A new exhibit bound to make you feel warm and fuzzy is up in the Special Collections & Archives reading room.
Curated by lead outreach and instruction librarian Elizabeth Riordan and academic outreach coordinator Kathryn Reuter, the exhibit A Tale of Tails: Pets in the Archives explores the pets found in Special Collections & Archives, expanding on how the notion of the “pet” continues to grow and morph with the changing years while recognizing some of the aspects of pet ownership that remain constant.
As Riordan explained, “at the beginning of the pandemic I saw so many people on social media adopting new pets. And studies have shown a huge increase in pet adoption at the beginning of the pandemic. I myself adopted a kitten in May of 2020. It made me really think about the comfort pets bring during difficult times.”
When Riordan returned to working in person at the library, it was hard not to notice the pets that seemed to be everywhere in the collections. Whether featured in family photos, on the margins of an image, or companions in a story, pets were there. While theseanimal companions were nothing new to the collections, recent events and personal experiences put these archived pets in a whole new light.
As Riordan and Reuter write in their curator statement:
“Despite some of the reportssaying many people returned those animals they adopted once the pandemic started to slow down, it should be noted that an overwhelming majority chose to keep their pets. They join the billions of humans across time and space who see pet keeping as an extraordinary yet common human experience. “
The curators hope that those who visit the exhibit see some of their own pet history in the stories on display and reflect on our bond with animals we choose to bring into our homes and lives.
To get to know the exhibit, Riordan and Reuter have selected 10 items from the exhibit that they are particularly fond of:
1.Dog Tags from the Ruth Salzmann Becker Collection, IWA 0123
Licensing a pet is one of the more concrete ways humans assert official ownership over an animal. Dog tags also demonstrate the potential dangers of living with animals – as dogs must be vaccinated against rabies before receiving a license. The oldest dog tag displayed in the exhibit is from 1915, it was the license of a dachshund that belonged to Ruth Salzmann Becker’s cousin.
2. The complete idiot’s guide to Pet Psychic Communication
If you’ve ever wished you could tell your pet just how much you love them- or, if you’ve ever really needed your pet to get on board with the house rules – this book is for you!
3. SNACKS by PAS DE CHANCE,
This zine is a compilation of Lost Pet posters readers photographed and sent in from around the globe. We hope that many of the posters resulted in reunions between pet and owner.
4. The Wizard of Oz
In the Wizard of Oz, most animals in the land of Oz have the ability to speak. For the first four books of the Oz series, Toto, unlike the other animals, does not have the gift of speech. In the eighth book, Toto reveals that while he is able to talk, he simply chooses not to.
5. This is the Story of Little Cat
The illustrations in this picture book are all so sweet, it was difficult to choose just one page to display for the exhibit.
6. Portrait of Ruth and cat from Ruth Suckow Papers, MsC0706
Ruth Suckow’s papers include a whole photo album dedicated to her cats. But it is this painting done by Ruth’s husband Ferner Nuhn that really demands attention. An older Ruth, somehow still exhibiting a youthful aura due to her clothes, holds up a white cat, obscuring much of her face. The relationship of the woman and her cat comes strongly across to viewers.
Honestly, this isn’t even in Special Collections, it’s an image from Stanley Museum of Art. And even though we just have a picture of it for this exhibit (you’ll have to go next door to the Museum to see the real thing), we can’t help but smile ourselves when we see it.
8. Les Chats
Les Chats by François-Augustin Paradis de Moncrif is considered one of Western Europe’s first books devoted to cats. The book contains several fantastic images of cats from ancient Egypt to “modern day” (18th century) France.
9. Andy Warhol cat books
We have two books from Andy Warhol about his cats. Warhol is famous for having several cats at once, all named Sam. The exhibit features his 25 Cats named Sam and One Blue Pussy and a book he did with his mother Julia called Holy Cats by Andy Warhol’s Mother.
10. Where the Red Fern Grows
This was put in there purely for sentimental reasons. As a child, this book was read aloud in class, and memories of crying as we reached the end of the story are still vivid in the mind. It is a devastating tale, but that sorrow was because Wilson Rawls painted such a real relationship between a boy and his dogs. Those who have experienced the loss of a beloved pet probably still will cry ugly tears over this book.
Perhaps the best part of the exhibit, however, is the growing wall of library staff pet photos. This part of the exhibit has already caught the eye of several students and patrons passing our doors. It is a testament to the power of pets when you see strangers smiling at pictures of your own pets.
The following is written by Rachel Miller-Haughton, former Olson Graduate Research Assistant and curator of All Women Welcome exhibit
All Women Welcome: Voices of Activist Iowa Women is the summer 2022 exhibit in the Special Collections Reading Room. The culmination of my time as the 2020-2022 Olson Graduate Research Assistant, the exhibit features images, documents, and materials from the collections of interesting, trailblazing Iowa women. Writing our #VoicesfromtheStacks series allowed me insight into previously unseen collections from people of all backgrounds. The goal is to expand our holdings in all directions to reflect the diversity of the University of Iowa and this community.
