Zoë Webb is a graduate student at the University of Iowa in the School of Library and Information Science and is also pursuing a Book Studies certificate at the Center for the Book. As a student worker in Special Collections, she was recently appointed Processing Intern for the L. Falcon Media Fandom Collection. Below Zoë shares some of the amazing things she has found, as well as the experiences and lessons learned working with this collection.
Special Collections recently acquired the L. Falcon Media Fandom Collection (MsC1108). Since processing collections often require a serious time commitment, the collection’s donor also gave the library a generous gift to allow a student more time to focus on the Falcon collection and be thorough with the processing. That lucky student was me, Zoë Webb. I’ve been spending a portion of every week as a student worker in Special Collections organizing and identifying the weird and wonderful material found within this collection.
This collection consists of books and annuals, zines, fan art, article clippings, scripts, and a couple of recordings. The fandoms range from the 1960s to the 2000s, and are mostly science fiction, with some fantasy and war stories in the mix. Topics covered include Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who, Blake’s 7, Fantastic Journey, War of the Worlds, Rat Patrol, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Avengers (the 1960s British spy Avengers, not the tight-suited American Avengers that grace our screen today), The Professionals, The Sandbaggers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Captain Scarlet, and Due South, just to name a few.
Over the past months I have come across some great, albeit odd, gems that I’d like to share with all of you out there reading this. Below is just the tip of the iceberg of what this collection holds. Thanks to the generous donation from the Falcon family, I have been able to focus my attention on this collection, learning not only more about the world of fandom, but about the skills needed to process and sort such unique material in an archival setting. In the next month, you will be able to enjoy this collection for yourself by searching everything on ArchivesSpace and visiting us.
Every year, Special Collections hosts two Olson Graduate Assistants who have chosen to specialize in the field of Special Collections Librarianship or Archives for a two-year assistantship. These prestigious positions supplement knowledge gained in the classroom with experience gained from real-world application, balancing theory with practice.
The H. John and Florence Hawkinson Libraries Acquisition Endowment has introduced an exciting new element to this experience: in the second year of their assistantship, the Olson Graduate Assistant can now be given a budget for material acquisitions. The Graduate Assistant chooses a curatorial area of interest in alignment with collection strengths, and works with the Curator in that area to learn about the material selection process. They may attend meetings with book artists and book dealers, peruse catalogs, and search online for the right item(s). They then formally recommend items for purchase and, once the Curator approves of the recommendation, are looped in on the relevant communication. This is a spectacular learning opportunity for them, and a valuable way for Curators to remain in touch with how the next generation of librarians is approaching the work of acquisitions.
This year, Olson Graduate Assistant Micaela Terronez selected four items that will be purchased for the Special Collections department using the Hawkinson Endowment. Working with Head of Special Collections, Margaret Gamm, Micaela located materials that would either develop or fill in gaps within the collections. Below, Micaela has provided a brief description of the selected works and why she was interested in them.
Forming Common Threads
By Mari Eckstein Gower
Redmond, Washington: Mari Eckstein Gower, 2018.
My eyes were immediately drawn to the vibrant colors and structure of Mari Eckstein Gower’s Forming Common Threads. The artist’s book features beautiful watercolor paintings by the artist, as well as silk and paper threads attached to a series of words such as “inspire,” “support,” and “heal.” Gower’s work links the many stories of strong women from history in contrast to the toxic and misogynistic rhetoric she grew up with. From the Japanese Tarasen patterned papers to the modified stitched drumleaf format, I was also interested in this book because of the multitude of materials and techniques utilized in its creation.
Chronicles of a Coleopterists Strikingly Curious Swarm
By Gabrielle Cooksey
Tacoma, Washington: Gabrielle Cooksey, 2018.
