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.

Exhibits: Apollo 11 at 50

astronaut with lunar test equipment

Aldrin sets up seismic test equipment. (click to enlarge)

No doubt, news outlets everywhere are noting the 50th anniversary of this milestone in human achievement. This post also commemorates the lunar landing and provides me with a chance to highlight both the work of our summer intern Cynthia O’Neill and one of the collections she’s been working on: The Leslie Arends Congressional Collection.

In a previous post, University Librarian Scott Walter profiled the range of learning experiences Cynthia is engaging in this summer. In the course of her preservation assessment on the Arends material, she found many Apollo program items, including a clipping that describes Arends as one of only three Illinoisans named on the 1.5″ silicon Goodwill disk left on the moon by the Apollo 11 astronauts.

Close-up of canceled first-issue stamps commemorating the Apollo 11 Moon landing

Close-up of President Richard Nixon and Postmaster General Winton Blount’s signatures on a commemorative print of the Earth as seen from orbit and a first-day-of-issue stamp created in 1971. The Armstrong quote printed at the bottom of the Moon photo states “…one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

That clipping, commemorative photos and stamps are on display in the John Wesley Powell Rotunda on The Ames Library’s entry level from now through August. (see a selection of images from the exhibit below)

Arends received these and items from other Apollo missions in thanks for his support of the program. A copy of the speech he gave on July 21, 1969 is part of this exhibit, too. In it he makes note of historic and contemporary global contributions that led to the success of Apollo 11. Visitors are invited to reflect on the broader implications of this achievement.

Another exhibit case just beyond the rotunda commemorates Arends’ involvement in the visit that Apollo 8 Commander Col. Frank Borman made to IWU in March 1969.

I will share more details on Cynthia’s internship in a future post, but I will add one additional benefit we gained by hosting her this summer. Cynthia’s full time work is as the Program Coordinator at the Eureka Public Library and she recently arranged a visit to her library by a museum director from Peoria. Cynthia shared her insights into the Arends collection with that person, and I am hoping we can arrange a loan of some materials from the Arends Collection for their Apollo-related exhibition this fall.

We welcome the opportunity to collaborate with others and readers should know that the Arends Collection and other materials located in Tate Archives and Special Collections are available for use by both the IWU community and the general public. So stop by the library’s first floor for a look at our Apollo exhibits M-F, 8-4 now through the end of August and let me know if you are interested in exploring this or any of our other collections!

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!