“From the Classroom” is a series that features some of the great work and research from students who visit our collections. Below is a blog by Jacob Roosa from Dr. Jennifer Burek Pierce’s class “History of Readers and Reading” (SLIS:5600:0EXW)
Examples of anti-copyright notices abound in the history of anarchist publishing, and Catherine Baker’s Against Prisons (Firestarter Press, n.d.) from the Special Collections’ Public Space ONE (PS1) zine collection is no exception. Mixing political statement with political practice, this notice and many others like it permit any reader to take “every text, every picture, every sound” from the book to use how they wish. Not only does this ease the distribution and reproduction of these pamphlets and zines, it gives the reader a space to consider the history of copyright in the U.S. and recognize the possibility of a publishing space outside its bounds.
This zine preaches what it practices, asking the reader to journey outside the U.S.’s deep, centuries-long commitment to prisons to imagine life in which people are not forced to surrender their capacity to resolve interpersonal conflict and violence. Baker, a prison abolitionist, interrogates the way in which our justice system, and really our conception of objective Justice, determines the guilt or innocence of an individual on our behalf. They argue that we are constructed entirely as “murderer, journalist, woman, bandit, child, etc…” by this process, abstracted to the point where we have no agency in how we conceive of ourselves or others. For Baker, the point of rejecting this process is to recognize how it denies all of us, in and outside of prisons, the space to reckon with our lives and our relationships to other people.
“We do not want isolation; this goes without saying, otherwise what would we be doing here? We want to think with others about ways of living with others outside pre-existing systems.”
If this kind of thinking with others interests you, the PS1 zine collection has you covered! Donated in 2010 by the folks at Iowa City’s own Public Space ONE, this three-box collection contains around 200 zines, pamphlets, journals, and books, covering topics from anarchism to anti-capitalism, bike repair, youth activism, prisoners’ experiences, feminist theory and practice, race and anti-authoritarianism, and histories of U.S. imperialism, among others. Some of these materials were made with the intention of being freely distributed, and, much like Baker’s text, some actively encouraged readers to reproduce and proliferate their text. Copyright law in the U.S. is very complex and tricky, so always be sure to research whether or not you’re safe to reproduce, manipulate, or distribute any given material before you do so, as it is your legal responsibility (for more information on the University of Iowa Special Collections’ rights, permissions, and copyright policies, please visit their website or contact a librarian). Zines like Against Prisons are invested in educating readers about the histories of familiar institutions, so discover more at Special Collections!
On June 11 University of Iowa Libraries Special Collections started their Summer Seminar Series! This online series features Special Collections & Archives staff talking about what we know best: our collections and our favorite topics featured in the archives. This series of 15-30 minute presentations are recorded, so if you can’t join us for our regularly scheduled time of 2pm CT on Wednesdays and Fridays through the end of July, catch us later on our Youtube channel!
For more information or for how you can partake, please email Liz Riordan at firstname.lastname@example.org
Schedule of Talks:
June 11th–Special Collections in a Nutshell
Join Head of Special Collections, Margaret Gamm, to learn about what’s in Special Collections, how to discover our resources online, and what’s to come in our new Summer Seminar series.
June 12th– University Archives: Our Services and a Hawkeye History Sampler
The University Archives is UI’s institutional memory. Learn from University Archivist, David McCartney, about our holdings and online resources, as well as some Hawkeye history to share at your next (virtual) party.
June 17th–Shining the Limelight on Early Cinema and the Midwest Audience
In this presentation Outreach & Engagement Librarian Liz Riordan will show a few films from the Brinton Entertaining Company Collection, discussing their impact on cinema and a Midwest audience.
June 19th–Racial Injustice in Iowa and the Midwest
Learn from Assistant Curator of Iowa Women’s Archives, Janet Weaver, and IWA student worker, Erik Henderson, about the history of local civil rights movements from the perspective of Black and Latinx community leaders who fought for change between the 1940s and the present.
June 24th–Rediscovering Ruth Suckow: A Look Into Her Life and Hidden Materials
Processing Librarian Jenna Silver provides an introduction to Iowa Author Ruth Suckow, her works, her love for animals, and the “hidden” materials of her collection.
June 26th–Out in Iowa City: Lesbian Feminism in the University of Iowa’s Hometown
During the women’s liberation movement from the 1960s to the 1980s, lesbians in Iowa City became writers, printers, business owners, and activists. At this talk by Processing Librarian Anna Tunnicliff, you can learn how their incredible work changed the landscape of the University and the town.
