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University of Iowa News Release


Dec. 10, 2007

Photo: Cover of the book "Facing East and Facing West." Click here for a high-resolution version of the image.

New book features Old Capitol photos, stories and history

The University of Iowa Old Capitol Museum has published a new book, "Facing East and Facing West: Iowa's Old Capitol Museum," filled with stories and photos about the UI's beloved landmark.

Through photographs by Tom Langdon and text by Linzee Kull McCray, the book gives a view into Iowa's past, describing Old Capitol rooms in detail and noting the period furnishings and artifacts contained in each room. The book contains 80 photographs, dating from the mid-1800s to the present day.

"Facing East and Facing West" is available at the Old Capitol Museum gift shop and local bookstores for $10, including online at Iowa Book at Old Capitol visitors can buy the book as a souvenir or gift, but it can also serve as an educational tool for those who want to know more about this significant building in Iowa history.

"The book gives visitors a chance to visit the museum many times through the visual pages of the publication," Shalla Wilson, assistant director of the UI Pentacrest Museums, said. "The photos and text do an excellent job of bringing the museum to life for anyone who has never visited or for those who are long time acquaintances of the museum."

"Facing East and Facing West" focuses on Old Capitol's physical structure and on the many events that took place within its walls. Photographs and text tell the building's structural history, from its construction in 1840 to the latest renovation project completed in 2006, following a 2001 fire. The book also relates how Old Capitol served as a gathering point in times of celebration and for more solemn occasions. Campus and community members gathered there for memorial services following the assassinations of Presidents Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy, while a group of young soldiers-to-be gathered at the Old Capitol in 1917 before leaving to serve in World War I.

"In conducting research for the book we encountered stories of significant state and university history, as well as many engaging personal stories," said McCray. "There are so many fascinating stories, it was difficult to decide which ones to include."

"While the Old Capitol is seen by thousands of university and Iowa City community members daily, I'm often surprised by the number of people I encounter who haven't visited," she added. "Its presence is easy to take for granted, and I hope the book, and in particular Tom Langdon's superb photographs, will inspire people to stop in."

Langdon said he enjoyed working on the project with McCray and book designer Sara Sauers, and had a great experience photographing the Old Capitol. "I really felt the colors inside and the light variations during the day and through variable sky conditions. I didn't want to change that or add my own heavy hand to the light, so I used existing light in all the photographs."

Many historical photographs from Special Collections and Archives at the University Libraries and Old Capitol Archives are included, in addition to Langdon's photographs. One of the earliest photos shows people gathered outside the Old Capitol for the 1853 Johnson County Fair, when canned goods were exhibited in the legislative chambers and the rails there were hung with patchwork quilts. Other photos detail some of the Old Capitol's many functions over the years, as home to the College of Law, as classrooms, and as a gathering place.

More recent photos depict the repairs following the 2001 fire and the recent additions of two interactive exhibits, the Iowa Discovery Center and the Hanson Family Iowa Humanities Gallery.

The book was published thanks to a memorial gift from UI alumna Mary Bywater Cross, Bill Bywater and Nancy Bywater Dornfield, who dedicated the book to their parents, Raymond L. and Janet M. Bywater, longtime Iowa City residents and UI supporters. It was designed by Sara Sauers and printed by Tru Art Color Graphics.

For more information, contact the Old Capitol Museum at 319-335-0548.

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

MEDIA CONTACTS: Shalla Wilson, UI Pentacrest Museums, 319-384-3601,; George McCrory, University News Services, 319-384-0012,