By Heather Wacha
On Tuesday March 22, 2016 Special Collections welcomed 28 students from Norwalk High School, Norwalk, IA. The students were those of art teacher Maggie Harlow-Vogt. They had traveled all the way from Norwalk to Iowa City seeking inspiration from Special Collections and the Library’s Conservation Lab for their next art projects!
The Norwalk students have been tasked with using their experiences and insights from the Special Collections visit to think more profoundly about what makes a book a book. Their conversations and interactions with the books will be used to inspire pottery, metal-smithing and 3D design projects. The group of 28 split into two smaller groups so that while one was was visiting the Conservation Lab, the other was able to learn about and experience an array of rare books, manuscripts and artists’ books from the twelfth to twenth-first century. Of special note on display was a 1699 Spanish will, the manuscript at the heart of this collaboration.
Heather Wacha, a graduate student in the Department of History, has been working to introduce area high school students to the value and importance of resources held in Special Collections. The Norwalk visit is part of a larger project that involves University of Iowa students transcribing and translating a 1699 Spanish will held in Special Collections for digital publication. The art students from Norwalk High School, along with Spanish students from Central Academy in Des Moines, are interacting with the Spanish will in a variety of ways that both fit their class curriculum and simultaneously generate enthusiasm and creativity. Each student’s final project will be able to be published on the same website that will hold the manuscript’s digital publication created by the UI students.
From Harlow-Vogt’s perspective, Tuesday’s visit sparked amazing conversations in the bus on the way home. The following day in their art classes, Harlow-Vogt noted that “The students who did not go to the University of Iowa were a bit overwhelmed by the passion and excitement that the other students brought back with them. Those that could not go felt that they had really missed out on a great adventure!”
Heather Wacha is a PhD Candidate in the Department of History researching the history of the book and 12th/13th century women in northern France. She is also a Specialist Researcher in Special Collections working to identify and describe Medieval manuscript leaves. You can see her work with History Corps and view her If Books Could Talk videos on the UISpecColl YouTube channel. She tweets @hgwacha.