About Author: Colleen Theisen

Outreach and Instruction Librarian. Lover of coffee, as well as 19th century photography, painting, tourism and print.

Posts by Colleen Theisen


Science Fiction Fans Raise $1,955 To Support Hevelin Collection Digitization

Every year at the ICON Science Fiction convention in Cedar Rapids the organizers collect fan created artwork, crafts, and donated memorabilia which are auctioned off to support charities and projects.  Last fall, the chosen project was The University of Iowa Libraries’ initiative to digitize the James L. “Rusty” Hevelin Science Fiction collection, an especially meaningful choice to the community, resulting in an outpouring of donations and fast-paced bidding wars.

Rusty Hevelin was a science fiction fan, pulp collector, fanzine creator, huckster (a dealer at conventions), and voracious reader for most of his 89 years. He was also involved with the Iowa Science Fiction conventions ICON and Demicon from the time of their founding.  After his death in 2011, his collections came to the University of Iowa Special Collections where a recent unprecedented initiative to digitize around 10,000 of the earliest fanzines from roughly 1930s-1950s has begun.

The University of Iowa Libraries’ Community is deeply grateful for the generosity of the science fiction community and for their support.

The next ICON science fiction and fantasy convention will be at the Cedar Rapids Doubletree on October 16-18, 2015.  Details here.

Special Collections staff with an oversized check



Margaret Gamm Featured as “Bright Young Librarian” by Fine Books & Collections Magazine

speccollSelfie1-thumb-500x333-9148Margaret Gamm, Special Collections Acquisitions and Collections Management Librarian, was featured as a “Bright Young Librarian” by Fine Books and Collections Magazine.  Please join us in congratulating her on this recognition from the wider community.  You can read the feature here.


Remembering Earl Rogers, the University of Iowa’s Archivist from 1970 to 1998

EarlRogersJamesVanAllen1998 from Accession 2006-44001

Photo: Earl Rogers (right) with James Van Allen, whose papers were processed under Earl’s supervision, at Earl’s retirement reception in the Dept. of Special Collections in May 1998. From UI Archives Accession 2006-44; gift of David Schoonover.

We are sorry to note that Earl Rogers, the University of Iowa’s archivist from 1970 to 1998, passed away early Wednesday morning at his home in Iowa City following a brief battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 77.

Earl was born May 2, 1938, in Moline, Illinois. He received the bachelor of science degree in history in 1961 at Iowa State University, attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison as a history graduate student in 1962-1966, and completed his master of library science degree at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1967. After a three-year stint as a cataloguer in the University of Utah Library, he returned to Iowa, joining the UI Libraries’ Department of Special Collections in July 1970 to arrange and index the Henry A. Wallace Papers. Over time, he assumed the role of university archivist. He published numerous indexes and bibliographies pertaining to agricultural and UI history. Among his many noted acquisitions are the Papers of James A. Van Allen, which were processed under his supervision.

Although Earl retired in 1998, he continued to maintain two features on the UI Archives’ web site: our online bibliography of UI history-related materials, and a unique page titled ‘Fiction With an Iowa City Setting: An Updated Checklist.’ Earl would, from time to time, submit new entries or annotations for me to add to these sites.

I always looked forward to hearing from Earl, regardless of the nature of his dispatch, whether it was a new list of entries to upload, a report on his and Susan’s latest trips (Galapagos Islands, Turkey, and New Zealand, for starters), or a review of a new local restaurant. Earl often stopped by our department to drop off an obituary, a clipping, or an article for our vertical file. We appreciated his vigilance, not to mention his subscription to The New York Times.

Earl never second-guessed my decisions as his successor, though certainly on many occasions he had good reason to tap me on the shoulder. I would like to believe it was because he trusted me. More likely, however, it was because he and Susan were having a blast in Peru.

I feel a bit stranded right now. Because of Earl’s remarkable longevity as UI’s archivist – 28 years – and the fact that his position was vacant for over two years until I arrived in 2001, I now have no direct forebear from the archives to call on, no predecessor, whether retired or working elsewhere. Archivists value institutional memory, particularly when shared memory and experience pass from one generation to the next within their shop. Those links inevitably break as time passes.

One last round of web page updates from Earl awaits on my desk. I’ll get to them soon.

Thank you, Earl, and our condolences to Susan and family.


David McCartney, C.A.

University Archivist


Video Series Visiting Bauman Rare Books

Over the summer members of the University of Iowa Special Collections team visited Las Vegas for the American Library Association and stopped by Bauman Rare Books to chat with Rebecca Romney, who you also might recognize as the rare book appraiser on the History Channel series “Pawn Stars.”  While there they let the cameras roll as they chatted with Rebecca Romney about the rare book field, collecting rare books, and the types of research that rare book dealers do that ends up being incorporated into catalog records and supporting academic research, all while taking a look at some particularly delightful rare books that they had in the shop.

