A report on our Summer 2019 intern

Cynthia O’Neill standing ready to examine audiovisual media from the Arends Collection

Earlier this summer, University Librarian Scott Walter posted news on the start of Cynthia O’Neill’s graduate school internship.As Scott stated, we view the library as “the site for research, internships, and community projects that demonstrate our commitment to engaged learning, both for our undergraduate students and for graduate students working toward a future in library work.”

During her 150 hours in Tate Archives & Special Collections, Cynthia accomplished her internship goal of putting classroom experiences to work in a real-world environment. In the course of her time with us, Cynthia and I shared

Tulasi (left) and Cynthia stand in a row containing the Arends Collection at the completion of their work.

The largest project Cynthia undertook was conducting a preservation assessment of the media contained in the Leslie Arends Congressional Collection. She also created a framework of analysis for Special Collections Student Assistant Tulasi Jaladi (’20) as she conducted an assessment of the papers held in over 5,000 folders in this collection. Tulasi also re-boxed the collection, replacing from 80 records-storage boxes that had become acidic over time with the smaller document boxes you see on the left in their photo.

Throughout this work Cynthia and I discussed the kinds of preservation analysis resources available and how these sources could apply to the work at hand. The result of Cynthia and Tulasi’s work will guide me to the specific parts the collection, some of which is over 80 years old, that need preservation treatments. Most of the paper (the bulk of the collection) is in good condition, but the audiovisual content on older media (like 35mm film and reel-to-reel tapes) is quickly becoming inaccessible because the technology needed to play it is no longer widely available. Some of these recordings are also showing tangible signs of age-related damage. With these details, I will estimate costs of the preservation actions needed.

Cynthia’s experiences in both a museum and public library led us to interesting cross-institutional discussions about policy needs, patron types and research and staffing concerns. Her passion for material culture also resulted in a timely exhibition on the Apollo 11 moon landing. Cynthia proposed the idea based on her survey of the Congressman’s collection, which contains additional material on the Apollo program. She also reached out to a museum in the region to make a connection between us for a larger exhibition she knows they are doing in the fall. I appreciate having the opportunity to collaborate outside of academia!

The processing project Cynthia undertook for a recent donation by artist and alumna Marjorie Kouns (’79) was small enough—and had enough unique aspects to it—that we were able to dive into theory vs. practice discussions right away. There was so much variation in this personal “papers” type of collection that we could consider strategies for different types of arrangement.

Afterwards, Cynthia conducted a thorough assessment of materials and presented me with her observations and ideas about their organization and preservation needs. After I approved a final arrangement plan, I taught her how to use ArchivesSpace to make a record for the collection. To enhance our understanding of this artist’s work, Cynthia agreed to conduct an oral history interview with the donor.

One day I mentioned receiving a fairly typical-to-the-archives donation from a long-time staff member who just retired. I outlined how this would be a different collection from the artist’s. On her own initiative, Cynthia offered to assess and process this material. She readily made the transition from the concepts we discussed about arrangement for a personal collection to a professional one.

To enhance her understanding of book history, Cynthia capped off her experience by creating a tutorial on historical book construction techniques and their preservation needs. She used selections from Special Collections to provide examples of these works, and so we now have a resource to help prepare visitors about what they can expect to find in special collections, how book history relates to these specific items, and how they can interact with them to help preserve them for the future.

Rare treats

October 22-24, 2014 marked a unique series of events for IWU students, staff, faculty and the wider community. With funding from the Mellon Foundation-sponsored series titled Re-centering the Humanities*, The Ames Library hosted a visit by University of Iowa professor Florence Boos and noted book collector Jack Walsdorf. The topic that brought them here was their shared interest in and knowledge of 19th-century English designer, writer, philosopher and founder of the Kelmscott Press. Walsdorf and Boos are current and past-presidents of The William Morris Society in the United States. Links to a press release and follow up story are included at the end of this post.

