‘The man who brought the literary world to Iowa.’

Frederick W. Kent Collection, University of Iowa Archives

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

Internet Scout Remarks on Biographical Dictionary of Iowa

The Internet Scout Report also recognized The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa. This digitization project was a collaboration between the UI Libraries and the University of Iowa Press and was released this summer at the Iowa City Book Festival.

The online version of the University of Iowa Press’ Biographical Dictionary is a website that just feels welcoming. The colorful 1934 Cesco mural, “Agriculture,” featured on its homepage, and portions of it on other sections of the website remind visitors of Iowa’s farming roots. In the “Introduction” tab, one of the editors makes the argument that “Iowa’s cultural climate, at least in the last half of the nineteenth century, might have made it more than coincidental that ‘a disproportionate share of the influential people of the 1930s came from Iowa.'” Some of these influential people include Herbert Hoover, John L. Lewis, Henry A. Wallace, and Harry Hopkins. Visitors who want to learn more about these famous figures and their Iowa roots can click on the “Browse by Name” tab at the top of the page, choose a link to the first letter of their last name, and read more about them. The “Browse by Topic” tab has over two dozen topics to choose from, including “Ornithology”, “Mining”, and “Invention”.

The Scout Report is the flagship publication of the Internet Scout Project. Published every Friday both on the web and by email, it provides a fast, convenient way to stay informed of valuable resources on the Internet. Our team of professional librarians and subject matter experts select, research, and annotate each resource.

Published continuously since 1994, the Scout Report is one of the Internet’s oldest and most respected publications. Organizations are encouraged to link to this page from their own Web pages, or to receive the HTML version of the Report each week via email for local posting at their site.

Leigh Hunt Online Gets a Nod

This week the “Internet Scout Report” noted the UI Libraries Leigh Hunt Online: The Letters.

Not familiar with British Romantic writer Leigh Hunt? After going through the University of Iowa Library’s collection of his letters online, visitors will know Hunt intimately. For those visitors who don’t have the stamina to pore over the more than 1600 letters that have been digitized thus far, an excellent history of him can be found by clicking “Who is Leigh Hunt?” in the “About the Project” link. The link “About the Brewer-Hunt Collection” reveals that Brewer, an Iowa native of modest means, began collecting Hunt’s work in the last 13 years of his life and amassed such a collection, that it was purchased by the University of Iowa Libraries in 1934. The link also mentions the correspondence in the collection that Hunt had with many other noted authors. Visitors should click on “Digitized Letters” to view the thumbnail gallery of Highlights of the Collection and see a host of Sample Searches. “Search Hints” are given in a link on the left hand side of the page, right above “NINES Collaboration”.

The Scout Report is the flagship publication of the Internet Scout Project. Published every Friday both on the web and by email, it provides a fast, convenient way to stay informed of valuable resources on the Internet. Our team of professional librarians and subject matter experts select, research, and annotate each resource.

Published continuously since 1994, the Scout Report is one of the Internet’s oldest and most respected publications. Organizations are encouraged to link to this page from their own Web pages, or to receive the HTML version of the Report each week via email for local posting at their site.

Digital Library Services in the Information Arcade

It’s the dawn of a new era in the Information Arcade®. In its first 20 years, much of the focus in the Arcade was on integrating technology into teaching and learning, which has become mainstream activity on campus and supported by many different departments like ITS-Instructional Services.

Digital Library Services has relocated to the Arcade to create a center of digital research and scholarship. In the coming year, we will focus on integrating technology into research and scholarship – supporting new forms of scholarly publishing, digital humanities, data curation, and open/linked data. The Arcade will be the home of the Iowa Digital Library and Iowa Research Online. It will also be a place for librarian/faculty partnerships in e-research and other digital library initiatives.

Rather than defining a set of services, we want to remain flexible and embrace the notion of “perpetual beta,” mirroring the collaborative, dynamic processes used in e-research and e-scholarship. To that end we are kicking off an e-Research task force which will employ several information-gathering strategies, ranging from brown bag discussions to a public planning wiki, and work together across disciplines and professional roles (e.g., scholar, librarian, IT professional) to identify themes and develop a plan of action.

Many of the services previously offered in the Information Arcade have been mainstreamed across campus. For example multimedia software titles, including the Adobe Creative Suite, are widely available in campus ITCs and on library public workstations. For specific questions, inquire at the ITS Help Desk (319-384-HELP) or the Main Library Information Desk (319-335-5299).

