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

Les Arends’ artifacts

In a previous post, I described collections we hold related to Political Science. One of these collections contains manuscripts, publications and memorabilia related to 17th Congressional District Representative Leslie C. Arends (1935-1975). Thanks to the talents and efforts of Physical Plant employees, we were able to move a cleaned and polished Arends’ desk, previously stored in Sheean Library, into the archives’ reading room last year. And with funds from the Ames Library’s budget this year, we were able to have a local upholsterer repair and clean the chair that was donated with the desk. Physical Plant transported the chair from its Mennonite storage room to the upholsterer and then into the archives this week. Both pieces now provide the Archives’ Student Assistants with an ample work surface that’s also elegant and inspiring!

Now, what to do with his bull whip, wall tapestry and golf clubs…?

Political Science

Special Collections has two manuscript collections related to state and national politics: The Leslie Arends Congressional Collection and the 1970 Illinois Constitutional Convention papers of IWU PoliSci professor and Con-Con delegate John Wenum. The 1970 Con Con resulted in a first-ever state Constitution that explicitly guaranteed citizens the right to a healthy environment.

The Arends Collection is well organized and largely unused. The Wenum Collection has not been examined since acquired and awaits some eager researcher’s eyes to tell us what treasures it may hold!