Welcome, MetaFiltarians!

Visits to our web pages typically drop over the weekend, so we were very pleasantly surprised this morning to see traffic for our crowdsourcing site, DIY History, up almost 2000% thanks to an entry on the link-sharing site MetaFilter. Even better than the statistics are the hundreds of newly transcribed pages, including the one below featuring a grisly recipe for stewed calf’s head (“let the calfshead be split open and cleaned…”), now available for full-text searching.

We’re on the waiting list for a MetaFilter account so we can provide belated responses to some of the comments, but in the meantime let us state here that: (1) we are definitely interested in adding more manuscript cookbooks to the project, please get in touch with our Special Collections department if you have one you’d like to donate; and (2) the cookbook collection does indeed date back to 1600, we’re still in the process of digitizing everything, but we just bumped this item with its “records of pasley, and preserbes, wax work and Limning & fruits Artificial” to the head of the queue — all of you Elizabethan handwriting fans, check back soon!

Crowdsourcing sneak preview

DIY History

Shhh… we’re quietly rolling out a soft launch for DIY History, our expanded crowdsourcing site that’s replacing the Civil War Diaries & Letters Transcription Project. Please have a look around and try out the new functionality and content as we do some last-minute tweaking, then check back next week for what we hope will be a much louder official launch.

A Nancy Drew birthday

Nancy Drew author Mildred Wirt Benson among her books, Toledo, 1949 | Mildred Wirt Benson Collection
Nancy Drew author Mildred Wirt Benson among her books, Toledo, 1949 | Mildred Wirt Benson Collection

University of Iowa alumna Mildred Wirt Benson — journalist, pilot, amateur archaeologist, ghost writer, and the original author of the Nancy Drew mystery series — was born on this day in 1905. To mark the anniversary, we’re featuring a gallery of her book covers, from the iconic to the unintentionally terrifying, on our Iowa Digital Library Pinterest account. View even more digitized artifacts at the Mildred Wirt Benson Digital Collection.

Pinterst - IDL: Mildred Wirt Benson cover gallery
Pinterst - IDL: Mildred Wirt Benson cover gallery

A frivolous 4th

This week on Twitter, we’ve been featuring 4th of July-related excerpts from the Civil War Diaries and Letters digital collection, as transcribed by our crowdsourcing volunteers. Unfortunately for the soldiers, the holiday typically held business as usual — the fatigue, discomfort, and anxiety of life on the battlefield — mixed in with the occasional historic event.

In contrast are letters from home, detailing 4th of July picnics, concerts, and various other “selebrations.” A favorite, written to Tillie Wise Clark from her niece Bell, is excerpted at length below. While sparing a few lines for her brother Lycurgus, a captain in the 101st Colored Infantry Regiment, Bell shows a preoccupation with parties, dresses, and beaus that’s worthy of Scarlett O’Hara herself.

Brooklyn Sanitary Fair, 1864 | James W. Bollinger Collection
Brooklyn Sanitary Fair, 1864 | James W. Bollinger Collection

Dear Aunt Tillie,

…Aunt Bell and Jessie went to Winona, [for] a festival of some kind there in the afternoon. I could not go, as I was so fortunate as to get my face poisoned Wednesday, consequently it is about as big as two faces ought to be, with the exception of the eyes, which are uncommonly small. Aunt Bell wants me to get my Photo now, but I do not think twould be pretty so I will not follow her advice…

Curgus is coming home in July, and perhaps when he goes back will come by Winona. Seems to me I’ll be kinder glad to see him, wish mother and all the rest of the folks would come with him. I rather think from the way he writes, he has a notion of joining the regulars. I don’t want him to, dear knows, but of course he will do as he likes.

By the way I have been to Deer Park. Went Wednesday last in a buggy or carriage with nineteen others. Had ever so much fun, Colvins, all but Herve McCartys, Wilsons, Grays, and some others, made quite a respectable load. “Nely” Colvin and I were on the seat with the driver, Frank McCarty. Aunt Bell did not go. Consequently there were but about three I was acquainted with, didnt have any introductions either, but I don’t care. Enjoyed myself the best kind. The folks from about Uncle Abner have not gone yet, I may get to go again, possibly.

I had almost forgotten to tell you I have such a very pretty new dress, not quite made yet. I just know I will get a beau the fourth of July, as I’m most determined to wear it. Am going to get a hat this week also if I can find any thing in Winona or Lostant pretty enough for me to wear, know I’ll look awful handsome if my face should happen not to get well. Guess I will get a letter from somebody this week, wouldn’t you like to see it. I’m getting anxious myself. The cherries are turning red, will have pies of them this week, Grandmother says, the strawberries are all gone, were not very many in the first place…

Much love to all the folks, and please look over all errors.

Your niece,


View the full letter

Historic Iowa archaeological images now online

The University of Iowa Libraries is pleased to announce the release of the Office of the State Archaeologist Photographs Digital Collection: digital.lib.uiowa.edu/osa. This unique digital collection currently includes over 23,000 original photographs and slides from the State Archeological Repository curated by the Office of the State Archaeologist (OSA), the University of Iowa. Digitization is ongoing and will grow the online collection to over 46,000 digital images by the project’s end. These photographs  provide critical visual field information on archaeological investigation at 2,023 archaeological sites recorded in the official Iowa Site File. The digitization of this collection will support and enhance the wide range of research and teaching activities offered by OSA staff and will expand access to these valuable historic resources for all Iowa citizens.

Ranging from 1952 to 2007, the photographs document the history of the last half century of archaeological research in Iowa and serve as a record of many of the cultural artifacts associated with many historically significant sites. Fort Atkinson (Winneshiek County), a historic military outpost in the Neutral Ground occupied between 1840 and 1849, Blood Run (Lyon County), the site of one of the largest Oneota villages in Iowa, and Cherokee Sewer (Cherokee County) the site that yielded Iowa’s oldest musical instrument are a few of the historic sites represented in the digital collection.

Digitization of this collection was made possible by a grant from the Historical Resource Development Program (HDRP) of the State Historical Society of Iowa.

The collection is the latest edition in the Iowa Digital Library, which features more than a half million digital objects created from the holdings of the University of Iowa Libraries and its partners. Included are illuminated manuscripts, historical maps, fine art, political cartoons, scholarly works, and more. Digital collections are coordinated by Digital Research & Publishing.