Anyone that knows me well knows I absolutely hate bugs. Spiders, flies, beetles – I squirm at the sight of them all. Gabrielle Cooksey’s Chronicles of a Coleopterists Strikingly Curious Swarm has officially changed my mind about the beauty of these tiny creatures. Included in the artist’s book are twelve aluminum beetles with stories from the author, as well as Edgar Allen Poe, Charles Darwin, Hans Christian Anderson, and Aesop. The book, bound in Cave Paper, was meant to mirror a research field guide. Perhaps one day I’ll have the courage to do my own research on insects. Until then, I think I’ll stick to examining and admiring them from afar with the help of Cooksey’s work. The book will certainly be an enchanting addition to the artists’ books collections.
By Alex Appella San Antonio de Arredondo, Córdoba, Argentina: Alex Appella, 2018.
I am not a native Spanish speaker, but the language certainly carries an emotional connection to my roots and upbringing. Some of my earliest memories of Spanish, for example, originate from daily experiences with my grandparents. One Day · Un Día by Alex Appella utilizes bilingual text (Spanish, English) and a collage of family photographs to document the last day of her grandfather’s life and the last days of her mother’s life. By interweaving family and language, Alex Apella’s work recalled memories of my childhood with my grandparents – both living and passed. When I first arrived at Iowa, I had a difficult time locating bilingual, visual works in Spanish and English. Now, I hope that this work will supplement research, teachings, and emotional reunions.
As a humanities-focused graduate student, I rarely have the opportunity to truly explore the sciences. Mathematics, in particular, has never been my strongest point. Anyone else still count with their hands, or is it just me? Whether you are a science enthusiast or not, Enumerations by Stephanie Gibbs will allow you to consider the interesting intersections between the sciences and humanities. Designed within a clamshell box, the artist’s book includes different forms of memory and computing. A slide rule, memory diagram, diskettes, and Trigonometry screenprints are just a few of the interesting components. Enumerations also includes Ada Lovelace’s description of Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine. I’m incredibly excited to add another bookwork representing women in science to the collections.
Exciting news from University Archivist, David McCartney, about the incredible recordings found in the Eric Morton Civil Rights Papers.
In 1963 and 1964, attorney Bob Zellner recorded a series of interviews with civil rights activists in Mississippi and Alabama. Zellner conducted the interviews on behalf of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in an effort to document the activists’ experiences, which were often under challenging and violent circumstances.
The interviewees participated in the Mississippi Summer Project in 1964, later to be known as Freedom Summer, a drive to register African Americans in the Magnolia State to vote. For decades, attempts by blacks to register at county court houses across the state were met with intimidation, harassment, and even violence. Freedom Summer was an organized response to this situation, with activists from across the U.S. participating, including over 800 college and university students. Among them were about a dozen students from the University of Iowa.
Why Mississippi? At the time, only seven percent of eligible black adults in the state were registered to vote, the lowest rate in the nation. SNCC, the Council of Federated Organizations, the NAACP, and other civil rights organizations targeted Mississippi for this effort due its discriminatory Jim Crow laws and practices. In response to this, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson the following year.
The interviews are part of the Eric Morton Civil Rights Papers (MsC 0999). Morton (1934-2015), a native of Detroit, Michigan, and a U.S. Army veteran of the Korean Conflict, held various positions with SNCC from 1962 to 1966 in Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, and North Carolina. He was Materials Coordinator for Freedom Summer and later served as Project Director for the North Carolina Project, which covered nine Black Belt counties. After this he worked to elect black officials including John Conyers and Ron Dellums to Congress and Coleman Young as mayor of Detroit.
In 1968 Morton worked with a group of local activists to organize the 1969 National Black Economic Development Conference where James Forman presented his historic speech, “The Black Manifesto.” In later years, Morton worked as an International Organizer for AFSCME organizing hospital workers and housekeepers in northern California and UC Berkeley. Later, his academic career included the position of Associate Professor of Philosophy at Fort Valley State University of Georgia.
Eric Morton donated his papers to the University of Iowa in 2014, in large part because of his friendship with Stephen Smith (1944-2009), a University of Iowa student from Marion, Iowa. Morton and Smith worked together in Mississippi during Freedom Summer; both were assaulted by white supremacists on the night of July 15, 1964 while delivering voter registration materials from Jackson to Greenwood.
More about how the Eric Morton papers arrived at Iowa is here.