Interviews with International Writers Added to the Iowa Digital Library

The storied history of the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program is now available for the world to hear. “The Peter Nazareth Collection,” which consists of 30 years of audio interviews with IWP participants and guests, is digitally archived at http://digital.lib.uiowa.edu/vwu.

Since 1967, more than 1,000 creative writers from 120 countries have visited the university to attend the IWP. In his interviews with writers connected to the program, Peter Nazareth, a UI faculty member and an advisor to the International Writing Program since 1974, captures the essence of what it means to be a writer at “The Writing University.”

“This collection is a gold mine that’s now going out to the whole world from absolutely the right place at absolutely the right time, because this is a city of writing right now,” said Nazareth, referring to Iowa City’s designation on Nov. 20, 2008, as a UNESCO City of Literature. This is the first such designation to be granted to a city in the Americas. Iowa City joins Edinburgh, Scotland, and Melbourne, Australia, as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Nazareth, professor of English in the UI’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, recorded 66 interviews, seminars and panel discussions conducted in various settings, including “Humanities at Iowa,” a 1980s radio show that aired on WSUI/KSUI.

“Peter and his wife, Mary Nazareth, are the institutional memory of this program,” IWP Director Christopher Merrill said. “His memory is incredible and he has amazing stories to tell.

“His recordings not only are really intelligent and quite moving, but they get at the nitty-gritty of what it means to be a writer. What he does in these interviews is dive into what the writer is all about. Peter really makes an effort to connect with the writer. He tries to understand what motivates a writer to do what they do. That’s at the heart of what writing at Iowa is all about.”

In May, Jim Elmborg, director of the UI’s School of Library and Information Science (SLIS), finished a three-year project of digitizing Nazareth’s interviews and posting them on the Virtual Writing University Archive. The archive began as a collaboration between the IWP and SLIS, which are among 16 departments and programs overseen by the UI Graduate College.

Because of the archive, the rich history captured by the Nazareth Collection is available for all to enjoy. Nazareth was unaware of the true impact of his interviews until the e-mails started arriving this summer. The first came on June 7 from Mariela Arvelo, a poet from Venezuela who read from her work and answered questions at an IWP event on Oct. 23, 1980.

“You find ways of communicating the essence of writing, of literature. That’s what was emerging from most of these tapes,” Nazareth said. “To me, this feels quite normal. But to people far away, (the recordings) are just magical. The real impact was Mariela Arvelo’s message. I began to realize, ‘Wow.'”

Listening to her interview, Arvelo relived the smell of grass and flowers at the UI campus, the sound of the Iowa River and even the taste of new international food.

“With a fantastic and unknown power, the tape recording commanded my imagination to fly and run,” Arvelo said. “That’s why the Peter Nazareth Collection brought back to my life — with all its intensity — one of the most remarkable experiences I’ve ever lived.”

Nazareth, a former senior finance officer of Uganda, cut his teeth on the art of the long interview in 1977 while writing for the journal “World Literature Written in English.” Award-winning Singaporean poet and academic Edwin Thumboo was his first interview, and it can be heard in the Peter Nazareth Collection. 

In Iowa City, subsequent interview subjects were not hard to find.

“There are so many writers in Iowa City — writers, would-be writers,” Nazareth said. “It’s like the air you breathe. We would talk about the essence of things. You meet people from so many cultures. You meet a Korean, and you cannot say, ‘I will study Korean culture and come back and then communicate with you.’ You might say it’s on-the-job training. You find ways of communicating.”

Nazareth’s interviews also have impacted non-IWP writers. Mildred Barya, a Ugandan poet working in Senegal and coming to Syracuse University to study creative writing this fall, e-mailed Nazareth after listening to his collection.

“Some writers are quoting stories and experiences I’ve never heard of and books I’ve never read,” Barya wrote. “Some I’ve dreamt and they’ve been far away. They’ve seemed unreal until now. Some are purely inspirational, some entertaining and some challenging in so many angles. It’s like I am beginning school for the first time.”

StoryCorps project preserves personal stories from historic flood

The devastating flood that hit Iowa last summer made headlines around the state, nation and world. Yet many stories would be lost if not preserved – or worse, simply remain untold. Through the national StoryCorps Project, 24 of these stories can be heard through the Iowa Digital Library.

