Sunday, May 24, 2015

Save Iowa History

The following petition, which has nearly 3,000 signatories to date, was initiated by Professor Tyler Priest of the University of Iowa:

Reorganization plans for the State Historical Society of Iowa (SHSI) endanger the preservation of Iowa history contained in diaries, letters, photographs, maps, oral histories and other materials housed at the Society's two libraries in Des Moines and Iowa City.

Drastic reductions in operating hours and staff, the diversion of resources to unrelated activities, and recommendations to "streamline" the SHSI libraries threaten public access to the state's history.  Iowans risk being severed from their past.

On behalf of all Iowans and others interested in the history of the greater Midwest, we make the following requests of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, which oversees the SHSI:

1) Guarantee accessibility to the physical records of Iowa's history at the State Historical Society of Iowa libraries and archives.  Maintain the operation of the Iowa City branch located in the Centennial Building, which manages the materials collected since the institution's 1857 founding under the auspices of the University of Iowa.

2) Provide funding sufficient to enable library staff to conserve, process, and manage the SHSI's valuable collections and acquire new ones.  Ensure that the libraries remain open to the public during regular business hours at least five days per week.

3) Make the budget and decision-making process for the DCA and SHSI more transparent and allow for public input into plans for the reorganization, dispersion, or digitization of the SHSI research collections.

If you wish to make your voice more widely heard, write or call the Governor of Iowa, your Iowa state legislators, the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, and/or the State Historical Society of Iowa. Tell them to restore the cuts to staff and hours of the SHSI libraries that have longed served the state so well.  

:: Governor Terry Branstad, 515-281-5211, @terrybranstad

:: Mary Cownie, Director, Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, mary.cownie@iowa.gov, 515-281-8741

:: Chris Kramer, Deputy Director, Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, chris.kramer@iowa.gov, 319-281-3223

:: Anthony Jahn, Iowa State Archivist, anthony.jahn@iowa.gov, 515-281-4895

:: Susan Kloewer, Administrator, State Historical Society of Iowa, susan.kloewer@iowa.gov, 319-281-8749

:: Senator Jeff Danielson, Senate Chair, State Government Committee, jeffdanielson@gmail.com, 319-231-7192

:: Representative Guy Vander Linden, House Chair, State Government Committee, guy.vander.linden@legis.iowa.gov, 515-281-3221

Further information is available on the Change.org website.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Lame Duck Social Media?


Although it has taken President Obama until May 18, 2015 to send his first tweet, the @POTUS Twitter account has already acquired more than 1.83 million followers in less than 24 hours. @FLOTUS, the account run by the Office of the First Lady, with occasional tweets by Michelle Obama, currently has 1.93 million followers and was established in January 2013.

Monday, May 4, 2015

New from Seed Savers Exchange: The Seed Garden



The Seed Savers Exchange has just published The Seed Garden: The Art and Practice of Seed Saving. Written by Micaela Colley and Jared Zystro, the book is extensively illustrated with photographs and provides invaluable information for both novices and seasoned gardeners on gathering and saving seed from heirloom and open-pollinated plants. Further details and ordering information is available at the SSE website.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

MayDay 2015: Saving Our Libraries

Since 2006, the Society of American Archivists (SAA) has designated May 1st as MayDay, or a day of action for both individuals and organizations such as archives, libraries, museums, and historical societies to improve their capacities to deal with emergencies that can threaten or destroy historical collections. The ravages of natural disasters such as the tornadoes and hurricanes of recent years are just some of the physical risks facing cultural heritage institutions.

Although the landmark study, A Public Trust at Risk: The Heritage Health Index Report on the State of America's Collections (2005), systematically documented that most institutions lack an adequate disaster preparedness plan, the SAA has worked to mitigate these deficiencies. The SAA web site provides recommendations for MayDay activities, as well as a compilation of resources, including technical literature and tools, disaster plan templates and examples, tutorials and courses, bibliographies, and other resources.

May 1st, of course, is also International Workers' Day, which serves to commemorate the anniversary of the Haymarket Affair in Chicago. The eight-hour workday was a central demand of the Chicago labor movement in the 1860s, and a week-long, city-wide strike began on May 1, 1867. The strike collapsed, but the issue remained, with the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions in 1884 calling for workers to take direct action and begin observing the eight-hour day on May 1, 1886. More on IWD can be found in the Common Curator post, the 125th Anniversary of the Haymarket Affair.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Record Store Day 2015


Record Store Day 2015 Ambassador Dave Grohl addresses in the above video the importance of vinyl to his life as a musician. Support independent record stores April 18, 2015 and throughout the year. Visit the RSD website to find local participating shops.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

2015 National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest

Entries are now being accepted for the 2015 National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest. Begun in 2005 by the Fine Books & Collections magazine for young bibliophiles, the competition is now jointly sponsored by the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America, the Fellowship of American Bibliophilic Societies, as well as the Center for the Book and the Rare Books and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress.

