CONTACT: MARY GERAGHTY
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0011; fax (319) 384-0024
UI Libraries wins $73,300 grant to create Web display of rare Chautauqua
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa Libraries has been awarded
a $73,300 grant to digitize a collection of paper records relating to Chautauqua
performances in the United States. The collection, housed in the department
of special collections, is a vast assortment of records from the Redpath
Lyceum Bureau, a major booking agent for "circuit" Chautauqua
performances in the Midwest.
Circuit Chautauqua, which first became popular in 1904, was an offspring
of the lyceum movement -- which began in Massachusetts in the early 1800s
-- and of the Chautauqua assemblies held at Lake Chautauqua, N.Y., in the
late 1800s. The goal of circuit Chautauqua was to deliver educational,
spiritual, and cultural stimulation to rural and small-town America.
Currently the UI collection, the largest known collection of Chautauqua
materials in the United States, is little-known outside scholarly circles
and can only be viewed on site at the UI Main Library. The new grant, awarded
by the United States Library of Congress, will allow the UI to digitize
the content of the collection and display them in graphic representations
and searchable texts to viewers all over the globe through the World Wide
The UI Libraries won the grant in the Library of Congress/Ameritech
National Digital Library Competition. The competition is funded by a $2-million,
three-year partnership between the Library of Congress and the Ameritech
Foundation. The awards will enable U.S. libraries, archives, museums and
historical societies to digitize their collections of primary resources
in United States history for incorporation into the Library's National
Digital Library. The seven winners in this year's competition were selected
from nearly 70 applications.
The National Digital Library is a distributed collection of digitized
primary resources consisting of photographs and prints, documents, motion
pictures, maps and sound recordings. More information on the Library of
Congress/Ameritech National Digital Library Competition is available on
the Web at http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/award/98award/award98.html
The grant will allow the UI Libraries to convert the talent portion
of the collection, which consists of 9,600 printed publicity brochures,
promotional advertisements, and flyers for some 7,600 performers who were
on the Chautauqua circuit. Nearly 38,000 images and more than 5 million
words from the collection will be converted. The resulting Web exhibit,
"Traveling Culture: Circuit Chautauqua in the Twentieth Century,"
will become part of the American Memory collection, which is the on-line
resource compiled by the Library of Congress National Digital Library Collection.
The on-line version will offer students, scholars, and the general public
an opportunity to take an in-depth look at the popular culture of the early
"The staff are extremely excited at the prospect of making this
rich resource of materials on turn-of-the-century education and entertainment
available to a wide audience of university scholars as well as high-school
teachers and students," said Sheila D. Creth, university librarian.
Dick Kolbet, special collections librarian at the UI Libraries, said
the publicity brochures for the entertainers and lecturers on the Chautauqua
circuit will provide a wealth of information for researchers, including
formal portraits, biographical information, and performance credentials.
"Brief quotations from newspapers praising past performances as well
as the importance of their topics add authority and depth to the information
in the brochures," he said. "Information of this nature is sometimes
found in other sources, but usually is buried in dusty periodicals, brief
obituary notices, or other obscure resources. Our collection on the Web
will provide a single, comprehensive resource for students and scholars."
In addition to the grant money, the UI Office of the vice president
for research will contribute more than $30,000 to pay for some of the equipment
needed to carry out the project. "The university is most pleased to
be able to participate in this exciting project that will greatly increase
access to this important collection," said David Skorton, UI vice
president for research.
The new Chautauqua Web site will be part of the UI Libraries Scholarly
Digital Resources Center (SDRC), which was created to foster the creation
and use of digitized collections and resources of interest to the UI community.
The center's activities include acquisition of digital collections, electronic
publishing, digitizing of unique research materials, and providing access
to digital collections located in other institutions. These projects are
carried out in partnership with faculty from a wide range of disciplines.
The creation of multimedia resources, building on the expertise and renown
of the Information Arcade and the Information Commons, is a particular
strength of the SDRC.
(Editors note: Materials in the Chautauqua collection, which include
many colorful posters and brochures, may be viewed and photographed in
the UI Libraries' department of special collections. Contact Dick Kolbet
at 335-5921 to make arrangements.)