Events Category


Omeka Workshop Review

Last Saturday we hosted the first of four digital scholarship workshops here at the Studio.  This workshop covered Omeka, an open source collections management platforms designed to let scholars curate collections and create narrative displays for the public.  It’s a perfect tool for supporting a balance of rigorous scholarship with a public-friendly face.  We use Omeka here at Iowa for projects ranging from DIY History and History Corps to individual course assignments in undergraduate classrooms in a variety of departments.

Despite only having a week of registration, I was thrilled to have eighteen attendees! The class included faculty, staff, and both graduate and undergraduate students at all levels of technical experience.  We blasted through a lot of material in a little over three hours, from the basics of the site structure, adding items and exhibits, and administering the site; to more advanced concepts, such as creating custom item types, exporting between installations, and mapping with Neatline. Some attendees already had some basic knowledge of Omeka, and were generous in helping their fellow attendees who had questions.  The hands-on structure of the workshop, in which every attendee was tinkering in their own website, also gave people who were more comfortable with the technology the chance to work ahead and try features out for themselves.

This model of people going at their own pace but tuning in when they needed to and communicating with each other was made much easier by the TILE classroom.  Attendees were able to work in small groups where they could feel comfortable asking their neighbor a question, but everyone could still see what I was doing as I walked them through various parts of the site on the screens around the room.

I was glad to see that everyone’s enthusiasm carried over to lunch!  We adjourned to the Studio for sandwiches and chatting, and a lot of interesting conversations were going on about various research projects.  People had a chance to reflect on the basics that we had covered before lunch, and bounce around ideas for how Omeka might be used in classrooms.

For me, one of the most important parts of any technical workshop is explaining the overall structure and main concepts of a platform, not just the step-by-step motions of doing things with it.  This has often been a difficulty for me when researching new tools, that often the documentation assumes you already understand what you might want to do with it.  We had great questions about the differences between different versions of Omeka and how to decide which is best for a specific purpose, and also about how much of how a site is used and set up depends on decisions specific to a project versus field standards.  It’s important to me for people to understand that there’s often not one right way to “do digital”, but that digital resources can be used differently to express what we really want to get at with our research.

Registration is still open for our upcoming workshops on text encoding, 3d modeling, and mapping, so come join us!


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


Making Blackness Digital

Beginning tomorrow, a series of events will take place on campus examining the black experience at The University of Iowa. Two sessions in the “Iowa and Invisible Man: Making Blackness Visible” project have an online component in the Iowa Digital Library.

  • Tuesday, Nov. 29, 7 p.m., Shambaugh Auditorium, UI Main Library: “Black Hawkeyes: Midcentury Memories of the University of Iowa.”What was it like to be a black individual on the UI campus in the 1950s? UI alumni will offer first-hand memories of that period. The panel will be moderated by Richard Breaux, assistant professor in Ethnic Studies at Colorado State University and author of Maintaining a Home for Girls: The Iowa Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs at the University of Iowa, 1919-1950 and To the Uplift and Protection of Young Womanhood: African American Women at Iowa Private Colleges and the University of Iowa, 1878-1928.

View the digital collection inspired by Breaux’s research:African American Women Students digital collection

  • Thursday, Dec. 1, 3 p.m., Iowa Memorial Union, Illinois Room (Room 348): “For My People: Elizabeth Catlett at Iowa and Beyond.”UI Museum of Art chief curator Kathleen Edwards will discuss the work of UI alumna Elizabeth Catlett (MFA ’40), including her sculpture Invisible Man: A Memorial to Ralph Ellison, 2003. Edwards visited with Catlett in Mexico in 2006. Subsequently, the UIMA purchased 26 of Catlett’s prints. After the lecture, the audience may view prints by Catlett in the UIMA@IMU Visual Classroom.

View digitized versions of Catlett’s work in the University of Iowa Museum of Art digital collection:Elizabeth Catlett in the University of Iowa Museum of Art digital collection


“It is such a happiness when good people get together—and they always do.”