The women featured in this exhibit made an impact in the causes they worked for, both within their communities of identity and for all human rights. While these women’s lives did not often overlap, the positive changes they made touched many lives. Ayako Mori Costantino’s family immigrated from Japan, Florence Vallejo Terronez’s from Mexico. They worked to better their communities of origin, but also advocated for human rights, as did Virginia Harper. Pearl McGill fought for all worker’s rights. Corita Kent and Lil Picard turned to art for their messages. Picard was a journalist, as was Judy Hoit, whose writings on disability in the workplace made Iowa more accessible. Tess Catalano fought for women’s rights in the 80s as well as gay rights. The intersectionality of these activists’ work was necessary. All saw themselves as part of a lineage of advocates. My hope is for this lineage to continue with new voices at Special Collections. These are just some of the many diverse stories told in the archives, and more voices will join them in the future.
Here are the women featured in the All Women Welcome exhibit:
(Lil Picard Papers, MSC 0817)
Lil Picard (1899-1994) was born in Landau, Germany. She lived in Berlin, and was involved with writers, artists, composers, filmmakers, and actors. Lil Picard appeared in cabaret performances, then turned to journalism, fashion designing and modeling. Lil and her husband Hans Jüdell immigrated to the United States in 1936, alarmed by the anti-Semitic policy of the national socialist government.
She learned English and took design and lettering classes, opened a milliner studio, and from the 1950s forward she worked as a journalist and artist. She had exhibitions of paintings, sculptures, watercolors, and photos. She participated in Avant Garde Festivals of New York. She was financially independent when few women were, tested boundaries, and committed her writing and art to social justice, equality, and peace.
(Judy Herron Hoit papers, IWA 0373)
Judy Herron Hoit (1945-2019) was born on a farm south of Coon Rapids, Iowa. When she was four, she contracted polio. In 1952 she received six months of treatment at a polio facility built by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Warm Springs, Georgia. Hoit spent six years at Warm Springs, returning to her home when she was thirteen. She graduated from Guthrie Center High School in 1964. In 1977 Hoit and her sons moved to Iowa City where she worked as a receptionist and typist. Though many people suggested she request disability status, she resisted the idea. Hoit authored several articles explaining disability access and disability awareness. Judy won the Handicapped Woman of Iowa Pageant in 1991, which led to many speaking engagements for her throughout the state. She created a consulting business which addressed accessibility and awareness issues for people with disabilities. In 1996 Hoit was named Ms. Wheelchair Iowa. She was state coordinator for Ms. Wheelchair Iowa in 1997 and 1998.
(McGill Family papers, IWA 0543)
Button worker, early twentieth century labor activist, and teacher, Ora Pearl McGill (1894-1924), was born on a small farm in Louisa County, Iowa. Known as Pearl, she left her home at the age of sixteen to work at a Muscatine, IA button factory, intending to save her wages and become a schoolteacher. She quickly became involved in a union organizing drive that was underway in the Muscatine button factories and served as recording secretary of the Button Workers Protective Union (BWPU) No. 12854, an affiliate of the American Federation of Labor (AFL).
She became a strike worker, making countless speeches to local unions in industrial cities across the country, including St. Louis, New York City and Boston, to raise money to support the striking button workers in Muscatine. Later she joined the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and was an outspoken activist and organizer during the Lawrence textile strike of 1912. In 1913 she taught at a rural school in Lone Tree, Iowa. On April 30, 1924, she was murdered by Ed Vance (her ex-husband), following his release from a mental institution. Pearl McGill was inducted into the Iowa Labor Hall of Fame at the 2006 convention of the Iowa Federation of Labor.
FLORENCE VALLEJO TERRONEZ
(Florence Vallejo Terronez papers, IWA 0577)
Florence Vallejo Terronez was born in Horton, Kansas, in 1924 to Martina Morado and Julio (Julius) R. Vallejo. Martina Morado was born in Guanajuato, Mexico, and came to the United States in 1910 when she was thirteen years old with her mother, Angela Morado, and her brother. The family settled in the railroad town of Horton, Kansas, where the children helped their mother run a boarding house. Julio Vallejo, like many railroad workers, was laid off during the Depression, and for two seasons the entire family worked the beet fields in Minnesota. In 1941, when the railroad in Horton closed, the family moved to West Des Moines, Iowa, where Julio Vallejo continued to work as a pipefitter for the Rock Island Railroad. Florence Vallejo attended school in West Des Moines. During the 1940s and 1950s she continued to live with her family, working as a nurse’s aide at Broadlawns Medical Center and as a long-distance telephone operator for the Northwestern Bell Telephone Company. In 1956, Florence Vallejo married Antonio (Anthony) Terronez.
