A look at Mary Shelley the Film

This Halloween season, Frankenstein is everywhere. And no wonder, for the book turned 200 this year and is overdue for a party. While the monster is everywhere, what about the woman who created the famous story? We’ve asked our own Frankenstein expert and Curator of Science Fiction and Popular Culture, Peter Balestrieri to review the latest film on the famed female author. 

Review of Mary Shelley, from Peter Balestrieri

In 2018, the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a new film by director, Haifaa Al-Mansour, Mary Shelley, opened and died quietly. Not the subject, writing, direction, nor the talent and reputations of its stars could save it. I saw it and enjoyed it very much. I anxiously waited for this film after it went into production and hoped it could do justice to its subject and the Romantic period. It comes not long after a recent biopic of doomed John Keats, and, featuring doomed Percy Bysshe Shelley, doomed Lord Byron, and doomed John Polidori, along with possibly the greatest teenage author ever, Mary Shelley, it promised to be a welcome addition to all the scholarly and pop culture attention focused on Frankenstein. Alas, it bombed.

Elle Fanning and Douglas Booth in Mary Shelley (2017)

Some critics panned the film for deviating from historical fact; it is actually very close to the mark with a few notable exceptions. Some have objected to the acting; it was certainly good enough, with Elle Fanning doing a wonderful job, proving again that she is one of film’s best young talents. Familiar faces from Game of Thrones and BBC productions round out the cast. Most reviewers agree Mary Shelley is a very good film to look at; I thought so too, especially the costumes and interior shots. Also good: the dialog, both sharp and poetic. For me, though, one feature more than any other makes this a film worth seeing for anyone interested in the period, the subject, the personalities involved: the troubled, complex relationship between Mary and Percy.

I began research into Frankenstein years ago, using materials from Special Collections and Shelley biographies and it was Mary’s story that impressed me the most. I think Mary put much of her pain and frustration with Percy and his treatment of her into the novel, writing Percy as Victor Frankenstein and herself as the Creature. The film goes into this territory in a way unseen before and I loved it. Percy Shelley is a Bad Boy, who, along with Byron and others, creates the lifestyle emblematic of the Romantics, doomed libertine artists who blaze comet-like and are gone too soon. When Mary rejects her husband’s hypocrisy, cruelty, and excess, the film sends a powerful message to young women and men. See Mary Shelley if you get the chance. I will definitely be seeing it again. It is, however, not a good Halloween film; the only monsters in Mary Shelley are the people in her life.

 

Hand Papermaking is on exhibit in the Reading Room

This week we said goodbye to our Herky exhibit and said hello to the beauty of papermaking.

Giselle Simón, Head Conservator at University of Iowa, was invited to curate an exhibit called Hand Papermaking Portfolios: Selections from 1994-2017 in honor of the Dard Hunter and the American Printing History Association joint conference, which will be held here, in Iowa City, starting Thursday, October 25th. 

The pieces on display in the Special Collections Reading Room all come from the Hand Papermaking Portfolios held within Special Collections. There are twelve different categories, including calligraphy, watermarks, pop-up and more. Simón was able to include something from each portfolio for the display, a task that has not been done before now. 

This series is a growing collection, with the first modern hand papermaking produced in 1994 by Hand Papermaking Magazine (a publication founded by Michael Durgin and Amanda Degener in 1986). The goal of the magazine itself was to provide an educational resource for those who did hand papermaking. The portfolios allow paper artists to come together and share skills and information about their work, and they contain the works of several individuals, making this project a true community effort.

“I want people to see the different varieties in hand papermaking,”Simón said. “I want them to see hand papermaking as another medium of making art.”

By looking at the display, viewers can certainly tell it is a form of art. The watermarks display case is an example of that.

When looking at this particular display case, the selections are interesting, but seem to be missing something. Some just look like pieces of paper with a simple image on it. However, it isn’t until the visitor turns on the lights placed underneath the paper that the watermarks are revealed and the images are completed.  

“I enjoyed working with Bill Voss, the exhibit preparator, to create mounts that would illuminate the watermarks,”Simón said.

