Collecting Your Ghost Stories

The following comes from university archivist Sarah Keen
 

Have you heard footsteps where no corporeal being is walking? Have unexplainable events occurred in your building that have no humanly cause? Are there spaces on campus where the spirits of those who have walked this earth before us feel particularly present?

 

If so, the University Archives would like to hear your tales of paranormal encounters on campus and in Iowa City. Share your spooky stories to be added to the archives and shared with the campus community.

 
 
 
 
 

Happy Birthday Lil Picard!

The following is written by academic outreach coordinator Kathryn Reuter.

On Tuesday, October 4th, 2022, join the Stanley Museum of Art & the University of Iowa Libraries’ Special Collections and Archives as they celebrate the 123rd birthday of artist Lil Picard! Crafts and cake will be available in the Stanley Museum lobby from 12-2pm, and there will be a pop-up exhibit of Picard’s artworks and items from her archives in the Visual Laboratory (third floor of the museum). Learn more about the event here. 

 

Lil Picard was born Lilli Elisabeth Benedick in Germany on October 4th, 1899. She got her start as an artist and performer by singing and dancing in cabarets in Berlin in the 1920s.

 

Lil Picard, 1920s

Later she worked as a fashion editor for German publications until the anti-Semitic policies of the National Socialist Party caused her and her second husband, Henry Odell, to immigrate to the United States in 1936.

Lil and dog. Note on back of this photo reads: 1933-1934 Berlin, Lil Picard

 

In their new home in New York City, Lil Picard took English lessons as well as design and lettering classes. She began selling her accessories and jewelry designs to department stores before establishing her own milliner studio at 555 Madison Avenue in 1939. In 1942, she opened “Custom Hat Box”, a milliner counter in Bloomingdale’s.

Untitled, by Lil Picard. Assemblage – Stanley Museum of Art, Lil Picard Collection. Accession Number 2012.892

In addition to her hat making, Lil Picard supported herself as a journalist, writing for German newspapers and art magazines as well as American publications such as Art Magazine, Andy Warhol’s Interview, and The East Village Other.

As an artist, Lil Picard worked in a variety of mediums including painting, sculpture, watercolor and drawings, collages, assemblages, and performance art. Her performance art, especially, was an avenue for expressing her militant views on the Vietnam War and on social and environmental issues.

From 1955-1981, Lil Picard had fifteen solo exhibitions (in both the United States and Germany) and her work was included in more than forty group shows. She participated in six Avant Garde Festivals of New York between 1967 and 1975. Increasingly blind during her last years, Lil Picard became reclusive, dying without descendants on May 10, 1994.

Lil Picard, 1980s

Lil Picard bequeathed her entire estate to the University of Iowa. Her artworks are in the collection of the University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, and her archives (where most of these photos are from) are part of the University of Iowa Libraries’ Special Collections and Archives, as the Lil Picard Papers, MsC0817

Lil Picard, 1930s

 

A Tale of Tails: Pets in the Archives

A new exhibit bound to make you feel warm and fuzzy is up in the Special Collections & Archives reading room. 

Curated by lead outreach and instruction librarian Elizabeth Riordan and academic outreach coordinator Kathryn Reuter, the exhibit A Tale of Tails: Pets in the Archives explores the pets found in Special Collections & Archives, expanding on how the notion of the “pet” continues to grow and morph with the changing years while recognizing some of the aspects of pet ownership that remain constant. 

As Riordan explained, “at the beginning of the pandemic I saw so many people on social media adopting new pets. And studies have shown a huge increase in pet adoption at the beginning of the pandemic. I myself adopted a kitten in May of 2020. It made me really think about the comfort pets bring during difficult times.”

When Riordan returned to working in person at the library, it was hard not to notice the pets that seemed to be everywhere in the collections. Whether featured in family photos, on the margins of an image, or companions in a story, pets were there. While these animal companions were nothing new to the collections, recent events and personal experiences put these archived pets in a whole new light.  

As Riordan and Reuter write in their curator statement:

Despite some of the reports saying many people returned those animals they adopted once the pandemic started to slow down, it should be noted that an overwhelming majority chose to keep their pets. They join the billions of humans across time and space who see pet keeping as an extraordinary yet common human experience. “

The curators hope that those who visit the exhibit see some of their own pet history in the stories on display and reflect on our bond with animals we choose to bring into our homes and lives. 

