Fading Forms of Communication: Uncovering Civil War Stories from Anson Butler

The following is written by Erik Henderson, Graduate Assistant for Iowa Women’s Archives

As we have moved into the digital age, the value of handwritten letters has seemingly faded. Archival repositories nationwide are composed of letters because they once encompassed the most influential and sometimes most intimate moments experienced by their authors. Preserving history allows for people in the 21st century to understand the values, norms, and perspectives of life before them. In an era of prompt communication through smartphones and social media, could we imagine what it would be like waiting weeks, or even months, to hear from loved ones?

The Nashville, the floating hospital ship

Within the UI Special Collections are the letters of Anson Rood Butler, which transport readers to the Civil War era. Consisting of items dating from 1862 to 1900, this collection is primarily correspondence between Butler and his wife, Harriet Saunders. The letters, all transcribed on Iowa Digital Library and DIY History, describe his time aboard the Nashville, a “floating hospital,” traveling through the south: where he served as the third sergeant of the 26th Iowa Infantry Regiment. The 26th Iowa Infantry, organized in Clinton, Iowa, consisted of Black and White soldiers that mustered in three years of Federal service and were a part of the 3rd brigade, 1st division, XV Corps.

For the Black soldiers of the 26th Iowa Infantry, they battled against their white peers in efforts for them to recognize their worth regardless of their status or the obstacles they faced such as deteriorating weapons. Butler writes to his wife, “I want the people to know that Gov Baker of Iowa armed us with old muskets not worth a cuss & he knew it & then reported us as fully armed to General Curtis, who as soon as he found out the matter, gave us good ones & no thanks to Baker”(Butler papers, 10-28-1862, pg 2). Although this integrated brigade was ill-equipped for victory, they prevailed. Black soldiers fought with a sense of pride for their country, for their freedom and for the dignity of basic liberties that had been denied them for too long.

The American Battlefield Trust, a charitable organization that primarily focuses on the preservation of battlefields from the American Civil War, the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, details events leading up to and resulting from the Battle of Milliken’s Bend. Included is an excerpt from their description of the battle, which works to give setting to Butler’s letters:

In late May, 1863, as his Army of the Tennessee encircled the strategic Mississippi River town of Vicksburg, Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant established advanced supply bases on the Yazoo River north of the city to feed his army…At the latter, several newly-recruited black regiments were posted to defend the facilities. Confederates, seeking to disrupt Grant’s supply lines, developed plans to attack the bases on the west side of the river. On June 7, the Texas Division under Maj. Gen. John G. Walker attacked the garrison at Milliken’s Bend…Lieb’s former slaves, with little training, fought valiantly against their attackers…Although a small battle, the result proved that Black Union soldiers would fight hard for their freedom.

In historiography, this battle is often overlooked because of the large presence of Black Union soldiers. However, this battle, fought by Butler and his comrades, proved to be a significant victory for the Union army, revealing the resilient nature of disparately supported Black soldiers. Throughout his letters, Butler delivers detailed play by play of what was happening around him; he was observing and living history, then sharing it with his wife through his letters home. In some instances, he was not able to write back to his wife for weeks in between. The uncertainty of the status of his life and the patience to wait for these letters, brings value to them and their inside knowledge of the battles. As he gets closer to the Battle of Milliken’s Bend, Butler shares specific tasks he and others had to do in order to survive:

Every team from 4 to 6 Infantry riding in the wagon in full shooting and [livery] as a part of the guard for them, which opposite our camp they halted and waited a few moments when some 200 cavalry came thundering down the road and past all the teams till out ahead (they were the rest of the guard) then the command “forward march” came. Whips cracked and all started off on a gallop… They came back the next day with 90 loads of corn, potatoes (sweet) etc. gathered from the Secesh. Such is war. Killing and robbing go hand in hand and can’t be helped.

War can often highlight the corruption within governments and military officials. Butler creates a space to reflect on humanity’s values through his letters to his wife and remember those who cared for him before taking on his military duties. Within one of his letters, he reflects on the times he once enjoyed with his own wife and children:

The Chaplain’s wife was along with a baby. I heard it cry one night after I lay down & up I jumped and got after the baby I tell you it made me think of home & when I left I dreamed of you & our baby what may become of me I can’t say but I’ll keep you & the children stowed away in a snug corner of my heart, till I wake (if I do) in the unknown hereafter.

 

Photo of Anson Butler

In this intimate moment, Butler gives us a full view of the isolation from and nostalgia for his family that occurs within the military and during war. In a later letter to his daughter and wife, Butler expresses deep emotions that often contradict the killing and robbing mentality needed for survival during war. Instead, he shows a more sensitive and intimate side, pleading, “write again Ida, Pa reads your little letters with tears in his Eyes & you know it does me good to cry once in a while.”

