Combo Category

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Exploring pioneer lives: UI Libraries and Rhetoric students partner on new digital collection and crowdsourcing project

DIY History: Pioneer Lives

This November, as Thanksgiving brings thoughts of pilgrims, the University of Iowa Libraries is exploring a later period of American history with a new digital collection, crowdsourcing initiative, and curriculum project based on pioneer-era documents.

Featuring more than 2,500 pages of letters, diaries, and photographs dating from the mid-to-late 19th century, the Pioneer Lives collection is available for browsing at the Iowa Digital Library: digital.lib.uiowa.edu/pioneers

The documents have also been added to DIY History — diyhistory.lib.uiowa.edu– the Libraries’ crowdsourcing site, where the public can help with historical research by providing transcriptions for handwritten texts. Earlier this fall, the collection got a test run from rhetoric students participating in a curriculum pilot project developed by IDEAL (Iowa Digital Engagement & Learning) to incorporate digital humanities in the undergraduate classroom.

Documenting Iowa’s early settlers, the Pioneer Lives collection lends immediacy to this historic period through the first-hand accounts of ordinary citizens. This is particularly true of the correspondence, with its descriptions of new lives written for loved ones left behind:

“Dear Father, I am in a place which at my coming here was very strange, but I have got acquainted and very contented, much more than I expected. I will give you a short sketch of what life I live here…” – Henry Eno letter, 1813

“My Dear Cousin, I thought I would write to you as it is my birthday. I am 11 years old… I go to school now… We have three boarders. I am going to learn to scate [sic] this winter…” – Emma Ward letter, 1866

“Dear Brother McCormick, Yours received, some time since, asking a sketch of my career as an M.D. during the past year, which… I must admit has far exceeded my hopes…” – Dr. Mila Sharp letter, 1885

Students in honors Rhetoric taught by Tom Keegan, faculty member and co-director of IDEAL, explored the collection during a four-week assignment that involved transcribing historic correspondence, conducting background research with primary source materials, performing rhetorical analyses of the documents, and presenting findings via screencast videos uploaded to YouTube.

In addition to learning new skills and information, many of the students enjoyed themselves along the way.

“I had a fun time analyzing my document which is rare because homework is almost never fun for me,” wrote one student in a class blog post. “I thought this was one of the first projects that I actually felt like I was making a legitimate discovery and that was a really unique experience.”

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Historic photos: JFK at the UI, 1959

As the nation marks the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s death, we’re celebrating the 54th anniversary of his 1959 visit to the University of Iowa campus. Not yet an official presidential candidate (coverage of his trip only made page 6 of The Daily Iowan, which instead led with some student workers’ two-day strike for a food allowance raise), Kennedy still drew a healthy audience of 1,500 to a reception at the Iowa Memorial Union. He rounded out the visit watching a home football game the following day, where he “cheered for Iowa, but prayed for Notre Dame.”

View additional Kennedy photographs from the Michael W. Lemberger Collection

View the Nov. 24th 1959 edition of The Daily Iowan

Senator John F. Kennedy visits the Iowa Memorial Union, University of Iowa, Nov. 21, 1959. Photo (c) Michael W. Lemberger | Michael W. Lemberger Photographs

Senator John F. Kennedy visits the Iowa Memorial Union, University of Iowa, Nov. 21, 1959. Photo (c) Michael W. Lemberger | Michael W. Lemberger Photographs

Senator John F. Kennedy talks to supporters, University of Iowa, Nov. 21, 1959. Photo (c) Michael W. Lemberger  |  Michael W. Lemberger Photographs

Senator John F. Kennedy talks to supporters, University of Iowa, Nov. 21, 1959. Photo (c) Michael W. Lemberger | Michael W. Lemberger Photographs 

Pressbox quarterbacks, The Daily Iowan, Nov. 24, 1959  |  The Daily Iowan Digital Collection

Pressbox quarterbacks, The Daily Iowan, Nov. 24, 1959 | The Daily Iowan Digital Collection

Next president?, The Daily Iowan, Nov. 24, 1959  |  The Daily Iowan Digital Collection

Next president?, The Daily Iowan, Nov. 24, 1959 | The Daily Iowan Digital Collection

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Great mustaches of the Iowa Digital Library

The libraries and archives that feature historic mustache images — from NYPL to the Smithsonian to our own Special Collections — are kicking into high gear in honor of Movember, so we thought we’d join in. Stealing from In tribute to the Library of Congress’ collection, we present some of the great mustaches of the Iowa Digital Library. Special thanks go to Wendy Robertson for her mustache-searching expertise.

UI President Charles A. Schaeffer, 1893  |  University of Iowa Yearbooks

UI President Charles A. Schaeffer, 1893 | University of Iowa Yearbooks

College of Dentistry Dean W.S. Hosford, 1908  |  Dentistry College Class Photographs

W.S. Hosford, 1908 | Dentistry College Class Photographs

Unidentified man, circa 1879  |  Pioneer Lives

Unidentified man, circa 1879 | Pioneer Lives

J.L. Small, 1885  |  Dentistry College Class Photographs

J.L. Small, 1885 | Dentistry College Class Photographs

General James B. Weaver, 1907  |  Traveling Culture - Circuit Chautauqua in the 20th C.