A number of contests are currently held at colleges and universities around the U.S., with Swarthmore College's competition being the first in the 1920s. College-level students from all educational institutions, however, are encouraged to participate. Entries for this year's competition are due by May 31, 2015. Contest rules and further information are available at the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America website. Winners of the last several years can be viewed here: 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Blind Lemon Jefferson, Joan Baez, and Radiohead among Artists Added to National Recording Registry

In the thirteenth year of the National Recording Registry, Librarian of Congress James Billington has announced 25 sound recordings as the official entries for 2014, stating: "Congress understood the importance of protecting America’s aural patrimony when it passed the National Recording Preservation Act 15 years ago. By preserving these recordings, we safeguard the words, sounds and music that embody who we are as a people and a nation." Under the National Recording Preservation Act of 2000, selected recordings must be "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and at least ten years old.

In chronological order, the selections for 2014 are as follows:
  1. Vernacular Wax Cylinder Recordings at University of California, Santa Barbara Library (c.1890-1910)
  2. The Benjamin Ives Gilman Collection, recorded at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition at Chicago (1893)
  3. "The Boys of the Lough"/"The Humours of Ennistymon" (single)—Michael Coleman (1922)
  4. "Black Snake Moan" / "Match Box Blues"(single)—Blind Lemon Jefferson (1927)
  5. "Sorry, Wrong Number" (episode of "Suspense" radio series, May 25, 1943)
  6. "Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive" (single)—Johnny Mercer (1944)
  7. Radio Coverage of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Funeral—Arthur Godfrey, et al. (April 14, 1945)
  8. "Kiss Me, Kate" (original cast album) (1949)
  9. "John Brown’s Body" (album)—Tyrone Power, Judith Anderson, and Raymond Massey; directed by Charles Laughton (1953)
  10. "My Funny Valentine" (single)—The Gerry Mulligan Quartet featuring Chet Baker (1953)
  11. "Sixteen Tons" (single)—Tennessee Ernie Ford (1955)
  12. "Mary Don’t You Weep" (single)—The Swan Silvertones (1959)
  13. "Joan Baez" (album)—Joan Baez (1960)
  14. "Stand by Me" (single)—Ben E. King (1961)
  15. "New Orleans’ Sweet Emma Barrett and her Preservation Hall Jazz Band" (album)—Sweet Emma and her Preservation Hall Jazz Band (1964)
  16. "You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’" (single)—The Righteous Brothers (1964)
  17. "The Doors" (album)—The Doors (1967)
  18. "Stand!" (album)—Sly and the Family Stone (1969)
  19. "Lincoln Mayorga and Distinguished Colleagues" (album)—Lincoln Mayorga (1968)
  20. "A Wild and Crazy Guy" (album)—Steve Martin (1978)
  21. "Sesame Street: All-Time Platinum Favorites" (album)—Various (1995)
  22. "OK Computer" (album)—Radiohead (1997)
  23. "Old Regular Baptists: Lined-Out Hymnody from Southeastern Kentucky" (album)—Indian Bottom Association (1997)
  24. "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" (album)—Lauryn Hill (1998)
  25. "Fanfares for the Uncommon Woman" (album)—Colorado Symphony Orchestra, Marin Alsop, conductor; Joan Tower, composer (1999)
The full National Recording Registry currently numbers 425 recordings, and can be viewed here. The Registry solicits nominations for inclusion on the registry; further information on the criteria and procedures for making nominations is available at the Registry website

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

WFMU Marathon 2015

Love free-form radio? Then consider supporting independent station WFMU during its annual fundraising Marathon that runs March 8 through March 22, 2015. WFMU first hit the airwaves on April 24, 1958 at the now-defunct Upsala College and has never looked back. Currently based in Jersey City, New Jersey, WFMU broadcasts at 91.1 Mhz and via a second signal at 90.1 Mhz in Mount Hope, New York. WFMU has also long been an Internet pioneer, streaming its programming 24/7 in multiple formats, including iPhone and Android. Past shows are archived at the station's website, which also features WFMU's entertaining and content-rich blog.

