Exhibit with maps, real & imagined

1882 Atlas

1882 Atlas


A recent donation is on exhibit in The Ames Library, just past the entry level rotunda, now through the end of January.

The volume complements our manuscript and monograph collections on John Wesley Powell and the American West. The atlas is large–approximately 2′ wide when open–and has many colored maps, created by the ever-authoritative US Geological Survey.western-pt-of-plateau








A few other maps on display are “real” renditions (we can and should debate the depiction of reality in any author’s work), intended for serious illustration of travel narratives like


This foldout map in Birbeck’s 1818 “Notes on a Journey…” is separated at the top fold but complete.

Morris Birbeck’s 1818 Notes on a Journey in America, from the Coast of Virginia to the Territory of Illinois, or in educationally-minded works like Thomas Harrington’s 1773 A New Introduction to the Knowledge and Use of Maps.

The latter volume is from the Book Arts Collection part of Special Collections that celebrates the artistry used in making books, not for art’s sake but for many elements of the craft that are almost incidental to what we understand of the purpose for books today.


Others in the exhibit are intentionally imagined landscapes, used to navigate a story, as in Lars Arrhenius’s A-Z. Interestingly enough, the book had its origin in a large-scale exhibition. The volume in Ames is from our  Artists’ Books Collection and is used in an avant-garde literature course.


Two others on display are autobiographical in nature, by book artist and fine press printer Andrew Huot, and represent his explorations of self-discovery: Navigation and Exits West.

See http://andrewhuot.com/section/104877-Navigation.html

See http://andrewhuot.com/section/104877-Navigation.html

See http://andrewhuot.com/section/80223-Exits-West.html

See http://andrewhuot.com/section/80223-Exits-West.html













These works and more are available year round for anyone interested in exploring the many varieties of material culture in Tate Archives & Special Collections on The Ames Library’s 4th floor!

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

New acquisitions in the sciences

A “herbarium,” a plant specimen book, was recently discovered in a lab in CNS. This book has significance for IWU’s history: it was compiled by Alfred O. Coffin, the second African-American to graduate from IWU. Coffin received an M.A. in 1888 and a PhD. in 1889 from IWU’s non-resident degree program. He was first African-American in the U.S. to earn a Ph.D in Biology.

Alfred O. Coffin, Ph.D., 1889

Alfred O. Coffin, Ph.D., 1889

A. O. Coffin signature



Plant speciman page







A text that belonged to former Biology faculty member (1958-1978) William M. Darlington was also donated this winter. It bears an inscription dated 1898 and contains notations on plant varieties.

These two volumes and other material related to the sciences are now on display in The Ames Library. The exhibits, titled “The Sciences in Special Collections” will remain in two exhibit cases on the entry level until the end of January. After that, as is the case with all archives and special collections holdings, they will be available for use in Tate Archives & Special Collections on the library’s 4th floor.


Theatre and film history collection

A recent donation to IWU’s Special Collections from Emeritus Theatre Professor Jared Brown contains primary sources, including recordings and transcripts of over 150 interviews, he used in the publication of four books:
The Fabulous Lunts: A Biography of Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne (1986),
Zero Mostel: A Biography
Alan J. Pakula: His Films and His Life (2005), and
Moss Hart: A Prince of the Theatre (2006).
A complete collection description is available in the finding aid for the Jared Brown Collection of Biographical Sources.

Summer fun

Due to a combination of professional development time (thanks, Karen!) and vacation days, I recently spent two weeks at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign for a class on letterpress printing. The class took place at the home of The Soybean Press in the Printing Services building. Soybean Press is a cooperative effort of The Rare Book & Manuscript Library, The Graduate School of Library and Information Science, The University of Illinois Press, Facilities and Services Printing Department, and the School of Art and Design.