University of Iowa Libraries, along with university and community partners, invited the national StoryCorps Project to collect and preserve stories of everyday heroism and kindness in a program titled, “Under the Current: Collecting Stories from the Flood.” All of the interviews are available in their entirety online in the Iowa Digital Library at digital.lib.uiowa.edu/flood. Each interview runs 30-45 minutes long.

University Librarian Nancy L. Baker, along with the libraries’ public relations coordinator, Kristi Bontrager, thought first-person storytelling would be an ideal way to preserve flood memories.

“The mission of libraries, particularly academic research libraries, is to preserve the heritage, history, and thoughts of a community, to mark these events and provide some way to preserve them,” Baker said. Baker knew that as time passed and memory faded, the stories of what actually happened would also fade. She knew, too, that the stories people had to tell of their flood experiences could provide valuable information for historical research.

“The idea came from the Iowa Women’s Archives, which has a terrific collection of oral histories,” Bontrager said. “This information can be used by any number of people in any number of ways.”

Baker and Bontrager invited StoryCorps to campus. StoryCorps, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to “honor and celebrate one another’s lives through listening,” preserves tales of everyday life, as well as those that focus on a specific theme. Its work is heard frequently on National Public Radio. In their three days in Iowa City, StoryCorps staff not only recorded flood stories, but also served as mentors and models for students who continued recording the stories after StoryCorps left town. The students were in a class taught by Nanette Barkey, assistant professor of anthropology in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and assistant professor in the Department of Community and Behavioral Health.

Bontrager enlisted a number of people around campus and the community to encourage locals to come and tell their stories.

“We solicited stories from UI president Sally Mason and Iowa City Mayor Regenia Bailey, because they played such big roles,” she said. “But because much of their story had been covered in the media, we also wanted to include other stories that weren’t documented and might have been lost.”

Two UI staff members who together shared their flood memories are Ken Schumacher and Chuck Swanson, both employees of the hard-hit Hancher Auditorium.

“I agreed to do it because there were so many stories to tell,” said Swanson, executive director of Hancher. “Our memories seemed so vivid at the time and yet you don’t always remember the things you wish you’d remembered. This was a historic event, particularly for the university.”

Schumacher, Hancher’s production manager, described the recording experience as “calm.”

“We were in a room with a facilitator and a tape recorder and she didn’t interrupt us unless we got off topic,” he said. “They did a good job of making it comfortable for people to sit and improvise. It was a sort of stream-of-consciousness study. Each of us talked about our unique experience of the flood and how it affected us. I thought about it beforehand but didn’t prepare anything. My only worry was that I was afraid I’d forget something important.”

Both men recall the intense emotions that accompanied the flood. Schumacher remembers the helpless feeling of standing on the hillside by Parklawn watching the flood’s progress and the frustration of knowing he was losing the equipment that enabled him to do his work. Swanson remembers the contrast of the horror of the flood and the warmth of the calls of condolence and offers of help from artists and friends. Despite the difficulty of dredging up these emotions, both men are glad they participated in StoryCorps.

“It’s good to take a look at things when you’ve calmed down and your eyes are dry,” said Schumacher. “If you don’t preserve things that have significance, they will dribble away. The flood will always be a part of us and we need to remember it, especially if we’re building a new building.”

Added Swanson, “It was healthy to talk about the experiences that shaped those days and weeks—it forced me to put my thoughts together. And down the road, when we’re no longer around, you never know how people might use these stories.”

Other interviews in the Iowa Digital Library include a father and teenage son whose home on Taft Speedway in Iowa City was flooded in 1993 and again in 2008; a vice president of a local bank who talked about the bank maintained security and retrieved customers belongings during the flood; and newlyweds who talk about the rollercoaster of rescheduling a wedding in Iowa City that was originally set to take place the weekend of the flood.

For more information about StoryCorps, visit www.storycorps.org

UI Libraries Digitizes Collection of Historic Musical Scores

More than 250 years after his birth, a notable collection of musical scores by French composer and music publisher Ignaz Pleyel (1757-1831) can now be found online. The Rita Benton Music Library at the University of Iowa is pleased to announce this release of the Ignaz Pleyel Early Editions Digital Collection, which is located at http://digital.lib.uiowa.edu/pleyel.

