Exhibitions Category


Main Library Exhibition Gallery is Now OPEN : First Exhibition “Explorer’s Legacy”

Explorer’s Legacy:

James Van Allen and the Discovery of the Radiation Belts

February 1 – April 8



After months of being closed for renovations the new state of the art gallery in the University of Iowa Main Library is now open. Stop by and take a look at the exhibition, including the story of the discovery of the radiation belts, and the tale of how the earliest data recorded from space was recovered, digitized, and made available for scientists and scholars.

Gallery hours:

Monday-Saturday: 10am – 5pm
Sunday: 11am – 5pm

Read More about this exhibition.


One Week Only! Introduction to Book History Class Exhibition

The Introduction to Book History course taught by Gregory Prickman, Head of Special Collections & University Archives, curated this exhibition as a group to showcase their research. This week only it will remain on display outside Special Collections & University Archives’ reading room on the 3rd floor of the Main Libary.  Stop by to see a remarkable selection of books, highlighting interesting research from students from a range of departments including the Center for the Book, the School of Library and Information Science, Art, English and more.



New Exhibition – Reconstructing ‘The American Reader’

The American Reader Title PageSpecial Collections & University Archives is pleased to announce our newest exhibition Reconstructing ‘The American Reader’ from English Department graduate student Miriam Janechek which highlights a new type of research now possible with access to searchable digitized copies of books online.  The American Reader is a textbook printed in 1808 which, like other readers, combines hundreds of excerpts from different types of published works but includes no citations.  By searching the massive numbers of books now searchable in the Google Books Project, in combination with the wealth of 18th century books in Special Collections, it becomes possible to trace the origins of the passages to find the original publications, collect them together and display them to reveal a snapshot of the types of works that made up The American Reader and more broadly that comprised education in 1808, just as the United States was abandoning European educational models and developing a sense of national identity through education. 

The exhibition can be viewed just outside Special Collections & University Archives on the third floor of the Main Library anytime the library is open and continues until January 3, 2013.


“Iowa Now” Feature on 1812 Exhibition


The War of 1812 in Iowa, then and now

Old Capitol exhibit opens Oct. 11 with free reception, lecture

By:  Rebecca Pope | 2012.10.04 | 10:47 AM
 The University of Iowa Old Capitol Museum will mark the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 with a special exhibition of historical documents, maps and artifacts from various Iowa archaeological sites.

Conflict on the Iowa Frontier: Perspectives on the War of 1812 opens Thursday, Oct. 11, with a free public reception from 5 to 7:30 p.m. in the museum. Guest lecturer Eugene Watkins will speak in the Senate Chamber of the Old Capitol Museum from 6 to 6:45 p.m. and lead a discussion about the history of Fort Madison. Watkins is Fort Madison’s site manager for Old Fort Madison. He holds a doctorate of U.S. history from the University of Toledo.

A photograph of a book with a drawing of a man on the left page and words on the right page
Black Hawk’s autobiography. Photo courtesy of UI Pentacrest Museums, book from Special Collections

Artifacts featured in the exhibit include Black Hawk’s autobiography, giving insight into the war from the perspective of Native Americans, and an Orderly Book for infantry men of the period, in which general and regimental orders were recorded. These objects tell the story of the war’s Mississippi River campaign and how it affected the future of the state.

Also on Oct. 11, archaeologist Jodi Magness, distinguished professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, will give the UI Department of Religious Studies Adler Lecture and the UI Pentacrest Museums Directors’ Lecture at 7:30 p.m. in the Senate Chamber of the Old Capitol Museum.

