A look at Mary Shelley the Film

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.

Elle Fanning and Douglas Booth in Mary Shelley (2017)

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.

 

From University Archivist David McCartney: Top 10 historical things at the UI

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.

W9XK signal reached into several states during the 1930s.
 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

Van Allen Hall machine shop for satellite program, 1970.

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.

First UI gay pride float, in 1970 Homecoming parade (image from 1971 Hawkeye annual).
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.

Margaret Walker in 1966, an alumna of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
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.*
 
And finally,
 
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
 
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Lessons from an Olson

The University of Iowa Libraries Special Collections is looking for the next Olson Graduate Research Assistant. If you are a graduate student, or an incoming graduate student, find out more here.

However, you might be asking what does being the Olson Graduate Research Assistant actually mean? Well, who better to explain that then those with the experience. Hannah Hacker was Special Collections’ Olson GA from 2016-2018 and will be graduating with her Masters in Library and Information Science this winter. Micaela Terronez has been our Olson GA since 2017, and she will be graduating May 2019 with a Masters in Library and Information Science. Below they explain what it means to be an Olson GA and the experiences and opportunities that come with the job.

 

From Hannah Hacker:

Being an Olson is like being at a buffet, but with rare books and archives. You get a little taste of everything in special collections librarianship. If an aspect of the department gets you really excited, you can dive right in and have a big helping. 

 For me, the areas that I dove into were instruction and reference. My passion for librarianship stems from the enthusiasm of a student or patron who discovers something for the first time or is eager about researching a particular topic, and that happens the most when I’m in a classroom or at the front desk. Talking with people one-on-one and listening to what gets them excited is one of the main reasons why I’ve enjoyed my time as an Olson as much as I have. It’s those small moments with people that get me fired up about being a full-fledged librarian some day.

 

 

From Micaela Terronez:

This past year as the Olson Graduate Research Assistant has been a wonderful opportunity for me to gain practical knowledge and experience in the work of special collections and archives. For example, I have learned about the day-to-day operations and responsibilities of a large university special collections — an experience that nicely complements my MLS coursework and previous professional work. Additionally, I cannot express how thankful I am for working alongside such incredible and supportive coworkers. Through this fellowship, I’ve been lucky to gain several mentors that have taken the time to listen, discuss, and collaborate with me as a new staff member.

Thus far, my favorite experiences in this position have been in the Special Collections classroom where I’ve had the opportunity to instruct courses utilizing library materials — a responsibility that I was completely terrified to do originally! But because of the support and training I received as the Olson, I’m more comfortable than ever to conduct classes and experience some great moments with students. One of these moments was with a group of 20 Latinx high school students from Upward Bound, a program that brings first-generation students from the state to experience life as a college student for six weeks. The students gravitated toward stories of migration and underrepresented individuals that could be seen in several collections from the University Archives and the Iowa Women Archives. By far, this was one of my favorite classes because I saw firsthand how archival materials can resonate with students and the effect it can potentially have on their self-identity.  

 

For more information about the Olson Graduate Research Assistant position or application, please contact Lindsay Moen. The deadline is October 29th, 2018 at 5:00pm.

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/