New Exhibit Tells Stories Worth Telling

Throughout the history of journalism, there have been different mediums in which writers tell their stories. Print, TV and radio have all dominated the journalistic world at one point in time, and while there are many forms to share information, Special Collections explores Tom Brokaw’s stories from the greatest generation through an exhibit, Stories Worth Telling: Marking 20 Years of “The Greatest Generation.”

Stories Worth Telling: Marking 20 Years of “The Greatest Generation” uses pages, photographs and artifacts from the book, The Greatest Generation, which documents the experiences leading to World War II and those who fought in the war. It also uses materials from the African American Museum of Iowa, Iowa Women’s Archives, and the State Historical Society of Iowa. 

Brokaw’s book, The Greatest Generation, hit the book shelves 20 years ago and became a quick bestseller. The book stirred something within the memory of American citizens, and soon letters from readers poured into Brokaw’s office, sharing their thoughts and own stories about their time on the battlefield or on the home front. 

These letters were kept and eventually made their way to the University of Iowa Libraries when Brokaw donated his papers to Special Collections in 2016. Elizabeth Riordan grew up watching Brokaw, and being a history fanatic herself, she wanted to know more about the collection. So, in 2017 Riordan was hired as the Graduate Research Assistant for the Papers of Tom Brokaw: A Life & Career.

“It’s a fascinating collection,” Riordan said. “You get the biggest events from the last 50 years from the point of view of a reporter, as well as the people he interviewed. It’s also interesting just to look at the history and evolution of journalism.”

While processing the material, Riordan found a lot of interesting objects, including rocks from the Great Wall of China and poems about the moon landing. However, her favorite part of the collection are the letters from readers that came in after The Greatest Generation was written.

Photo taken by Meaghan Lemmenes

And it’s these letters that are the focal point of the exhibit in the Main Gallery. 

“So many people shared their personal stories of triumph and tragedy through manuscripts and letters,” Riordan said. “It opens a different window into a moment of time not always seen in our history books.”

Surrounding the avalanche of letters in the gallery, the “Greatest Generation” unfolds along the walls through quotes from the book, with more stories of people with Iowa connections added along the back wall. Material from Special Collections, Iowa Women’s Archives, African American Museum of Iowa, and the State Historical Society of Iowa all add a part to the WWII narrative.  

“I wanted the exhibit to speak for itself,” Riordan said. “There are so many individual voices telling the story of our past, that I feel it makes it unique. I encourage people to read the stories in the avalanche art piece; don’t just stand and look at it from afar.”

“The letters share where we were as a country and where we can still go,” Riordan continued. “Brokaw called them the “Greatest Generation.” My hope is that this exhibit makes you think about what that term means.”

The exhibit is open to the public from Sept. 7th – Jan. 4, 2019 and visitors can see it Monday- Friday from 9 a.m.-6 p.m., with Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and on Saturday and Sunday from 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. The exhibit is in the Main Gallery on the first floor of the Main Library. 

Seth in front of Lincoln's Portrait

Seth Torchia goes to Washington

Special Collections student worker Seth Torchia spent a fascinating summer interning at the National Archives. We are excited for Seth to have had this wonderful opportunity and asked him to share his experiences below. 

Seth in front of Lincoln's Portrait
Seth in front of Lincoln’s Portrait


National Archives building
National Archives in D.C.

This summer, I interned at the National Archives assisting with the Lincoln Archives Digital Project. The Lincoln Archives Digital Project is a website that posts documents used during Lincoln’s presidency that are stored at the National Archives. Throughout the summer, I was in charge of the letters that were used to discharge immigrants from the Union Army because they were not yet legal citizens of the United States. The letters were issued to Edwin Stanton, the Secretary of War, from Secretary of State William H. Seward, informing Stanton of their discharge. The majority of these immigrants came from modern-day Germany and Great Britain and were living in either Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, or Maryland.

My duties included taking inventory of all of the letters, scanning and photoshopping the letters for the website, as well as typing out the software coding for the letters to be posted onto the website. Apart from myself, I worked with 3 other students, who were working on their own document collections, and with my supervisor and founder of the website, Karen Needles. On Mondays we would work at the National Archives facility in College Park, Maryland where we would focus on the website programming. The following Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, involved working at the main building in Washington, D.C. where we would continue our work on inventory, scanning, or photoshopping.