In anticipation of National Archaeology Day, her topic is “Ossuaries and the Burial of Jesus and James.” The presentation is free and open to the public. Magness specializes in the archaeology of ancient Palestine in the Roman, Byzantine, and early Islamic periods.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all UI-sponsored events. For more information on the UI Pentacrest Museums and Old Capitol Museum, visit www.uiowa.edu/oldcap/or call 319-335-0548. The UI Department of Religious Studies is part of the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Books and documents from Special Collections are featured in this exhibition, including the Black Hawk autobiography seen in the photo. Original article can be viewed here: http://now.uiowa.edu/2012/10/war-1812-iowa-then-and-now

Monumental Ideas in Miniature Books II

“Monumental Ideas in Miniature Book Making” is a traveling exhibition of more than 100 artists’ miniature books from eight countries curated by Hui-Chu Ying, Professor of The Myers School of Art, at the University of Akron. These small treasures by nationally and internationally recognized book artists explore epic tales, poetry, and storytelling using diverse book and printmaking techniques.  Emily Martin and Jill Kambs from the University of Iowa Center for the Book have works featured in this exhibition.  This visually stunning and dramatically eclectic collection demonstrates in stunning miniature the breadth and variety of contemporary artist’s books. 

The books will be exhibited outside Special Collections and University Archives on the third floor of the Main Library for just four more weeks until October 22nd, 2012.

For exquisite photographic views of each of the works, visit the MIMB2 Flickr page:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/mimborg/


American Indian Dancing Exhibition

Image of Native American DancingWe are pleased to announce our summer exhibition outside Special Collections & University Archives titled “American Indian Dancing: Ethnic Stereotypes, Community Resources, Living Traditions”.  What follows is the Curator’s Statement from Olson Fellow Gyorgy Toth who will shortly be finishing his two years with us as an indespensible part of the team as well as finishing his PhD in American Studies.

Curator’s Statement

A culmination of my training as a scholar and an archivist, this exhibition aims to showcase items from the holdings of our Special Collections and University Archives related to American Indian dancing. This topic cannot be separated from the longer history of Euro-American and Native American relations, which includes trade, mutual cultural influences, violence, material and cultural dispossession, resistance, and revitalization.

The Native Peoples of the Americas had used music and dancing in their communities for social functions, cultural expression, and spiritual events for thousands of years before Europeans ever landed on their shores. Yet the rest of the world learned the meanings of American Indian dancing largely through European eyes, and with European biases. Our collections are especially rich in items that illustrate how Euro-American explorers, scientists, artists and cultural entrepreneurs imagined, depicted and understood American Indian dancing. Our Harvey Ingham Collection contains a great number of accounts about American Indians ranging from the scientific to the popular, the lurid, and the sensational. The Redpath Chautauqua Collection’s wealth of talent brochures yielded many examples of how Euro-Americans impersonated Indians, and how some Native Americans advocated for their nations, as they educated and entertained primarily white middle class audiences in the late 19th and early 20th century. Dr. Betsy Loyd Harvey graciously lent her expertise to our installation on ‘playing Indian’ on the Chautauqua circuit.

Even as Euro-Americans appropriated some of their culture to define Americanness, Indians never stopped using music and dancing for their own purposes. To provide a corrective to the many Euro-American images of American Indian dancing, I turned to our collections of Native American-produced materials. From the Records of the Latino-Native American Cultural Center and other University Archives collections emerged items that powerfully link our own university’s history to the larger Native American revival of the post-World War Two period. Foremost among them are items produced by the UI’s American Indian Student Association for their annual powwow. Please support this cultural festival by donating to The American Indian Student Association, The University of Iowa, 308 Melrose Avenue, Iowa City, Iowa  52246 Fax: 319-335-2245 Email: studorg-aisa@uiowa.edu I am especially thankful to Christine Nobiss for lending her beautiful powwow artwork to decorate this exhibition.

Like the origins of the powwow, the meanings of American Indian dancing are many-layered. In them, Euro-American biases like fascination, good will, business and cultural exploitation, masquerading, tribute and scientific interest are intermixed with Native agendas and motivations that include cultural revival, resistance to domination, profit ventures, and social and spiritual functions. Instead of judging just one aspect, we need to be aware of how these meanings are all intertwined in any image or performance of Indian dancing. Only this way can we truly appreciate the history and enduring vitality of American Indian dancing.