Listen to the interviews from these activists and other recordings from Morton’s collection below:
I was hired at Special Collections to shelve things. Books, boxes and everything in-between. As time went on, I began putting away newly acquired books as well as gathering the material for classroom use.
There are so many books and material passing through my hands each shift I complete, and each book or item is unique. Some test the true definition of what a book should be, or what our image of a book is. So, in no particular order, here are my ten favorite books I have found in the stacks:
Winnie ille Pu by A.A. Milne (xPZ5.M65 W512)
This is a Latin version of A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh. This silly old bear is still a favorite of mine, and I love that it is so popular that it even comes in a dead language. The cover also depicts Pooh and Piglet wearing Roman battle gear.
Paper Samples 1966 by Glen Dawson (Smith TS1220.D27 1966)
This is one of our many miniature books, but it is one of my favorites because it is a mini-book with little paper samples in it. That’s it.
The Perfect Martini by Emily Martin (Szathmary N7433.4.M364 P47 1998)
I really enjoy this artist book because it makes you consider what a book to be. This is literally a martini glass with an olive in the bottom. The only words are on the box it is encased in, saying: “Place ice in a shaker, fill as needed with gin. Observe a moment of silence for the vermouth. Strain into a martini glass. Add olives and serve. Instructions may be repeated.”
Complete Works by William Shakespeare (Smith PR2754.E5 1904 v 1-40)
Shakespeare is one of my favorite authors to study, so it’s only fitting to put him in my list. This book I listed is actually all of his plays, but they’re mini!!! And they come with their own rotating bookshelf! I love everything about this set, including the floral end-paper.
Global Perspectives by Christian Science Publishing Society (Maps G3201.A67 1968 .C5)
This one is from our Maps Collection. We have so many different maps, but this one stuck out to me because it’s the United States seen from the perspective of Canada.
God Created the Sea and Painted it Blue So We’d Feel Good on it by Michelle Ray (xN7433.4.R39 G63 2013)
This was one of the first books I came across while working here, and it has stuck with me during my two years here. It isn’t the book that is the wow factor, but the box that holds the book. It is simply beautiful. The detail included on it and the way you can feel the water moving makes it a special piece.
Autumn; or: The Causes, Appearances, and Effects of the Seasonal Decay and Decomposition of Nature by Robert Mudie (QH81.M93 1837), Spring, or: The Causes, Appearances, and Effects of the Seasonal Renovations of Nature in All Climates by Robert Mudie (QH81.M933 1837), Summer, or: The Causes, Appearances, and Effects of the Grand Nuptials of Nature in All Its Departments by Robert Murdie (QH81.M934 1837) and Winter, or: The Causes, Appearances, and Effects of the Great Seasonal Repost of Nature by Robert Murdie (QH81.M935 1837)
I had to group all four of these together because it is just too hard to pick one. If you do pick one, then you pick your favorite season. I don’t like these books for the words or the cover, but for the image that is hidden on the spine. When you fold the pages of the book a certain way, an image is presented to you. That image is a season; four books for four seasons.
El Taco De Ojo = Easy on the Eye by Edward H. Hutchins (Szathmary N7433.4.H88 T33 2000)
I couldn’t tell you exactly why I like this book so much, or why it made it to the list instead of other books. I mean, it’s literally a book in the shape of a taco. And who doesn’t love tacos?
Plotted: a Literary Atlas by Andrew DeGraff (Maps PN56.M265 D44 2015)
Now, this is an interesting piece because it also comes from our Maps Collection, but it isn’t a map of a place you can visit physically. This book contains different maps of famous literary tales, including the short story “The Lottery” and The Odyssey.
Curtis’s Botanical Magazine by John Sims (xQK1.C9 any volume)
These are simply beautiful. They have illustrations of different flowers in it and its gorgeous. It makes me wish I had the talent to do something like that. And all of the volumes are created that way.
This Halloween season, Frankenstein is everywhere. And no wonder, for the book turned 200 this year and is overdue for a party. While the monster is everywhere, what about the woman who created the famous story? We’ve asked our own Frankenstein expert and Curator of Science Fiction and Popular Culture, Peter Balestrieri to review the latest film on the famed female author.