July 8th–Who is Tigrina? Exloring Identity in Early SF Fandom
Olson Graduate Rich Dana will show that among the thousands of amazing documents in the Hevelin Science Fiction Collection there is a series of WWII-era letters from a remarkable woman with a mysterious name… Tigrina!
July 10th–Into the Vault: Iowa’s Privately Printed Peter Rabbit
Learn from Public Service Librarian Lindsay Moen the history of The University of Iowa’s privately printed Tale of Peter Rabbit, from Beatrix Potter’s concept, to the book’s arrival to the Iowa stacks.
July 15th–Processing Collections: A Look Inside the Archivist’s Process
Learn the steps and procedures that archivists must take to process materials, while also learning about the “fun” or “unique” items we have discovered while dealing with materials from Processing Librarian Jenna Silver!
July 17th–Cheap Copies:The Rise of the Amateur Printing, Fanzines and the “Mimeograph Revolution”
Olson Graduate Assistant Rich Dana will explain the use of “cheap copies” and the development of similar visual languages in SF fandom and the Avant-garde.
July 24th–No! Really?: Stories from the Stacks
Flying saucers, propeller beanies, rocket countdowns, Mary Shelley and the Holocaust…Peter Balestrieri has learned some great stories as Curator of Science Fiction and Popular Culture and he’d love to share them with you.
July 29th—One More Round
Join Outreach & Engagement Librarian as she looks into the fight for, and ultimate failed attempt, of Prohibition in Iowa.
July 31st–When Iowans Voted No: The 1916 Referendum on Women’s Suffrage
Although the Iowa General Assembly considered a women’s suffrage amendment in almost every session for over 40 years, the question wasn’t brought to the voters until 1916. The ensuing campaigns for and against women’s suffrage and the reasons for the referendum’s ultimate failure will be considered in this talk from Processing Librarian Anna Tunnicliff on women’s suffrage in Iowa.
“From the Classroom” is a series that features some of the great work and research from students who visit our collections. Below is a blog by Leslie Hankins from Dr. Jennifer Burek Pierce’s class “History of Readers and Reading” (SLIS:5600:0EXW)
The bold imperial purple cover with the title, Sheherezade embossed in gold catches our attention; next, a cryptic graphic raises questions and disorients the viewer. What is this? A close up of fabric? a landscape? a detail from a scientific slide? Awash with questions, we open the book; the deceptively simple title page identifies the book as “a flip book by Janet Zweig with text by Holly Anderson.”
It is an Artists’ book, though paperback and perfect bound. As we begin to turn the pages, we are alerted that something odd is going on as we are drawn in to zoom in to the words of Sheherezade until the letters seem to become a maze of shapes and forms viewed through the loupe or magnifying class of a conscientious letterpress perfectionist. We are hooked. Sheherezade: a flip book by Janet Zweig with text by Holly Anderson flips our conceptions of the flip book and the artists book. In this book, the flip on the left-hand page reveals a small figure of a woman in vintage apparel removing her outer garment; this scene is repeated every 30 pages or so. That is the more traditional flip book dynamic, perhaps making a sly dig at the striptease staple of salacious flip books.
Meanwhile, the right-hand side of the text has another, more intriguing reveal. When we flip that side, we operate as a camera zoom, moving into the text, quite literally, gliding closer and closer into the letters, and into new texts that are revealed within openings in the type itself. This exploratory reveal is repeated with new texts. As we move through the text it becomes a distorted landscape in the exaggerated close up. It is as if we were one of those mini-cameras doctors use to do micro-surgery. Quite literally, then, this book takes close reading to the nth degree. As we continue flipping the pages, in the round opening of one of the letters something new begins to emerge: another whole continent-shape of more words, a story in fact, and so we continue the exploration, engaged and agog. The linear cyclical movement of the flip/strip pulls the reader in one direction, while the zoom in lures us in another. The result is a profound sense of disorientation, or vertigo.
This close reading takes the daring approach to abandon the linear, and moves through the text, tunneling or moving in portals through it, in a magical new way of reading. Innovative and mind-boggling. The book exposes and challenges our expectations about reading as a process; it rebels against linear unfolding, and invents a new tunneling-through movement. We are active agents, readers on a mission as we explore through this book, not passive.
Janet Zweig is a multi-media artist; in addition to her dozens of artists’ books, she is most known for her art in the public realm, including large works such as a sentence-generating sculpture for an engineering school in Orlando, and a kinetic installation on a pier on the Sacramento River. Her many grants and awards include a National Endowment for the Arts Visual Arts Fellowship, Sculpture, 1994 and the Orchid Award from the San Diego Architectural Foundation for Climate Clocks (Abstraction Devices), 2019.