What is free-form radio you might ask? WFMU describes itself as follows:
WFMU's programming ranges from flat-out uncategorizable strangeness to rock and roll, experimental music, 78 RPM Records, jazz, psychedelia, hip-hop, electronica, hand-cranked wax cylinders, punk rock, gospel, exotica, R&B, radio improvisation, cooking instructions, classic radio airchecks, found sound, dopey call-in shows, interviews with obscure radio personalities and notable science-world luminaries, spoken word collages, Andrew Lloyd Webber soundtracks in languages other than English as well as country and western music.
And because the station is listener-supported, WFMU DJs have for years maintained complete autonomy and control over their own programming, which is extraordinarily eclectic. Check out the current WFMU audio smorgasbord, and see for yourself!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Kickstarting CursiveLogic



At a time when cursive writing is being dropped from the curriculum of countless schools around the United States, Linda Shrewsbury has developed a simplified teaching methodology that significantly reduces the amount of time necessary for mastery of this fundamental literacy skill. Her Kickstarter campaign ends shortly, but it has already surpassed its fundraising goal, thus ensuring that the teaching materials will be produced for broad dissemination. More information on the method can be found at the CursiveLogic website.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Tour of the Mississippi River Valley 2015

Sponsored by the Quad Cities Bicycle Club, the 38th annual Tour of the Mississippi River Valley (TOMVR) will take place this year on June 13-14. A tradition since 1978, this year's bicycle ride offers two different distance options, with the longer ride covering 106 miles on the first day (from Bettendorf to Dubuque), and 90 miles via a different route back to Bettendorf on the second day. The longer option also involves approximately 6,000 feet of climb on the first day and 4,000 feet on the second. Registration is currently open, and further information can be found on the QCBC web site.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

RAGBRAI 2015 Overnight Towns Announced

The eight overnight towns for the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa XLIII were just announced at the annual Route Announcement Party: Sioux City > Storm Lake  > Fort Dodge > Eldora > Cedar Falls > Hiawatha > Coralville > Davenport. The starting and ending points, which are always on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, respectively, are for the first time both the same as for the inaugural ride in 1973.

This year's seven-day ride takes place July 19-25, 2015, and will be 462 miles in length with 15,948 feet of total climb, making it the 19th shortest and 13th flattest route since RAGBRAI began. Registration for the world's oldest, largest, and longest recreational bike touring event is currently open, with a deadline of April 1, 2015 for online applications. Lottery results will be announced May 1, 2015.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2015

Just over 50 years ago, on December 10, 1964, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize for Peace, concluding:
". . . I accept this award in the spirit of a curator of some precious heirloom which he holds in trust for its true owners--all those to whom beauty is truth and truth beauty--and in whose eyes the beauty of genuine brotherhood and peace is more precious than diamonds or silver or gold.
The complete text of Dr. King's speech can be read on the Nobel Prize website. The text of King's Nobel Lecture, "The Quest for Peace and Justice," is also available on the site.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Plant the New Year with Heirloom Seeds

The tantalizing 2015 Catalog from Seed Savers Exchange marks the organization's 40th anniversary, and is now available online; alternatively, a copy in print can be requested free of charge.

Founded in 1975 by Diane Ott Whealy and Kent Whealy, Seed Savers Exchange is now the largest non-governmental seed bank of its kind in the United States. With over 13,000 members, SSE conserves and maintains heirloom seeds for thousands of vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers. Its mission is:
. . . to save North America's diverse, but endangered, garden heritage for future generations by building a network of people committed to collecting, conserving and sharing heirloom seeds and plants, while educating people about the value of genetic and cultural diversity.
Located on the 890-acre Heritage Farm in Decorah, Iowa, SSE is open to visitors from April to October, and sponsors special events such as seed starting, grafting, and gardening workshops. It also hosts an annual conference and campout. To learn more about Seed Savers Exchange and the benefits of membership, visit its website.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

From Billions to None: The Extinction of the Passenger Pigeon

The last known passenger pigeon, called Martha, after Mrs. Washington, the first First Lady of the United States, died on September 1, 1914 at the Cincinnati Zoo. Although the murmurations depicted in the trailer for the documentary, From Billions to None: The Passenger Pigeon's Flight to Extinction, are not particularly convincing simulations of the long-gone massive flocks, the story of the extinction of a superabundant avian species is nevertheless a fascinating if unfortunate one. It is estimated that the passenger pigeon, once the most common bird in North America, had attained a population of several billion at its peak in the 19th century. Project Passenger Pigeon, organized by scientists, educators, conservationists, and others, seeks to provide "lessons from the past for a sustainable future."