Florence Terronez became a full-time mother, managing the household and caring for her four stepchildren and two more children who were born later. She was involved in her children’s school and church activities, sang in the church choir, and later worked as a nurse’s aide at St. Anthony’s Hospital in Rock Island, Illinois. Following her retirement she volunteered with the Genesis Medical Center in Silvis, Illinois, and served on the community service auxiliary of the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in East Moline, Illinois.
(Tess Catalano papers, IWA 0527)
Human rights activist and singer-songwriter Theresa Mary “Tess” Catalano (1959-1999) was active in organizations such as the Women’s Resource and Action Center (WRAC) and Common Lives/Lesbian Lives that supported feminists and lesbians. She was born in Athens, Ohio, in 1959. She attended Allegheny College for one year, then came to Iowa City and completed a BA at the University of Iowa in 1985. She organized Take Back the Night rallies, was arrested for protesting South African apartheid, and sang at benefits for the causes she cared most about.
Catalano supported herself during her undergraduate years by driving city and school buses and working at the University of Iowa’s accounting and maintenance departments. Catalano became a certified massage therapist after completing training at the Desert Institute of the Healing Arts in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1994. She returned to Iowa City where she practiced massage until she and her partner, Rebecca Teasdale, moved to Oregon in 1997. After a year in Portland, the couple moved to Eugene, Oregon, where Tess Catalano died suddenly in 1999. Memorial services were held in both Eugene and Iowa City as hundreds of people mourned her passing and remembered her contributions to their communities.
AYAKO ‘A. MORI’ COSTANTINO
(Ayako ‘A. Mori’ Costantino papers, IWA 0905)
Ayako “A. Mori” Mori Costantino (1924-2020) was born in Sacramento, California. As a child, she and her family were interned at Tule Lake in 1942, one of thousands of Japanese-American families whose lives and farms were taken away from them because of their heritage during the Second World War. She was heavily involved in activism and worked towards redress for those who had been interned, as well as women’s, minority, and civil rights–especially when she lived in Iowa City. In October 1946 after the end of World War II, Costantino, working with occupation forces, travelled to Japan for a stenography job. While in Japan she met and married a military serviceman, Anthony “Tony” Costantino, in 1948. Costantino and her husband had two children, son Mori, and daughter Toni.
Integral to the creation of the Iowa City Human Relations Commission in 1963, Mori Costantino assisted in drafting the Iowa City Human Rights Ordinance. She also spearheaded a project to investigate housing discrimination with a League of Women Voters volunteer task force of 47 women. The housing investigation led to the passage of a fair housing law in 1964 mandating non-discriminatory housing practices and establishing enforcement procedures. In 1977, Costantino was elected to represent Iowa at the National Women’s Conference in Houston, Texas. In addition to her service to multiple organizations, Mori Costantino has also helped campaign for multiple Democratic candidates and volunteered her time and efforts to the Johnson County Democrats.
(Virginia Harper papers, IWA 0199)
Lillie Virginia Harper (1929-1997) was born in Fort Madison, Iowa. Harper studied at the State University of Iowa (now the University of Iowa) for three years, at Howard University, and graduated from the College of Medical Technology in Minneapolis. She was an x-ray technician and medical assistant in her family’s clinic until it closed in 1977. In 1946, when only twenty African-American women were enrolled at the University of Iowa, Harper was one of the five chosen to live on campus, in Currier Hall.
In 1971 Governor Robert Ray appointed Harper the first African-American woman to serve on the state Board of Public Instruction. In that position she worked towards instituting a human relations course requirement for teachers. In 1979 she was the first Black woman appointed to the Iowa Board of Parole. In 1978 Harper was president of the Fort Madison branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Her other civic activities included work as a volunteer at the Fort Madison penitentiary and as a member of both the Fort Madison Human Rights Commission and the Library Board of Trustees. In 1992 Harper was inducted into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame in recognition of her commitment to equal rights.
(Josephine Marie Pletscher papers, IWA 0913)
Corita Kent (1918–1986) was an artist, educator, and advocate for social justice. At age 18 she entered the religious order Immaculate Heart of Mary, eventually teaching in, and then heading up, the art department at Immaculate Heart College. Her work evolved from figurative and religious to incorporating advertising images and slogans, popular song lyrics, biblical verses, and literature. Throughout the ‘60s, her work became increasingly political, urging viewers to consider poverty, racism, and injustice. In 1968 she left the order and moved to Boston.
After 1970, her work evolved into a sparser, introspective style, influenced by living in a new environment, a secular life, and her battles with cancer. She remained active in social causes until her death in 1986. At the time of her death, she had created almost 800 serigraph editions, thousands of watercolors, and innumerable public and private commissions. Her works are held in the Stanley Museum of Art as well as in Iowa Women’s Archives.
Be sure to check out the exhibit through the end of August in Special Collections & Archives Reading Room, located on the 3rd floor of the Main Library.
