About Author: Wendy Robertson

Posts by Wendy Robertson


Brown v Board of Education

Segregation Held Unconsituional

Today is the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in the Brown v Board of Education, making separate public schools for black and white students unconstitutional. The Daily Iowan story is in the May 18, 1954 issue.

The ruling did not affect Iowa because segregation of schools had been illegal since 1868.

“Our first public schools were for “white” students only. But in 1868, eighty-six years before Brown versus State Board of Education, Topeka—which struck down separate schools for blacks and whites in 1954—Alexander Clark Sr. successfully sued the City of Muscatine so his daughter, Susan, could attend the white elementary school. This was the same year that Iowa became the first northern state to guarantee black men’s right to vote.”

Letters to a young Iowan [excerpt], Hal S. Chase

"S.U.I. queen vote accents tolerance," December 14, 1955Just one year after the landmark Supreme Court ruling, Iowa students elected an African American woman, Dora Lee Martin, as homecoming queen. This election was touted in state papers as demonstrating tolerance at the University, such as this excerpt from the Sioux City Tribune-Journal.

You can read more about Dora Lee Martin in a previous blog post, Queen of the campus.


Remembering Chinua Achebe

Chinua Achebe (1930–2013) never came to Iowa City, so our connection with him in our collection is slight. However, since he recently died and given the importance of his work, I wanted to highlight a few items in our digital collections.


Pictured are: (from left) Louis Lomax, Bill Kelley, Esther Walls, John Killens, Chinua Achebe, Leroi Jones

The Esther Walls papers include 3 pictures of him at the Countee Cullen Branch of the New York Public Library in May, 1963. He was part of a black writers panel, moderated by Esther Walls. Other panelists were Louis Lomax, Bill Kelley, John Killens and Leroi Jones.


Esther Walls moderating a panel of black writers. Pictured are: (from left) Bill Kelley, Chinua Achebe, Louis Lomax, Esther Walls, Leroi Jones (obscured), John Killens

We of course also have many books written by him; reading his works is the best way to remember his legacy.


Happy birthday Bram Stoker

Here are some items from our collection that would make appropriate reading for Bram Stoker’s 165th birthday:

Perry, Dennis R.. “Whitman’s Influence on Stoker’s Dracula.” Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 3 (12 1986), 29-35. http://ir.uiowa.edu/wwqr/vol3/iss3/5

Explores the hitherto neglected topic of Whitman’s potential influence on his admirer, Bram Stoker, emphasizing the writers’ mutual fascination with death, with the boundaries of body and self, and with the connectedness between things; explicates Stoker’s “nightmarish inversion” of Whitman’s themes.

Havlik, Robert J. “Walt Whitman and Bram Stoker: The Lincoln Connection.” Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 4 (Spring 1987), 9-16. http://ir.uiowa.edu/wwqr/vol4/iss4/3

Describes the importance of the recent discovery of the University of Notre Dame Stoker/Lincoln manuscript and relates its importance to Stoker’s encounters with Whitman and the evolution of their relationship; suggests that Whitman may have influenced Stoker’s views on Lincoln.

Howe, Kathryn. “Vampire Boot Camp: Students Sunk Their Teeth into a Summer of Dark Literature” Iowa Alumni Magazine 59 (February 2006), 16-17. http://digital.lib.uiowa.edu/cdm/ref/collection/uap/id/23694

Butler, Erik. “Writing and Vampiric Contagion in Dracula.” Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies 2 (2002): 13-32. http://ir.uiowa.edu/ijcs/vol2/iss1/4/

Chambers, Samuel A. and Williford, Daniel (2004) “Anti-Imperialism in the Buffy-verse: Challenging the Mythos of Bush as Vampire Slayer,” Poroi: Vol. 3: Iss. 2: p. 109-129. http://ir.uiowa.edu/poroi/vol3/iss2/6
Nelson, John S. (2003) “Cowboys or Vampire Killers? The Bush Gang Rides Again, or American Figures in Foreign Affairs,” Poroi: Vol. 2: Iss. 2: p. 104-117. http://ir.uiowa.edu/poroi/vol2/iss2/7
Buscemi, Nicole Desiree. “Diagnosing narratives: illness, the case history, and Victorian fiction.” dissertation, University of Iowa, 2009. http://ir.uiowa.edu/etd/282.