The best introduction to Artists’ Books is to see examples, in UI Libraries Special Collection, on-line, or in book form:
Salamony, Sandra with Peter and Donna Thomas. 1000 Artists’ Books: Exploring the Book as Art. Quarry Books, 2012.
“From the Classroom” is a series that features some of the great work and research from students who visit our collections. Below is a blog by Elizabeth McKay from Dr. Jennifer Burek Pierce’s class “History of Readers and Reading” (SLIS:5600:0EXW)
Business, Beer, and the Bible: The Case of the Maude’s Commonplace Books
By Elizabeth McKay
William Maude was born in 1787 in England, and his son John emigrated to New England. There he worked in cotton mills before moving to Delaware County, Iowa. These notebooks found their way into Iowa’s Special Collections Culinary Manuscripts collection because of the recipes they hold. Maude recorded many recipes for beer from Morrice’s Treatise on Brewing which was published in 1802. There are more than just beer recipes, though. There are also recipes for ink, medical recipes for coughs and colds, and even a tongue-in-cheek recipe for lovesickness.
However, the primary use of these books pertained to William Maude’s job in the customs business in England. He used the notebook for calculations and charts that he would’ve copied into an official record. He also included useful reference material for work and notes on bookkeeping. Besides William Maude’s business notes, these “commonplace books” were used by his family for several generations. They continued to be used as a space for quick calculations or sometimes to practice handwriting or jot down a note.
Amidst its casual usage, the Maude family kept a record of important moves and new jobs. Other meaningful additions are a thorough scriptural index (probably copied down out of a book or periodical for the Maude’s use), hymns, fables, jokes, as well as the recipes mentioned above. These books seemed to straddle the line between holding valuable reference information and being used as a kind of collective notebook. While some entries are quick and messy, others are written in very clear and legible hand— designed to be referenced again and again.
It is these entries designed to be referenced that makes these volumes “commonplace books.” The term comes from a renaissance pedagogical practice of recording quotes from important works under specific sections in a notebook for memorization and reference. Scholar Ann Moss describes commonplaces as “purpose-built instruments for the collection, classified storage, and recycling of knowledge.” Commonplace books in the renaissance were defined by their “heads” that coincided with strict rules for filing quotations under their proper category. By the time the Maude family is writing, this practice is not strict at all. Today, the term “commonplace books” is used even more loosely. A commonplace book can be any sort of compiling notebook with no organizational structure. In the case of the Maude’s books, these notebooks were not used to organize their reading. Rather, they are at times just the paper at hand, at times a business record, and, occasionally, a place to store a hymn or a story. In fact, these notebooks most resemble commonplace books of old in one particular entry: the scripture index.
In the 19th century, manuals, indexes, and all varieties of textual navigation tools were published as appendixes to bibles or in separate volumes. These indexes were highly valued as reference tools to help understand the Bible. Even as the pedagogical tradition of commonplacing drifted into the past, this organizational practice remained strong as a way to understand the Bible in terms of themes. One of the Maude’s writes above the thorough index: “Select Scriptures arranged under their respective heads” — harkening to the language of an older type of commonplace book.
While the history of what are called “commonplace books” is rooted in educational practice and the ideal of knowledge organization. Its story throughout history is marked by a gradual decline of the ideals of organization, and the commonplace book moves more firmly into the realm of “miscellany.” This also may strike us as the story of many of our own notebooks. Beginning a new notebook with the highest of intentions, by the end, the notebook has taken on a life of its own, collecting various bits and pieces of our experiences. This seems to be the case with William and John Maude’s two volume set of commonplace books. Toward the beginning of the first volume, there is a page that reads “Contents” at the top. This attempt to categorize the contents seems to have never reached fruition— the page remains empty. The result is a delightfully messy notebook showing many facets of the Maude’s lives in the early 19th century.
Moss, Ann, “Commonplace Books.” In Brill’s Encyclopaedia of the Neo-Latin World. Craig Kallendorf, Editor. <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/9789004271296_enlo_B9789004271012_0019>
Allan, David. Commonplace Books and Reading in Georgian England. Cambridge University Press, 2010.
Finnegan, Ruth, Why Do we Quote? The Culture and History of Quotation. Cambridge: Open Book Publishers, 2011.
Morrice, Alexander. A Treatise on Brewing: Wherein Is Exhibited the Whole Process of the Art and Mystery of Brewing the Various Sorts of Malt Liquor; with Practical Examples upon Each Species. Knight and Compton, 1802.
Moss, Ann. Printed Commonplace-Books and the Structuring of Renaissance Thought. Oxford University Press, 1996.