Here is the result of the trip:  A five video series.  Enjoy!

The first video:  Down the Rabbit Hole.  This one includes an edition of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” illustrated by Salvador Dalí.

The second video: The Game is Afoot.  The team analyzes the lasting power of favorite characters such as Sherlock Holmes and Lizzie Bennet who continue to thrive through fan works and new interpretations.

The third video: It’s a First Edition Pride and Prejudice!

The fourth video: Et Tu Brute?   Taking a close look at a Shakespeare quarto (a single play).

The fifth video: We Go West.  A very rare surviving pamphlet, 1848 Latter-Day Saints’ Emigrants’ Guide.



Spring Break Class Solving Research Mysteries

Today a team of librarians, archivists, and museum professionals from around campus including University Archivist David McCartney again begin teaching a week long Spring Break class, “The Continuing Role of Real Collections.” The students have been researching mystery items as part of the class and often come up with very surprising revelations!  What follows is a post from a student from last year’s class, Lindsay Schroeder, and the surprising story she unearthed:

The Mystery Portait

The Mystery Portrait

During spring break of 2013 I took Topics in Museum Studies:The Continuing Role of Real Collections, taught by David McCartney with many prominent guest speakers within the museum and library fields. We were given a project to research artifacts within the University of Iowa that had little to no information connected to them so little is known about what they are. I chose a large painted portrait of a man with a wood, ornate frame and held only one clue, the artist’s signature. This mysterious artifact was found in the University of Iowa’s Museum of Natural History’s attic storage cabinet, hidden between large animal hides this spring.

The artist’s name was Marie Koupal, dated 1882. I researched her name and found an article within the Daily Iowan, dating November 19, 1920. It was about a man named Dr. Mark W. Ranney and his cherished book collection that stood in the Ranney Memorial Library at the University. The article concluded with a major clue, “Besides the books there are about twenty pictures on the walls that belong in the collection. Most of these are portraits…A portrait of Dr. Ranney stands on an easel in one corner of the room. This was done in 1882 by Marie Koupal and is framed in a fine hand made frame of several kinds of wood” (Daily Iowan). This was the same portrait, of Dr. Mark W. Ranney. This object’s original purpose had to be a memorial piece done by Koupal, because on January 13, 1882, Dr. Ranney died of acute pneumonia.

Special Collections has information in their collection guide pertaining to the Dr. Mark Ranney papers, with an additional link to a biographical report written by Margaret Schindler Bryant, in Books at Iowa, Issue 30, April 1979, about Dr. Ranney. This report gave me a lot of information regarding Dr. Ranney and his passion for collecting rare books along with other artifacts. Bryant’s report gave great insight to who this man was and why his portrait was originally located in the library during the 1920s, commemorated on an easel. Dr. Ranney’s wife bequeathed his entire collection to the University of Iowa after her death on July 18, 1907. She left a trust that created the “Mark Ranney Memorial Fund”. This established the Mark Ranney Memorial Library that was located in room 305, Schaeffer Hall.

The day before my report and presentation was due, I was searching the Iowa Digital Library within the time frame of 1920-1940. After endless searching for more concrete information, I came across the ultimate completion of this project, a photograph from the digital database of the Mark Ranney Memorial Library with the portrait of Dr. Ranney on the easel in the 1930s. It was truly amazing and reminded me of why I am in this field of work.

Photograph of Ranney Memorial Library with the portrait visible in the room

Ranney Memorial Library, Schaeffer Hall, University of Iowa, between 1902 and 1907.


The Mystery Portait

Portrait identified as Mr. Ranney

Visit this photograph here

Many thanks to Lindsay Schroeder for identifying this important portrait so it could be reunited with the Ranney Collections in Special Collections!




The Boy Scouts: A Cultural History through Handbooks

What follows is a guest post from one of our student workers, Shawn Conley, an Eagle Scout and Boy Scout memorabilia collector.

The classic image of the Boy Scout from Lord Baden-Powell's 1910 "Scouting for Boys".

The classic image of the Boy Scout from Lord Baden-Powell’s handbook “Scouting for Boys” (1910).

Since its founding more than a century ago, the Boy Scouts of America has striven to turn young men into well-rounded individuals and citizens of our society. Lord Baden-Powell, the founder of the original Boy Scouts in England, expressed the need for proper handbooks for the young scouts to use as a way of learning and becoming familiar with skills they would find useful. From how to escort a lady down the sidewalk to how to splint a broken leg, the Boy Scout handbook purveyed basic information and skills in handicrafts, first aid, castrametation, and moral values.

"Respect to Womanhood" (1945 Handbook).