The watermarks are not the only thing coming to life in the display. There is a display case devoted to pop-up papermaking and it is truly sprouting life. Every piece on exhibit shows how papermaking is a work of art. 

Hand Papermaking Portfolios: Selections from 1994-2017 is now open and will be until early January. 

From University Archivist David McCartney: Top 10 historical things at the UI

In honor of Homecoming week here at the University of Iowa, we asked our University Archivist David McCartney to pick the top ten favorite historical things here at the University. The items are in no particular order. 
 

10. The Birthplace of Prime-time TV.

W9XK signal reached into several states during the 1930s.
 Sure, Westinghouse, General Electric, AT&T and other labs were testing television in the 1930s, but from 1933 to 1938, the State University of Iowa was broadcasting regularly-scheduled TV programs, the first in the nation to do so. Experimental station W9XK featured lectures, instruction, and musical and dramatic performances two or three evenings each week. Viewers from as far as Oklahoma and Indiana reported receiving the signal.
 
9. Nile Kinnick.
By all accounts, an outstanding athlete, gentleman, and scholar. The 1939 Heisman Trophy recipient. A consensus All-American. Phi Beta Kappa. Humanitarian. Kinnick died during a flight training mission while serving as an aviator in the U.S. Navy during World War II.
 
8. Master of Fine Arts Degrees Were Conferred Here First.

The UI was the first university in the nation to accept creative works in lieu of theses as requirements for advanced degrees in the arts, beginning in the 1920s. In 1940, it was the first in the nation to confer the MFA. Recipients of the newly-minted degree that year were Elizabeth Catlett, Jewel Peterson, and

Van Allen Hall machine shop for satellite program, 1970.

Harry Edward Stinson. Catlett, a sculptor, was also the first African-American woman to receive the MFA.

 
7. A Space Exploration Hub.
James Van Allen advanced U.S. space research using satellites beginning in 1958, but did you know that Donald Gurnett of the Department of Physics and Astronomy is likely the only person on the planet to oversee space missions exploring the extremes of our solar system? Helios 1 and 2, which launched in 1976, explored the sun’s characteristics up close, while Voyager 1, which launched in1977, reached interstellar spaced in 2012- the first human-made object to do so.
 

6. Gay Liberation Front.

First UI gay pride float, in 1970 Homecoming parade (image from 1971 Hawkeye annual).
In 1970, the university recognized Gay Liberation Front (today, Spectrum) as an official student organization, the first in the nation. A generation later, in 1993, the UI extended spousal benefits to same-sex partners. It was another first among U.S. public universities. 
 
5. The UI Stanley Museum of Art.
To paraphrase UI President Willard “Sandy” Boyd sometime in the 1970s, “Our football team is struggling but we have the best art museum in the Big Ten.” It’s still true today: Over 14,000 objects reflect broad and deep collections from diverse cultures and time periods. Jackson Pollock’s Mural will return to its permanent home for display after the new museum opens on campus adjacent to the Main Library.
 
4. The Afro-American Cultural Center, Leading the Way for Other Centers.
This year the Afro House celebrates 50 years as a space for African-American students to socialize, mutually support, and grow. Other centers on campus have followed, including those serving Latinx, Native American, Asian, LGBTQ, and other communities.
 
3. Those Rolaids Guys.
They invented not only Rolaids, but also Bufferin. William D. “Shorty” Paul, M.D., and Joseph Routh, Ph.D., were UI faculty members whose collaboration resulted in the two remedies found in many homes and workplaces today. Dr. Paul was the Hawkeyes’ team physician for over 30 years, beginning in 1939, and tried finding ways to provide safe, immediate relief to injured players. Working with Routh, they devised a formula to “buffer” the effect of aspirin without taking away its strength. Voila!
 

2. The Iowa Writers’ Workshop and UNESCO City of Literature.

Margaret Walker in 1966, an alumna of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
Wilber Schramm established Iowa’s creative writing program in 1936, with Paul Engle to follow as its director from 1941 to 1965. Under their tenure, the Workshop became internationally recognized as a locus of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. To date, Workshop faculty and graduates have won 29 Pulitzer Prizes.*
 
And finally,
 
1. The Wave.
It’s been in practice for only a year, but ESPN and other sports sources already call it the best tradition in college football today: The Wave. At Iowa home football games, the crowd- visitors as well as Hawkeye fans- turn east to the UIHC Stead Family Children’s Hospital across the street and wave en masse at the young patients looking on. Need we say more?
 