The following blog comes from Olson Graduate Assistant Rich Dana, who interviewed Marvin Sackner on his collection of concrete and visual poetry.
Among the over 75,000 items in the newly-acquired Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry, there are many unique and one-of-a-kind art objects and artists’ books. Along with original artwork, there is an impressive collection of reference material, monographs, and other rare books. Among Dr. Sackner’s favorites is a little-known work written by the 19th-century American painter George Catlin with the alarming title, Shut Your Mouth and Save Your Life. Catlin’s book, first published in 1870, was one of the inspirations for the Sackner’s 1992 “Beauty in Breathing” exhibit.
Dr. Sackner recalls: “Catlin did all of the illustrations, and there is some very interesting typography in the book… on the last page, “Shut Your Mouth” is printed in very large type. When I was giving tours of the collection, sometimes I would show this book at the end of the tour, and say, “Now I’m going to shut MY mouth!”
Catlin, who is most famous for his many paintings of the indigenous people of the North American plains, penned Shut Your Mouth in response to what he observed as the superior health of the tribes among which he traveled. He came to the conclusion that the key to their vigor was their practice of breathing through the nose, and “…that breathing should be done as Nature designed it, through the nostrils, instead of through the mouth.” Although the book was criticized in medical journals at the time for its lack of scientific rigor and the popular press derided the author as “Indian-loving Catlin,” the little book sparked interest among health-conscious readers, and the volume was widely reprinted.
Despite some common terminology of the era that we may find cringe-worthy today, the book reflects Catlin’s deep passion for improving the health of people of all backgrounds, his profound respect for Native Americans, and in some cases, his sense of humor. The illustrations are sometimes comical and often satiric. To some degree, history has proven Catlin’s theory correct: mouth-breathing has been shown to cause health problems ranging from tooth decay to sleep problems – even abnormal jaw growth in children.
What can we learn today from Catlin’s passion for proper breathing and public health? As many of us are now spending our days working from home, the tendency may be to also be less physically active. Dr. Sackner, a retired pulmonologist, reminds us that during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is vitally important to protect our lungs. We need to maintain our immune systems by staying physically active, practicing good sleep hygiene, and avoiding smoking, vaping, and other harmful habits.
All images in this blog post come from a 4th edition of George Catlin’sShut Your Mouth and Save Your Life found on Internet Archive. See the full digital copy here.
The following blog comes from Olson Graduate Assistant Rich Dana who interviewed Marvin Sackner on his exhibit “The Beauty in Breathing.”
An exhibition of works from the newly acquiredRuth and Marvin Sackner Collection of Visual and Concrete Poetryat the Main Library Gallery is one of the countless art events that have been postponed due to the current global health crisis. In some respects, however, the Sackner Collection is more relevant now than ever.
Dr. Marvin Sackner is not only one of the world’s foremost collectors of artwork that combines visual elements and text, but he is also an internationally respected pulmonologist. The inventor of several medical devices designed to aid oxygen flow in patients, the 88-year-old former Head of Medicine at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Miami Beach is keeping a close eye on the epidemic and is currently completing a paper on potential alternative treatment strategies to address the ravaging effects of COVID-19 on the human respiratory system.
Visual poetry is, at its most basic level, the depiction of the sounds made by the air moving from our lungs and across our vocal cords. It’s not surprising then that breath is one of the common themes found in the Sackner’s vast collection of artists’ books, framed images, and 3D objects. In 1992, Dr. Sackner created a unique exhibition of work by an international selection of artists entitled “The Beauty in Breathing” as a special event at the annual meeting of The American Lung Association & American Thoracic Society. Some of the works were already part of the Sackner’s collection, but many were commissioned especially for the 3-day event.
“It was a scientific meeting,” recalls Sackner. “And in the middle of it, here is this exhibition. A lot of people got exposed to “art and poetry” for the first time. It was really great fun to observe them. A lot of doctors aren’t necessarily art-inclined, but here, over a thousand people got to see this exhibit over a three-day period.”
As we come to grips with the devastating effects of COVID-19 on individual lives and on society, Dr. Sackner’s life’s work illustrates the importance of scientific progress and the discovery of new, life-saving treatments. His passion for art reminds us that despite hardship, we must continue to value creative expression, which is such a large part of how we process both the beautiful and terrible in the world around us.
The works included in “The Beauty in Breathing” show, along with copies of the exhibit catalog, original photographs from the event, and Dr. Sackner’s curatorial records are all part of his donation to the University of Iowa’s Special Collections. Until visitors are once again able to visit our reading room, we will do everything we can to share these materials with the public.