Little Village archive

We recently added the back content of Little Village magazine in our repository, which will ensure this important local title will remain widely accessible (http://ir.uiowa.edu/littlevillage/). Many of the contributors are current or past University of Iowa faculty, students and employees.

Several months ago, Little Village staff contacted the University Archives to scan back issues of the magazine. Our Digital Preservation Librarian advised the LV volunteer regarding the digitization. DRP staff then advised another LV volunteer on the data needed to upload the items. This was a very successful collaboration with LV, especially from my perspective since they did so much of the work!

Our site includes all the issues, from July 2001 to the current issue (Sept./Oct. 2012). Each issue can be downloaded as a PDF or can be viewed on screen. Each of the covers displays, making the issues easily browsed.  You can search the back issues on our site, or you can use Iowa City Public Library’s Local News Index to find articles of interest.

We hope you enjoy looking at the last decade of Iowa City news and arts.


One million

As of July 15, 2012, Iowa Research Online has had over 1,000,000 download of items.  This means there have been 1,000,000 uses of University of Iowa faculty, staff and student created or supported content in the just over 3.5 years since IRO launched (January, 2009). More than half of this use occurred in the last 12 months.

The most used series are:

Series Total Use Percent of Total
Theses and Dissertations 451,428 44.85%
Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 116,955 11.62%
Medieval Feminist Forum 89,974 8.94%
Poroi 39,659 3.94%
Political Science Publications 38,644 3.84%
Iowa Geological Survey Annual Report 22,867 2.27%
Electronic Journal of Africana Bibliography 20,921 2.08%
The Educational Weekly 19,478 1.94%
Iowa Short Fiction Award & John Simmons Short Fiction Award 18,012 1.79%
G. R. Boynton’s New Media and Politics 17,849 1.77%

Wisława Szymborska, 1923-2012

Wisława Szymborska, Nobel-prize winning Polish poet, died on February 1, 2012. According to The Telegraph:

The Nobel award committee’s 1996 citation called her the “Mozart of poetry,” a woman who mixed the elegance of language with “the fury of Beethoven” and tackled serious subjects with humor. While she was arguably the most popular poet in Poland, most of the world had not heard of the shy, soft-spoken Szymborska before she won the Nobel prize.

She has been called both deeply political and playful, a poet who used humor in unforeseen ways. Her verse, seemingly simple, was subtle, deep and often hauntingly beautiful. She used simple objects and detailed observation to reflect on larger truths, often using everyday images – an onion, a cat wandering in an empty apartment, an old fan in a museum – to reflect on grand topics such as love, death and passing time.

On May 6, 2011, Prairie Lights hosted a poetry reading celebrating the work of older poets, including Szymborska.  You can hear her poems, as well as selections from Elizabeth Bishop, Donald Justice, Stanley Kunitz, W.S. Merwin, and W.B. Yeats in this recording: http://digital.lib.uiowa.edu/u?/vwu,2897

Our collection also includes a discussion with Bronislaw Maj on the difficulties of translating Szymborska’s idiomatic language and colloquialism into an international literary language: http://digital.lib.uiowa.edu/u?/vwu,448

And if you’d rather remember her by reading one of her books, you can check those out too!


Books are spawned with the fecundity of Egyptian frogs

It can be interesting to see how views of education have changed since the late 19th century.  The journal Educational Weekly, published from 1877–1881, opens a window onto teaching methodology of the era. One article, from the April 7, 1881 issue, offers some interesting thoughts from Dr. A. R. Benton, including the following snippets:

“The pettiness of pedantic specialism” is the bane of teaching and the death of all inspiration and contagious enthusiasm.

There is much in a liberal education that cannot be learned well and orderly from books alone.

… the teacher should be a trusty guide through the mazes of hypothesis and speculation, moderating the intoxication begotten of new and surprising glimpses of knowledge, and conducting, as a faithful Mentor, the learner through all difficulties, into the safe moorage of truth, verified by experiment or established by a sound philosophy.