Review of Mary Shelley, from Peter Balestrieri
In 2018, the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a new film by director, Haifaa Al-Mansour, Mary Shelley, opened and died quietly. Not the subject, writing, direction, nor the talent and reputations of its stars could save it. I saw it and enjoyed it very much. I anxiously waited for this film after it went into production and hoped it could do justice to its subject and the Romantic period. It comes not long after a recent biopic of doomed John Keats, and, featuring doomed Percy Bysshe Shelley, doomed Lord Byron, and doomed John Polidori, along with possibly the greatest teenage author ever, Mary Shelley, it promised to be a welcome addition to all the scholarly and pop culture attention focused on Frankenstein. Alas, it bombed.
Some critics panned the film for deviating from historical fact; it is actually very close to the mark with a few notable exceptions. Some have objected to the acting; it was certainly good enough, with Elle Fanning doing a wonderful job, proving again that she is one of film’s best young talents. Familiar faces from Game of Thrones and BBC productions round out the cast. Most reviewers agree Mary Shelley is a very good film to look at; I thought so too, especially the costumes and interior shots. Also good: the dialog, both sharp and poetic. For me, though, one feature more than any other makes this a film worth seeing for anyone interested in the period, the subject, the personalities involved: the troubled, complex relationship between Mary and Percy.
I began research into Frankenstein years ago, using materials from Special Collections and Shelley biographies and it was Mary’s story that impressed me the most. I think Mary put much of her pain and frustration with Percy and his treatment of her into the novel, writing Percy as Victor Frankenstein and herself as the Creature. The film goes into this territory in a way unseen before and I loved it. Percy Shelley is a Bad Boy, who, along with Byron and others, creates the lifestyle emblematic of the Romantics, doomed libertine artists who blaze comet-like and are gone too soon. When Mary rejects her husband’s hypocrisy, cruelty, and excess, the film sends a powerful message to young women and men. See Mary Shelley if you get the chance. I will definitely be seeing it again. It is, however, not a good Halloween film; the only monsters in Mary Shelley are the people in her life.
In honor of Homecoming week here at the University of Iowa, we asked our University Archivist David McCartney to pick the top ten favorite historical things here at the University. The items are in no particular order.
10. The Birthplace of Prime-time TV.
Sure, Westinghouse, General Electric, AT&T and other labs were testing television in the 1930s, but from 1933 to 1938, the State University of Iowa was broadcasting regularly-scheduled TV programs, the first in the nation to do so. Experimental station W9XK featured lectures, instruction, and musical and dramatic performances two or three evenings each week. Viewers from as far as Oklahoma and Indiana reported receiving the signal.
9. Nile Kinnick.
By all accounts, an outstanding athlete, gentleman, and scholar. The 1939 Heisman Trophy recipient. A consensus All-American. Phi Beta Kappa. Humanitarian. Kinnick died during a flight training mission while serving as an aviator in the U.S. Navy during World War II.
8. Master of Fine Arts Degrees Were Conferred Here First.
The UI was the first university in the nation to accept creative works in lieu of theses as requirements for advanced degrees in the arts, beginning in the 1920s. In 1940, it was the first in the nation to confer the MFA. Recipients of the newly-minted degree that year were Elizabeth Catlett, Jewel Peterson, and
Harry Edward Stinson. Catlett, a sculptor, was also the first African-American woman to receive the MFA.
7. A Space Exploration Hub.
James Van Allen advanced U.S. space research using satellites beginning in 1958, but did you know that Donald Gurnett of the Department of Physics and Astronomy is likely the only person on the planet to oversee space missions exploring the extremes of our solar system? Helios 1 and 2, which launched in 1976, explored the sun’s characteristics up close, while Voyager 1, which launched in1977, reached interstellar spaced in 2012- the first human-made object to do so.
6. Gay Liberation Front.
In 1970, the university recognized Gay Liberation Front (today, Spectrum) as an official student organization, the first in the nation. A generation later, in 1993, the UI extended spousal benefits to same-sex partners. It was another first among U.S. public universities.