Today is April 8th, 2020, the day we were supposed to gather for the last Iowa Bibliophiles of the academic year. The plan: come together, eat some tasty snacks, and explore some of the highlights from our collection with the help of our wonderful student workers. Our students had selected manuscripts, books, and more, researched them, and planned to present the information at their own “viewing station” for anyone interested.
That’s how it was supposed to go. However, as all of us have experienced in the last few weeks, plans had to change. The world threw us an unexpected twist, and to protect our family, friends, and community, we cancelled this event.
Yet, the students had picked some interesting collection material, and it would be a shame not to find a way to share them with you. While we cannot meet in person, perhaps this blog can provide some of the entertainment and education we are seeking at this time. Below are a few items described by our hardworking students, a virtual Iowa Bibliophiles if you will. We hope you enjoy.
Star Trek Fandom with Zoë Webb
The Mary Jennara Wenk Star Trek Collection (MsC1031) was originally acquired in 2015 as part of the continuing efforts to collect and preserve pop culture and fandom material. Because we have many new collections, the donor of the L. Falcon Media Fandom Collection gave the library a very generous gift to allow a student (it’s me, Zoë Webb) more time to focus on processing a number of newly acquired fandom collections, including the Wenk Collection.
Mary Jennara Wenk was an active member of the Star Trek and Star Wars fan communities of the 1970s and 1980s, attending conventions, collecting fan art, and engaging in lively correspondence with other fans, as well as creating award-winning content for fanzines. This collection reflects her active lifestyle, containing a number of Star Trek zines, a sizable stack of fan art (including a painting done by author Hal Clement), correspondence, convention material, and an impressive collection of 3D objects—notably including some ears worn by Leonard Nimoy on the set of Star Trek. There are many quality items in this collection, but my personal favorites are the handmade dolls, the Starfleet Academy Class Rings, and, of course, Spock’s ears.
Both the Andorian girl (right) and the Vulcan child (left) were made by Devra Langsam, co-editor of Spockanalia, the very first all-Star Trek zine ever published, and apparently an excellent crafter. The doll version of Spock’s Vulcan father, Sarek (center), was made by a mystery artist in the 1970s. The Andorian girl is perhaps my favorite of the three, with her little pipe cleaner antennae, the pearl-decked gold bikini, and her adorable yarn braids.
The Starfleet Academy Class Rings (Class of ’66 and ’67) were commissioned by an unknown genius of a fan, and was legitimately made by Jostens, the company that still has a monopoly on class rings. The 14k rings depict the Starfleet Command insignia on top, the Academy’s official emblem with the Golden Gate Bridge, and the flag of the United Federation of Planets. I never bought a class ring in high school because they were absurdly expensive, but would I have bought this and worn it in public on a normal day? Yes.
Of course, we can’t talk about this collection without mentioning Spock’s ears. Leonard Nimoy went through dozens of these flimsy foam ears, held on by glue and coated in makeup, melting under the hot lights of the set. Everyone was terribly excited to see them, but during the initial unboxing of the collection, to everyone’s horror, the ears were nowhere to be found. They re-boxed and re-un-boxed the collection several times before someone thought to look in the plastic Barbie purse which, in hindsight, did seem like a very incongruous part of the collection. Now the ears are housed in a sky blue bespoke box with a secret drawer underneath for their original home, the Barbie purse.
The Beauty of Handwritten Cookbooks with Diane Ray
I really admire everyday items that are well made and functional, but also beautiful in a way that enhances use without interfering with functionality. Well-crafted wood furniture comes to mind, or mosaic floors. After looking for items to highlight for Bibliophiles, I have a new item to add to that list—cookbook manuscripts!
This 1818 cookbook from East Hartford shows that the writer was intentionally enhancing the titles, as many of them are unfinished. A few show the writers intent, with flourishing capitals and dark, filled in
letters. However most simply start with the second letter, lightly sketched, as though the author never got around to finishing. I think that’s something most of us can relate to.
The book is only 6 1/4 x 4 inches, bound in marbled paper-covered boards. There is not a lot of information given about the author of this cookbook, and the recipes are in a few different hands, suggesting multiple contributors, maybe from the same family. The last person to write in it gives us a clue of origin, as they write after their last entry “East Hartford, July 29, 1818.”
This is an American cookbook from 1759, written in a style of handwriting that calls to mind cobbled streets, buckle shoes and pewter shops. Similar to the other recipe books from this era in our collection, rather than listing ingredients with detailed instructions as one expects today, the writer assumes a certain level of base knowledge of cooking in a colonial kitchen. Details for preparation are given in a rather conversational tone, as if they were in your kitchen talking you through it.