This collection of nearly 250 early printed and manuscript scores represents in entirety the music library’s holdings of the work of this single composer. It consists primarily of keyboard and chamber music, including arrangements of large orchestral works. Also included in the collection are songs with keyboard accompaniment and method books providing instruction in certain instruments. Pleyel was a contemporary of more famous composers Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) and Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827); he also apprenticed with Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) early in his career.

Most of the scores were published between 1780 and 1810, and many were issued by Pleyel’s own publishing house. These materials provide insight into publishing practices common in late 18th- and early 19th-century Europe, when engraving began replacing both letterpress printing and manuscript copying. Also, increase in travel across borders caused musical styles to become more international and publishers began to print music outside of its country of origin.

The physical collection was assembled by the late Dr. Rita Benton, noted Pleyel scholar and former Head of the Music Library at the University of Iowa. The Music Library was named in her honor in 1980. “The Rita Benton Music Library has provided access to the Pleyel materials to scholars and performers around the world for a number of years,” says Ruthann McTyre, Head of the Music Library. “We are proud to offer digital access to the collection. Allowing individuals to have these materials virtually at their fingertips is a fitting way to honor Dr. Benton’s devotion to musical scholarship and preservation of this composer’s work.”

This collection is one of many in the Iowa Digital Library (http://digital.lib.uiowa.edu/), which contains more than 250,000 digital photographs, maps, sound recordings, and documents from libraries and archives at the University of Iowa and their partnering institutions.

Live from Prairie Lights Recordings in Special Collections

On June 14, 1990 Mary Swander and Jane Anne Straw read from their book Parsnips in the Snow at Prairie Lights Bookstore in Iowa City. This was the first broadcast of “Live from Prairie Lights” on Iowa Public Radio. Today Swander is Iowa’s poet laureate, and this recording, and thousands of others like it, is now at the University of Iowa Libraries.

Iowa Public Radio has donated all of the original recordings of Live from Prairie Lights to the UI Libraries. Eighteen years and 1,800 programs were captured on CD, mini disc and reel-to-reel. Stewardship of these materials is part of the Libraries’ ongoing commitment to record and make accessible the intellectual output of the University.

“These recordings document an outstanding series of readings,” said Greg Prickman, Assistant Head of Special Collections. “We are grateful to Iowa Public Radio for ensuring their long-term preservation by making this donation.”

Special Collections is already home to the Julie Englander Collection of Contemporary Literature, which contains books inscribed by authors interviewed by the programs’ host, Julie Englander. “It’s wonderful that the series will be available for the public to enjoy in perpetuity,” Englander said.

“We are proud to partner with the University Libraries on this project,” said Joan Kjaer, Iowa Public Radio Director of Communications. “This partnership provides an exceptional opportunity for all kinds of people – scholars, writers, readers, fans of the show – to have permanent access to conversations with the world’s best authors.”

Currently 250 of these recordings, including the first reading with Mary Swander and Jane Anne Straw, are available online in the Iowa Digital Library (http://digital.lib.uiowa.edu/vwu) and the Virtual Writing University (www.writinguniversity.org). Eventually the entire series will be digitized and freely available via the Iowa Digital Library.

Birth of Primetime TV was at the Univ of Iowa’s W9XK

The switch to digital telecasts is on, and to mark the occasion the Iowa Digital Library has released a new online collection celebrating the birth of American prime-time TV more than 75 years ago.

This “birth” didn’t happen in a laboratory at AT&T, General Electric or RCA, however. Instead, regularly scheduled TV programs were launched on the University of Iowa campus, in a building at the corner of Iowa Avenue and Dubuque Street in Iowa City.

W9XK, as the experimental TV station was known, went on the air in 1933. For six years the station presented a two-nights-per-week schedule of “sight and sound” lectures, musical performances, and drama. A small but loyal audience using special receivers viewed the telecasts from as far away as Pennsylvania and Oklahoma.

Television was in its infancy in the 1930’s when the U.S. government licensed about 30 such experimental stations around the country, mostly in large cities. What set W9XK apart from the others was its pioneering schedule of programs, according to university archivist David McCartney.

“While other stations were airing test signals to prove the viability of certain types of transmission systems under development, W9XK went one step further and offered programs on a regular basis,” he said. “It was not only a technical effort of the College of Engineering but faculty from the School of Music, the Department of Speech and Theatre Arts, and other areas of campus also collaborated.”

The online collection is at http://digital.lib.uiowa.edu/w9xk. It features photographs, correspondence, and newspaper clippings from the University of Iowa Archives.