium to reach a broad audience with educational programming. This was especially true in rural farming communities where long distance commuting to a university was out of the question.
Universities in the U.S. may have been at the forefront of experimenting with radio broadcasting, but frankly, they weren’t great at attracting sizable audiences. As Douglas B. Craig explains in his book Fireside Politics, “many university stations [of the 1920s] began operations with high hopes of bringing education to the masses, but soon faltered as broadcasting costs increased, audiences diminished, and professors demonstrated that lecture-hall brilliance did not always translate into good radio technique. These problems were quickly reflected in an unfavorable allocation of frequency or broadcast times, sending many of these stations into a downward spiral to oblivion.”…
Experiments in television brought universities that had failed at radio a fresh start, but it was still unclear as to whether these technologies should be used for narrowly targeted or broadcast purposes. In 1933, the University of Iowa became the first American university to broadcast TV. The first public demonstration of television in the state had occurred just two years earlier at the 1931 Iowa State Fair, and there was tremendous excitement by scientists at the University of Iowa to see what it could accomplish…
View the full article at Smithsonian.com
View the Iowa Digital Library’s W9XK Experimental Television at Iowa collection
Two events with deep ties to history take place over the next week, and you can stop in to the Special Collections & University Archives reading room now to see a piece related to each.
On Sunday, June 3, a celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee features a procession of over 1,000 boats on the Thames river in London. While infrequent in recent history, processions on the Thames were once a popular way of commemorating public events in London. On view is the first issue of the Illustrated London News. The newspaper’s famous header image features a view of a water procession on the Thames as a part of the Lord Mayor’s Day.
On Tuesday, June 5, observers around the world will witness this century’s last transit of Venus, when the planet Venus is visible crossing the face of the sun. The transit is a rare event—the next will occur in 2117. In centuries past, the transit was an important scientific tool, as observations were gathered from different parts of the globe to determine the distance between the earth and the sun. Governments sponsored elaborate expeditions to gather observations. James Cook was sent by the Royal Academy to Tahiti to record his observations. On display is an engraving from Sydney Parkinson’s A Journal of a Voyage to the South Seas, in His Majesty’s Ship, the Endeavour from 1773, which depicts the fort from which Cook and his scientists observed the 1769 transit.
In an interview on NPR May 29, Professor J. David Hacker was interviewed about his census data research which leads him to posit that the accepted estimate for number of Civil War casualties is too low, and instead should be roughly 750,000. This is an enormous number, but to truly convey the magnitude of the tragedy and its impact on the country, Hacker points out that the population of the U.S. in the 1860s was about 10 times less than it is now, so that an equivalent war loss today would be 7.5 million deaths. Reading our Civil War diaries and letters with this in mind, we marvel that any of our writers lived to return to their families, and we are grateful that both the survivors and those who lost their lives took the time to make a record of their experience. Imagine the anxiety of those back home, waiting for the next mail, and wondering if they would ever see their loved ones again.
George Shearer, Union soldier, 1863 | Civil War Diaries and Letters
The Sciences Library now has a Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/UIowaSciencesLibrary) and a Twitter feed (http://twitter.com/UIowaSciLib). These social networking tools will be used to distribute news and other information pertaining the Sciences Library, the University of Iowa Libraries, the University of Iowa and the scientific community in general. “Like”, “Follow” and “Share” the Sciences Library on Facebook and Twitter!
photo by Joshua Cornelius
The Iowa City landfill has been on fire since Saturday evening, and is predicted to burn for several more days. Burning tires are causing a large smoke plume.
The Johnson County Public Health department warns:
Persons in the path of the smoke plume should avoid exposure to the smoke as much as possible. Persons who have respiratory, heart or other conditions which may be aggravated by smoke and the young and elderly should shelter in place with outside sources of air shut off.
Most home air conditioning units recirculate air from the interior and should be sufficient. Businesses and other structures which draw in outside air should close outside air sources if the smoke plume is present. Avoid outdoor activities such as exercising if the smoke plume is present.
Nursing homes, day cares and other businesses which care for the elderly, very young and persons with respiratory diseases should take special care to monitor the health of clients and to minimize exposure to the smoke plume.
The Johnson County Health Department is coordinating with the University of Iowa State Hygienic Laboratory’s Air Quality Department to begin air quality monitoring.
For more current information, please check local news sources.
MONDINO DEI LUZZI (d. 1326). Anatomia Mundini. Marburg: In officina Christiani Egenolphi, 
This edition of Mondino’s anatomy was prepared by Johannes Dryander, called Eichmann, who is generally regarded as one of the first anatomists to make illustrations from his own dissections. This important and rare book is especially interesting for its woodcuts. Nearly half of the plates were copied from Berengario da Carpi’s commentary on Mondino’s Anothomia published in 1521 and most of the remaining plates are Dryander’s. Many of them were taken from Dryander’s Anatomiae first issued in 1537 and at least six of his plates are believed to have been taken from Vesalius’ Tabulae anatomicae sex. Only forty-one of the original forty-six plates are present in Hardin’s copy.
Friday, May 25, 2012
The time at OceanTeacher Academy flew by and it is already Friday! We had a great group of students who stayed engaged and worked hard. In the afternoon, Caitlin demonstrated several things including how to make a four flap enclosure and a simple archival paper wrap as options for providing protection for rare books. Since budgets are always tight no matter the size of library and none of the libraries had direct access to a conservation lab we spent our time learning how to provide basic protection with limited materials and staff time.
The students worked all week on a preservation plan and gave formal presentations at the end of the week. A written plan was also turned in to the instructors. These written plans will be reviewed by the instructors with follow up comments, used by the students to begin discussions with their management and as a starting point for possible grant proposals. The plans had short and long term goals with many goals requiring little money. Many students identified a need for better shelving practices, cleaning and handling procedures and repair of cracks in walls and foundations. Long range plans included a desire for air conditioning and improved scanning equipment.
Caitlin and I look forward to hearing about the student successes and challenges as they begin implementing preservation practices in their libraries. We are glad to have the weekend in front of us but will miss our new and renewed acquaintances as we head back home.
Thursday, May 24, 2012
We spent the morning at OceanTeacher Academy practicing stitching single-signature pamphlets into binders and making pockets. Pamphlet binders and pockets are both good ways to protect vulnerable material. We used both commercial and homemade binder covers for our pamphlets. A pocket can be used to keep a CD, pamphlet, map or other loose material with a book. A pocket attached to a folder can also be used to protect an item, particularly pamphlets that are too fragile to stitch in a binder or items too thick to include in a book. Pamphlet binders and pockets are inexpensive ways to protect fragile material.
Beginning Thursday, May 24, workers will start to replace the doors in the southwest stairwell of the Main Library. They are starting at floor five and working their way down. Please try and avoid stairwell areas during this time.
Also begining next week, the southwest elevator will be unavailable, as it is being modernized. The project will continue through the end of July.