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Wapsipincon Almanac 21 Ready for Delectation

The latest annual installment of the eclectic Wapsipinicon Almanac is now available. Published and letterpress printed since 1988 by Timothy Fay of Route 3 Press, the present issue, as with previous numbers, features an engaging mix of essays, reviews, fiction, poetry, art, wit and wisdom.

Number 21 can be purchased at bookstores and other establishments or by writing the publisher directly at Wapsipinicon Almanac, 19948 Shooting Star Road, Anamosa, Iowa 52205. Single copies are $9, plus $2.50 for postage; Iowa residents should also include 63-cents for sales tax.

The front and rear covers shown here were designed by Will Thomson. A brief history of the publication can be viewed at the Almanac's website, and a video of "Linotype Operator Emeritus" Eldon Meeks in action can be viewed here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

New Cohort of 25 Films Added to National Film Registry

Established by the National Film Preservation Act of 1988, the National Film Preservation Board is an advisory body for the Librarian of Congress. The Board helps shape national film preservation planning policy, and also recommends films for the National Film Registry.

Chosen for their cultural, historic, or aesthetic significance, the Board's 25 selections for 2014 cover a wide gamut of genres and time periods, from such early films as Bert Williams Lime Kiln Club Field Day and The Power and the Glory to such later works as Little Big Man and Into the Arms of Strangers.  The full list is as follows:

2000s
13 Lakes (2004)
Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport (2000)

1990s
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
The Big Lebowski (1998)

1980s
Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)
Luxo Jr. (1986)
Moon Breath Beat (1980)

1970s
Please Don't Bury Me Alive! (1976)
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
Little Big Man (1970)

1960s
Rosemary's Baby (1968)
Felicia (1965)

1950s
Rio Bravo (1959)
House of Wax (1953)

1940s
The Way of Peace (1947)
V-E + 1 (1945)
The Gang's All Here (1943)
Down Argentine Way (1940)

1930s 
Ruggles of Red Gap (1935)
The Power and the Glory (1933)
State Fair (1933)

1910s
The Dragon Painter (1919)
Unmasked (1917)
Shoes (1916)
Bert Williams Lime Kiln Club Field Day (1913)

Further information on the Registry as well as the films themselves can be found on the Library of Congress' web site. All 500+ films selected for the Registry since 1989 can also be browsed online. In addition, the public is encouraged to make nominations for next year's selections to the National Film Registry.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

#Rights365: Human Rights Day Is Every Day

Human Rights Day is celebrated annually on December 10 to mark the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This year's theme is Human Rights 365, for which United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon exhorts: "I call on States to honour their obligation to protect human rights every day of the year. I call on people to hold their governments to account."

The Declaration was proclaimed on December 10, 1948 through United Nations General Assembly Resolution 217 A (III):
. . . as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.
Although not itself a binding legal document, it has "inspired more than more than 60 human rights instruments which together constitute an international standard of human rights."

The Declaration has been translated into more than 300 languages and dialects, from Abkhaz to Zulu. The English version is available here, while other versions are available via an online database. A guide to UN Human Rights documentation as well as various related UN databases are also accessible on the UN Human Rights website.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Library at UK's Imperial War Museum Facing Elimination

The Imperial War Museum (IWM) in the UK is facing substantial cuts to collections and services, particularly its Library. Founded in 1917, the IWM maintains significant research collections related to "all aspects of twentieth- and twenty-first century conflict involving Britain, the Commonwealth and other former empire countries." Over 11,000 supporters have so far signed an online petition urging a reversal of the proposed closure of the Library, reduction of educational programs, and job losses.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Tomatoes and Proclamations

Although not without detractors, President Washington on October 3, 1789 signed the first Thanksgiving Proclamation, employing the language of the resolution passed by the First United States Congress, and further expressing gratitude for "tranquility, union, and plenty." Presidents Adams and Madison later issued similar proclamations, as did President Lincoln, who on October 3, 1863 finally and definitively established Thanksgiving Day as the third national holiday (after Independence Day and Washington's Birthday), to occur on the fourth Thursday of every November.

To commemorate this year's Thanksgiving, the above photo depicts a sampling of Abraham Lincoln heirloom tomatoes raised by the Common Curator using seeds harvested during a 2013 workshop at the Seedsavers Exchange's Heritage Farm.

For those who have had an especially prosperous 2014, one of only two known copies of Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation is currently on offer from the antiquarian bookseller, Seth Kaller, Inc. Asking price? 8.4 million dollars, plus $3.50 for shipping.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Sex and Broadcasting: A Film about WFMU



The long-awaited documentary about freeform radio station WFMU by filmmaker Tim K. Smith will be having its world premiere at the DOC NYC film festival on November 15 & 17, 2014. Originally entitled Freeform or Death for its Kickstarter campaign, which raised over $81,000 from 736 backers during the summer of 2012, the film is now called Sex and Broadcasting, after the book of the same name by community radio pioneer Lorenzo Milam.