5. The UI Stanley Museum of Art.
To paraphrase UI President Willard “Sandy” Boyd sometime in the 1970s, “Our football team is struggling but we have the best art museum in the Big Ten.” It’s still true today: Over 14,000 objects reflect broad and deep collections from diverse cultures and time periods. Jackson Pollock’s Mural will return to its permanent home for display after the new museum opens on campus adjacent to the Main Library.
4. The Afro-American Cultural Center, Leading the Way for Other Centers.
This year the Afro House celebrates 50 years as a space for African-American students to socialize, mutually support, and grow. Other centers on campus have followed, including those serving Latinx, Native American, Asian, LGBTQ, and other communities.
3. Those Rolaids Guys.
They invented not only Rolaids, but also Bufferin. William D. “Shorty” Paul, M.D., and Joseph Routh, Ph.D., were UI faculty members whose collaboration resulted in the two remedies found in many homes and workplaces today. Dr. Paul was the Hawkeyes’ team physician for over 30 years, beginning in 1939, and tried finding ways to provide safe, immediate relief to injured players. Working with Routh, they devised a formula to “buffer” the effect of aspirin without taking away its strength. Voila!
2. The Iowa Writers’ Workshop and UNESCO City of Literature.
Wilber Schramm established Iowa’s creative writing program in 1936, with Paul Engle to follow as its director from 1941 to 1965. Under their tenure, the Workshop became internationally recognized as a locus of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. To date, Workshop faculty and graduates have won 29 Pulitzer Prizes.*
1. The Wave.
It’s been in practice for only a year, but ESPN and other sports sources already call it the best tradition in college football today: The Wave. At Iowa home football games, the crowd- visitors as well as Hawkeye fans- turn east to the UIHC Stead Family Children’s Hospital across the street and wave en masse at the young patients looking on. Need we say more?
Runners up include: Dance Marathon, Soapbox Soundoff in the IMU during the 1960s, Grant Wood, and the power plant whistle.
**Images all from F.W. Kent Collection (RG 30.0001.001), University Archives
As we get ready to celebrate Herky’s 70th birthday, curator of the “Hatching Herky” exhibit, Chloe Waryan, looks back on her experiences and Iowa mascots of old.
In the summer of 2018, I was fortunate enough to be awarded an internship at the University of Iowa Special Collections and University Archives in which I was tasked to design an exhibit celebrating the 70th birthday of Herky the Hawk. I am so touched by the kindness that I received from University Archivist David McCartney, Director of Development Mary Rettig of the Center for Advancement, and donor Jane Roth. I am happy to report that I had a lot of fun learning about the history of the University of Iowa during this internship too!
Though the pre-Herky mascots didn’t make it into the exhibit, their history is fascinating. With the popularity of St. Burch’s Tavern, a new downtown restaurant, many Iowa Citizans may already know that our first mascot was a real live black bear cub named Burch. The significance of a bear as an emblem of UI is unknown, though we do know that the Chicago Cubs also had a black bear sent to them to serve as a mascot around this same time. When Burch became a full-grown bear, he broke out of his cage in the City Park Zoo (yes, City Park once had a zoo), and fled to the riverbank where he was later found dead. On March 10, 1910, the Press Citizen released an article titled “Burch is Found with Taxidermist,” detailing the plans of taxidermist Homer Dill who did work for the University of Iowa Museum of Natural History. However, after talking to Cindy Opitz, current Collections Manager of the UI Museum of Natural History, we learn that if he did indeed drown, Burch’s head was probably bloated and therefore not suitable for taxidermy. According to a Press Citizen article on April 8, 2018, Trina Roberts, Director of UI’s Pentacrest Museums, does not know where Burch’s head or bones may be.
