News Category


YouTube Series If Books Could Talk Finishes Final Episode

Colleen and HeatherIf Books Could Talk is a collaboration between Heather Wacha from History Corps, a digital public history project from the History Department at the University of Iowa, Colleen Theisen, Outreach & Engagement Librarian from Special Collections, and Katie Buehner, Head of the Rita Benton Music Library from the University of Iowa Libraries. Heather Wacha researched and wrote the episodes, Colleen Theisen served as the host, and Katie Buehner filmed and edited the series.

“If Books Could Talk,” explains that the paper, bindings, bookplates, repairs, stains, handwritten notes, stamps, and markings all leave traces that give clues to how they were made, where they have been, and can even tell about the lives of the people who have read them.

The final episode appears below. In it, Heather and Colleen examine two Medieval manuscript leaves and what we can learn from the layout, chapter headings, verse numbers and more. How does a Medieval manuscript Bible leaf differ from a Bible printed today, and what features have remained throughout the years?

Find out in the final episode of If Books Could Talk:


Or catch up on the whole series:

If you enjoy the videos, subscribe on YouTube.


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Special Collections Curator Peter Balestrieri Featured in “Archival Outlook”

Image of Peter Balestrieri in Archival OutlookCurator of Science Fiction and Popular Culture, Peter Balestrieri is featured in the Cover Story of the May/June issue of Archival Outlook from the Society of American Archivists.

“Archivists are artists,” Balestrieri remarks, reflecting on his punk rock gig with the Violent Femmes and how a life with music and libraries intertwined eventually led him to Special Collections.

Read the whole feature here on pages 8-9 and 26.




Prickman honored with Arthur Benton University Librarian’s Award for Excellence

[Reposting from UI Libraries]

Image of Greg PrickmanGreg Prickman, head of Special Collections at the University of Iowa Libraries, was honored March 31 with the 2015 Arthur Benton University Librarian’s Award for Excellence.

The Arthur Benton University Librarian’s Award for Excellence recognizes a member of the UI Libraries’ professional staff who has demonstrated outstanding commitment and leadership in furthering Libraries’ mission serve the University community.

The honor includes a $1,500 award for professional development that will support the recipient’s research projects or publications related to library services. This award was made possible by an endowment from Dr. Arthur Benton, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Neurology, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

In letters of support for this award, the selection committee noted Prickman’s commitment to furthering the Libraries’ role in the University’s academic mission, as well as his professionalism and responsiveness to researcher needs.

Timothy Barrett, Director of the University of Iowa Center for the Book and Associate Professor in the UI School of Library and Information Science, nominated Prickman for the award. Barrett notes that Prickman’s work “resulted in the UI being selected as the site for the Folger Shakespeare First Folio traveling exhibit. Greg’s leadership shines in the midst of a complex but very promising event for the UI Libraries, all participating units, and the UI overall.”

Prickman also earned praises from Adam Hooks, Assistant Professor of English, who notes a climate of accessibility that Greg has created for scholars.

“Greg’s vision for the library has transformed the learning experience for students at the University of Iowa,” says Hooks. “Thanks to the significant digital projects sponsored by Special Collections, the intellectual and material resources at Iowa are accessible to students around the world.” Prickman was the catalyst for the Civil War Diaries Transcription Project that led to crowdsourcing platform DIY History, and he is the creator of The Atlas of Early Printing.

 Jennifer Burek Pierce, Associate Professor in the UI School of Library and Information Science, writes of Prickman’s ability to empower his staff to assist researchers. Burek Pierce notes that “those with whom we work in Special Collections clearly feel empowered to do their best work, to look for interesting and new ways to connect with users. As the head of Special Collections, Greg is instrumental in allowing this to happen, in the example he sets, in his development of responsive policies, and in hiring.”

The Arthur Benton University Librarian’s Award for Excellence Award is given annually. Past recipients include Kari Kozak, Jen DeBerg, Dottie Persson, John Forys, Edward Miner, Kathy Magarrell, Kären Mason, Dave Martin, and John Schacht.