 

Digging into the letters of the Anson Butler papers, one uncovers the world of a soldier who depicts firsthand accounts of the brutality of the Civil War. He retraces the difficult journeys, both mental and physical, that coincide with surviving in a deadly war. Through personal letters we can observe day-to-day life during wartime, reading the thoughts and wishes soldiers felt most critical to impart on loved ones waiting back home. On the other hand, sharing experiences through letters can ease pressure off soldiers, knowing that someone is listening to what you are going through. Having the ability to personally share through letters about one’s experience, whether in war, during a transition into higher education, or after one’s first day on the job, is not only refreshing, heart breaking, and stress relieving, but it allows for in depth and personal conversations between you and the recipient, wherever you are.

 

Information about Anson Butler and Milliken’s Bend come from these resources: 

Ancestry Library

Overview of Milliken’s Bend on American Battlefield Trust 

University of Iowa’s DIY History, Anson R. Butler Letters 1861-1900

 

Images from Iowa Digital Library

Butler, who served as mayor of Dewitt, IA, made this Proclamation to observe the death of President Lincoln on April 19th, 1865

 

From the Classroom- Steal This Zine!

“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)

Against Prisons Zine by Catherine Baker

Steal This Zine!

By Jacob Roosa

No, really, steal this zine. 

Note the “anti-copyright” message on the inside page

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!

 

From the Classroom- Sheherezade: a flip book

“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)

 

Sheherezade: a flip book

By Leslie Hankins

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.

 

Further Reading

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.

The Smithsonian’s blog of artists’ books

The University of Iowa webpage defines the elusive term artists’ book

For theoretical and analytical conceptualizing of the Artists’ Book:

Drucker, Johanna. The Century of Artists’ Books. New York City: Granary Books, 1995.

Drucker, Johanna. The Visible Word: Experimental Typography and Modern Art, 1909-1923. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994.

Rothenberg, Jerome and Steven Clay, eds. A Book of the Book: Some Works and Projections about the Book and Writing. New York: Granary Books, 2000.

Smith, Keith. Structure of the Visual Book. Book 95. Third Edition. Keith A. Smith Books, 1994.

Shut Your Mouth and Save Your Life: 1870 health book resonates in the era of protective masks

The following blog comes from Olson Graduate Assistant Rich Dana, who interviewed Marvin Sackner on his collection of concrete and visual poetry. 

Image from 4th edition of Shut Your Mouth 

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’s take on the two kinds of breathing

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’s Shut Your Mouth and Save Your Life found on Internet Archive. See the full digital copy here.

Click here for CDC’s information on maintaining a healthy lifestyle during COVID-19

For More Information About the Sackner Collection, click here

Alchemy of Breathing

In the shadow of Covid-19, The Sackner Collection shines a light on “The Beauty in Breathing”

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 acquired Ruth and Marvin Sackner Collection of Visual and Concrete Poetry at 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.

Alchemy of Breathing
Paul Laffoley, The Alchemy of Breathing,1992

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.

Ruth Laxson, Ride the Dance Down,1991

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.”

Tom Phillips, Pneuma,1984

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.

 

A Virtual Bibliophiles

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.

Star Trek dolls

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.

 

 

Starfleet rings
Starfleet Academy Class Rings of ’66 and ’67

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.

 

 

Spock's ears
A set of Spock’s ears and the purse they came in

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

Pudding recipes from the 1818 East Hartford cookbook

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.” 

Recipe “To Make Past of Apples” from American Cookbook 

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” 

 

 

Cakes page from cookbook
Close look of “Cakes” page from this Emma Cornelius Ricketson’s Cookbook

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

Close up of Chinese manuscript
Look at Ting Ling’s letter to Hualing Nieh Engle

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.

Issue of Quaranzine

2020: The Year of the QuaranZINE

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.

Issue of Quaranzine
Mark Fischer adds Quaranzine #1 to a Chicago Little Free Library

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.

From 5 Ways to Keep Busy (when you can’t leave the house) by Kelly Wooten

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.

Submit and learn more about The Social Distancing Festival here

 

Flatlands Press

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!)

Click here if you’d like to submit to the community coloring/activity book.

 

The Quarantine Times:

“This project continues until the crisis ends, at which point all artists’ contributions will be promptly compiled into a publication and released at a celebration. We’ll be together again.”

Check out more about this project here.

 

Quaranzine Fest 2020!

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!

 

Quaranzine:

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.

 

QuaranZINE

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 a.dam@studenti.unisg.it with the subject heading: QuaranZINE.

 

Dri-Koff Weekly:

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 ricardo.obsolete@gmail.com.

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.)

 
Daily Schedule by Violet Crandall

Want to learn more about zines, zine-making or the zine collections at the University of Iowa? Check out:

 
And be sure to check out these other great sources as well! 
 
Oil painting of Ellen Hale

Ellen Day Hale Paints Her Way into UI History

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.

oil portrait of George Thacher
Oil on canvas of George Thacher by Ellen Day Hale

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.  

According to the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Ellen Day Hale was “among the wave of American artists, both men and women, who traveled to Europe

Oil painting of Ellen Hale
Ellen Day Hale Self Portrait, Museum of Fine Arts in Boston

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. 

View the portrait gallery online or view in person on the Main Library’s fifth floor.