Note from Lincoln
Note from A. Lincoln

During my internship, I had time do my own research, and I found Abraham Lincoln’s signature in regards to a pardon case. I also discovered my great-grandfather’s promotion notice during his service in World War I. Working at the National Archives was a surreal experience as I was working in one of the world’s largest archival facilities, as well as one of the most historic places in the United States. I gained new skills during my internship, such as advanced computer knowledge, and feel I have really improved my research skills. I also got to see three of my professors who have taught me in previous classes here at Iowa. They were doing their own research, which I thought was neat to see.

As well as my internship, I had plenty of time to explore Washington, D.C. My favorite things in D.C. were visiting the Library of Congress, touring the FBI Building, spending the 4th of July on the National Mall, and watching the Washington Capitals win the Stanley Cup. I had a great summer living in D.C. and my internship will be an experience I will never forget!

Herky brings the party to Dance Marathon

Who’s Got Spirit?: An Interview with Gregg Niemiec, UI Spirit Coordinator

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!

Chloe and Gregg look at Herky from the archives
Chloe and Gregg look at Herky from the archives

 

Can you tell us a little about what you do?

I am the Spirit Coordinator; I am in charge of the Iowa Spirit Squads which consists of the Iowa Cheerleaders, the Iowa Dance Team and Herky the Hawk […] For the Herkys, I help coordinate all of the events that Herky attends. [I] keep him clean and updated with the latest materials, costumes, and props.

What does a typical day look like for you?

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.

Herky brings the party to Dance Marathon
Herky brings the party to Dance Marathon

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.

Herky with the cousin Perky
Herky with the cousin Perky

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.

Micaela Terronez’s RBMS Conference Report

“What is special to you?”

Environmental activist and Beyond Dirty Fuels creator Bryan Parras presented this question during the final plenary at the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section (RBMS) conference in New Orleans. Despite the simplicity, I felt at a loss for a response. Sure, many things are important to me—family, education, my love for all things coffee—but with preservation, what is truly “special” to me? I left the plenary to ponder the query by wandering the colorful streets of the French Quarter.

I strolled under Bourbon Street’s French and Spanish balconies, lost in the rhythms of jazz musicians. Performers lined the sidewalks: from Poets-for-Hire and human statues to bellowing singers and bucket drummers, the street was alive, despite the sweltering heat. The sights and sounds of the French Quarter were unlike anything I had ever experienced, and that’s when it hit me. These individuals from various walks of life carry distinctive, stratified identities that are important to their past, present, and future.

Bourbon Street at night

 In a special collections or archive, I want to see my identities represented in the collections I am preserving, researching, and marveling. Several collections at The University of Iowa resonate with me because of my identities as a woman, a Mexican American, and a student.  I am, however, well-aware that others do not have this equal advantage, nor the opportunity to engage with items in a special collections or archive. The supplemental panels, plenaries, and seminars at the RBMS conference extended the ways that I can assist in diversifying collections and the individuals that engage with them. RBMS made me increasingly more interested in how a special collections can contribute to constructions of self-identity and belonging.

This year’s theme, Convergence, focused on “the idea of convergences and [spoke] directly to our field’s preparedness for increasing environmental vulnerabilities on our facilities, our readiness for the inclusion of different people and cultures in what we collect, how we perform outreach and programming, and who we select to staff and lead our repositories…” (conference.rbms.info/2018/). The conference offered numerous speakers from a variety of backgrounds, interests, and practices speaking on the many collaborations within special collections.

RBMS 2018 Convergence

I attended several sessions throughout the conference including presentations on diversity in the workplace, oral history projects, instruction, collection development, and outreach. The most helpful session for my research interest on equal representation in special collections included the panel “The Value of Diverse Collections: Changing Collections, Institutions, and Researchers” given by several archivists on their collection development projects. Laurinda Weisse from the University of Nebraska-Kearney discussed her recent oral history project with the local Latino/a communities and their previous silence within the archives. Dr. Francesca Marini and Professor Rebecca Hankins of Cushing Memorial Library and Archives presented on their collection of LGBTQ+ communities and how Texas A&M utilizes them in instruction and outreach initiatives. Lastly, Jessica Perkins Smith of Mississippi State University and Jasmaine Talley of the Amistad Research Center demonstrated how archivists can support the research and study of African American history by highlighting “hidden” collections through exhibits, social media, workshops, and instruction. This panel of presenters provided an open forum for discussing ideas in collection development with and within marginalized communities.