Please join us in congratulating Greg Prickman!


March 30: Felicia Rice “Doc/Undoc” performance followed by a public conversation with Guillermo Gómez-Peña

Felicia Rice at Moving Parts Press

Felicia Rice at Moving Parts Press

Two artists, Felicia Rica and Guillermo Gómez-Peña will be on campus next week as Ida Cordelia Beam Distinguished Visiting Professors, working with students and appearing in several public performances. As part of this event series, Rice will perform on March 30th at 5pm in the Special Collections Reading Room, performing with Doc/Undoc, an incredible multi-media artwork housed in Special Collections. The performance will be followed by a conversation with Guillermo Gómez-Peña, who collaborated on the work. This is a unique opportunity to hear from the artists as they interact with the work. Following the performance, Doc/Undoc will remain on display in Special Collections through the month of April along with other Moving Parts Press work on loan from Felicia Rice.



“The book invites us to consider an ongoing tension as we navigate a world of politics

and appearance, racism and immigration, self and other.” —Jennifer A. González


Wednesday, 3/30: Felicia Rice, “Doc/Undoc” (lecture performance), followed by a public conversation with Gómez-Peña (5 p.m., Special Collections Reading Room, 3rd Floor Main Library).

DOC/UNDOC Documentado/Undocumented Ars Shamánica Performática is a limited edition artists’ book. The outcome of a seven-year collaboration, this edition of 65 books features Guillermo Gómez-Peña’s performance texts and Felicia Rice’s relief prints and typography, accompanied by Jennifer González’s critical commentary. Of these, a deluxe edition of 15 is housed in a hi-tech aluminum case containing a video by Gustavo Vazquez, an altar, and a cabinet of curiosities. Opening the case triggers light and Zachary Watkins’ interactive sound art.

docThis series of short monologues traces Rice’s metamorphosis from book artist/printer to artist/performer. The performance begins with the publication of DOC/UNDOC and wends its way through a series of experiences and epiphanies that reach back to her early years. DOC/UNDOC’s subtitle, Documentado/Undocumented, points to a painful dichotomy: “documentado” in Spanish implies having access to cultural traditions and rituals that flourish in Mexico, whereas the term “undocumented” in the United States implies a lack of citizenship, power, rights and knowledge. The second subtitle, Ars

Shamánica Performática, speaks of the very personal, transformative experience offered by the book and case, an invitation to “Choose an object, find a poetic way of using it. Reimagine yourself, tell a new story.” In some way every immigrant must reinvent his or her self, just as every artist must cross into the unknown and return to tell the tale.



More information on the event series:


Public History Partners Follow the Trail of a Dismantled and Lost Medieval Manuscript

Where are your other leaves? Re-discovering the Wilton Processional

Close up on the word cantrixEven a single page from a medieval book can hold many secrets. Sometimes there are enough clues to uncover a surprising history.

In March 2015, Heather Wacha, a PhD student in the History Department, and a member of History Corps, was assisting Special Collections in identifying a leaf that had been cut out of a medieval manuscript. Further investigation of this manuscript’s clues has since drawn together librarians, graduate students, and UNI professor Dr. Alison Altstatt. Together, they have uncovered a story spanning centuries of a manuscript that was once created, then lost, then broken by notorious book breaker Otto Ege, and is now finally, refound: The Wilton Processional.


Special Collections is very pleased to bring you episode five from the “If Books Could Talk” video series, Where are your other leaves? Re-discovering the Wilton Processional

Watch the 16 minute video below, and read Heather Wacha’s more extensive essay about this manuscript leaf on the History Corps website.

Further information: Alison Altstatt, “Re-membering the Wilton Processional,” in Notes: the Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association 72:4 (forthcoming June 2016), 690-732.

Hosts: Colleen Theisen and Heather Wacha
Guests: Michele Aichele and Alison Altstatt
Written by: Heather Wacha
Edited by: Katie Buehner
Essay: Heather Wacha


Special Collections Weekly Update 3/4/2016



Star Trek logo

How has Star Trek impacted your life?

