Archivist Remembers Hometown Tornado

Summer for a Midwesterner means corn on the cob, days at the pool or setting up the sprinkler in the front yard, gnats galore, and humidity that makes the air feel like soup. However, summer in the Midwest also brings to mind pictures of tornadoes that swoop down from the sky and destroy so much in so little time. As scary and damaging as these moments are, the sheer power of Mother Nature can leave lasting impressions of awe in us.  

Image may contain: house, tree, sky and outdoorOur own University Archivist, David McCartney, has been recollecting his own experiences with tornadoes. David’s home town, Charles City, Iowa, recently marked the 50th anniversary of when an F5 tornado ripped through the town, killing 13 people and injuring 450 more. On May 15, 1968 a tornado estimated to be half a mile wide hit Charles City at 4:50 PM. Roughly 60 percent of the city was damaged by the tornado, and the damage was estimated to be around $30 million. The tornado continued on for 65 miles, destroying farms and anything else along the way.

David was 11 at the time, but he still can recall many of the events of the day, including his school’s annual track and field event, that earlier afternoon being incredibly windy, and his brother watching the progression of the tornado from the basement window and reporting it to the family who sat waiting nearby. To mark the 50th anniversary, David appeared as a guest on KCHA, the local radio station, which aired a special program to commemorate the event. For David, he first heard the news about the approaching tornado when he got home from school and turned on the TV and believes the local TV and radio stations reporting the progress of the tornado helped save many lives. David, himself a former broadcaster, assisted the station’s staff with research of the event and arranging several interviews with those who witnessed the tornado’s destruction. 

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A lot can change in a matter of moments, and we are glad David is here to share his stories.


Listen to David on the KCHA program here!

Or you can read more about the event here

Photos taken by Stan Petermeir and are found on the Charles City Tornado Facebook page

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On to the Next Chapter

Image of Colleen TheisenIt is with a mix of sadness and joy that Special Collections bids goodbye to Colleen Theisen as she leaves to start her next big adventure. Colleen has accepted a job at Syracruse University as their Chief Curator of Exhibitions, Programs, and Education. Although we are sad to see her go, we cannot help but feel excited for this new chapter in her life. While at Iowa, Colleen helped create the group Historic Foodies, curated the exhibit “The Land Provides: Iowa’s Culinary Heritage” at Old Capitol, grew Special Collections instruction program, and brought national attention through NBC Nightly News and Atlas Obscura to our collections. Colleen’s last day will be June 1st, and we wish her the best of luck!


Taking over as our new Outreach and Engagement Librarian is Elizabeth Riordan. A recent graduate from the University of Iowa’s School of Library and Information Science, Riordan has been involved with Special Collections for the past two years, working as the Brokaw Graduate Research Assistant this past year. A Des Moines native, Elizabeth received BAs in Anthropology and in Theatre Arts from Augustana College in Rock Island, IL. A self-diagnosed silent film nut, Elizabeth is excited to work more with the Brinton Entertaining Company Collection and other film-related material here at Special Collections. She looks forward to getting involved with the community and finding ways to bring the collections out of the stacks for all to see. 

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Prickman honored with Arthur Benton University Librarian’s Award for Excellence

[Reposting from UI Libraries]

Image of Greg PrickmanGreg Prickman, head of Special Collections at the University of Iowa Libraries, was honored March 31 with the 2015 Arthur Benton University Librarian’s Award for Excellence.

The Arthur Benton University Librarian’s Award for Excellence recognizes a member of the UI Libraries’ professional staff who has demonstrated outstanding commitment and leadership in furthering Libraries’ mission serve the University community.

The honor includes a $1,500 award for professional development that will support the recipient’s research projects or publications related to library services. This award was made possible by an endowment from Dr. Arthur Benton, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Neurology, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

In letters of support for this award, the selection committee noted Prickman’s commitment to furthering the Libraries’ role in the University’s academic mission, as well as his professionalism and responsiveness to researcher needs.

Timothy Barrett, Director of the University of Iowa Center for the Book and Associate Professor in the UI School of Library and Information Science, nominated Prickman for the award. Barrett notes that Prickman’s work “resulted in the UI being selected as the site for the Folger Shakespeare First Folio traveling exhibit. Greg’s leadership shines in the midst of a complex but very promising event for the UI Libraries, all participating units, and the UI overall.”

Prickman also earned praises from Adam Hooks, Assistant Professor of English, who notes a climate of accessibility that Greg has created for scholars.

“Greg’s vision for the library has transformed the learning experience for students at the University of Iowa,” says Hooks. “Thanks to the significant digital projects sponsored by Special Collections, the intellectual and material resources at Iowa are accessible to students around the world.” Prickman was the catalyst for the Civil War Diaries Transcription Project that led to crowdsourcing platform DIY History, and he is the creator of The Atlas of Early Printing.

 Jennifer Burek Pierce, Associate Professor in the UI School of Library and Information Science, writes of Prickman’s ability to empower his staff to assist researchers. Burek Pierce notes that “those with whom we work in Special Collections clearly feel empowered to do their best work, to look for interesting and new ways to connect with users. As the head of Special Collections, Greg is instrumental in allowing this to happen, in the example he sets, in his development of responsive policies, and in hiring.”

The Arthur Benton University Librarian’s Award for Excellence Award is given annually. Past recipients include Kari Kozak, Jen DeBerg, Dottie Persson, John Forys, Edward Miner, Kathy Magarrell, Kären Mason, Dave Martin, and John Schacht.

Please join us in congratulating Greg Prickman!