Combo Category


DIY History: 30,000th submission, new collections for UI Libraries’ crowdsourcing project

30,000th transcribed page: “Remedy for a woman with child taken harm by fall or fright or any mischance,” Francis Smith medical recipe book, 1704

30,000th transcribed page: “Remedy for a woman with child taken harm by fall or fright or any mischance,” Francis Smith medical recipe book, 1704

Thanks to the public’s voracious appetite for historic cookbooks, the University of Iowa Libraries has recently reached a new milestone for its DIY History crowdsourcing site: 30,000 pages transcribed. An English medical recipe book from 1704 contains the project’s 30,000th page, detailing a “remedy for a woman with child taken harm by fall or fright or any mischance.” This document, along with hundreds of other historic manuscripts, is now fully searchable due to the efforts of volunteer transcribers from around the world.

In addition to cookbooks, DIY History users have also completed an earlier initiative to transcribe more than 15,000 pages of Civil War diaries and correspondence. To complement those materials, the following collections have been added to the site to help provide researchers with a fuller picture of American life in the mid- to late 19th century:

DIY History: Building the Transcontinental Railroad
Business correspondence and financial papers belonging to railroad baron Thomas Durant, documenting the construction of the transcontinental line that transformed the nation. A colorful and unscrupulous figure best known for the Crédit Mobilier financial scandal of 1872, Durant holds a place in current pop culture as a character in the AMC television series “Hell on Wheels.” Typical of his high-pressure style is this note to chief engineer Peter Dey (former owner of University of Iowa’s Dey House), who eventually quit the railroad when asked to pad his estimates for work:

“Want preliminary survey at once to make location of starting point. Delay is ruinous. Everything waits for you.” — Thomas Durant letter, 1863

DIY History: Iowa Women’s Lives
Diaries, letters, and other documents of Iowa women. Currently featured are the papers of Ellen Mowrer Miller (1848-1922), wife of a Civil War veteran and farmer, who recorded her thoughts on a variety of topics including women’s suffrage:

“[A neighbor] is very hard against woman voting, ‘because, because’ was the only argument he could put forth. Was a little tickled at him in the evening, when it was a raining he said, ‘Well, Miss Mowrer, now how would you like to be out in the rain at a woman’s rights convention.’ ‘O,’ I said, ‘the rain is pure, it comes down from heaven you know, refreshes and serves all things.’” — Ellen Mowrer diary entry, 1869

DIY History is the latest public engagement initiative from the University of Iowa Libraries, a staunch supporter of new forms of scholarly publishing, digital humanities, data curation, and open/linked data.

DIY History


A good beginning

Perhaps your New Year’s resolutions include a self-documentation project, like more frequent updates on Facebook, Twitter, or even a good old-fashioned diary? For inspiration, we present Iowa Byington Reed (1851-1936), an Iowa City native, teacher, seamstress, and housewife who wrote daily diary entries covering her life from age twenty to just a few weeks before her death at age eighty-four. Now part of the holdings of the Iowa Women’s Archives, all of Byington Reed’s diaries were recently digitized and added to Iowa Digital Library.

Excerpted below are just a few of her January 1sts, with transcriptions courtesy of our volunteers at DIY History.

Diary entry, Jan. 1, 1872 | Iowa Byington Reed Diaries

Diary entry, Jan. 1, 1872 | Iowa Byington Reed Diaries

Jan. 1, 1872: Did not teach today nor did we have company as we usually do. It was the busiest day I have put in for some time if I only work so well all the year I will accomplish wonders. But according to rule a good beginning makes a bad ending hope I will prove an exception… Mr Huebner called a few minutes this afternoon enjoyed his call very much. In the evening sewed on the waist of my black dress, retired early as I was suffering with a severe cold Recieved from Mr McSparen the sum of $26.00 my wages for the first month I taught Thus ends the first day of the week and the first day of the new year.