The following Top 10 List is written by graduate student worker Diane Ray, with introduction by Curator Eric Ensley. Images, unless otherwise noted, are also from Diane. Eric and Diane co-curated the exhibit “Art to Eat By: Cookbooks as Record and Expression” which is on display in the Special Collections & Archives reading room September 2021.
If one takes art to mean a creative application of human skill, food and dining have long been canvases for the expression of art. Ancient frescoes and mosaics from Greece and Rome allow glimpses of tables laden with decorative plates and glasses alongside dishes that are celebrated for their beauty. Though the details and dishes may have changed, food and dining have continued to be a space for artistic output. From medieval coronation banquets with elaborate sugar sculptures known as subtleties to the technicolor party food of the 1960s, food as art has long been tied to the enjoyable and meaningful experience of dining.
Food and its ties to art are not, however, without tensions. This exhibit focuses on one of the central tensions of displays of food in cookbooks and adjacent publications: the sometimes-blurry lines between public and private space and experience. Through materials taken primarily from the Szathmary Culinary Collection donated by Chef Louis Szathmary, we show that books about food have often attempted to navigate the personal, familial, and domestic spaces of dining while displaying a public-facing image of those experiences. At question in these images is who or what should be on public display. A repeated focus of the items on display is how visible women should be and how their role should be presented in public-facing images of food and dining. Further, alongside issues of gender, these items trace the contours of the art of food and its political, artistic, and communal impact.
It was hard to choose, but here are 10 favorite things from this exhibit, in no particular order! There are many more to see if you visit us on the Third Floor of the Man Library.
Printed in Paris around 1521, this book is unusual and fascinating on many levels. The description from the seller sums this book up as “an illustrated work of cookery, mnemonics and mysticism for women.” It goes over different food, along with that food’s spiritual meaning to guide meditation during lent. It also discusses expectations for pilgrims, with instructions about buying different religious print from street venders.
The woodblock prints are also quite unusual, including the one included here, showing the Devil offering meat to seated nobles. One could imagine the blank scrolls as speech bubbles. But probably most intriguing about this book is that it was printed by a woman under her own name. A printers widow, Jeanne Trepperel was only active under her own name for nine months– 29 September 1520 to early June 1521. While female printers were not unheard of, they were rarely named on the text.
We have two copies of this cook book by Alice B. Toklas (writer, artist, partner to Gertrude Stein). This book as both a recipe book and a sort of autobiography, as it tells of her time in France during World War I, such as the hardships getting certain foods, or the different cooks and housekeepers that worked for them. The most well known aspect of this book is the famous (or infamous, depending on who you ask) ‘Haschich Fudge’ recipe. The archives has two copies of this item- the recipe is only included in the 1960 UK version.
3. Crocked, or, will the real Betty Crocker please stand up? Written by Maryann Riker (N7433.4.R556 C76 2011)
The image of the perfectly put-together, white-middle class woman, effortlessly providing for her family was presented in many cookbooks for sale back in the day, a stereotype that many artists push against now. Some, like Crocked, or, Will the real Betty Crocker please stand up? focus directly on deconstructing the personalities promoted by brands. Crocked folds up to form a house structure, and includes commentary on the history of the Betty Crocker charter, along with images of her many depictions over the years.
Community cookbooks are always a joy to look through because there is such a creative variety to the local collections of recipes. This character that appears throughout a cook book from Des Moines caught my eye in particular. The Izaak Walton League, sometimes shortened to “Ike”, is a conservation organization that “takes a common-sense approach toward protecting our country’s natural heritage and improving outdoor recreation opportunities for all Americans”, according to their website. This includes responsible hunting and fishing, (similar to Ducks Unlimited) and providing recipes to that end. (desmoines-ikes.com)
Louis Szathmary collected several hundred handwritten or personal cookbooks that are included in the Szathmary Culinary Collection at Special Collections & Archives. Most of what is on exhibit comes from this collection, and this particular item from 1818 is one of my favorites. Not only does it show how recipe books can also be outlets for creative expression, it is also unfinished (notice that some titles are only outlined, and some capitals are missing, while others are fully filled in and beautifully embellished) which is a very relatable trait.
This book includes both recipes and a short travel journal, in which Mrs. Samuel Leeds took a ship to England from Brooklyn in 1856, and was quite unimpressed for much of the trip. Highly recommended for fans of reading zero star Yelp reviews. (images from the Iowa Digital Library)
7. Funeral Food, written by Sandra Trugillo (unprocessed)
This collection of broadsides includes colorful images and text on one side, with the accompanying stories on the other. Each one talks about some aspect of food or funeral culture, in the US or Mexico. The artist describes it as “a marriage between traditional cookbooks and artists’ portfolios about material culture.”
This item is one of a collection of 7 cookbooks that were handwritten and illustrated by Pat Brangle who, along with her husband Jack, owned Llyewelyn’s Pub in St. Louis. The illustrations are very distinctive, with wonderful detail and colors.