To get to know the exhibit, Riordan and Reuter have selected 10 items from the exhibit that they are particularly fond of:

 

3 metal dog tags1.Dog Tags from the Ruth Salzmann Becker Collection, IWA 0123 

Licensing a pet is one of the more concrete ways humans assert official ownership over an animal. Dog tags also demonstrate the potential dangers of living with animals – as dogs must be vaccinated against rabies before receiving a license. The oldest dog tag displayed in the exhibit is from 1915, it was the license of a dachshund that belonged to Ruth Salzmann Becker’s cousin.
  
 

 

2. The complete idiot’s guide to Pet Psychic Communication

If you’ve ever wished you could tell your pet just how much you love them- or, if you’ve ever really needed your pet to get on board with the house rules – this book is for you!

 

 

 

 

3. SNACKS by PAS DE CHANCE, 

This zine is a compilation of Lost Pet posters readers photographed and sent in from around the globe. We hope that many of the posters resulted in reunions between pet and owner. 

 

 

4. The Wizard of Oz

In the Wizard of Oz, most animals in the land of Oz have the ability to speak. For the first four books of the Oz series, Toto, unlike the other animals, does not have the gift of speech. In the eighth book, Toto reveals that while he is able to talk, he simply chooses not to. 

 

 

5. This is the Story of Little Cat

The illustrations in this picture book are all so sweet, it was difficult to choose just one page to display for the exhibit. 

 

 

6. Portrait of Ruth and cat from Ruth Suckow Papers, MsC0706

Ruth Suckow’s papers include a whole photo album dedicated to her cats. But it is this painting done by Ruth’s husband Ferner Nuhn that really demands attention. An older Ruth, somehow still exhibiting a youthful aura due to her clothes, holds up a white cat, obscuring much of her face. The relationship of the woman and her cat comes strongly across to viewers. 

 

 

7. Smiling dog, Stanley Museum of Art

Honestly, this isn’t even in Special Collections, it’s an image from Stanley Museum of Art. And even though we just have a picture of it for this exhibit (you’ll have to go next door to the Museum to see the real thing), we can’t help but smile ourselves when we see it. 

 

 

8. Les Chats

Les Chats by François-Augustin Paradis de Moncrif is considered one of Western Europe’s first books devoted to cats. The book contains several fantastic images of cats from ancient Egypt to “modern day” (18th century) France. 

 

 

 

9. Andy Warhol cat books

We have two books from Andy Warhol about his cats. Warhol is famous for having several cats at once, all named Sam. The exhibit features his 25 Cats named Sam and One Blue Pussy and a book he did with his mother Julia called Holy Cats by Andy Warhol’s Mother.

 

 

 

 

10. Where the Red Fern Grows

This was put in there purely for sentimental reasons. As a child, this book was read aloud in class, and memories of crying as we reached the end of the story are still vivid in the mind. It is a devastating tale, but that sorrow was because Wilson Rawls painted such a real relationship between a boy and his dogs. Those who have experienced the loss of a beloved pet probably still will cry ugly tears over this book. 

 

 

Perhaps the best part of the exhibit, however, is the growing wall of library staff pet photos. This part of the exhibit has already caught the eye of several students and patrons passing our doors. It is a testament to the power of pets when you see strangers smiling at pictures of your own pets. 

Welcome Rich Dana

We are pleased to announce Rich Dana as Special Collections and Archives’ Sackner Archive Project coordinator librarian.  

Rich Dana earned his MFA from the University of Iowa Center for the Book in 2021 and his MA from the School of Library and Information Science in 2020. He has worked as an art mover, art fabricator and art installer, and curator for a variety of New York City galleries and institutions, and has served as a freelance instructor and workshop leader for several years. He has also held various roles at Special Collections and Archives: as curatorial assistant for the Hevelin Collection, the Olson graduate research assistant, and temporary project registrar for the Ruth and Marvin Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry.  

In addition to his past work with the Sackner Archive, Dana is himself a copier artist (one of his works is included in the Sackners’ collection) and independent publisher. His 2021 book Cheap Copies! describes some of the techniques used by artists in the collection, and he frequently leads workshops on copier art techniques. 

When asked what he enjoys about the Sackner Archive, Dana stated, “Because the Sackners were enthusiastic autodidacts and made personal connections to many of the artists whose work they collected, the archive has a very lively and idiosyncratic quality. It’s not only an astounding collection of visual poetry, it’s also a remarkable historical record of the movement.” 