Some of the equipment we used and prints I created are in the gallery of images below. I’ll have these prints and more on display at this fall’s Faculty Scholarship and Creative Works Celebration. Additionally, my copy of the broadsides my classmates and I compiled into a folio with the theme of “State of Illinois” will be added to IWU’s Special Collections holdings of Artists’ Books. These books explore the many ways people interpret the idea of “book” as well as what constitutes suitable content for such vessels.

FYI, our Artists’ Books are a small part of a larger collection containing examples of changes in printing techniques and other types of book art throughout history. For now, suffice it to say that while I’ve always felt it was true, I now have the ink stains to prove I Love Type! (The blog at that link is not related to my class but the sentiment is 🙂 )

I started summer classes long before they were offering credit for them, but next summer I will have completed enough credits for the UIUC Certificate of Special Collections Librarianship. Somehow, I don’t think I’ll ever stop taking classes there, especially now that I’m hooked on book arts!

IWU and war-time activities

Memorial Day seems like a good time to highlight military-related documents held at IWU. Students, alumni, faculty and administrators have served in all U.S. wars since IWU’s founding. Diaries, correspondence, service records and recollections are held in both our archives and special collections.

Examples of these documents include service applications of the WWII-era Nurse’s Cadet Corps, alumni responses to a post-WWII survey of activities, correspondence from WWII soldiers to IWU student Nell Carmichael, correspondence and sketches from alumnus and Professor of Art Fred Brain to his family during WWII, index of WWI veterans plus photocopied clippings of articles related to their service, Nursing Superintendent Maude Essig’s WWI diary, and administrative meeting notes and student reporting on war-related activities on campus and abroad.

We lack significant documentation on the WWII-era S.A.T.C. and welcome donations related to this group’s purpose and activities on campus. Some dilligent researcher’s eyes may uncover details on this and other student groups’ efforts in existing documentation, and all our records are open and available for that work. Leave a reply (below) to contact me about arranging a visit!

French texts

Special Collections holds a number of volumes in French. One part of these holdings was described at the time of donation as “French Socialist Literature,” but topics vary and include literature and politics with dates ranging from the early-1800s to mid-1900s. Selected titles follow:

Clerget, Pierre. La Suisse au XXe Siecle: Etude Economique et Sociale. Paris: Colin, 1908.

Duffeyte-Dilhan, J. Aux Femmes: De La Beaute Physique et Morale. Paris: Janet, 1857.

Francis, de Sales, Saint. Lettres de Saint Francois de Sales: Addressees a des Gens du Monde. Paris: Techener, 1865.

Gide, Charles. Les Societes Cooperatives de Consommation. Paris: Colin, 1910.

Janin, Jules Gabriel. Un Hiver a Paris. Paris: Curmer, 1843.

Kern, Alfred. Le Bonheur Fragile. Paris: Gallimard, 1960.

Lesseps, Ferdinand de. Souvenirs de Quarante Ans Dedies a Mes Enfants. 2 vols. Paris: Nouvelle Revue, 1887.


April is National Poetry Month, and I thought I’d mention a few places where poetry can be found in our vaults.

Special Collections

We have a growing collection of Beat Generation material. This is primarily poetry in book and magazine/journal review format but biographies and some criticism is held here, too. More of the primary and secondary source material is available in the main library stacks. A title list is available, but each title is also cataloged and so they’ll turn up if you search in our online holdings, too.

Individual titles in special collections are usually accompanied by an inscription or autograph of an author such as 39 Poems by John Ciardi; The Unicorn and Other Sonnets by Thomas S. Jones, jr.; For My People by Margaret Walker, Threads by Dorothy Quick.


We hold various incarnations of IWU student-compiled journals containing poetry from the literary societies of the late 19th century through to today’s Tributaries and material on the Tounge & Ink conferences.

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. 

Ecology Action Center Collection

In October 2006, we opened a new collection for primary source materials: The Ecology Action Center Collection of organizational records.  The group began as one of the first not-for-profit recycling centers in Illinois in 1971.  Today, it continues to work with the three local governments (McLean County, Town of Normal, and City of Bloomington) to increase recycling and environmental awareness for business and community members.