Overall,110 students in seven classes, 66 guests in three public campus events and 25 participants in an event held at the McLean County Museum of History were beneficiaries of the expertise our guests shared across our community.

In the classrooms, our students heard about Morris’s influences in design elements for architecture, clothing, home furnishings and more. Our guests addressed these topics in a frame that conveyed the stark conditions of life for people in Victorian Era England, with all the excesses and blight brought on by the Industrial Age, and drew a line to contemporary issues. Environmentalism, labor issues, equity of speech and free expression of ideas are concerns in society today and were issues that Morris and his peers engaged with in their society.

Mr. Walsdorf loaned us more than 60 items from his personal collection on Morris. Some were used by students during the classroom visits and many more were displayed in the library, in varying combinations, from October 17-November 14. One class also made a follow up visit to Tate Archives & Special Collections where they were able to view selected Morris works up-close and to handle Kelmscott proof sheets loaned by Walsdorf.

The library exhibit carried the title “Boundless Spirit: The Words, Works and Legacy of William Morris.” This image gallery contains selections from the class visits, campus and community events.

* Other campus events in this series can be viewed at https://www.iwu.edu/grants/recenteringhumanities.html. On campus viewers will also be able to access the original grant proposal on this page.

On October 13, University Communications’ distributed a press release that is available at https://www.iwu.edu/news/2014/events/10-william-morris.html.
[Note: The permanent IWU News archives is located http://digitalcommons.iwu.edu/news/. Stories are harvested and collected there annually to prevent loss of information due to website changes.]

Anna Lowenthal’s Argus story about these events was published on October 31, 2014 and is available at http://collections.carli.illinois.edu/u?/iwu_argus,38360

More Pembroke windows (sort of)

pembroke lamp2_croppedTerry Garbe of Touch of Glass recently created a lampshade that is now available for use — or just admiring up close — in Tate Archives & Special Collections’ Reading Room.

Mr. Garbe and his staff were responsible for the restoration of the Pembroke Windows that accent the library’s 4th floor rotunda. Pieces left over from that restoration still remain, but pembroke lamponly enough for one complete shade containing many of the windows’ motifs were available.

Stop by, have a seat, enjoy the new shade and the view; and you can also ask about the other treasures hidden in Tate Archives & Special Collections!

Digital Commons

The Ames Library’s Digital Initiatives Team launched IWU’s electronic record storage and access system in fall 2008. Digital Commons serves as the central location for outstanding student work, faculty scholarship, University records, and campus history. It holds 3,552 works to date. To launch this repository, the archives supplied research honors theses and scores dating back to the 1960s, as well as peer-reviewed student journals.

 

Our goals are to:

  • Promote and disseminate academic and creative achievements of students and faculty
  • Ensure preservation of and persistent access to said work
  • Increase discovery of IWU scholarship and artistic expressions
  • Foster scholarly collaborations with colleagues
  • Document and record IWU’s history and progress

If you create or control documents related to University history and have been wondering how to store them electronically, leave me a comment below and I will walk you through what DC @ IWU can do for you. If you are interested in getting faculty or staff members’ scholarly or creative works into DC, or wish to recommend outstanding student scholarship from your department, contact our Scholarly Communications Librarians Stephanie Davis-Kahl: sdaviska {at} iwu.edu.

Powell and the American West

Special Collections has four collections of material for researchers interested in John Wesley Powell and the western U.S. 

  • a manuscript collection of correspondence and articles written by researchers who have contacted IWU for information on Powell over the years,
  •  a collection of books by and about Powell and the American West,
  • a wide range of material collected by Marcia Thomas during two years of research for the award-winning volume John Wesley Powell: An Annotated Bibliography, and
  • a web-based collection of images providing access to the John Wesley Powell Collection of Pueblo Pottery.  The physical collection is located on the first floor of the library.

Anyone interested in using these collections is welcome to contact me or visit the archives.