Dana looks forward to raising awareness of this amazing resource and making the materials in the collection more accessible to patrons and researchers. We are so glad to have him on the team.  

Memories of a Memogram

The following is written by graduate student worker Emily Schartz

As we get ready for warmer weather and summer vacation, we look longingly at a group of travelers 90 years ago who were preparing to start a 137 day-long worldwide cruise on their own vacation to much warmer places. 

Bound copy of Memograms

This epic vacation is recorded in a book now found in Special Collections & Archives. This book is a bound collection of colorful memograms, created during the Empress of Britain’s Round the World Cruise. The memograms were created while the ship was at sea and distributed to the travelers on board. A bound copy, like this one, could then be purchased at the end of the trip as a souvenir. Read together these memograms create a “pictorial record” of the crew and travelers’ “journey around the world.”  

The 1932 cruise featured in this particular book was the 10th annual cruise by Canadian Pacific and the second completed by the Empress of Britain liner. Around 300 cruisers left aboard the ship on Saturday, December 3, 1932 at “noon sharp” and would not finish their cruise until April 19, 1933, when they arrived back at Cherbourg and Southampton. Over the course of their journey, the Empress of Britain would cover 30,000 miles, stopping in 81 ports across 23 countries. Truly a world-wide cruise. 

Each memogram is a colorful sheet with information and illustrations for the travelers and they cover a variety of topics. There are maps and itineraries for travelers to use when planning their day-to-day excursions, information about the places they were visiting and their cultures, and posters for ship-wide events, such as a treasure hunt and a Christmas party. The level of detail in the sketches varies from page to page, some are barely more than stick figure cartoons, while others are detailed drawings of specific locations. Many of the memograms within this particular copy show signs of their use. Some are folded as if they were slipped into a pocket or have notes in the margins and sketched out additions to the maps. Some additions are a mystery, such as the bold line added to a map of Palestine helpfully labeled “FISH.”  

The memograms are as diverse as the activities the travelers participated in. Listed on the calendar pages are sightseeing excursions, educational lectures, concerts, and dinners with dancing aboard the boat in the evening. There are also pages that depict anecdotes and “remember when” moments from the cruise.

There is a whole page dedicated to bananas from the ship’s time in Ceylon and another page devoted to the “Tropical Fruits of Java” that mentions fruits that definitely don’t grow in Iowa, such as doekoes and mangoesteens. 

The Empress of Britain continued her annual cruises until 1939 and eventually ended her career when the liner was sunk in an attack by German forces in 1940 while being used for wartime service as a transport vessel. She certainly left behind a legacy, carrying hundreds of travelers on trips around the globe.

Sources: 

By PERCIVAL KNAUTH Wireless to THE NEW YORK TIMES. “EMPRESS OF BRITAIN REPORTED BOMBED: FORMER CANADIAN PACIFIC LINER REPORTED SUNK BY BERLIN.” New York Times, Oct 27, 1940, pp. 1. ProQuest, https://www.proquest.com/historical-newspapers/empress-britain-reported-bombed/docview/105285677/se-2?accountid=14663. 

“New Empress of Britain Sails Friday on Maiden Trip.” New York Times, Apr 18, 1956, pp. 62. ProQuest, https://www.proquest.com/historical-newspapers/new-empress-britain-sails-friday-on-maiden-trip/docview/113884909/se-2?accountid=14663. 

Special Cable to THE NEW YORK TIMES. “BRITISH ANNOUNCE EMPRESS SHIP LOSS: ADMIRALTY FIXES DEATH TOLL AT 45 OUT OF 643 ABOARD CANADIAN PACIFIC LINER TORPEDOES FINISH JOB U-BOAT OVERTAKES BURNING SHIP IN TOW AND COMPLETES TASK STARTED BY BOMBER SHIP ATTACKED THREE TIMES WOMEN AND CHILDREN CALM.” New York Times, Oct 29, 1940, pp. 11. ProQuest, https://www.proquest.com/historical-newspapers/british-announce-empress-ship-loss/docview/105415046/se-2?accountid=14663. 

“WORLD CRUISE STARTS WITH NOTABLES TODAY: EARL OF CADOGAN AND PRINCESS DE LIGNE AMONG PASSENGERS WHOM SHAW WILL JOIN LATER.” New York Times, Dec 03, 1932, pp. 14. ProQuest, https://www.proquest.com/historical-newspapers/world-cruise-starts-with-notables-today/docview/99789304/se-2?accountid=14663.