My favorite quotation is:

In former times, the living teacher was a necessity, because of the scarcity and costliness of books. In the present, books are spawned with the fecundity of Egyptian frogs, sometimes as disgusting and pernicious, making the function of the teacher no less important and vastly more varied and complex.

The complete essay follows:


We take the following on methods from a lecture on “Liberal Education,” delivered before the Indiana College Association, by Dr. A. R. Benton, of Butler University :

In liberal education method is no inconsiderable factor. The pressing question among college instructors of our time is not so much what to teach as how to teach. The practice of our best teachers is much below the inculcations of the best thinkers on education. It is an infelicity of our work, that it is hard to realize even our own ideal. A change of studies, for which the New Education clamors, to the exclusion of those which have been approved by the suffrages of educators, is no remedy for bad methods. The gerundgrinder, as the teacher of ancient languages is facetiously called, is not a whit less faulty in method, than he who teaches the English language, or one who drones through a text-book of hard, technical names, with a bewildering cumulation of insignificant and uninteresting details. “The pettiness of pedantic specialism” is the bane of teaching and the death of all inspiration and contagious enthusiasm. This defect is not peculiar to our times. Two hundred years ago John Locke wrote, in the spirit of sharp criticism, words that have an amazing fitness and pertinence in our day. Says he, “If any one among us has a felicity or purity more than ordinary in his mother tongue, it is owing to chance or genius, or anything, rather than to his education or any care of his teacher.” I have no wish to stay the hand of any educational reformer who wishes to hew to pieces this modem Agag of false method in teaching. But let this avenging zeal be impartial, and according to knowledge. If the abuse of method is hoary with age, let it claim some of the privileges of honorable age ; but smite with the hammer of the iconoclast every false image set up for homage in the name of the new education. If I may be allowed a certain freedom of utterance, and without offence, I opine that the chief defect in method is personal. The reliance which modern method places on the machinery and appliances of instruction is quite disproportioned to their merit. The personality of the teacher is retired, the method stands in the foreground. It is one thing for a teacher to master the machinery of method; it is quite another to master that for which all method exists—the mind and heart of the student, and the approaches to them. It occurs to me that the chief word in the method of liberal education is inspiration. From the time of Socrates to that of Dr. Arnold of Rugby this has been the “primum mobile.” A learned Englishman, in the Contemporary Review for March, 1878, has pertinently inquired, “In what does the gift of teaching consist ? Assuredly not in the possession of a large body of solid learning. It consists infinitely more in the power of sympathy, the ability to place oneself in the exact position of the learner, to see things as he sees them, and to feel difficulties as he feels them, and to be able to present the solution precisely in the form that will open the understanding of the pupil, and enable him in gathering the new piece of knowledge to comprehend its nature and value.” This method stands out in sharp contrast with what may be called the impersonal method. This latter sends the student out to browse in the field of knowledge, and from time to time examines his intellectual growth, and marks it on the intellectual scale with scrupulous exactness and pretentious significance. The student is left largely to himself, to organize painfully, and to correlate imperfectly the various facts and principles of his research into such unity as science or philosophy demands. Or, forgetting that “the subtilty of nature is forever beyond the subtilty of man,” impersonal teaching often requires some marvelous feat of memory in which an infinity of detail, dry as the clown’s “remainder biscuit after a voyage,” is made the test of knowledge and culture. There is much in a liberal education that cannot be learned well and orderly from books alone. Many subjects need the vivifying, directing mind of the teacher. This needs to be active, comprehensive and judicial. The personal element must so handle both the matter and manner of teaching as to compel confidence. In the matter, the teacher should be a trusty guide through the mazes of hypothesis and speculation, moderating the intoxication begotten of new and surprising glimpses of knowledge, and conducting, as a faithful Mentor, the learner through all difficulties, into the safe moorage of truth, verified by experiment or established by a sound philosophy. Such a one will discard the speculating, romancing style of teaching, which catches at half truths, having, perhaps, a nebulous grandeur, exciting wonder, rather than imparting exact information. This question of the matter, which shall enter into liberal education, has been distinctly raised in Germany in the well known controversy between Professors Virchow and Haeckel. In the highest reaches of thought belonging to history, ethics and biology, and kindred subjects, the personal power, and, in some sense, the authoritative and discriminating judgment of the living teacher is indispensable. In former times, the living teacher was a necessity, because of the scarcity and costliness of books. In the present, books are spawned with the fecundity of Egyptian frogs, sometimes as disgusting and pernicious, making the function of the teacher no less important and vastly more varied and complex. The instinct of every well constituted mind impels the learner to reconcile contrarieties and to explain paradoxes, so as to reduce all his knowledge to a seemingly consistent and concordant system. The mind strives to organize its knowledge, so that it may be scientific in fact, as well as in form. In this respect the office of a wise, comprehensive, judicious instructor is of great moment.

