Hold History in Your Hands at the First-Ever Iowa City Archives Crawl
What gems hide in plain sight in Iowa City’s libraries, museums, and archives?
At the area’s first-ever archives crawl, visitors can snoop in between the pages of historic diaries, read other people's mail, hold feathers and fossils, and peer into mysteries revealed by historic artifacts like swords and locks of hair kept in remembrance.
On Saturday, February 24, from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm, four sites across downtown Iowa City will provide behind-the-scenes tours, expert talks, hands-on activities, and demonstrations.
Celebrating Local Archives
The Iowa City Public Library, the State Historical Society of Iowa, the UI Museum of Natural History, and the UI Main Library are the anchor sites for this event, which includes archivists, scholars, and community experts representing 15 different organizations from across the Iowa City-Cedar Rapids Corridor.
The crawl was inspired by the Obermann Humanities Symposium/Provost’s Global Forum, “Against Amnesia: Archives, Evidence, and Social Justice,” March 1-3, 2018, which will feature talks by visiting scholars and archivists about the role of archives in social justice movements, including recent attempts to save climate change data prior to changes in the federal government, a hunt through Latin American corporate archives to prove collusion with government death squads, and the making of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.
“With all of these experts and amazing stories converging on Iowa City during the symposium, we wanted to also highlight the treasures that exist in our local libraries and museums,” says Jennifer New, associate director of the Obermann Center, and one of the primary organizers of the crawl.
“Museums, libraries, and archives hold such a fascinating range of objects and bring so many different perspectives to the human desire to understand ourselves, our history, and the world around us,” says Trina Roberts, Director of the UI Pentacrest Museums. “It’s rare to get a chance to see some of these objects and specimens at all, let alone so many different collections all in one day. Our staff are especially looking forward to showing off some of our own favorites to Archives Crawl visitors.”
Who should go? History buffs; anyone interested in working in libraries, archives, or museums; families hoping to learn more about their community; students eager to get into spaces that are usually closed to the public; and anyone seeking an unusual and free activity should consider attending.
Visitors can start their crawl at any of the four locations. They can pick up a passport to get stamped, a schedule, and a map. In addition to guessing at mystery objects, each site will give passport stamps for visiting and attending special events. Crawlers can bring their full passports to any site for a prize.
Sites and Highlights
The UI Main Library (125 W. Washington Street, 3rd Floor) will share objects and talks on topics ranging from Iowa’s girls 6-on-6 basketball to the current UI Museum of Art exhibit, “Dada Futures.” In addition, the UI Conservation Lab will be open for tours at both 1:00 and 1:30 pm. All events start at the Special Collections office on the 3rd floor.
The UI Museum of Natural History (11 Macbride Hall, UI Pentacrest) will offer tours on the half hour throughout the day, featuring specimens and artifacts from both the zoological and ethnographic collections, as well as documentary and photographic collections. Representatives from the Office of the State Archaeologist and the Paleontology Repository will also be at the Museum sharing specimens.
The State Historical Society of Iowa (402 Iowa Avenue) will highlight its labor oral history project, music from Iowa’s punk scene, and a trove of films from the 1920s. Additionally, the African American Museum of Iowa and the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library will be on site.
Rounding out the sites is the Iowa City Public Library (123 S. Linn Street), which will host the Friends of Historic Preservation, the Johnson County Historical Society, and Historic Foodies. Library staff will share stories from local history about a famous Iowa City racehorse, research into a murder from Iowa City’s past, and building a history of the tornado of 2006. Visitors will learn about the library’s local history resources, which range from Iowa City newspaper resources dating back to 1852, city directories beginning in 1857, genealogical databases, and much more that can be used for personal and school-related research.
In addition, curators from the current UI Museum of Art exhibit, “Dada Futures,” will speak at the UI Main Library. Crawlers are encouraged to include the exhibit, which is on the third floor of the Iowa Memorial Union, in their day.
For a full list of the day’s events, click here.