Runners up include: Dance Marathon, Soapbox Soundoff in the IMU during the 1960s, Grant Wood, and the power plant whistle. 
 
**Images all from F.W. Kent Collection (RG 30.0001.001), University Archives
 
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Lessons from an Olson

The University of Iowa Libraries Special Collections is looking for the next Olson Graduate Research Assistant. If you are a graduate student, or an incoming graduate student, find out more here.

However, you might be asking what does being the Olson Graduate Research Assistant actually mean? Well, who better to explain that then those with the experience. Hannah Hacker was Special Collections’ Olson GA from 2016-2018 and will be graduating with her Masters in Library and Information Science this winter. Micaela Terronez has been our Olson GA since 2017, and she will be graduating May 2019 with a Masters in Library and Information Science. Below they explain what it means to be an Olson GA and the experiences and opportunities that come with the job.

 

From Hannah Hacker:

Being an Olson is like being at a buffet, but with rare books and archives. You get a little taste of everything in special collections librarianship. If an aspect of the department gets you really excited, you can dive right in and have a big helping. 

 For me, the areas that I dove into were instruction and reference. My passion for librarianship stems from the enthusiasm of a student or patron who discovers something for the first time or is eager about researching a particular topic, and that happens the most when I’m in a classroom or at the front desk. Talking with people one-on-one and listening to what gets them excited is one of the main reasons why I’ve enjoyed my time as an Olson as much as I have. It’s those small moments with people that get me fired up about being a full-fledged librarian some day.

 

 

From Micaela Terronez:

This past year as the Olson Graduate Research Assistant has been a wonderful opportunity for me to gain practical knowledge and experience in the work of special collections and archives. For example, I have learned about the day-to-day operations and responsibilities of a large university special collections — an experience that nicely complements my MLS coursework and previous professional work. Additionally, I cannot express how thankful I am for working alongside such incredible and supportive coworkers. Through this fellowship, I’ve been lucky to gain several mentors that have taken the time to listen, discuss, and collaborate with me as a new staff member.

Thus far, my favorite experiences in this position have been in the Special Collections classroom where I’ve had the opportunity to instruct courses utilizing library materials — a responsibility that I was completely terrified to do originally! But because of the support and training I received as the Olson, I’m more comfortable than ever to conduct classes and experience some great moments with students. One of these moments was with a group of 20 Latinx high school students from Upward Bound, a program that brings first-generation students from the state to experience life as a college student for six weeks. The students gravitated toward stories of migration and underrepresented individuals that could be seen in several collections from the University Archives and the Iowa Women Archives. By far, this was one of my favorite classes because I saw firsthand how archival materials can resonate with students and the effect it can potentially have on their self-identity.  

 

For more information about the Olson Graduate Research Assistant position or application, please contact Lindsay Moen. The deadline is October 29th, 2018 at 5:00pm.

New Exhibit Tells Stories Worth Telling

Throughout the history of journalism, there have been different mediums in which writers tell their stories. Print, TV and radio have all dominated the journalistic world at one point in time, and while there are many forms to share information, Special Collections explores Tom Brokaw’s stories from the greatest generation through an exhibit, Stories Worth Telling: Marking 20 Years of “The Greatest Generation.”

Stories Worth Telling: Marking 20 Years of “The Greatest Generation” uses pages, photographs and artifacts from the book, The Greatest Generation, which documents the experiences leading to World War II and those who fought in the war. It also uses materials from the African American Museum of Iowa, Iowa Women’s Archives, and the State Historical Society of Iowa. 

Brokaw’s book, The Greatest Generation, hit the book shelves 20 years ago and became a quick bestseller. The book stirred something within the memory of American citizens, and soon letters from readers poured into Brokaw’s office, sharing their thoughts and own stories about their time on the battlefield or on the home front. 