9. Thirty Recipes Suitable for Framing, compiled by Alice Louise Waters, with illustrations by David L. Goines (FOLIO TX715 .W3315 1970)
Containing 30 different sized broadsides, each item features a beautiful colored illustration in a classic European woodblock style and a written recipe. Recipes range from orange chicken, to watercress salad, to even yogurt. But each one is tied together by the same style of illustration and calligraphy font.
10. The Iridor Complete Candy Making Course, written by Iris F. Leonard and Dorit K. Weigert. (TX791 .L38)
This collection of 6 books in a matching box from 1931 offers instructions and tips for making and selling candies. It is geared towards women looking for a job outside of being a homemaker. As the introduction says “Welcome into the nation-wide group of ambitious women who are following the Iridor Plan to win financial independence and happiness.”
The following was written by Olson Graduate Assistant Rich Dana, and curator of the Spirit Duplicators exhibit in Special Collections & Archives reading room
During my three and a half years at Special Collections, I have worked with an amazing range of materials, but my major projects have focused on first, the James L. “Rusty” Hevelin Collection of Science Fiction, and more recently The Ruth and Marvin Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry. As I became more familiar with these and other collections of documents from the realms of both science fiction fandom and the 20th Century Avant-Garde, I began to notice remarkable similarities in the publications of both cultural movements.
I began thinking about a potential exhibit of these zines and chapbooks, and when I sheepishly mentioned this notion to Marvin Sackner in a telephone conversation, he became very excited. “If you could prove a direct connection between fanzines and visual poetry, you would really have something!” He told me that he considered the final pages of Alfred Bester’s 1956 science fiction classic The Stars My Destination to be one of his first experiences with visual poetry.
Allen Ginsberg’s poem Howl, published by City Lights Books in 1956, brought “Beat Poetry” to the attention of the world and helped to spark a new literary movement. But before Lawrence Ferlinghetti published the now-famous Pocket Poets book, there was another edition of Howl printed: a 25 copy run off on a “ditto” machine by Marthe Rexroth in an office at San Francisco State College.
Pre-digital office copiers like the ditto machine (spirit duplicator), mimeograph, hectograph, and tabletop offset press freed 1960’s radical artists and writers from the constraints of the publishing industry and brought the power of the printing press to The People. These writers/publishers of the period, like Leroi Jones (Amiri Baraka), Diane DiPrima, d.a. levy, and Ed Sanders were not the first to use cheap copying technology to produce “democratic multiples,” however.
Blue-collar teenage fans of far-fetched adventure stories had been creating an international network of amateur “fanzines” since well before World War II. From where did the young fans of the fledgling genre of “scientifiction” draw their influences? Undoubtedly, they were imitating the cheaply printed monthly “pulp” magazines with titles like Amazing Stories and Weird Tales. Also, in the zeitgeist of the new industrial age were the seeds of political, cultural, and artistic revolt. Marcel Duchamp arrived in New York along with a wave of immigrants fleeing WWI and the Russian Revolution, which soon also carried the two-year-old Isaac Asimov to Ellis Island. Like a sine wave on a mad scientist’s oscilloscope, the aesthetics of “highbrow” artists and writers and “lowbrow” outsider zine publishers resonated and reflected each other through the 20th Century.
Self-published chapbooks, underground comics, flyers, and fanzines served as proving grounds for many of the 20th century’s most influential creators. However, the “Mimeograph Revolution” remains a little-examined artistic movement, considered by many to be the realm of “lowbrow” or “outsider” amateurs unworthy of serious research. Yet a closer look at the work of many copier artists reveals a high level of technical sophistication and profound social commentary. The works featured in this exhibit introduce viewers to the vibrant American amateur press scene of the early and mid-20th century, and the media that influenced it.
Much like the internet today, duplicators played an essential role in the development of pop culture genres like science fiction, comic books, and rock and roll, as well as avant-garde art movements like Fluxus, pop art, and concrete poetry.
French symbolist Alfred Jarry was the first to influence both the development of science fiction (SF) and the avant- garde. He wrote time-travel stories alongside his friend H.G. Wells and set the stage for Dada with the production of his revolutionary play, Ubu Roi. The turn of the century marked a new obsession with technological development. The newly-built Eifel Tower stood as a monument to the modernist ideal, while Thomas Edison introduced the first mimeograph at the World’s Fair. The Futurist art movement rejected the past in favor of techno-utopianism. Early SF fans like Myrtle Douglas (Morojo) embraced these radical ideas, as reflected in the design of her Esperanto fanzine Guteto (Droplet.) WWII and the rise of technocracy brought much of this idealism to an end.