1874: What a lovely day for the first of the new year. As soon as Hattie and I got the morning work done We got into the buggy and took a drive over to the depot to see if Winnie had come… We got Emma Middleton in the buggy with us and went down to Jim McCallister’s. We found Grandma and Grandpa there. Aunt Mary had an excellent dinner and we enjoyed our visit very much indeed. Came home in good season. I sewed all the evening. Altogether I was well pleased with the manner in which I spent the day. We heard from Father today. I never saw so pleasant a January 1st it was a remarkable winter day. Emma came home with us to stay all night.

1875: …I helped Aunty a little and spent the day very pleasantly. The weather was not very pleasant, I thought a great many times today of what a beautiful day last New Years was and how Hattie and I enjoyed ourselves driving around town and spending the day at Uncle Jim McCallisters. In the evening I wrote a little and looked over my old diary and indulged in a retrospective view of the past year. I most sincerely hope that I will not know some of the sorrow this year I did last.  I find it very lonesome without Jennie. I wrote a note to Clarence tonight and wrapped up his scarf ready to take to Lewis tomorrow.

1876: Rain. Who ever saw the like on New Years day. How fashionable we were today. Breakfast at nine, dinner at three, and supper at nine. Hattie and I worked all of the day and part of the night making a pair of lamp mats for the parlor. We played a few games of cards in the evening. Mr. Bently and I playing partners against Rob and Hattie. This surely has not been a pleasant new year But with me a happy and comfortable one.

1899: It was late when we got up this morning and after doing up the work went up to the cemetery  It was a very cold forenoon  We all but Lee ate dinner down at Otts. Will and I started home early in the afternoon. We had things all put away and supper ready by six oclock. I read in the evening. What I wonder is in store for us this year.

1912: The first day of the week and the year and it is 40 years today since I began keeping diary.  This was a good sharp winter day.  The folks with [Elvis?] Anderson came out for dinner.  [Lorie Folty?] was with them of course.  I got along nicely with my dinner and they seemed to enjoy it.  The girls did not go home till 5:15.  After that i washed the dinner dishes and got us some supper.  May we be spared the sorrow in this year to come we passed through in the last.


IDL wishes you HH

Grant Wood's Christmas card, 1924 | Figge Art Museum Grant Wood Digital Collection

Grant Wood’s Christmas card, 1924 | Figge Art Museum Grant Wood Digital Collection

Happy holidays from the Iowa Digital Library!

Christmas at the UI Children's Hospital, 1921 | Iowa City Town and Campus Scenes

Christmas at the UI Children’s Hospital, 1921 | Iowa City Town and Campus Scenes

'Pass, friend,' 1941 | Editorial Cartoons of Ding Darling

‘Pass, friend,’ 1941 | Editorial Cartoons of Ding Darling

Ghosts of Christmas blog entries past:

A Civil War Christmas letter

A Civil War Christmas letter

Around the Christmas tree

Around the Christmas tree

A Child Welfare Christmas

A Child Welfare Christmas

Flurries of activity

Flurries of activity



A soldier’s last Thanksgiving

Nile Kinnick, 1942

Nile Kinnick, 1942

An avid letter writer who was very close to his family, Nile Kinnick left a detailed record of the eventful period in his life when he left home to attend the University of Iowa, became a football star and Heisman trophy winner, and enlisted in the Navy to fight in World War II. In a 1942 letter to his parents,  featured in the Nile Kinnick digital collection and transcribed by our volunteers at DIY History, he runs through the specifics of his day, beginning with a new method of shaving “explained in a recent issue of Newsweek,” breakfast, pilot training, athletics (“Whether we play touch football or struggle through the obstacle race depends upon who is in charge. The former is a lot of fun for most of us, and the latter is a pain in the neck to all”), and so on.

He wraps up the letter with a mention of his lackluster Thanksgiving at the Navy base and a wish to celebrate the holiday with his family again. Sadly that wish went unfulfilled; Kinnick died on a training mission the following spring.