These letters were kept and eventually made their way to the University of Iowa Libraries when Brokaw donated his papers to Special Collections in 2016. Elizabeth Riordan grew up watching Brokaw, and being a history fanatic herself, she wanted to know more about the collection. So, in 2017 Riordan was hired as the Graduate Research Assistant for the Papers of Tom Brokaw: A Life & Career.

“It’s a fascinating collection,” Riordan said. “You get the biggest events from the last 50 years from the point of view of a reporter, as well as the people he interviewed. It’s also interesting just to look at the history and evolution of journalism.”

While processing the material, Riordan found a lot of interesting objects, including rocks from the Great Wall of China and poems about the moon landing. However, her favorite part of the collection are the letters from readers that came in after The Greatest Generation was written.

Photo taken by Meaghan Lemmenes

And it’s these letters that are the focal point of the exhibit in the Main Gallery. 

“So many people shared their personal stories of triumph and tragedy through manuscripts and letters,” Riordan said. “It opens a different window into a moment of time not always seen in our history books.”

Surrounding the avalanche of letters in the gallery, the “Greatest Generation” unfolds along the walls through quotes from the book, with more stories of people with Iowa connections added along the back wall. Material from Special Collections, Iowa Women’s Archives, African American Museum of Iowa, and the State Historical Society of Iowa all add a part to the WWII narrative.  

“I wanted the exhibit to speak for itself,” Riordan said. “There are so many individual voices telling the story of our past, that I feel it makes it unique. I encourage people to read the stories in the avalanche art piece; don’t just stand and look at it from afar.”

“The letters share where we were as a country and where we can still go,” Riordan continued. “Brokaw called them the “Greatest Generation.” My hope is that this exhibit makes you think about what that term means.”

The exhibit is open to the public from Sept. 7th – Jan. 4, 2019 and visitors can see it Monday- Friday from 9 a.m.-6 p.m., with Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and on Saturday and Sunday from 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. The exhibit is in the Main Gallery on the first floor of the Main Library. 

Dean Sieperda (Delta Tau Delta) dressed as Herky

Reflections of UI’s Furry and Feathery Mascots

As we get ready to celebrate Herky’s 70th birthday, curator of the “Hatching Herky” exhibit, Chloe Waryan, looks back on her experiences and Iowa mascots of old. 

In the summer of 2018, I was fortunate enough to be awarded an internship at the University of Iowa Special Collections and University Archives in which I was tasked to design an exhibit celebrating the 70th birthday of Herky the Hawk. I am so touched by the kindness that I received from University Archivist David McCartney, Director of Development Mary Rettig of the Center for Advancement, and donor Jane Roth. I am happy to report that I had a lot of fun learning about the history of the University of Iowa during this internship too!

Press Citizen's picture of Burch the Bear on a chair
Burch the Bear

Though the pre-Herky mascots didn’t make it into the exhibit, their history is fascinating. With the popularity of St. Burch’s Tavern, a new downtown restaurant, many Iowa Citizans may already know that our first mascot was a real live black bear cub named Burch. The significance of a bear as an emblem of UI is unknown, though we do know that the Chicago Cubs also had a black bear sent to them to serve as a mascot around this same time. When Burch became a full-grown bear, he broke out of his cage in the City Park Zoo (yes, City Park once had a zoo), and fled to the riverbank where he was later found dead. On March 10, 1910, the Press Citizen released an article titled “Burch is Found with Taxidermist,” detailing the plans of taxidermist Homer Dill who did work for the University of Iowa Museum of Natural History. However, after talking to Cindy Opitz, current Collections Manager of the UI Museum of Natural History, we learn that if he did indeed drown, Burch’s head was probably bloated and therefore not suitable for taxidermy. According to a Press Citizen article on April 8, 2018, Trina Roberts, Director of UI’s Pentacrest Museums, does not know where Burch’s head or bones may be.

