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University of Iowa News Release

Oct. 13, 2004

Photo: The Railway Conductor, a periodical that is part of the materials to be preserved with an NEH grant to the UI Libraries

UI Libraries Earns Humanities Grant To Restore Railroadiana Collections

The University of Iowa Libraries will share a $393,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to preserve research materials important to scholarship dealing with U.S. railroads and their influence on American life, landscape, history and technology.

"Over the years, generous support from NEH has allowed us to preserve many collections whose needs would have been difficult to address within our normal operating budgets," said Nancy E. Kraft, head of the UI Libraries' Preservation Department. "For example, this current NEH-funded project will allow us to complete in two years what would take over 15 years to complete with regular funding."

The grant will be shared with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Northwestern University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The project will focus primarily on reformatting to archival-quality microfilm a body of fragile materials with acidic, brittle paper that renders them vulnerable to further deterioration, damage and loss. Materials will also be repaired or rehoused so that the originals may remain available to researchers for as long as possible. While the majority of the items to be filmed and treated are published journals, a number of books and pamphlets are also included. For their part, the UI Libraries will preserve and provide access to railroad periodicals from its circulating collection and the State Historical Society of Iowa's non-circulating collection. The titles selected reflect the national role that Iowa and the Midwest played in the growth and operation of railroads. Complete records describing these materials will be entered into Iowa's local cataloging system, as well as an online bibliographic database, making their existence widely known to the international community of scholars.

The growth and development of Iowa railroads is well documented in the UI Libraries collections. Special Collections has 15 manuscript collections relating to railroads. This preservation project will dovetail into the railroad collections the UI Libraries already owns.

"These periodicals represent an absolutely critical body of material for documenting the impact of railroads on American life. It is a subject that continues to generate considerable new research among both established scholars and graduate students," said Shelton Stromquist, UI professor of history in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Snee, 319-384-0010,