WFMU first hit the airwaves on April 24, 1958 at the now-defunct Upsala College and has never looked back. Currently based in Jersey City, New Jersey, WFMU broadcasts at 91.1 Mhz and via a second signal at 90.1 Mhz in Mount Hope, New York. The station has also been a leader for years on the Internet, streaming in multiple formats and archiving all shows online.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Iowa City Book Festival 2014

One of just seven UNESCO Cities of Literature in the world, Iowa City, Iowa is hosting its sixth annual Book Festival, October 2-5, 2014. In partnership with the University of Iowa's International Writing Program and Writers' Workshop, FilmScene, the Mission Creek Festival, as well as other organizations and individuals, the four-day event will feature a Book Fair, readings by numerous authors, and non-stop programming at many venues in and around downtown Iowa City. The 2014 Program can be downloaded as a PDF, and full details can be found at the festival website.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Grant Wood Sketchbook Returns to Figge Art Museum


Missing for several decades, a sketchbook by world-renowned Iowa artist Grant Wood [1891-1942] was recently reclaimed by the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa. Part of a collection acquired in 1965 from Wood's sister, Nan Wood Graham, the sketchbook contains notes and plans for the stained glass window he designed for the Veterans Memorial Building in Cedar Rapids in 1928.

The window depicts soldiers in privates' uniforms from the six major U.S. wars up to that time: the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, and the First World War; the soldiers are surmounted by a large female figure said to represent the Republic. To oversee the fabrication of the window directly, Wood travelled to Munich, Germany, one of several trips to Europe he made early in his career.

The recovered sketchbook is thought to have been stolen shortly after its acquisition by the Davenport Municipal Art Gallery, the Figge's predecessor. Andrew Wallace, the Figge's current Manager of Collections and Exhibitions, was instrumental in researching the loss of the sketchbook and in negotiating its return after it was slated for auction. More information on this fortunate turn of events can be found in an article in the Quad-City Times.

Much of Grant Wood's personal archive has been digitized. The University of Iowa hosts the Figge Art Museum Grant Wood Digital Collection and several dozen images have been digitized by the Archives of American Art in their Grant Wood Collection, 1930-1983.

The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art is home to the world's largest collection of Grant Wood artwork, and features the Grant Wood Gallery. Curious individuals can discover more about Wood's life and times by visiting stops along Iowa's Grant Wood Trail. American Gothic, Wood's iconic masterpiece painted in 1930, is housed in the Art Institute of Chicago.

Note: Top image is from the Quad-City Times; bottom image is from the Veterans Memorial Building. A previous Common Curator post of related interest is the 120th Anniversary of Grant Wood's Birth.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

How Writers Write Fiction: An Iowa MOOC



The International Writing Program (IWP) at the University of Iowa is offering a Massive Open Online Course, or MOOC, entitled "How Writers Write Fiction: Talks on Craft and Commitment." The course is the IWP's third MOOC, and will run from September 26 to November 21, 2014.

Lead instructors will be Christopher Merrill, Director of the IWP and Professor of English at Iowa, and R. Clifton Spargo, author of Beautiful Fools: The Last Affair of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald and Dixon Professor of Creative Writing at Wittenberg University.

The course is free, but requires registration. Information about the Writing University as well as other MOOCs is also available online.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Making a Case for Books

Architect and fine craftsman Frank Howarth portrays in the above stop-motion video the manifold steps it takes to create beautifully functional bookcases out of walnut veneer plywood. The video comprises approximately 6,400 frames selected from some 11,700 frames that Howarth shot of the process. More woodworking projects can be viewed at Howarth's YouTube channel.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

2014 National Book Festival

The 14th annual National Book Festival, organized and sponsored by the Library of Congress, will be held on Saturday, August 30, 2014, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. The festival is free and open to the public.

As in prior years, President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama are honorary chairs for the event. More than 100 authors, poets, and illustrators, will be making presentations throughout the day in the theme-based pavilions for Children, Teens & Children, Fiction & Mystery, History & Biography, Contemporary Life and Poetry & Prose.

Schedules are available online for the Author Pavilions and the Library of Congress Pavilion. Further information on the Festival can be found here, and a map of the festival grounds can be viewed here.

The Festival website features an archive of photos, video webcasts, and audio podcasts. The 2014 poster, shown here, was designed by Bob Staake.