Homecoming button with Rex the Dog on it
Rex (the first) in button form

Almost 20 years later, the University adopted a 200-pound Great Dane named Rex as their next mascot. Lieutenant Colonel Converse K. Lewis, head of the UI Military Department, originally gifted the dog to Alpha Sigma Phi. Rex wore a tailored band uniform at football games and acted as the UI mascot until his death in 1933. Following Rex’s death, the University received another dog (either a Great Dane or St. Bernard) which they cleverly named Rex II. The University also used a real hawk as a mascot before Delta Tau Delta’s own Larry Herb donned the first Herky costume in the late 1950’s. From then on, Herky was always cast as a Delta Tau Delta until the fraternity lost their UI charter in 1998 due to drug and alcohol use. Tryouts for Herky the Hawk opened up to the entire student body of UI. In 1999, Angie Anderson and Carrie MacDonald were the first female students chosen to be the mascot. Anderson was injured while playing Herky when an Ohio State band member wielded a 3-foot foam banana at her head. She filed a lawsuit against Ohio State and in 2002, Anderson was awarded $25,000. Shortly after, Herky’s “human identity” was kept a stricter secret and security members were also hired each year, in order to keep the mascot safe.

Dean Sieperda (Delta Tau Delta) dressed as Herky
Dean Sieperda (Delta Tau Delta) dressed as Herky

As a graduate of the UI School of Library and Information Science program, I learned through this internship many things about collaboration in libraries. I was welcomed onto the Herky Birthday Committee with open arms. I formed a great partnership with the Spirit Coordinator of UI. I learned about the awesome physical education collection at the Iowa Women’s Archives. All in all, I will truly treasure my time at the Special Collections. Even the rainy days were fun!

Join us September 14th, 2018 for a special Open House to celebrate the history of Herky. Event starts at 11AM and runs till 2PM, 3rd Floor of Main Library. Herky will even be joining us for the party starting at 12PM! All are welcomed to join! 

 

Photo Credits: Burch from Press Citizen, Rex from Regalia and Artifacts Collections (RG 31.01.01), and Dean Sieperda as Herky from F.W. Kent Photograph Collection (RG30.0001.001)

Seth in front of Lincoln's Portrait

Seth Torchia goes to Washington

Special Collections student worker Seth Torchia spent a fascinating summer interning at the National Archives. We are excited for Seth to have had this wonderful opportunity and asked him to share his experiences below. 

Seth in front of Lincoln's Portrait
Seth in front of Lincoln’s Portrait


National Archives building
National Archives in D.C.

This summer, I interned at the National Archives assisting with the Lincoln Archives Digital Project. The Lincoln Archives Digital Project is a website that posts documents used during Lincoln’s presidency that are stored at the National Archives. Throughout the summer, I was in charge of the letters that were used to discharge immigrants from the Union Army because they were not yet legal citizens of the United States. The letters were issued to Edwin Stanton, the Secretary of War, from Secretary of State William H. Seward, informing Stanton of their discharge. The majority of these immigrants came from modern-day Germany and Great Britain and were living in either Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, or Maryland.

My duties included taking inventory of all of the letters, scanning and photoshopping the letters for the website, as well as typing out the software coding for the letters to be posted onto the website. Apart from myself, I worked with 3 other students, who were working on their own document collections, and with my supervisor and founder of the website, Karen Needles. On Mondays we would work at the National Archives facility in College Park, Maryland where we would focus on the website programming. The following Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, involved working at the main building in Washington, D.C. where we would continue our work on inventory, scanning, or photoshopping.

Note from Lincoln
Note from A. Lincoln

During my internship, I had time do my own research, and I found Abraham Lincoln’s signature in regards to a pardon case. I also discovered my great-grandfather’s promotion notice during his service in World War I. Working at the National Archives was a surreal experience as I was working in one of the world’s largest archival facilities, as well as one of the most historic places in the United States. I gained new skills during my internship, such as advanced computer knowledge, and feel I have really improved my research skills. I also got to see three of my professors who have taught me in previous classes here at Iowa. They were doing their own research, which I thought was neat to see.

As well as my internship, I had plenty of time to explore Washington, D.C. My favorite things in D.C. were visiting the Library of Congress, touring the FBI Building, spending the 4th of July on the National Mall, and watching the Washington Capitals win the Stanley Cup. I had a great summer living in D.C. and my internship will be an experience I will never forget!