UI Libraries Launches Explorer’s Legacy Website

van allen siteThe University of Iowa Libraries has launched an online site that presents the history of the 1958 Explorer I satellite mission and the role played by UI astrophysicist James Van Allen in its success.

The site, Explorer’s Legacy, chronicles the mission that led to the first scientific discovery of the space age when Van Allen identified the radiation belts surrounding the earth. The website also provides, for the first time, access to the complete set of data collected during the Explorer I mission. Digitized from the original reel-to-reel tapes that have been preserved by the University of Iowa Libraries, these data represent the first scientific data returned to Earth from space.

The new website embeds digitized content from the Van Allen papers within a new narrative account of the mission written exclusively for the site by Abigail Foerstner, author of James Van Allen: The First Eight Billion Miles. The presentation provides a complete overview of the development, launch, and success of the Explorer missions, and highlights the participation of the Department of Physics & Astronomy at the University of Iowa in many subsequent space missions, including the current Van Allen probes that continue to make new discoveries within the radiation belts.

“It’s great to have the first scientific measurements ever made in space available to the public,” says Craig Kletzing, F. Wendell Miller Professor in the Department of Physics & Astronomy. “From those first days in 1958 to today’s Van Allen Probes mission, the University of Iowa is still at it, working to solve the mysteries of space.” The data tapes from the Explorer missions were created during the satellite’s orbits around the earth. When Explorer I was launched on January 31, 1958, it began to send a signal back to earth. A series of receiving stations were positioned around the globe that would listen in as the satellite passed overhead, and a technician would activate a reel-to-reel tape machine to record the signals.

In 2009, the University of Iowa began an effort to preserve the original analogue reel-to-reel tapes that were stored in the basement of MacLean Hall on the Pentacrest. Staff from the Libraries’ Preservation Department cleaned and stabilized the tapes onsite, and then transferred them to the Main Library. The entire collection is now physically stable and in appropriate environmental conditions. “This new resource is the culmination of years of effort to preserve these historic recordings,” says Greg Prickman, Head of Special Collections. “The availability of the data tapes in a digital format provides broad access to the foundational information of the space age.”

Explorer’s Legacy is the result of inter-disciplinary collaboration between librarians, conservators, physicists, writers, and digital media specialists. In years to come, it will only be getting bigger—the reel-to-reel tapes holding the data from the next successful mission, Explorer III, have already been digitized, and are being prepared for inclusion in the site.

The site was launched with support from the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust.

SuDocs Have Moved!

FDLPThe University of Iowa Libraries is a congressionally designated depository for U.S. federal government information.  This collection of print publications (classified with the Superintendent of Documents or SuDocs scheme) was recently moved from the third floor to the northwest corner of the fifth floor in the Main Library. Not only is the space on the fifth floor more accessible to our users but this has allowed the Main Library to open up space on the third floor for our ever expanding Special Collections.

Please visit the guide to finding government information for further information about the U.S. government information resources:  http://guides.lib.uiowa.edu/us.

DVD Quick Pick Up at Main Library

No more waiting around to pick up DVDs at the Main Library. Just request them online and have them waiting for you. The DVD collection located in the Main Library consists of over 18,000 titles, ranging from documentaries to tv shows. 

Delivery to your closest library as well as to the North Circulation desk within the Main Library is possible through the “Request” option in InfoHawk or Smart Search

Requests placed before midnight will be available at the Main Library North Circulation desk before noon the next day and requests placed before 11:30am will be available the same day by 5pm, Monday-Friday. 

Whether you want to watch a movie for fun or need to prepare for a course, we have improved our delivery service to make check-out faster and more convenient. Remember, just click “Request” and have your DVD(s) waiting for you to pick up!

Barrett research with Libraries’ Special Collections reveals secrets of old paper

Research by a University of Iowa led team reveals new information about why paper made hundreds of years ago often holds up better over time than more modern paper.

Led by Timothy Barrett, director of papermaking facilities at the UI Center for the Book, the team analyzed 1,578 historical papers made between the 14th and the 19th centuries. Barrett and his colleagues devised methods to determine their chemical composition without requiring a sample to be destroyed in the process, which had limited past research. The results of this three-year project show that the oldest papers were often in the best condition, in part, Barrett says, due to high levels of gelatin and calcium.

“This is news to many of us in the fields of papermaking history and rare book and art conservation,” says Barrett. “The research results will impact the manufacture of modern paper intended for archival applications, and the care and conservation of historical works on paper.”

Barrett says one possible explanation for the higher quality of the paper in the older samples is that papermakers at the time were attempting to compete with parchment, a tough enduring material normally made from animal skins. In doing so, they made their papers thick and white and dipped the finished sheets into a dilute warm gelatin solution to toughen it.

“Calcium compounds were used in making parchment, and they were also used in making paper,” Barrett says. “Turns out they helped prevent the paper from becoming acidic, adding a lot to its longevity.”

Barrett acknowledges that some may wonder why research on paper longevity is worth doing today, when art or text on paper can be scanned at high resolution and viewed later on a computer. He notes that close analysis of the papers themselves can often shed new light on a particular historical episode or figure. For example, when letters from a particular writer are found on especially poor quality paper given the writer’s time and place, it may indicate something significant about the writer’s financial situation. When a book was printed on very high quality paper for its period and location, it may suggest something new about the publisher’s intended audience and marketing strategy.

“Both instances provide evidence wholly lacking in digital scans of the same pieces of paper,” Barrett says. “Paper does more than support words or images. It can bring alive its own moment in history or show us how to make longer lasting paper in the future.”

Even in a digital age, some materials will still be created and preserved on paper. For instance, Barrett and his UI papermaking team worked with National Archives staff in 2000 to produce special handmade paper that now sits beneath the Charters of Freedom at the Archives Rotunda in Washington D.C.

“The information lying dormant in paper in important books and works of art needs to be preserved for researchers in future generations to uncover and utilize,” Barrett says. “Just as important, paper originals — that can be read without hardware and software — will continue to be essential backups to digital scans long, long into the future.”

Barrett’s group included Mark Ormsby, physicist at the National Archives and Records Administration Research and Testing division; Joseph Lang, UI professor of statistics and actuarial science; Robert Shannon at Bruker Elemental; Irene Brückle, professor at the State Academy of Art and Design in Stuttgart, Germany; Michael Schilling and Joy Mazurek from the Getty Conservation Institute; Jennifer Wade at the National Science Foundation; and Jessica White, a UI graduate student who is now proprietor of the Heroes & Criminals Press.

The Institute for Museum and Library Services, the University of Iowa, and the Kress Foundation provided funding for the research. The UI Libraries is hosting the newly launched website http://paper.lib.uiowa.edu/ which details all the project goals, procedures and results. The UI Center for the Book is a part of the Graduate College.