“…Thanksgiving was just like any other day around here except for a little better meal in the evening. A year ago we were all at grandma’s eating turkey with all the trimmings. Speed the day when we can all gather there again. Everything considered, this year’s Thanksgiving had a real significance. The U.S. had its most bountiful crop in history, and we and our allies were on the offensive on all fronts. The victory lies at the end of a road still rocky and rough, but things look better, much better!” 
– Nile Kinnick correspondence to his parents, Nov. 28, 1942


UI Libraries launches new crowdsourcing site with manuscript cookbooks and more

Calves head hash, dandelion wine, election cake, and West Indies-dressed turtle are just a few of the recipes from the University of Iowa Libraries’ new Szathmary Culinary Manuscripts and Cookbooks digital collection: Containing thousands of pages and spanning the 1600s through the 1960s, the handwritten cookbooks document culinary history in America and Europe, and how tastes have changed over the years. The do-it-yourself spirit of the housewives, cooks, winemakers, and Girl Scouts who wrote out and compiled the recipes makes the Szathmary collection an appropriate choice to help launch DIY History – – the Libraries’ new initiative that lets users contribute to the historical record by transcribing and tagging primary source documents online.

DIY History is an expansion of the Libraries’ earlier experiment with crowdsourcing, or outsourcing large tasks to the public via the Web: the Civil War Diaries and Letters Transcription Project. Operating for just over a year, the site was a resounding success, with thousands of volunteers all over the world transcribing more than 16,000 handwritten pages. With the original Civil War materials nearly completed, the Libraries created a new crowdsourcing site with additional handwritten content needing transcription: cookbooks, correspondence and diaries belonging to legendary Iowa football star Nile Kinnick, a 40 year-run of diaries from the Iowa Women’s Archives, and newly acquired Civil War documents from donors drawn by the crowdsourcing initiative. DIY History also features tagging and commenting functionality through Flickr for thousands of historic photographs and yearbook pages. The goal of the site is both to enhance digitized artifacts with added text to make them easier to find and use, and to engage the public to interact with historic materials in new ways.

“We’re opening up these collections to anyone who is interested in them,” says Greg Prickman, Head of Special Collections. “We are asking people to take an active part in improving the usefulness of the material we offer, and to participate in the process of describing what we hold.”

The Szathmary digital collection is part of the Iowa Digital Library – – which features more than a million digital objects created from the holdings of the UI Libraries and its campus partners; included are illuminated manuscripts, historical maps, fine art, political cartoons, scholarly works, audio and video recordings, and more. DIY History is the latest public engagement initiative from the UI Libraries, a staunch supporter of new forms of scholarly publishing, digital humanities, data curation, and open/linked data.


Nile Kinnick Collection now online

Nile Kinnick Collection

Each fall tens of thousands of people cheer their beloved Iowa Hawkeyes in the football stadium that bears the name of Iowa’s only Heisman trophy winner: Nile Kinnick Jr. Standing only 5’8” tall, Kinnick was a giant among men, a champion athlete and scholar who gave his life for his country serving in World War II.

A new digital collection from the University of Iowa Libraries bringing together letters, newspaper clippings, and photos of Nile Kinnick is now online: These materials tell the story of one of the UI’s greatest football legends.

Included in the collection is the text of Kinnick’s Heisman trophy acceptance speech. Whitney Martin, a reporter covering the Heisman ceremony for the Associated Press, described the scene as “several hundred men and women rose and cheered and whistled…You realized the ovation wasn’t alone for Nile Kinnick, the outstanding college football player of the year. It was also for Nile Kinnick, typifying everything admirable in American youth.”

The Nile Kinnick Collection is the latest addition to the Iowa Digital Library, which features more than half a million digital objects created from the holdings of the UI Libraries and its campus partners. Included are illuminated manuscripts, historical maps, fine art, political cartoons, scholarly works, audio and video recordings, and more.


Fostering news ways to publish, promote and preserve the historic and academic record

The University of Iowa Libraries launched an experiment this morning by publishing online the first in a series of letters written by Civil War solder Joseph F. Culver to his wife Mary. The idea, hatched in Special Collections where the original letters are housed, is to web publish this series of Civil War-era correspondence exactly 150 years to the exact day each letter was written.