Gyorgy “George” Toth – gyorgy-toth@uiowa.edu


PhD Candidate, American Studies

Robert A. Olson Fellow, Special Collections and University Archives

The University of Iowa


The exhibition is on display anytime the Main Library is open in the third floor corridor outside Special Collections & University Archives and will be on display through early September


Mad for Mad Men Exhibit

Are you a fan of the show Mad Men, 1960s fashion, or the cut-throat world of advertising?  Check out our new exhibit on Pinterest featuring items from Special Collections & University Archives and the Pomerantz Business Library!   http://pinterest.com/uispeccoll/mad-for-mad-men-exhibit/

Source: flickr.com via Special on Pinterest

Source: flickr.com via Kimberly on Pinterest


Source: flickr.com via Special on Pinterest


Source: flickr.com via Special on Pinterest


Harry Potter and the Quest for Enlightenment

group photo of students

Dragons, mandrakes, and potions have taken over the cases outside Special Collections & University Archives!

Students in Donna Parsons’ Honors Seminar titled “Harry Potter and the Quest for Enlightenment” have curated an exhibit using materials from Special Collections. The exhibit is one part of a semester long project utilizing Special Collections materials for research.  The students chose one item to represent their research and worked together to fit their items into themes for display. 

Parsons’ seminar has the students closely read the texts and analyze their themes as well as investigate the influences from the literary cannon and the effects on popular culture in the US and Britain.  She envisioned the collaboration with Special Collections as an exciting opportunity to enhance student learning. “The Harry Potter series is filled with extensive references to science, literature, mythology, and history,” Parsons says. “Partnering with Special Collections has supplied my students with the resources needed to trace a specific reference and discuss its relevance to a particular scene, character, or plotline.  The partnership has also provided the context for a deeper understanding of the series and its appeal to a diverse audience.”

Greg Prickman, Head of Special Collections & University Archives,  welcomed the collaboration.  “The idea to have the students create an exhibition was Donna’s, and we quickly agreed to it. Rather than showing or telling, we are giving them the chance to do their own showing and telling, which results in a unique learning opportunity that can only be experienced with access to original historical documents.”

Kelsey Sheets, a student in the seminar, loved finding out how complex the world of Harry Potter really is.  “In the past I have read books about how J.K. Rowling draws inspiration from a wide variety of historical and mythical sources and incorporates them into the series, but my own research [on links between the study of Potions and the muggle study of Chemistry] really solidified this point and made me appreciate the depth of the wizarding world.”

The exhibit will be on display until June 12th on the third floor of the Main Library outside Special Collections & University Archives anytime the library is open.


American Indian Powwow & Exhibit Share Native Living Traditions

Addendum to blog entry on August 7, 2012:


Are you looking for a cultural activity for this coming weekend? How about attending the Meskwaki Powwow in Tama, Iowa? Here is a little historical preview from our exhibition titled “American Indian Dancing: Ethnic Stereotypes, Community Resources, Living Traditions”:


The Powwow Then and Now

By the 1960s, American Indians were using the so-called “powwow circuit” – a network of dance competitions held near Native population centers across the U.S. – to socialize and revitalize their cultures. Eastern Iowa also hosted Indian dancing events. In dated language, Laurence Lafore mentioned it in the October 1971 issue of Harper’s Magazine.

“The surviving red men of the Mesquakie tribe are said to be degraded and oppressed, although the Tama Pow-Wow is a celebrated and good-natured show, and at the approach to Sac City there is a large billboard announcing “Welcome to the home of friendly Indians. You’ll like them without reservations”.”


John M. Zielinski, Mesquakie and Proud of It. Kalona, Iowa: Photo-Art Gallery, 1976. Special Collections x-Collection FOLIO E99.F7 Z5


The Meskwaki are proud that they got some of their territory back not through the grace of the U.S. government, but through their own peaceful efforts: they bought their old lands back from white settlers in Tama, Iowa. Thus they made Tama a settlement, and not a reservation. The billboard’s phrasing not only advertised the powwow, but it also expressed Native resistance to oppressive U.S. Indian policy with subtle humor.