We want to hear from people who have lived in Iowa about the impact of Star Trek on your lives. Tell us a brief memory, a story, or submit a statement or a photo that about your history with Star Trek and those submissions will be compiled into a zine to be distributed as part of the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek exhibition.

Please email your submissions to by next Friday 3/11/2016.

(Specify if you wish to be anonymous).


Consultation and Advice sought: If anyone has experience making tribbles, please send an email to Colleen:


Upcoming Deadlines:

Upcoming Events:


Instruction Update:

  • In February, we supported 38 total class sessions
  • Maximum of 7 sessions in the same day

This Week’s Best from Social Media:

Special Collections is very pleased to announce that The John Martin Rare Book Room from the Hardin Library for the Heath Sciences has joined the UISpecColl Tumblr for a series of guest posts.

Check out the first post here:


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Special Collections Weekly Update 1/15/2016

Instruction: Spring Semester Sign Up

Update from Instruction Librarian Amy Chen

Students looking at a bookSpecial Collections librarians can support any aspect of class planning for teaching with rare books and primary source materials.

We had a record-breaking 2015, so sign up early or else our rooms and librarians may already be booked for popular times. Find our class request form here.


New Acquisitions

Update from Acquisitions & Collections Management Librarian Margaret Gamm

Pick Yourself Up From off the Ground by CubaPick Yourself Up From off the Ground by CubaPick Yourself Up From off the Ground by Cuba. One of a kind artist’s book with acrylic graffiti paintings, 2014.




From the University Archives

Update from University Archivist David McCartney

A video paging through a 100+ year old scrapbook from a woman from the class of 1915 who attended the very first Homecoming football game.

Staff Awards

Portrait image of Amy ChenSpecial Collections Instruction Librarian Amy Chen was selected to be featured as a “Bright Young Librarian” by Fine Books & Collections Magazine. Read the feature here.




From the Web and Social Media

In Case You Missed It: A Compilation of Recent Links & Posts 

  1. Blog post reporting on a research trip to Special Collections: Marbled Paper Connections by Emily Pazar.  See it here.
  2. Article about the Brinton early film collection: 100 Years Later, New Audiences Discover Legendary Outsider.  See it here.
  3. Center for the Book/Special Collections commercial that we filmed last August is finished and will air on the Big Ten Network.  Article: here  Video below:


“The Humanity in History”

January 8th-March 1st, 2016

Kelly Grogg, graduate student in the School of Library and Information Science and Special Collections senior Olson Graduate Assistant, has completed her capstone exhibition. It is on display now in the cases outside Special Collections on the 3rd floor.

“Every person featured in this exhibit has contributed to make the world a better place.  They may not have ever reached the level of recognition they deserved, but despite their humble beginnings and oncoming obstacles, they contributed to the world in a way that cannot be measured in a ‘neatly packaged, sanitized parable’.  These are the people who create history.”  – Kelly Grogg  

Read more.


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Best Wishes to Our Graduating Student Workers

By Lindsay Moen, Department Liaison

It has only been a few months into my new position as Department Liaison, and one of my major job duties is to supervise the student employees. I did not anticipate that the hardest part of this new job would be watching wonderful students graduate and leave the department.

This Fall 2015 semester, two outstanding students graduated: Zoë Webb and Mallory Price. Both students will be sorely missed, and I think I can speak for the entire department when I say, they will be hard to replace!

students reading cards

Zoë and Mallory reading graduation cards from the Special Collections staff.


Zoë Webb graduated this semester from the University of Iowa School of Art and Art History with a degree in Art, and finalized her undergraduate career with a BFA show titled “Don’t Stray From the Path”. Zoë’s show featured a room not only filled with her original artwork, including some impressive metal works, but it also included artistically placed trees and leaves to give the viewer the sense of walking through an ethereal forest inhabited by faeries.