The avant-garde primarily used duplicators like the hectograph and the mimeograph as a cheap alternative to “better” printing methods like lithography. The true innovators in the use of copiers were an unlikely cohort; science fiction(SF) fandom. Young fans were creating amateur magazines (“fanzines”) imitating the cheaply printed “pulp” magazines like “Amazing Stories” and “Weird Tales.” The fanzines also featured cover art influenced by the graphic style of the avant-garde. For most fans, litho and letterpress printing were out of reach. For them, copiers like home made hecto gelatin pads were the only option. Hectograph and later “ditto” machines produced the distinctive purple copies using aniline dye inks.
The cross-over between SF fandom, artist books and poetry took place after WWII. Many SF fans returned from the war and attended college, thanks to the G.I. Bill. The university culture of Wichita, Kansas made it a key stop on the cross-country drives of beats like Allen Ginsberg, who titled a poem after a legend he picked up from the Wichita beatniks. The legend of Vortex originated with local beatnik poet (and SF fan) Lee Streiff in the pages of his Mar- tian Newsletter. Unlike other Wichita beat poets and artists, Lee Streiff never escaped the Wichita Vortex, where he taught English and continued to participate in fandom.
Every social justice movement of the 20th century relied on cheap copying technology, coupled with bold (and often crude) graphics to spread their message. Spirit duplicators, often called ditto machines, used a paper master sheet similar to carbon paper to print up to 40 purple or green copies before the master was depleted. The mimeograph, or stencil duplicator, also used a paper master sheet, but allowed the user to make more copies in a wide range of colors. The offset press, used to produce larger runs, is an offshoot of lithography and uses a flexible printing plate. This process is still used on a large scale for newspaper.
The following blog is written by Rich Dana, Olson Graduate Assistant in Special Collections.
Dr. Marvin Sackner passed away on September 29th. A national leader in the field of pulmonology and an inventor of innovative medical devices, Marvin Sackner was also an internationally recognized authority in the field of word-art, known as concrete or visual poetry. Along with his late wife, Ruth, Dr. Sackner collected the world’s most extensive collection of word-based art, which arrived at the University of Iowa in 2019.
In an October 5th memorial, International Dada Curator Timothy Shipe wrote that “For those of us at Iowa, Dr. Sackner will be forever remembered for selecting the University Libraries as the permanent home of his world-renowned collection of concrete and visual poetry; but as his obituary shows, his memory will be treasured for his countless contributions in many areas—by his numerous patients, by members of the medical profession, by artists, art historians, and literary scholars around the world, and most of all by his beloved family.”
Timothy Shipe later shared with me some personal thoughts about his interactions with Marvin Sackner, recalling that his 2018 New York meetings with Dr. Sackner and Head of Special Collections Margaret Gamm were not just business negotiations. Rather, he remembers working with Marvin as “enjoyable days full of enlightening conversation.”
Dr. Sackner was scheduled to visit Iowa City in April to attend the opening of an exhibition of works from the Sackner Archive at the UI Main Library gallery. Unfortunately, Dr. Sackner’s visit did not come to pass. In March, the world was thrown into the chaos of the global COVID-19 pandemic. The University of Iowa, like most campuses across the United States, quickly closed the campus and moved to virtual classes. The Sackner exhibit was put on hold, and Dr. Sackner’s visit was postponed.
Later in the spring, I had the good fortune to talk at length with Marvin Sackner in a series of phone calls in which I interviewed him for a pair of blog posts. Our discussions were far-ranging, covering everything from the origins of the Sackner Archive to current events, historical medical treatises to science fiction.
When he inquired about my own scholarly interests, I mentioned that I was working on a paper exploring the links between early science fiction fandom and the literary and artistic uses of the mimeograph by the avant-garde. He became quite excited, telling me that “Oh, yes, you are on to something there!” Quickly pivoting from fine art to pulp paperbacks, he went on to share with me his own early interest in science fiction. In hindsight, he thought that the first time he saw an example of concrete poetry was not in a rare book shop or gallery, but rather in the paperback edition of Alfred Bester’s novel The Stars My Destination. “You will find several copies in the collection,” he told me.
At age 88, his memory for detail was impressive and his enthusiasm infectious, even over the phone. His comment about Bester’s book was spot-on, providing me with one of the first critical lynchpins in my thesis. We continued to correspond through occasional emails, and I held out hope that I might one day get to meet him in person after the pandemic had passed.
In late August, the exhibition of highlights from the Ruth and Marvin Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry finally opened in the Main Library Gallery. Sadly, one month later, we received the news of Dr. Sackner’s passing. A portrait of Dr. Sackner was added to the exhibit, next to the portrait of his wife Ruth.
I regret that I won’t be able to talk to Dr. Sackner again, but I will always appreciate how generously he shared his time with me. I also regret that the UI students and faculty will never have a chance to meet him, to experience his infectious enthusiasm, and thank him in person for the gift he has given us. However, we will continue to celebrate his passion and gain inspiration from the fantastic artwork and legacy that he has left in our care.