General James B. Weaver, 1907 | Traveling Culture – Circuit Chautauqua in the 20th C.

Billy Brooks, 1930s  |  Mujeres Latinas

Billy Brooks, 1930s | Mujeres Latinas

Personal favorite:

L.K. Fullerton, 1885  |  Dentistry College Class Photographs

L.K. Fullerton, 1885 | Dentistry College Class Photographs

Mustache manuscript:

Leigh Hunt letter to Charles Ollier, 1854  |  Leigh Hunt Letters

Leigh Hunt letter to Charles Ollier, 1854 | Leigh Hunt Letters

“I have not been idle, nor has my beard been growing for nothing. Had it not vented its energies this way, it would assuredly have struck towards the table, with the intention of growing through it, like the dead Emperor’s that was found sitting in the mausoleum. Seriously, it is a curious & hopeful coincidence, at any rate, that my cough has continued to grow better & better, though my beard is but of a month’s existence. I cannot afford to confine myself to the moustache &c., as you do; for I have, or have had, a regular cough, which you have not. Moustaches may do well enough for occasional coughs; but the cough proper demands the whole hairy investment.”

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Crowdsourcing continues!

Pioneer Lives transcription collection-in-progress

Pioneer Lives transcription collection-in-progress

Special Collections staff survey World War II letters and diaries

Special Collections staff survey World War II letters and diaries

A letter for transcription about transcription!

A letter for transcription about transcription!

Things might seem a little quiet at DIY History, the Libraries’ transcription crowdsourcing site, but behind the scenes we’ve been working on several new initiatives that should be launching over the next few months.

First up is a long-overdue redesign of the DIYH home pages that we hope will make for a less cluttered and easier to navigate user experience. That will be rolling out next month along with the debut of a new collection up for transcription: Pioneer Lives, featuring hundreds of letters and diaries from Midwest settlers during the mid- to late 1800s. While conservation and preservation staff continue the pioneers treatment and digitization work that’s taken up much of their summer, our curators have already begun compiling lists of handwritten materials for the next initiative, which will focus on the Libraries’ small but growing collection of World War II diaries and letters. In the meantime, there’s still plenty of transcribing left to be done on cookbooks, women’s lives, and railroads at DIY History, so please stop by and help improve access to these historic documents.

Along with a new look and new content, we’re also working on a new collaboration; this fall, the Libraries is teaming up with the IDEAL (Iowa Digital Engagement and Learning) initiative on a pilot project to teach DIY History in Rhetoric classes for incoming freshman. Currently wrapping up the four-week assignment module, students have transcribed a document, conducted research on its writer’s life and times, performed a rhetorical analysis of its contents, and created brief video screencasts to present their findings on YouTube. We hope to showcase some of these videos here, so check back soon.

Alas not all of our new developments are good ones. The past few weeks have been challenging as we figure our way around the project without the support of superstar library assistant Christine Tade, who recently retired after 27 years with the Libraries. From overseeing workflows, to training student assistants, to fielding user comments and questions, she was instrumental in keeping the project running smoothly. We’re very grateful to Christine for all her dedication and hard work that helped make DIY History a success.

Christine Tade, circa 1970

Christine Tade, circa 1970

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Move over, fried twinkies: Iowa State Fair historic recipe contest

To make almond cheese cakes, Ann Kenwrick cookbook, 1770 | Szathmary Culinary Manuscripts

To make almond cheese cakes, Ann Kenwrick cookbook, 1770 | Szathmary Culinary Manuscripts

This August, traditional Fair fare such as deep-fried Twinkies, Snickers, and sticks of butter will be making room for even more old-school treats featured in the UI-sponsored Szathmary Historic Recipes cooking contest. Up for recreating 18th- and 19th-century desserts like Almond Cheese Cakes, Summer Mince Pies, and Mrs. Matson’s Marlborough Pies? Unintimidated by units of measurements such as “about the bigness of an Egg” and ingredients like “Orange Flower water”? Then see contest details on page 53 of the Iowa State Fair food booklet.

And to get in a historic mood, please visit our Iowa Digital Library Pinterest site to view a selection of digitized State Fair cartoons and clippings, ca. 1894-2004.

Iowa State Fair @ IDL Pinterest

Iowa State Fair @ IDL Pinterest

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Reading & greeting

Reach out to your book-loving friends by sharing a reading-themed eCard, featuring images from Iowa Digital Library.