This year’s Meskwaki powwow will be held in Tama between August 9 and 12, 2012. For details, please see the powwow website at http://www.meskwakipowwow.com/


Original blog entry on April 5, 2012:

Are you going to attend the University of Iowa Powwow this weekend (April 7-8)? Have you ever wondered about the origins of the event? This June, Special Collections and University Archives will be presenting an exhibit on the popular history of American Indian dancing from our collections. Here is a preview that can help you understand what goes on at the powwow.

UI Powwow 2009 poster - made by Christine Nobiss


The Powwow as Cultural Revival

Even as white Americans appropriated some of their culture to define Americanness, Indians never stopped using music and dancing for their own purposes. Having moved to the big cities on the U.S. government’s post-World War Two relocation programs, many Native Americans reached back to their tribal cultures for spiritual sustenance and dignity in the face of prejudice and poverty. By the 1960s, American Indians were using the so-called “powwow circuit” – a network of dance competitions held near Native population centers across the U.S. – to socialize and revitalize their cultures.

Student lobbying for more ethnic inclusion and cultural diversity on The University of Iowa campus led to the 1971 creation of the Chicano and Indian American Cultural Center, the predecessor of today’s Latino and Native American Cultural Center. The UI’s American Indian Student Association (AISA) became a separate entity in 1990. In addition to organizing conferences, service learning projects and outreach, the Center and AISA have been greatly enriching our communities with the annual University of Iowa Powwow ever since.

2002 UI Powwow poster


The powwow is an opportunity for all to respectfully share and support Native American cultures. The event has a well-defined structure and a program. It is usually held in a large hall with the dance arena in the center, with places for the drum groups, and surrounded by sections designated for resting dancers and their relatives, and the audience. Along the inner walls of the hall are the booths of arts and crafts vendors, as well as stands that sell Native American foods such as fry bread.

There is a protocol all must follow to make the event enjoyable and respectful. The program usually opens with an invocation or prayer ceremony. The opening event is almost always the marching in of veterans of U.S. wars with the country’s colors, stepping to a song that honors their military service. The subsequent dances have a strict order, and they are announced by the master of ceremony, a position of honor in Native America. Various dances for each sex include traditional style, jingle, and fancy dancing, and they differ in footwork, regalia, posture, and meaning. Often dancers perform their own story. Their regalia are the result of years of hard work, monetary investment, and meaningful gifts. Judges evaluate the dancers in each category, but also the drum groups and singers, who come from many corners of Native America. Besides the cash prize, winning a powwow category honors the dancer or musician, and furthers their own and their family’s reputation across Native communities.

2012 UI Powwow poster


The American Indian powwow is a combination of a variety of cultural forms. Some of its most prominent dance forms like the Omaha or the Grass Dance are derived from the old warrior society dances that Karl Bodmer and George Catlin recorded in their paintings back in the 1830s. Another origin of the modern powwow are the Old Glory Blowout gatherings held by Buffalo Bill in the 1880s near Indian reservations as auditions for the rodeos, dancing and re-enactment performances of his Wild West Show. These events encouraged inter-tribal interaction and cultural exchange, and led to more frequent gatherings with participants from a variety of Native nations. Community dancing also expressed resistance to white domination when the government’s officials were suspicious of or tried to suppress dancing on reservations. Since the mid-20th century, powwows have also featured honoring dances for Native American veterans of the U.S. military – which makes them events of veterans homecoming. When you experience a powwow, you can ‘read’ the event for traces of this rich history of Native-white relations.