Moreover, most of the sessions I attended directly spoke to my previous research and interests in diversifying collections, users, and the people leading these collections. During the first plenary on workplace diversity, Ana M. Martinez of Boston College presented on an action plan to attract more candidates of color in higher education. Monika Rhue, Director of the James B. Duke Memorial Library, followed this presentation by recounting the lack of diversity within library workplaces despite the extensive work towards moving the needle.  Audra Eagle Yun, Krystal Tribbett, Thuy Vo Dang, and Jimmy Zavala, all from the University of California-Irving, discussed how they incorporated and assessed their instruction services to students of Ethnic Studies courses. During a papers panel, I was amazed by the outreach initiative of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Inherit, a cultural heritage research organization. Their program titled Maya from the Margins connects the Mayan youth of North Carolina and Yucatan, Mexico with exploring their identities and heritage by using primary sources found in special collections. These sessions and many more centralized diversity and inclusion in the conversation. Critical analysis and constructive dialogue is needed in these types of conversations, and I believe that RBMS was an ideal environment for me to learn, speak confidently, and become further aware of the underrepresentation in libraries.  

Beyond the eye-opening sessions, I also enjoyed how RBMS supports emerging librarians and graduate students by providing networking opportunities and informative introductions to RBMS/ACRL. As a new member, I had the opportunity to attend an orientation where I met current RBMS leaders and learned how to get more involved with the ACRL section. I also discussed employment, graduate research, and day-to-day experiences with fellow graduate students and new librarians during the Scholarship Recipient Breakfast.  These opportunities created a welcoming environment for me as first-time attendee and allowed me to visualize myself as a continuing member of RBMS.

RBMS Scholarship Breakfast

I left New Orleans with many take-aways, but two stick out most prominently. First, this conference reaffirmed that I belong in this profession. As an ethnically marginalized first-generation college student, it’s been difficult to visualize myself working alongside others in my profession with significantly different, homogeneous backgrounds. However, Athena Jackson’s closing remarks deeply affected my mindset. A Mexican-American herself, she noted to, “Look around” and know that people are rooting for me and here to support me in my endeavors.  And second, our work is not just about books, it’s about people. The unique, rare collections we house are meant to be shared, explored, and criticized. However, that can’t happen without wider communities being a part of the process of our work. In environments traditionally set aside for academics, I hope that I will assist in building relationships with wider communities left out of the conversations in special collections and archives. This conference was indispensable to my future as a librarian, and I hope to return again in the future.

Relevant links:

RBMS 2018 conference: http://conference.rbms.info/2018/

RBMS website: http://rbms.info/

 

 

An Internship in the Vault

By Julia Rohn, Museum Studies Intern

Picture this: My eyes are closed so as to not ruin the surprise. A heavy door opens, groaning. Parchment permeates the air, warm and familiar. I am told to open my eyes and a whole world is revealed: books line every wall, towering me. Instead of feeling small, my heart swells. I hunger for this knowledge. And then I look over to thank the hairy prince to my right…

Okay, okay. This is not exactly my memory. But I have watched Disney’s Beauty and the Beast so often that the boundaries between the two have irrevocably blurred. However, this specific scene has always resonated with me. I identified with Belle’s preoccupation with novels, forever reading, yearning for more tales. So naturally I sought an internship, which would place me in close proximity with them.

My first day in Special Collections at the University of Iowa mirrored Belle’s experience. When I was shown to the stacks, the inner me was spinning about in my head, cartwheeling like a gymnast. In fact, I had quite the headache afterwards. My supervisor granted me full access: to be able to reach out and peruse any book I wished. Granted, there was not time for sitting and reading its contents, but you must take your victories where you can. All of the sudden I had access to centuries of knowledge, and I was the gatekeeper. I know: your Nerd Alarm bells are ringing furiously. It even sounds curiously like the X-Files theme song…

The thing about Special Collections is that it is impressively impossible to become bored there. Going about my business I will stumble across a collection of Edgar Allen Poe’s poetry, which leads my to begin quietly whispering aloud Annabelle Lee, hoping no one will hear me. Or maybe I come across a decorated Book of Hours, jewel encrusted, hinges worn (no matter who you are, or your opinion on history, these are flipping cool). Nevertheless, it’s challenging. As a mere guardian of the vault (my preferred title if you see me around) I feel an undeniable duty to not let my little ones (all materials under my dominion) down. The sounds of tearing spines, ripping pages, and flaking covers haunts my dreams; many a night have I woken up screaming to images of breaking the famed clay tablet. Mind you, I have managed to avoid these egregious mishaps so far.

Mostly, gentle readers, its an environment highly conducive to imagination. There is an otherworldly feeling, in Special Collections. Not many have this access, and for that I am grateful. So let me take a moment insist you be our guest in Special Collections (see what I did there?).