Almost 20 years later, the University adopted a 200-pound Great Dane named Rex as their next mascot. Lieutenant Colonel Converse K. Lewis, head of the UI Military Department, originally gifted the dog to Alpha Sigma Phi. Rex wore a tailored band uniform at football games and acted as the UI mascot until his death in 1933. Following Rex’s death, the University received another dog (either a Great Dane or St. Bernard) which they cleverly named Rex II. The University also used a real hawk as a mascot before Delta Tau Delta’s own Larry Herb donned the first Herky costume in the late 1950’s. From then on, Herky was always cast as a Delta Tau Delta until the fraternity lost their UI charter in 1998 due to drug and alcohol use. Tryouts for Herky the Hawk opened up to the entire student body of UI. In 1999, Angie Anderson and Carrie MacDonald were the first female students chosen to be the mascot. Anderson was injured while playing Herky when an Ohio State band member wielded a 3-foot foam banana at her head. She filed a lawsuit against Ohio State and in 2002, Anderson was awarded $25,000. Shortly after, Herky’s “human identity” was kept a stricter secret and security members were also hired each year, in order to keep the mascot safe.
As a graduate of the UI School of Library and Information Science program, I learned through this internship many things about collaboration in libraries. I was welcomed onto the Herky Birthday Committee with open arms. I formed a great partnership with the Spirit Coordinator of UI. I learned about the awesome physical education collection at the Iowa Women’s Archives. All in all, I will truly treasure my time at the Special Collections. Even the rainy days were fun!
Join us September 14th, 2018 for a special Open House to celebrate the history of Herky. Event starts at 11AM and runs till 2PM, 3rd Floor of Main Library. Herky will even be joining us for the party starting at 12PM! All are welcomed to join!
Photo Credits: Burch from Press Citizen, Rex from Regalia and Artifacts Collections (RG 31.01.01), and Dean Sieperda as Herky from F.W. Kent Photograph Collection (RG30.0001.001)
What do the UI Libraries and UI Athletics have in common? Hawkeye History! In this blog post, Chloe Waryan, Exhibit Design Intern at the University of Iowa Special Collections, interviews Gregg Niemiec, Spirit Coach of the Iowa Spirit Squad. For Herky’s 70th birthday, Gregg and Chloe team up in the Special Collections to discuss the items from the collections pertaining to Herky history. Read the interview below, and be sure to check out the exhibit “Hatching Herky” at the University of Iowa Special Collections and University Archives opening August 20!
Most days, I am at Carver Hawkeye Arena in my office by 9:00am. I start the day [by] checking emails and voicemails, responding back to questions fans have, organizing upcoming events, traveling for away games, and coordinating any other items for our 50+ members. Usually […] I am either moving bags of things in or out of Carver, to or from my car to keep Herky on the move. In the afternoons, […] I lead the Cheerleaders at practice. On weekends we have games and events. It is kind of a 24/7/365 job.
Do you conduct tryouts for Herky? What is that process like?
We have tryouts each spring. These start in late January with informational meetings [to] give everyone a heads up on what to expect. [F]rom there we do skills days, and get [the Herky candidates] ready for what they are getting themselves into: the walk, ball skills, improvisation, creativity, and movement. We will do a few rounds of these items as [candidates] get used to what is expected of them. Then there is normally a Final Tryout.
How many Herky’s are chosen per year?
There is one Herky the Hawk, who represents the University of Iowa. But Herky has some helpers called Herky Security. These members can usually be found with Herky, protecting the symbol of the University of Iowa. There are usually six Herky Security members each year.
What do you look for in a Herky candidate?
Athleticism, creativity, ability to think quickly on your feet, love of the Hawkeyes, and ability to communicate. During the tryout process all of these items are tested, along with doing an interview with all of them, and lots of time to talk between things at tryouts.
What does Herky do and where can Herky be seen?
Herky can be found just about anywhere – all Hawkeye Athletic events, and most of the larger campus events (ONIOWA!, Homecoming, Dance Marathon, Orientations, Admissions Days, etc)… Craziest [places where] Herky has been seen: rappelling down a building, a few funerals, swimming (with proper lifeguard notification), and pretty much just about anywhere.
You said that you helped with the art installation project Herky on Parade. What was that process like?