“Respect to Womanhood” (“Boy Scout Handbook”, 1945).

First Aid is a major topic covered in every handbook. ("Boy Scout Handbook", 1965).

First Aid is a major topic covered in every handbook. (“Boy Scout Handbook”, 1965).

If one wanted to research the changing American culture from the early 20th century to the modern day, the handbooks of the Boy Scouts are a wonderful resource in deducing what the founders of the Scouting movement thought worthwhile for Scouts to know in turning them into productive citizens. Culture of the time-period is engrained into these handbooks. For example, during the Second World War when material rationing restricted what average Americans could purchase, the Boy Scouts produced uniforms of a less expensive, tan cotton canvas. These canvas uniforms are shown in the handbooks and how to properly sew on badges and insignia.

Upon examining Boy Scout handbooks of an earlier time, one might notice that very few are in excellent condition. These books were meant to be used, and used they were. From the author’s own perspective, his handbook was in tatters by the end of his Scouting career.

Why is the Boy Scout handbook so important? The handbook was, and still remains to be, the Scout’s greatest point of informational reference. Forgot how to tie a Clove Hitch? Consult your handbook. Can’t recall how many leaves a sprig of Poison Ivy has? The handbook knows! From how to properly swing an axe to properly cooking for your Patrol or Troop, the handbook strives to give Scouts the information they need to carry out skills necessary for being a good Scout. This aspect is as true now as it was 103 years ago.

"Scouting for Boys" by Lieut.-Gen. Sir R. Baden-Powell, K.C.B. (1910)

“Scouting for Boys” by Lieut.-Gen. Sir R. Baden-Powell, K.C.B. (1910)

"Handbook for Boys" (1945).

“Boy Scout Handbook” (1945).

Perhaps more importantly, the handbook was a moral compass. Some sections of the handbook are geared specifically towards showing Scouts how they can be a positive influence on their communities. Some early examples of how Scouts influenced their communities was promoting and selling war bonds during the Great War and the Second World War, and conducting metal drives by going door to door and asking people for any scrap metal that could be melted down for the war effort. In the 21st century, helping the community can be something as simple as a food drive, which many Boy Scout troops across Iowa conduct every year. Therefore, the handbook was not only a reference for physical skill building, but also mental and moral skill building.

"What is a Boy Scout?" ("Boy Scout Handbook", 1945).

“What is a Boy Scout?” (“Boy Scout Handbook”, 1945).

The Special Collections department has a very nice Scouting collection, much of it about Scouting in Iowa. The collection also has a few early handbooks from both the Boy Scouts

"An Easily-Made Hut" ("Scouting for Boys", 1910).

“An Easily-Made Hut” (“Scouting for Boys”, 1910).

and Cub Scouts (All photos in this post were derived from the handbooks in Special Collections). Stop on by and have a look. The author guarantees that in reading just a few pages, you’ll learn something totally new. Perhaps you can read up on how to properly escort a lady down the sidewalk (the man/Scout always walks on the woman’s side facing the street), or perhaps you can familiarize yourself with how to splint a broken leg or cook pies in a Dutch oven.

The handbooks of the Boy Scouts of America are truly a wonderful reference to anyone wanting to learn how to “Be Prepared” and to “Do a Good Turn Daily”.


– Shawn R. Conley


Sign Up Now to Attend “Documenting Conscience: Preserving the Stories of Iowa Civil Rights Workers”

Meridian, Mississippi; 1964. From Papers of Patti Miller, Drake University Archives.

Meridian, Mississippi; 1964. From Papers of Patti Miller, Drake University Archives.

In 1964, a significant turning point in the U.S. Civil Rights movement occurred in what became known as the Freedom Summer. With the 50th anniversary of that momentous time approaching, the UI Alumni Association (UIAA) has organized a public discussion about those events and current work to safeguard the memory of Iowans who participated in the historic effort to challenge discrimination.

David McCartney, University of Iowa archivist and member of the Historical Iowa Civil Rights Network, will host “Documenting Conscience: Preserving the Stories of Iowa Civil Rights Workers.” He’ll explain how hundreds of volunteers from across the country traveled to Mississippi to help register African-Americans to vote, and how violence, including four murders and daily beatings, haunted them as they attempted to deliver voter registration materials, hold informational meetings, and mobilize support.

Part of the UIAA’s ongoing Lifelong Learning series, the event takes place on Wednesday, Oct. 23, at 6:30 p.m. at Melrose Meadows, 350 Dublin Drive, Iowa City. This event is free and open to the public, and refreshments will be served. To register by the Oct. 16 deadline or to learn more, visit the Lifelong Learning website.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all UI-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to attend this reading, contact Whit France-Kelly in advance at 319-335-2311 or whit-france-kelly@uiowa.edu. The event is co-sponsored by Melrose Meadows.

