CONTACT: MELVIN O. SHAW
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0010; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: June 29, 2000
University Oral History Project preserves UI's bygone eras
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Portions of the University of Iowa's history is being
digitally preserved in a unique oral history project, which includes descriptive
stories from some of the UI's most well-recognized figures, among them a former
UI president, and former and current administrators.
The University Oral History Project began in 1976 by then graduate student
James Beilman, who set out to preserve perceptions about, as well as the facts
surrounding, events and changes in the life of the UI. The collection includes
conversations with former UI President Willard (Sandy) Boyd; Susan Hancher,
wife of former UI president Virgil Hancher; and Philip Hubbard, former administrator
and professor emeritus, College of Engineering. Among the many other former
and current long-time UI employees interviewed by Linda Yanney, oral historian,
are Samuel Becker, professor emeritus of communications studies; Mary Jo Small,
former UI administrator; Wallace Tomasini, professor, and former director
of the School of Art and Art History; and Ted Wheeler, former UI track coach.
Funding for the project has been intermittent, but thanks to a private donation
and a matching donation from the UI Foundation, Yanney, of the Libraries special
collections department, was able to resume interviews in 1999. The project
is currently funded through December. Since last year Yanney has added 37
interviews to the 46 conducted by Beilman.
Although there are well-documented stories about the UI's history and civil
unrest here during the Vietnam War, none capture the tenor of the times at
the UI like the oral recordings, Yanney says.
In an interview recorded sometime earlier with Professor Emeritus Robert
Engel, Hubbard told heartbreaking and warming stories about what it was like
to be a black professor at the UI during the 1940s, and about changes since.
Yanney transcribed and edited that interview.
Susan Boyd, wife of Sandy Boyd, recounted that life for the families of
UI administrators was strained as anti-war sentiment grew. She reminisced
about student-led demonstrations, which at times became so frequent and disorderly
that some administrators were forced to move their families from their homes.
Bill Decker, associate vice president for research and former director,
Information Technology Services, told about his beginnings at the UI, which
as a youngster included trips to the UI band camp, then later his experiences
as a band member. Included in his interview are anecdotes about the largely
unnoticed camaraderie between the band and football team.
Susan Mask, director of Affirmative Action, exhibits professionalism similar
in some ways to Hubbard, Yanney says.
Each, she says, is committed to raising understanding among all of the people
at the UI, and to facilitating without dismissing others' points of view.
Yanney says her goal is to complete 60 interviews, but she says there's
no way to really complete the project since the UI's history will continue
to unfold. She says she found in the Libraries' sound archive some 23 earlier
cassette tapes that are now being brought up to archival quality.
When the 60 interviews are completed, however, they will be transcribed
and preserved in a format that she is hopeful will be accessible to researchers
and for general interest use in the future. She says there's no way to know
what the multimedia environment will be like some decades from now, but said
she believes the tape recordings will continue to be used, even in the current
era of digital recordings. For that reason, two preserved digital and tape
formats will exist and be housed in Special Collections.
For more information about the project, visit the Oral History Project Web
site at http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/spec-coll/new2.htm
or contact Linda Yanney at (319) 335-5921.