Summer reading: send an eCard from Iowa Digital Library

Summer reading: send an eCard from Iowa Digital Library

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Springtime in Iowa

Remembering Iowa City’s tornado of 2006 and floods of 2008, via Iowa Digital Library. Here’s hoping for a less extreme 2013…

Alpha Chi Omega house, University of Iowa, April 2006 | University Communication and Marketing Photographs

Alpha Chi Omega house, University of Iowa, April 2006 | University Communication and Marketing Photographs

Tornado damage, Iowa City, April 2006 | University Communication and Marketing Photographs

Tornado damage, Iowa City, April 2006 | University Communication and Marketing Photographs

The Daily Iowan, April 17, 2006 | The Daily Iowan Historic Newspapers

The Daily Iowan, April 17, 2006 | The Daily Iowan Historic Newspapers

Art Building West, University of Iowa, June 2008 | Iowa City Flood

Art Building West, University of Iowa, June 2008 | Iowa City Flood

Volunteers help with sandbagging, University of Iowa, June 2008 | Iowa City Flood

Volunteers help with sandbagging, University of Iowa, June 2008 | Iowa City Flood

The Daily Iowan, June 11, 2008 | The Daily Iowan Historic Newspapers

The Daily Iowan, June 11, 2008 | The Daily Iowan Historic Newspapers

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First do no harm: historic UI medical photos now online

Medical practice announcement, Victor, Iowa, 1864 | UI College of Medicine Historical Photographs

Medical practice announcement, Victor, Iowa, 1864 | UI College of Medicine Historical Photographs

New at Iowa Digital Library:
University of Iowa College of Medicine Historical Photographs
digital.lib.uiowa.edu/com
featuring dozens of images documenting the study and practice of medicine at the UI and its surrounding area

Dissection class, University of Iowa, circa 1898 | UI College of Medicine Historical Photographs

Dissection class, University of Iowa, circa 1898 | UI College of Medicine Historical Photographs

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Transcribing Iowa women’s lives: the diary of a teenage girl in 1876

"Boys are not allowed" - Belle Robinson diary, 1875-1877 | Iowa Women's Archives selections

“Boys are not allowed” – Belle Robinson diary, 1875-1877 | Iowa Women’s Archives selections

Now awaiting transcription at our DIY History crowdsourcing site is the late-19th century diary of Belle Robinson, a charming document of a girlhood in Iowa spent playing croquet, attending picnics, making taffy, and going nutting. And like another girl who lived in a little town on the prairie, Belle had literary aspirations. Included in her diary are verses written to amuse school friends, reviews of library books (usually described as “very interesting”), and references to story writing, as in this series of entries from 1876:

Tuesday 15th
Club tonight at Meg’s. I am elected secretary. We are going to have a paper next time like they had in Little Women. I am editor and promised to try and write a kind of dime novel story.

Wednesday 16th
Began story.

Thursday
Am going to a party at Flora McCreery’s, we have slighted them so much lately, that I shall have to go – although I hate to dreadfully.

Friday
Have finished my story. It’s perfectly horrid, “The Gipsy’s Secret” is the name. Went to the party last night & did not get home till twelve oclock. Perfect martyrdom for 4 hours it was. May’s club held here, they are in the other room making an awful noise.

February 15-18, Belle Robinson diary, 1875-1877

Sadly, Belle died in 1887 at age 25. Had she lived, she would likely have joined her older sister May — fittingly “making an awful noise” with her girlfriends in the above excerpt — who became active in the women’s suffrage movement in Iowa.

Robinson-Lacy three-generation portrait, 1880s | Women's Suffrage in Iowa

Robinson-Lacy three-generation portrait, 1880s | Women’s Suffrage in Iowa

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“It means a lot to me to see this picture”: connecting with historic photographs at DIY History

Slezak-Hubbard house, Iowa City, ca. 1920 | Iowa City Town and Campus Scenes on Flickr

Slezak-Hubbard house, Iowa City, ca. 1920 | Iowa City Town and Campus Scenes on Flickr

Along with transcribing handwritten diaries and letters, users at our DIY History crowdsourcing site can comment, tag and favorite historic photos at the University of Iowa Libraries’ Flickr site. Most frequently, we receive feedback on factual errors in our metadata, e.g. Flickr user Metaltype noticed an incorrectly identified typesetting machine in this image from the 1950s, while KandyK2013 used hairstyle clues to provide a more accurate date estimate for this 1940s photo of student life at the UI.

But occasionally commenters let us know about a personal connection to one of the photographs. The residence pictured above, with its gables and stained glass windows, is more than just a stately example of 19th-century architecture for user bay.miller, who’s related to the people who built the house. And djgeorge2012, of whom we suspect a family connection to UI baseball player Jim George (pictured below), left a comment with a biographical sketch of the athlete that greatly enhances the research value of the image.

We’d like to increase this type of public engagement through our application for membership in Flickr Commons, where we hope to join the Library of Congress and other institutions in their mission to widen access to and enrich the content of the world’s historic photograph collections.

Jim George playing baseball, University of Iowa, late 1930s | Iowa City Town and Campus Scenes at Flickr

Jim George playing baseball, University of Iowa, late 1930s | Iowa City Town and Campus Scenes at Flickr