The following was written by International Dada Curator Timothy Shipe
It is with profound sorrow that we note the passing of Dr. Marvin Sackner on Tuesday, September 29 at age 88, just a few weeks after the opening of this exhibition. For those of us at Iowa, Dr. Sackner will be forever remembered for selecting the University Libraries as the permanent home of his world-renowned collection of concrete and visual poetry; but as his obituary shows, his memory will be treasured for his countless contributions in many areas—by his numerous patients, by members of the medical profession, by artists, art historians, and literary scholars around the world, and most of all by his beloved family.
We had originally planned to open this exhibition in May 2020 with a gala event featuring a guest lecture by Dr. Sackner accompanied by his entire family. Given Dr. Sackner’s stature as a world-famous pulmonologist, there is a sad irony in the fact that his visit to Iowa was thwarted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Those of us who had the privilege of getting to know Marvin—and to hear his engaging manner of telling the story of his collection and the artists represented in it—know what an opportunity the public has missed now that there will be no chance to welcome him back to campus. But we can take comfort in knowing that current and future generations of Iowans and visitors from around the world will be able to engage with the Sackners through their legacy—the magnificent collection they amassed and curated over four decades, which now resides in the UI Libraries Special Collections.
We now rededicate this exhibition to the memory of Ruth and Marvin Sackner, extraordinary art collectors, generous individuals, and above all, kind and loving human beings.
In the darkness of these Midwest winter months, a new exhibit comes to our reading room to shed light on nine nearly forgotten Iowa women writers.
Lanterns in Their Hands: Nine Nearly Forgotten Iowa Women Writers was curated by Processing Coordinator, Jacque Roethler. The exhibit examines nine women writers whose names may have faded with time, but whose work continues to resonate with readers today. While a majority of the exhibit features the books written by these women, there are also manuscripts, photographs, end paper design, periodical appearances, and a few other ephemera pieces that accompany a brief biography written by Roethler.
Retiring this February, this exhibit is Roethler’s encore to showcase some of her favorite material found in Special Collections.
“What got me to the idea of doing an exhibit on nearly-forgotten Iowa women writers,” explained Roethler, ” was the book, The Plough on the Hills by Merriam Gearhart. I came across it in the Iowa Authors section one day. Here was a woman who lived in Iowa all her life and she created these poems, not sublime, but beautiful in their own right. And I, who had lived most of my life in Iowa, and majored in English here, had never heard of her. And I thought, ‘How sad that she’s sliding into oblivion.’ I remembered seeing books by Grace Hebard and Mary Winchell, and I hadn’t heard of them, either. I started looking and there were others like her. Women like Amy Clampitt, who worked in New York all her life, most of it in the publishing industry when suddenly, when she was 63, people began to take notice of her. She became popular – she had many poems in the New Yorker, which is the top of the heap. Then she was gone, and I hadn’t heard of her either. In fact, the only Iowa woman writer I knew about before coming to work in Special Collections was Ruth Suckow.”
As Roethler mentioned above, she was an English major here at the University of Iowa, which might explain why she has consistently been drawn to the papers of authors and poets while working here in Special Collections. Before getting to Special Collections, however, she worked at the University of Iowa’s hospital cafeteria, served as a the secretary for the African American studies department for ten years, and after getting her master’s in Library and Information Science in 1995, started working for the UI Libraries in the serials department and math library before finally coming to Special Collections. While Roethler has worked diligently on large collections like the Gallup Organization’s records and the Ken Friedman papers, some of her favorite collections to process have been those of authors like Lewis Turco, who wrote The Book of Forms, or John Gawsworth whose Georgian poetry, according to Roethler, wasn’t appreciated in his time. Working on these collections and completing their finding aids has clearly helped hone Roethler’s ability to find the remarkable in the often overlooked.
“I found so many things when I put the exhibit together,” explained Roethler. “The fact that Bess Streeter Aldrich had won an O Henry Prize; that three of Dorothy Johnson’s short stories had been turned into films, all of which I HAD heard of… that straight-laced Octave Thanet may have had a lesbian relationship with her long-time companion; that Josephine Herbst knew Hemingway well enough to write the extraordinary letter that appears in the exhibit and that that letter is probably to Katherine Ann Porter, with whom Herbst was very close; that Eleanor Saltzman died in a sanitarium operated by her cousin.” The fascinating stories of these women go on and on.
For Roethler, she wants people to know that this exhibit is just the tip of the iceberg. Narrowing down to just nine writers was a difficult task, having to exclude Susan Glaspell, Katinka Loesser, Actea Duncan, and so many more.
“I want people to seek out these writers–to help them not slide into oblivion,” stated Roethler. “I think that’s one of the main jobs of any Special Collections.”
Do you have an interest in bookbinding? Have you always wanted to be a boy or girl scout but never took the opportunity to join? Or maybe you miss those scouting days? Well, now is your chance to earn your Bookbinding badge and join the Book Scouts.