We presume it is American because at one point it mentions the purchase of “Indian meal and corn”. There are clues to ownership with inscriptions in the beginning and end of the book “M. Ragen” & “From M. Regan to Hannah Wade.”, respectively. Other recipes include: To preserrve Quinces white; To make Marmalad of Orenges; To make Raspberry Cakes, To make Marmalad of Abricots; the best kind of perfuming Cakes to Burne; The Ordinary Sort of perfuming Cakes; and To make Puff & Past, very double & good”
Emma Cornelius Ricketson’s cookbook has the nicest cover of the three cookbook manuscripts mentioned, with the presumed writer’s name “Emma C. Ricketson’’ embossed in gold on the cover. Said author also took the most care to insure proper inheritance, which is spelled on the first page: “Published by Wm. K. Tallman to whom it is willed in case he outlives the above Emma Cornelia. But in case the said Emma Cornela outlives the Publisher then it is to pass over to Abby Y. Gherman provided however she outlives the 2 aforementioned.” Special Collections, while not listed, is proud to take their place in what was surely a distinguished line of previous owners.
Similar to the previous cookbooks, these recipes do not offer extensive instruction. In fact, it often simply lists the ingredients and trusts the reader knows how to do the rest.
Dated 1862 and labeled as being from New Bedford, the recipes are broken into categories such as “Meats,” “Breakfast and Tea,” “Sauces,” “Puddings,” “Pies, Desserts, Jellies, Gingerbread Cookes, Etc.,” “Cake,” “Wines,” and “Miscellaneous,” which includes recipes for such things as cologne, pomade, hair tonic, and to perfume sick rooms (A few drops of oil of sandalwood dropped onto a hot shovel in case you were interested)
An Introduction to the Archival Manuscripts Collection of Chinese Writers with Shu Wan
I feel delighted to introduce the rare Chinese-language collection, Manuscripts of Chinese Writers held in Special Collections & University Archives. Growing up in a family with the tradition of bookworms, I have been passionate about reading literary works since my childhood. Chinese writer Wang Meng’s novels, journalist Xu Chi‘s non-fiction books, and poet Can Xue’s poems were my “pillow books” (Zhen Bian Du Wu). This Chinese phrase refers to the books placed under someone’s pillow, which enables them to read those books for convenience before falling asleep. So, when I found the rare Chinese-language collection containing those writers’ manuscripts, I felt excited to introduce them to my American friends and patrons. As a graduate student working in Special Collections & University Archives, I was given the opportunity to touch those manuscripts in the Chinese Writers’ Collection.
The history of this rare Chinese-language collection can be traced back to the early 1990s. The first Chinese reference librarian in the UI Libraries, Dr. Peter Xinping Zhou, was engaged in the creation of this collection. According to his memoir, “in October 1991, the University of Iowa Libraries authorized the creation of a Chinese writers’ special collection consisting of the complete works and selected manuscripts authored by Chinese writers who have participated in the International Writing Program or the Iowa Writers’ Workshops.” (Peter X. Zhou, “Chinese Writers in Iowa.” Books at Iowa, no.58, 1993, p. 6. https://doi.org/10.17077/0006-7474.1229) Thanks to Dr. Zhou’s efforts in contacting those Chinese writers and seeking the donation of their manuscripts, we can now read them in the reading room of the UI Special Collections.
The most interesting discovery, which I took when processing the manuscripts in the collection, is the new lens to look at the Chinese feminist writer Ting Ling. Different from the impression I took from reading her books, I found a very “personal” face of Ting Ling. As seen in the following photocopy of Ting Ling’s letter to Hualing Nieh Engle in 1980, in its end, she wrote, “let me shake your hand closely again. ” She is so passionate and emotional!
Although the lack of knowledge in the Chinese language may hinder local readers’ exploration of this collection, they may take opportunities to read and grasp those manuscripts very soon. The librarians, archivists, and student workers in the library are working on selectively translating these literary works. For example, I am engaged in establishing a bilingual linked-data database. The initial outcome of this project will be presented in the 2020 LD4 Conference on Linked Data in Libraries in Dallas this summer. Moreover, another in-progress project of an annotated bibliography of those literary works in the collection will be posted online late this summer.
The following is written by Rich Dana, Olson Graduate Research Assistant for Special Collections.
As librarians, we are engaged in service to our communities, and that service doesn’t end when the library has to lock its doors to protect its patrons and workers. All of us are faced now with leveraging any tools at our disposal to serve those who need to continue teaching, learning, researching, creating and maintaining some continuity in their lives during the “social distancing” of the current moment.