The installation of Herky on Parade took place in the middle of the night. [In 2014], they had special shirts made for those helping, with a logo describing the night as a secret installation of Herky on Parade. There were 3-4 teams of people that met at the storage area and helped pull the statues out onto UHaul trucks. We loaded those up with 6-8 people and went to our designated areas around town. The concrete bases were already in place, so we would take the statue out of the truck and place it on the base and fasten it with large bolts to the base. We would place a name plate on each and then cover them up, as the big reveal happened the next morning. It took about three hours. It was neat to see them pop up around campus as we drove to the next one. The next morning, volunteers helped at each of the sites and pulled the covers off. It was great to see the creativity of the artist in what they did. From Hayden Fry Herky, Star Trek Herky, Farmer Herky, to some artistic Herkys that made you think. It was neat to see and be a part of the installation staff of Herky on Parade.
What is one thing about Herky that we might not know?
He has a cousin named Perky. She hangs out at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. Perky makes kids young and old happy as they go through some rough times at the hospital.
How do you think libraries and athletics can work together?
There is a lot of history in Athletics around the University, and those events […] can be brought to life at the library, with books and media that reflect what Athletics around the University has done. Libraries are a cornerstone of knowledge, without them we would be lost.
Last fall, Special Collections became the new home for the Tom Brokaw papers, a collection that covers the life and career of a man who was welcomed into the homes of millions of Americans through NBC Today and Nightly News. The collection contains various aspects of his life, from appointment books to photos to letters from the White House. While the collection arrived pretty well organized and in good condition, there was work that needed to be done to get it ready for public viewing.
That is where I come in. I was hired in the spring of 2017 as the Graduate Research Assistant to work on the papers of Mr. Brokaw. My job is to make sure all the materials are properly stored in archival containers, sorted for easy access, and described online in a finding aid for anyone who wishes to look.
Several people have inquired about seeing the collection and want to know when it will be open for research. Well, at this point in time I am still processing the collection. For those of you who are eager to start looking at the collection now, there is a small display of objects in Special Collections’ Reading Room. Until the whole collection is ready, I thought it would be nice to share with those interested what is happening with the collection now.
The biggest priority is getting items properly stored in acid-free folders and removing any sticky notes or rusty paperclips from the material. As I have gone through this collection, I have removed hundreds of rusty paperclips and staples that held documents together. As odd as it sounds, rust can damage more than just metal, but can harm paper material as well.
Okay, so that may not seem very glamorous, and may even sound tedious, but it is important. However, the thing I’m most proud of so far is my work with the press badges. Brokaw saved several of his press badges, some as early as the 1960s up to President Trump’s Inauguration. Many are from history-making events, like the Reagan/Gorbachev meeting. They were originally kept in a Pan-Am bag, and soon the mass of badges morphed into a tangled beast of chains and string. Because of my master skills in detangling my own necklaces at home, it only took about 5 hours to detangle the passes and put them in individually labeled bags. I get that as you read this you may think I’m crazy for being so proud of this, but let me tell you, there is nothing more satisfying than looking at these badges all nicely ordered and in place. I suppose this strange satisfaction means I’m pursuing the right occupation, right?
I just finished with correspondence, and there is a cornucopia of names within this collection from Kennedys and Bushes to Redford and Hanks. There were also several letters from people, not famous or wealthy, who wrote Brokaw about his books on the Greatest Generation. Many of them wanted to share their own personal stories about the war, glad to have someone interested in what they had to say. Needless to say I required a box of Kleenex for this portion of processing. These letters of remembrance are tinged with sadness but also pride, they are the “Greatest Generation” after all.
What I can say to you now is the collection is worth the wait. This collection will leave you in awe of what one man has seen and reported on in his lifetime, what we as a people have experienced together over the last 50 years. When Brokaw visited the University of Iowa last fall, the United States seemed to be in free-fall with recent events. I had the chance to ask him how he could keep moving forward after seeing and reporting on so much devastation and heartbreak over his expansive career. Without any hesitation, he responded that these moments of devastation are just that, moments. More importantly, he is always amazed at how human beings have the ability to bounce back and keep moving, no matter what. This reverence he has for the human spirit resonates throughout the collection, showing us where we have been as a group and where we can go moving forward.