We hope that Civil War buffs and anyone else interested in a compelling story will set an RSS feed to follow the Culvers’ story as it unfolds, and track his location throughout the United States. These letters are also available in our  Civil War Diaries & Letters Transcription Project or compiled in the book, Your Affectionate Husband, J.F. Culver: Letters Written During the Civil War.

The U.S. Civil War Sesquicentennial has provided a national context to expose our Civil War holdings to a broad public. This effort to re-issue the Culver letters on a blog has given Digital Research & Publishing a chance to experiment with a few web publishing tools, including Google Maps, the WordPress SIMILE timeline, first developed at MIT, as well as a WordPress plug-in to manage footnotes. At the Libraries, we are always on the lookout for new ways to publish, promote and preserve the academic and historic record. We hope you enjoy our latest experiment.

 —Nicole Saylor
Head, Digital Research & Publishing


Historic heat wave

"It's always the univited guests...," editorial cartoon by Ding Darling, Aug. 27, 1936 | Editorial Cartoons of J.N. "Ding" Darling

“It’s always the uninvited guests…,” editorial cartoon by Ding Darling, Aug. 27, 1936 | Editorial Cartoons of J.N. “Ding” Darling

Recent temperatures in the 100s here in Iowa have us cowering in our climate-controlled offices, but a browse through past heat waves documented in the Iowa Digital Library helps to put things in perspective. Worst of these was the summer of 1936, the hottest on record, marking the end of the Dust Bowl years. A July 16th Daily Iowan story  put heat-related fatalities in those pre-air-conditioning days at 3,500; according to government figures, the death toll rose to 5,000 by the end of the summer.

Despite the heat, some Iowa Citians still found the strength to indulge their intellectual curiosity, as shown in this D.I. investigation of whether it really is hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk. (Answer: Not really.)

"Will it or won't it?" The Daily Iowan, July 10, 1936 | The Daily Iowan Historic Newspapers

“Will it or won’t it?” The Daily Iowan, July 10, 1936 | The Daily Iowan Historic Newspapers


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%

Grant Wood scrapbooks now online

Grant Wood portrait with brush and dental instrument used for painting, 1940s | Figge Art Museum Grant Wood Digital Collection

Grant Wood portrait with brush and dental instrument used for painting, 1940s | Figge Art Museum Grant Wood Digital Collection

The Figge Art Museum and the University of Iowa Libraries are pleased to announce the release of the Grant Wood Digital Collection,, in conjunction with the Grant Wood Biennial Symposium 2012, April 13-14, 2012.

This unique digital collection includes more than 12 scrapbooks and albums of news clippings, photographs, postcards, letters, and related ephemera assembled by Grant Wood’s sister, Nan Wood Graham, chronicling her brother’s professional life.

For the first time, scholars, students and the general public will have unprecedented virtual access to the scrapbook materials.  Due to their fragility, access to the actual scrapbooks is simply impossible.

“Nan Wood Graham is one of the most famous faces in the history of art, immortalized in Wood’s iconic painting American Gothic. The materials Graham compiled provide wonderful insight into Wood’s life in Iowa and his development as one of the most famous American artists of the 20th century,” says Figge Art Museum registrar Andrew Wallace.  “It is gratifying to know that, through this digital collection, people around world are able to learn about the life and times of Grant Wood through the words of close friends, family, and fellow artists.”

This digital collection project would not have been possible without the generous assistance of the Henry Luce Foundation American Art Renewal Fund and through additional funding for imaging equipment provided by an anonymous donor.

These materials, along with several hundred artifacts, including the artist’s wire-rimmed glasses, palettes, paint box, and easel, are part of the Figge Art Museum’s Grant Wood Archive. The Archive has provided primary source material for numerous articles, catalogs, and monographs for over 40 years, most recently by R. Tripp Evans for his award-winning 2010 biography Grant Wood: A Life.