I was sitting in a comfortable weekend rental apartment above Rago’s Funeral home in Chicago (famous as the location of Al Capones wake) with my family when the reality of the situation really set in. The Art Institute was closing. Concerts were canceled. Visiting a nearly empty Quimby’s bookstore, manager Liz Mason and I discussed the cancellations of all upcoming zine fests, art book and small press events. It occurred to me that zine-makers would be dealing with the quarantine as they do many of life’s struggles; by making zines about it. Liz threw out a title for such efforts, calling them “quaranzines.”
That afternoon I set up a Facebook group as a hub place for collaboration and as a collection point for these quaranzines. By the time I got back to Iowa the next day, cities across the nation were implementing “shelter in place” orders, and well over 200 people had joined the Covid-19 zine group.
Members hail from all over the world, reporting on what they are seeing and making, sharing their work. Marc Fischer from Chicago prints a 2-page issue of Quaranzine every day, posting them on light poles and bus stops around the neighborhood. Ashley Thuthao Keng Dam in Siem Reap, Cambodia is asking for people to send artwork and writing for her first issue of QuaranZINE. She is working on it despite the high temperatures and the lack of air conditioning caused by power outages in the village. As I prepare the first issue of my own quaranzine, Dri-Koff Weekly, another zine arrives in my mailbox. 5 Ways to Keep Busy (when you can’t leave the house) by Kelly Wooten in Chapel Hill.
We all hope that quaranzines are a thing of the past soon. Until then- I’ve got another issue to put out.
The Social Distancing Festival
Submissions are open to all, though the organizer is currently prioritizing work that was cancelled/disrupted/delayed due to the need for social distancing and COVID-19.
Flatland Press invites you to submit pieces for Flat Space, a publication that will be created around this period of social distancing.Present themes orbiting around forms of communication, shorten the distance between us, and antiquated tech/dead tech.
Please submit ideas, images, writings at Flatlandspress@gmail.com
Please add: Flat Space to subject headings.
THE SPACE BETWEEN: a free PDF coloring/activity book by PS1 & friends
Local Iowa City group, Public Space One brings you Space Between: The PS1 & Friends (never ending) activity book (vol. 2 could be with you!)
A viral safe-space for your zines!
Quaranzine Fest is simple. Post your work on the platform of your choice April 4th and 5th tagged #quaranzinefest. There’s more info on their website including a funny / awkward tutorial on how to digitize your analog zine with an iPhone!
On April 4th and 5th like, comment, and share the work of others! Be a good samaritan – do more than just browse and passively like. If you can afford it, mail order some zines – after all it’s a zinefest!
A Daily Riso zine by Marc Fischer is open to publishing work by others:
Copies are posted in public places in his neighborhood in Chicago, left in some Little Free Libraries in the area, shared online on social media, and distributed more formally eventually when it’s safe for people to get together in groups. Get in touch if you are interested.
From Ashley Thuthao Keng Dam:
If you are fortunate enough to be in (self) quarantine, I would like to create a zine, aptly titled, “QuaranZINE”. In this work, I aim to collectively publish short writing pieces, poems, art, rants, and almost anything that is produced during quarantine.
For more information please contact email@example.com with the subject heading: QuaranZINE.
A one page mimeograph zine available by mail, or as a print-and-fold pdf. Coming out weekly until this is over. Art, writing, comics, helpful hints and observations about living and staying sane during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Send submissions or requests for copies to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Downloads available soon.
Social Distance Quara-zine! Collective zine-making in the age of Covid-19 Facebook Group
Social Distance Quara-zine is an online zinefest. The world was a lonely enough place before, and now this. While we are all in lock-down mode, maybe we can find a way to get together via pictures and words, to share ideas, make communal art and survive the madness together (while staying at least 3 meters apart.)
Want to learn more about zines, zine-making or the zine collections at the University of Iowa? Check out:
Through some great research, our University Archivist David McCartney discovers some of the “unknown” facts that are part of new UI Presidential Portrait Gallery in the Main Library, as he explains below.
When the UI Presidential Portrait Gallery was formally dedicated late last year, staff in Special Collections responsible for this display knew that there were still some ‘gaps’ in some of the portraits’ stories. For example, labels accompanying some of the displayed portraits note that the artist is unknown. But as we continue to learn more of the history of this collection and how it came into being, we update and correct our records – and labels – as needed.
The George Thacher portrait is a case in point. Thacher (1817-1878) was the University’s fifth president, serving from 1871 to 1877. His portrait is an oil-on-canvas, dark in tone and realistic, a style appropriate for the late nineteenth century. The artist’s name was somehow lost in the records as the portrait, along with others in the collection, moved from one campus location to another for nearly a century, until settling in the Main Library.