Curated by Olson Graduate Assistant Laura Michelson, graduate student Zoe Webb, and graduate student Damien Ihrig, How to Earn Your Book Scouts Merit Badge is an exhibit now on display in the reading room of Special Collections.
This exhibit breaks down the process of bookbinding in chronological order, starting with a 1950’s Official Boy Scout Bookbinding Kit, which they discovered up in the Conservation Lab of the Main Library. From there, the three graduates display the materials used in making books, including parchment and minerals used in making different colored paints and dyes. The exhibit continues with displays of several historical book binding models, as well as their own creations from their classes in Center for the Book.
“There’s more to the creation of books that people don’t understand sometimes,” Michelson said.
The addition of their own bookbinding work brings their curation of this exhibit to a personal level.
“It does a good job of capturing the specific things that we’re interested in individually,” Ihrig said.
Michelson, Webb, and Ihrig are three graduate students in the School of Library and Information Sciences with a graduate certificate in Book Studies (BLIS). They were asked to create an exhibit about their experiences in the BLIS program and they found that bookbinding was something they all had in common.
But, what made this exhibit really come to life was the boy scout bookbinding kit.
“We weren’t sure how to set up the exhibit,” Webb said. “We had a lot of the pieces but it was still a little confused, and the kit made everything fall into place.”
They also wanted to add an element of interactivity with the exhibit because the boy scout bookbinding kit included a checklist on how to earn the badge in bookbinding. So, they created their own list for participants to earn their book arts badge for the new Book Scouts.
Along with the list, there will also be a pop-up exhibit on March 6th from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. where people can make their own book and check-off an item on their list to get their badge. Other items include visiting the exhibit, visiting Special Collections, attending a bibliophiles talk and then submitting a form by April 2nd. Then you could be an owner of a Book Scouts Merit Badge.
You can download the list here or pick one up at the front desk at Special Collections. Once filled out, turn it into the Special Collections front desk to receive your own badge!
How to Earn Your Book Scouts Merit Badge is currently on exhibit and will be up until the mid-to-late April.
Dracula has been a name that has instilled fear and fascination in the imaginations of readers and viewers since its original publication by Bram Stoker in 1897. There have been many adaptations and remakes of the novel since then, including F.W. Murnau’s silent film Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Graunens, the 1931 Universal Studios version of Dracula starring Bela Lugosi, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula starring Gary Oldman and directed by Francis Ford Coppola in 1992.
There was even a play adaptation about the captivating vampire. In 1924, Hamilton Deane adapted Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula into a stage play with the permission of Stoker’s widow. The play toured in England and was brought to Broadway in 1927.
Dracula was revived in 1977 under the direction of Dennis Rosa. Sets and costumes were designed by Edward Gorey, who is well-known for his quirky cat drawings on T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats and other Gothic illustrations that have graced the covers of numerous classics, poetry books, and various other publications. With the set and costume design for Dracula, Gorey channeled his obsession with bats. Bats can be found in the walls, in the cobblestone, in the furniture – there are even bats incorporated into the characters’ clothing, like Renfield’s bat-buttoned pajamas.
The set and costumes were so enthralling that the play soon became known as “Edward Gorey’s production of Dracula,” instead of being fully credited to the director. Gorey’s designs were nominated for Tony Awards, and the production received a Tony in 1977 for the best revival of a play.
Dracula closed in 1980 after a strong run of 925 performances.
Edward Gorey’s vision of Dracula did not die with the close of the play. The designs rose once again in 1979 when Scribner’s published them as a spiral-bound book called Dracula: A Toy Theatre. The book contains Gorey’s original designs of the sets and characters, as well as a synopsis of the characters, scenes, and acts. The images of the characters, furniture, and set could be cut out from the pages and taped together so the reader could create their own interactive version of the original stage.
More recently, Pomegranate Communications picked up the book and made it into a box set of the toy theater with loose leaves of die-cut fold-ups and fold-outs. Once the theatre is constructed, the reader can have a full 3-D model of all three acts of the play.
Here at the University of Iowa Libraries Special Collections, we not only have a copy of Scribner’s publication of Dracula: A Toy Theatre, but two copies of the Pomegranate publication as well.
If you want to see them in person, you can swing on by to the Special Collections on the third floor of the Main Library. Otherwise, on October 28th, 11:00am – 3:00pm, we will be hosting a Halloween Pop-Up Exhibit on the first floor of the Main Library, where the complete construction of Dracula: A Toy Theatre will be the star of the exhibit, along with a showcase of some of our spookiest comics and fanzines.
Read more about the event at the link below, and we hope to see you there!
James Van Allen and the Discovery of the Radiation Belts
February 1 – April 8
After months of being closed for renovations the new state of the art gallery in the University of Iowa Main Library is now open. Stop by and take a look at the exhibition, including the story of the discovery of the radiation belts, and the tale of how the earliest data recorded from space was recovered, digitized, and made available for scientists and scholars.