Please mark your calendars and visit the UI Powwow website here: http://powwow.uiowa.edu/


The American Indian Student Association welcomes donations to offset the costs of staging the powwow in our community. AISA accept checks sent to their address at

The American Indian Student Association, The University of Iowa, 308 Melrose Avenue, Iowa City, Iowa  52246 Fax: 319-335-2245 Email: studorg-aisa@uiowa.edu



Once Upon a January Day: Presidential Politics in Iowa

Are you getting ready for the Iowa Caucuses next Tuesday? The University of Iowa Special Collections has some remarkable holdings of the history of presidential politics. Come visit us to catch a glimpse of caucuses and elections past, and even see the signatures of U.S. presidents!


The Iowa caucuses have been the first major event in the U.S. presidential nomination process since 1972. Would you like to learn more about these early caucuses? Request to look at some of the personal papers in our collections – here are two examples:

Outside of his business interests, W.H. Goodrich (1914- ) has been active in Republican politics at both the state and national levels. He has served as the state finance chairman of the Republican Party in Iowa, he was a delegate to the 1976 Republican National Convention, and was a regional coordinator of delegate operations for President Gerald R. Ford in 1976. The papers of W.H. Goodrich are all related to his work for the Republican Party, especially to his home area of Humboldt and Webster Counties in Iowa. Much of the collection concerns the 1976 election, with materials relating to the national convention, finances, and the national committee. Correspondence with President Ford is found throughout the papers, as well as letters from Wiley Mayne, Robert D. Ray, and William J. Scherle. http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/spec-coll/MSC/ToMsc400/MsC351/MsC351_goodrich.html

From the late 1960s, Paul A. Smith both participated in and shaped the Iowa Democratic caucuses by developing their policies and procedures. His papers include records for precinct caucuses, papers related to setting up precinct caucuses, papers related to platform planks submitted to precinct caucuses, reports of who was elected from precinct caucuses to the Central Committee and Committee on Committees, Platform Committee to the County Convention. (Smith served as Chair in about 1972). At the time of donating his papers, Smith also wrote a personal account of his experience with Iowa Democratic politics. http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/spec-coll/MSC/ToMsC850/MsC808/paulsmith.html


The Iowa caucuses have also been documented through photography. The Michael W. Lemberger Photography Collection documents the life work of the Ottumwa, Iowa, photojournalist and collector. Lemberger has been an active photojournalist and artist for more than 50 years. In his photography Lemberger captured presidential candidates in the Iowa caucus season. http://digital.lib.uiowa.edu/lemberger/index.php


Do you remember the feverish caucus season of 2007/08? You can relive the personal visits of some of the candidates by watching a recording of their campaign events online:

A number of talks were hosted by the Iowa City Foreign Relations Council, a non-profit association interested in learning more about U.S. foreign policy, world affairs, and current global issues impacting society. These presentations were all held in Iowa City and many were broadcast on public radio stations in Iowa and the Iowa City Cable TV Channel 4. The Iowa Digital Library collection brings presentations of these experts on-line to a wider audience. http://digital.lib.uiowa.edu/icfrc/index.php

From 2007-2008, Political Science professor G. R. Boynton collected nearly 2000 online videos posted by eight of the 2008 presidential candidates’ campaigns. Four Democratic and four Republican candidates are represented in this archive featuring videos spanning from each candidate’s announcement of candidacy to their withdrawal from the race (or procurement of the nomination). As a collection, these videos highlight the flurry of regional political activity leading up to the Iowa caucuses. As these videos begin to disappear from their original online sources, archiving them in the Iowa Digital Library will also serve to support their research value through long-term access. http://digital.lib.uiowa.edu/pcv/index.php


What did would-be-presidents and sitting commanders-in-chief think of Iowa and Iowans? School of Library and Information Science graduate student Julie Zimmerman created an exciting mini-exhibition of materials that answer this question. Julie’s display features presidential photographs and letters written to and about Iowans, and signed by Presidents Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Taft, Kennedy, and Reagan. Which presidential letter is a forgery and why? To find out, please come and visit the installation on the 3rd floor of the University of Iowa Main Library during opening hours.

Special thanks to Julie Zimmerman for putting together the display on U.S. presidential materials in our collections!