Well, now we can fill in this gap. Recently, a closer examination of the portrait revealed a nearly-obscured name in the lower left corner: “E.D. Hale.” The signature is difficult but not impossible to ascertain. From this, we were able to confirm via an internet search that the artist was Ellen Day Hale (1855-1940). Our sources for this include the Smithsonian Archives of American Art and an entry on American Gallery online.
for training in the last quarter of the 19th century. She is best known for her Impressionist figure studies. Hale, the only daughter of the noted orator and author Edward Everett Hale and Emily Baldwin Perkins, came from a family filled with notable figures. Her great-great-uncle Nathan Hale was a Revolutionary War patriot; her great-aunt Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin; and her brother Philip and his wife Lilian Westcott Hale were also professional painters.”
The Boston Art Club was the setting for the first exhibition of her work in 1876. Because both she and George Thacher were from New England, we can speculate that the portrait was completed during the last one or two years of his life, after he left Iowa to return to the northeast to be close to family in light of illness. Hale was perhaps in her early twenties when she completed the portrait, likely one of the first works of a long and distinguished career. She was also the first woman to produce a presidential portrait for the university.
In the darkness of these Midwest winter months, a new exhibit comes to our reading room to shed light on nine nearly forgotten Iowa women writers.
Lanterns in Their Hands: Nine Nearly Forgotten Iowa Women Writers was curated by Processing Coordinator, Jacque Roethler. The exhibit examines nine women writers whose names may have faded with time, but whose work continues to resonate with readers today. While a majority of the exhibit features the books written by these women, there are also manuscripts, photographs, end paper design, periodical appearances, and a few other ephemera pieces that accompany a brief biography written by Roethler.
Retiring this February, this exhibit is Roethler’s encore to showcase some of her favorite material found in Special Collections.
“What got me to the idea of doing an exhibit on nearly-forgotten Iowa women writers,” explained Roethler, ” was the book, The Plough on the Hills by Merriam Gearhart. I came across it in the Iowa Authors section one day. Here was a woman who lived in Iowa all her life and she created these poems, not sublime, but beautiful in their own right. And I, who had lived most of my life in Iowa, and majored in English here, had never heard of her. And I thought, ‘How sad that she’s sliding into oblivion.’ I remembered seeing books by Grace Hebard and Mary Winchell, and I hadn’t heard of them, either. I started looking and there were others like her. Women like Amy Clampitt, who worked in New York all her life, most of it in the publishing industry when suddenly, when she was 63, people began to take notice of her. She became popular – she had many poems in the New Yorker, which is the top of the heap. Then she was gone, and I hadn’t heard of her either. In fact, the only Iowa woman writer I knew about before coming to work in Special Collections was Ruth Suckow.”
As Roethler mentioned above, she was an English major here at the University of Iowa, which might explain why she has consistently been drawn to the papers of authors and poets while working here in Special Collections. Before getting to Special Collections, however, she worked at the University of Iowa’s hospital cafeteria, served as a the secretary for the African American studies department for ten years, and after getting her master’s in Library and Information Science in 1995, started working for the UI Libraries in the serials department and math library before finally coming to Special Collections. While Roethler has worked diligently on large collections like the Gallup Organization’s records and the Ken Friedman papers, some of her favorite collections to process have been those of authors like Lewis Turco, who wrote The Book of Forms, or John Gawsworth whose Georgian poetry, according to Roethler, wasn’t appreciated in his time. Working on these collections and completing their finding aids has clearly helped hone Roethler’s ability to find the remarkable in the often overlooked.
“I found so many things when I put the exhibit together,” explained Roethler. “The fact that Bess Streeter Aldrich had won an O Henry Prize; that three of Dorothy Johnson’s short stories had been turned into films, all of which I HAD heard of… that straight-laced Octave Thanet may have had a lesbian relationship with her long-time companion; that Josephine Herbst knew Hemingway well enough to write the extraordinary letter that appears in the exhibit and that that letter is probably to Katherine Ann Porter, with whom Herbst was very close; that Eleanor Saltzman died in a sanitarium operated by her cousin.” The fascinating stories of these women go on and on.
For Roethler, she wants people to know that this exhibit is just the tip of the iceberg. Narrowing down to just nine writers was a difficult task, having to exclude Susan Glaspell, Katinka Loesser, Actea Duncan, and so many more.
“I want people to seek out these writers–to help them not slide into oblivion,” stated Roethler. “I think that’s one of the main jobs of any Special Collections.”