Zoë began her Special Collections journey in January 2012, where she has completed a wide variety of projects in the department. She’s made spine labels, processed books, including hundreds of science-fiction paperbacks, and helped with some major shifting projects in her many years here. I will definitely miss her shared love of fandom, expert artistic skills, and knack for finding amazing things on accident.

Mallory began working in the Special Collections department in May 2014, and during her time here has been our primary front desk student. Along with assisting patrons with numerous questions, ranging from helping them to use the scanner, to detailed research questions, Mallory has proved herself to be a huge asset in all things reference! I will miss her expertise in helping others, her positive attitude, and friendly smile!Mallory Price graduated this semester from the University of Iowa School of Music with a Bachelor’s degree in Music, with a focus on Music Therapy. An outstanding violin player, Mallory finalized her undergraduate career with a Senior Recital, playing music from Beethoven, Fritz Kreisler, and Dvořák.

On behalf of the entire Special Collections and University Archives Department, we wish Zoë and Mallory the best of luck in the future!



News and Updates from Special Collections 12/18/2015

From the Web and Social Media


Boy hitting a pinata at a LULAC party in 1967

Preservation Projects Librarian, Vitalina Nova, wrote a blog post about the League of United Latino American Citizens Council 10, both their past records and their current projects for the Iowa Women’s Archives blog.

Image on the left from LULAC Council 10 Records, IWA0733



Rose Bowl sticker2016 Rose Bowl a chance to make new memories: UI archivist recalls Iowa’s five previous visits to Pasadena.  This month’s Old Gold column by University Archivist David McCartney was posted this week.

This 1959 Rose Bowl decal was sold by Iowa Book and Supply and donated to the university by 1976 alumnus Vernon Lustick, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.



Notes from the Special Collections Classroom

This week’s news from Amy Chen, Instruction Librarian 


Image of a class of students examining books

Counting up some totals at the end of the semester, Special Collections (not including the Iowa Women’s Archives) taught 119 class sessions total in the Fall 2015 Semester:

4 in August

34 in September

39 in October

28 in November

14 in December



New Acquisitions

Arrival Notifications from Margaret Gamm, 

Acquisitions & Collections Management Librarian 


The Descent of Mount Gadam is a new acquisition for our Charlotte Smith miniature book collection. Amos Paul Kennedy published the book in 1993 under the imprint of his Jubilee Press, which was later renamed the Jubalee Press. The text is an adaptation of a folktale of the Mensa Bet-Abrehe people of northern Ethiopia.


Iowa Bibliophiles December 9th Meeting: All Are Welcome

Iowa Bibliophiles December Meeting


Refreshments 6:30PM — Talk at 7PM

Special Collections Reading Room — 3rd Floor Main Library


Travel back in time to see portions of the world as documented in richly-illustrated, large books published by John Ogilby between 1649 and 1675. The books include explorations of China, Asia, Japan, Africa, America, and Britain.

Arthur Bonfield will share his extensive knowledge about the books, John Ogliby, the printer, and the cultural context in which the books were produced and used. A description of Ogilby’s methods of publishing, selling, illustrating, and distributing these expensive publications and their contents will be the focus of this talk.

This is a rare opportunity to view and closely examine these volumes, which are English translations of books published in Amsterdam by Jacob von Meurs. Ogilby’s books appear to have been produced using plates from the original Dutch books—an interesting detail about which you’ll want to hear more!

Please join us for coffee and light refreshments at 6:30 PM before the lecture at 7PM in the Reading Room of Special Collections on the 3rd Floor of the UI Main Library.

All are welcome and the lecture is free.


Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact the sponsoring department or contact person listed in advance of the event.



Image of Arthur Bonfield
Arthur Bonfield is a Professor at the Iowa Law School and has been collecting books published between 1490 and 1800 for 60 years. He has collected about 1,000 books printed during that period and focuses his collecting on voyages, travels, and geography; English and European history; encyclopedias and dictionaries of the arts and sciences; political philosophy; and herbals.