With books, as with companions, it is of more consequence to know which to avoid than which to choose.


Improved searching of Wallace Collection

We have recently improved the searching of our Henry A Wallace Collection. This enhancement makes finding letters, telegrams, postcards or memorandum much easier.

Wallace Collection homepage

In 1975, Earl M. Rogers and Leslie W. Dunlap published an index to the letters in our microfilm collection as well as to the correspondence in the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library (Micro film 18327) and Library of Congress microfilm collections. The two volumes have been essential to find materials in these collections.

Display of name search

We have converted this print index into a searchable database. The results will link to our digitized materials or to the reel number for the other collections.

When you start typing in the correspondent search box, names will appear, showing the number of results for each name, based on sender or recipient. Select the name you want and press search.

The resulting list includes everything to or from the individual you selected.  The film numbers for the Iowa microfilm link directly to the digitized version.

The results display in date order. You can re-sort the columns by sender, recipient or film number.

Display of search results

You can also search by year or by multiple years.

If you are interested in a specific date, try the general search box, formatting the date with the year first, e.g. 1945-04-12. This top search box also allows you to search by first name or by a last name to get correspondence for everyone with that last name.

This project would not have been possible without our programmer Rajendra Sedhain or our student assistant Lisa Mendenhall.

Try out the great new interface at http://wallace.lib.uiowa.edu/!



Iowa Research Online has just passed the 100,000 mark!

The repository launched in January 2009. Since that time, we have added 3,630 items to the collection which have now been used over 100,000 times. We are very pleased that our local scholarship has been receiving so much use.

Our highest use collection is our electronic thesis and dissertation collection, which shows the importance of our recent graduates’ scholarship.  This collection has a wide range of content across all disciplines.  The theses receiving the most use are:

Our peer-reviewed journals also receive high use. Walt Whitman Quarterly Review and Medieval Feminist Forum were both print only and now the back content is freely available and the current issue is available to subscribers. Poroi and Electronic Journal of Africana Bibliography moved into Iowa Research Online to provide an improved interface. Some of the articles receiving the most use are:

Our collections of faculty scholarship are also receiving high use.  Highlights from these collections include:

Our partnership with the University of Iowa Press to make the back volumes of selected series available has also contributed several popular items:

Several reports from the Public Policy Center have also been receiving a lot of use, including:

We have found that IRO is used by people all over the world.  While most use comes from the United States, substantial use also comes from people in the United Kingdom, Canada, India, Germany, Australia, France, Hong Kong, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and China, demonstrating the international nature of our collection and of research.

Thanks to everyone who has helped make the collection such a success!


Happy Fourth of July

The Digital Library Services staff hopes everyone has a great Fourth of July weekend.

We hope you have good times with family and friends.

Fourth of July gathering outside house, Fonda, Iowa, July 4, 1915

We hope you eat good food.

Patriotic Petits Fours from Sunkist bulletin, menu planning for health, 1937

We hope you enjoy fireworks displays.

Fireworks display above pool, The University of Iowa, 1920s?

Fourth fireworks by Eve Drewlowe

Fireworks, Iowa, July 4, 1976

Tower bridge fireworks 100th Anniversary, London, England, 1994

And we hope you stay safe.

Now let's all be careful by Ding Darling