Register by Wednesday, October 16th!


View the original post from Iowa Now.


New from the International Dada Archives

Three major new acquisitions from Dada’s transitional period of 1919-1920 document that movement’s spread beyond its World War I origins in neutral Switzerland to the key cultural centers of Europe during the early postwar era.


Francis Picabia was one of the chief agents for the propagation of the Dada movement, and his  periodical 391  was a key vehicle for spreading Dada beyond its origins in Zurich. Picabia published the first four numbers in Barcelona, then took 391 with him to New York, Zurich, and finally Paris. Special Collections owns ten of the nineteen issues, representing all four cities. Our latest  acquisition  is Number 9 (November 1919), the first issue to be published in Paris (following the single Zurich number), just as Tristan Tzara, Dada’s self-proclaimed leader, was preparing to move to the French capital. With a cover featuring one of Picabia’s famous machine drawings, and with texts by Tzara, Picabia, and future Parisian Dadaist Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes, this issue anticipates the founding of the Paris Dada movement.

Published shortly after the author DS_IMG_1725 had established himself in Paris, Cinéma calendrier du coeur abstrait; Maisons (1920) completes our collection of Tzara’s three books of poetry in the series “Collection Dada.” The first two were published in Zurich, and this third collection marks the full fruition of Dada in Paris. Illustrated with nineteen original woodcuts by Jean Arp, this masterpiece of Dada book art is signed by the author and the artist.


Die Schammade (also known as Dadameter) is the seminal publication of the short-lived branch of the Dada movement in Cologne, Germany. Edited in early 1920 by Max Ernst and Johannes Baargeld and printed on multicolored paper with magnificent woodcuts and drawings by Ernst, Arp, and others, Die Schammade typifies the international nature Dada, and includes texts in German and French, including some of the most important Dada writings of Arp, Ernst, and Baargeld.

tumblr_mt2o0qHRoS1rqo4zeo1_500In addition, we recently acquired the one issue of the Dada publication 291 not previously in the collection, making a complete set.

All four items will be scanned for the Digital Library of Dada.


Identifying our 4mm Miniature Book

tiny book perched on a fingertip

Microminiature Bible

The University of Iowa Special Collections and University Archives is home to the Charlotte Smith Collection of miniature books with more than 4,000 tiny tomes.  Most perplexing has been this microscopic Bible that remained unidentified, likely because we lacked the tools to adequately magnify the page with the publisher’s information.  Highlighting this tiny book yesterday on our social media pages brought it to the attention of our conservator, Giselle Simon, who suggested that we try the microscope that recently arrived in the conservation lab.

Handling it safely proved to be no easy task!  With some extra sets of hands we were able to read the name of the publisher – Toppan Printing Co.  (You can see the damage on this page from earlier attempts to read it).

Following the trail we were able to identify the item as being a set of two books sold at the 1965 World’s Fair in New York.  In fact, the larger miniature book in the set was already in the collection, unassociated with the ultra microminiature that could not be read.

Now the two have been reunited and they will be cataloged together.

Citation as included in Anne C. Bromer’s excellent reference book, Miniature Books: 4,000 Years of Tiny Treasures from 2007.

Holy Bible, Tokyo: Toppan Printing Company, 1964.  4x4mm.  Published to coincide with the New York World’s Fair in 1965, this Bible was printed by a new process called “microprinting.”


Book /Archival Collections and Light Exposure


Can you tell that the red book used to be next to the purple one? That the tall books between are newer? And the spine used to be purple but has the most exposure so there is no color left.

Exposing an object to light, whether it is a book or flat item, causes damage that is cumulative over the lifetime of the object. The damage done by light cannot be restored and the item is permanently altered. By keeping the light levels as low as possible while still allowing for adequate viewing of the item, the rate degradation is reduced. This includes color fading and the physical breaking down of the item. Minimizing the amount of time something is exposed to light, even if the levels are low, will also control damage. So we must control the quantity and quality of light exposure to minimize the cumulative damaging effects of light on objects.

Another point to remember is that not only visible light does damage, but also light outside the visible range, such as ultraviolet and infrared.  All light will cause permanent chemical changes in the item, so it is important to monitor light, especially in an exhibit setting, and choose the most appropriate light level for each item.

 light damaged leather has no more colorSome objects are more light-sensitive than others, and require lower light levels. Within archival collections this may include photographic materials, textiles, and color media (printed color, watercolor, tempera, etc.). In an exhibit you may see that these types of materials have lower lights levels than perhaps oil paintings or metal objects.

Here we see a book and its protective box. The spine label is made of the same material as the book cover and was once the same color. The book retains its original color, but the spine label on the box reveals ambient light damage.

-Giselle Simón, Conservator