Local readers are invited to Main Library this Friday to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility:

Sense and Sensibility title page

It has been two hundred years since a book was published in England “By a Lady,” entitled Sense and Sensibility. On October 30, 1811, Jane Austen’s first novel was published, creating a literary phenomenon that continues to this day. Join us in the Special Collections reading room on the third floor of the Main Library on Friday, October 28 from 4:00pm to 5:00pm, when we will celebrate this event with an informal gathering. Our copy of the first edition of Sense and Sensibility will be out for viewing, along with a few other Austen pieces. End your week with some good books and good company.

Those of you unable to make it here in person can enjoy a virtual discussion of Jane Austen fandom in this 2004 reading by Karen Joy Fowler from our Live From Prairie Lights archive:

Karen Joy Fowler reads selections from her novel The Jane Austen Book Club. She explains how she conceived the idea for the novel while at reading at an independent bookstore. Fowler recounts how she had seen a poster on the wall that had proclaimed “The Jane Austen Book Club”, and was excited to purchase the book with that title. When she realized that the poster was for an actual book club instead of a book, Fowler knew she had to pen a book with that title. During a question and answer session, Fowler explains the format of her book–the book club in her novel covers six of Jane Austen’s works over the course of six meetings. She goes on to discuss the tendencies of the characters in her book to relate specifically to characters in Austen’s works. Fowler, who is also a successful science fiction writer, feels that she has two separate careers in two completely distinct genres. She explains that she purposely keeps her two careers “separate” so that each fan base does not feel put off by her other works. Fowler goes on to recount her own experiences in a book club, and how these experiences informed her novel. She outlines her respect for Austen and Emily Dickinson, and her awe at their contemporary style of writing.,256


Hear Iowa City readings from the new U.S. Poet Laureate

Headshot of Philip Levine

Philip Levine, from the Iowa Alumni Review, vol. 46, Jan. 1993-Dec. 1993, The University of Iowa

Iowa Writers’ Workshop graduate Philip Levine (57MFA), “best known for his big-hearted, Whitmanesque poems about working-class Detroit” was named the new U.S. Poet Laureate today.

“I find him an extraordinary discovery because he introduced me to a whole new world I hadn’t connected to in poetry before,” James Billington, the librarian of Congress, told the New York Times on Monday. “He’s the laureate, if you like, of the industrial heartland. It’s a very, very American voice. I don’t know that in other countries you get poetry of that quality about the ordinary workingman.”

Please enjoy these Levine readings from the Virtual Writing University Archive:

—Nicole Saylor
Head, Digital Library Services


Commemorating Civil War sesquicentennial with digital collection & crowdsourcing effort

Civil War Diaries and Letters home page

University of Iowa Libraries has launched a new exhibition and digital collection to commemorate the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, and it’s enlisting the help of a few good men and women (well, lots, really) to help make the collection even more accessible and useful.

The exhibition, “‘Now Do Not Let Your Courage Fail’: Voices from the Civil War,” on display at the UI Main Library through July 30, includes letters and diaries from three manuscript collections held by Special Collections & University Archives that offer intriguing perspectives on the war. The experiences of Ferdinand Winslow, an officer in the Union army; Thomas Rescum Sterns, a soldier in the Union army; and Amanda and Mary Shelton, nurses who cared for soldiers through the Christian Commission, bring to life the everyday reality of the conflict.

Accompanying these manuscripts are artifacts from the war, including two Civil War-era quilts from a private collection and a dress worn to a wedding that is on loan from the Kalona Quilt and Textile Museum.

While viewing the exhibition in person, visitors can access digitized versions of the letters and diaries by scanning codes under each piece. This allows viewers to see pages from these collections that are not on display and follow the stories told through the letters.

The digital collection, which was scanned by UI Special Collections & University Archives, is also available online from any computer through the Iowa Digital Library at

But the 3,000-plus diaries and letters are digitized images — effectively photographs — that require viewers who want to read them to interpret the handwriting of hundreds of different writers. It also means users cannot search the text for particular wrds or phrases.

To transcribe that much documentation could take decades and thousands of dollars. But UI Libraries is experimenting with “crowdsourcing,” or collaborative transcription of manuscript materials, in which members of the general public with time and interest conduct the transcription and check one another for accuracy in much the same way contributors to Wikipedia help create a collection of data, information and knowledge.

“Crowdsourcing is revolutionizing the study of the humanities by making available to the public and scholars miles of documents that were previously off-limits, difficult to read or unsearchable,” said Nicole Saylor, head of Digital Library Services.

UI Libraries is inviting volunteers to take a few minutes, hours or days to read and help transcribe some of the pages of a Civil War-era diary, which will not only benefit the library and patrons, but give crowdsourcing participants a glimpse into a more personal side of one of American history’s most significant events. To learn more about this opportunity, visit


Scandalous artifacts

The UI Libraries is proud to be a part of “Scandal!”, the featured exhibit at the Museum of American Finance in New York:

“From betrayals of the public trust by government officials to betrayals of investors by Ponzi artists, and from corporate accounting fraud to egregious failures of risk management in more recent years, ‘Scandal!’ explores the history of these episodes in American history, scrutinizing the people involved and the damage they caused. Even though names like Teapot Dome, Credit Mobilier, Ivar Krueger and Tino De Angelis have all but faded from history, they created shockwaves in their time and continue to echo in events that are unfolding today.”

On loan are a number of documents from the UI Special Collections’ Papers of Levi O. Leonard collection that formerly belonged to financier and railroad executive Thomas C. Durant (1820-1885), a central figure in the Credit Mobilier financial scandal. Three of these digitized artifacts can be seen in slides 4-6 of this New York Times feature; thousands more may be viewed at the Iowa Digital Library’s Levi O. Leonard Railroadiana digital collection.


Digitally celebrating books, reading, and writing

In honor of the upcoming Iowa City Book Festival (July 16-18, 2010), we’re featuring some of the literary collections in Iowa Digital Library and Iowa Research Online. We hope you’ll explore the content online and the book fest in real life.

Paul Engle teaching at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, The University of Iowa, ca. 1950s
View similar images from Iowa City Town and Campus Scenes

Lan Samantha Chang reading, Prairie Lights bookstore, Nov. 10, 2006
Listen to more audio from Live From Prairie Lights

Out of the girls’ room and into the night by Thisbe Nissen
Read more e-books from the Iowa Short Fiction Awards


500 years of Western printmaking

Congratulations to the University of Iowa Museum of Art on their new exhibit, “In the Footsteps of Masters: The Evolution of the Reproductive Print,” now on display at Davenport’s Figge Art Museum. For a sneak preview of some of the artifacts on display, please view the “Prints” gallery in our University of Iowa Museum of Art Digital Collection, featuring over 4400 engravings, woodcuts and etchings, dating from 1470 to the present day.

Cornelis Galle the Elder (Flemish; Antwerp, 1576-1650), Procne Showing Tereus the Head of his Child (after Peter Paul Rubens, Flemish; Antwerp, 1577-1640), c. 1637, Engraving, Museum purchase 1980.92

The University of Iowa Museum of Art’s (UIMA) second exhibition presented at Davenport’s Figge Art Museum, “In the Footsteps of Masters: The Evolution of the Reproductive Print,” opens Jan. 21 and will remain on view through May 23. The exhibition is curated by UI student Nathan Popp, a UIMA curatorial graduate assistant who organized the exhibit to examine the role of printmaking in the development of visual culture.

The exhibition spans 500 years, featuring nearly 80 Western reproductive prints from the 15th to the 20th century. Featured in the exhibition are original prints and drawings by artists Albrecht Dürer, Annibale Carracci, Jusepe De Ribera, Edouard Manet, Jean-Baptiste Corot, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, William Blake, Francisco Goya, and Grant Wood, as well as reproductive prints made after the works of famous masters such as Raphael, Peter Paul Rubens, Rembrandt, Jan Vermeer, Jan Van Eyck, Titian, Michelangelo and others…


‘The man who brought the literary world to Iowa’

In 2000, Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack declared Oct. 12 to be “Paul Engle Day,” in honor of the Iowa-born poet who served as head of the Writer’s Workshop from 1942 to 1977, helping to develop it from an obscure experimental program to an internationally renowned literary center. Featured here is an audio recording from the first annual Paul Engle Literary Festival, which includes tributes to Engle from International Writing Program Director Christopher Merrill and from novelist Arnost Lustig.

Audio recording: First Annual Paul Engle Literary Festival, The University of Iowa, 2000