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University of Iowa News Release


Jan. 5, 2007

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African-American Artifacts Featured In UI Libraries' Online Exhibit

A new online collection from the University of Iowa Libraries features digitized photographs, clippings, newsletters, and other historical materials documenting the experience of African-American women in Iowa during the 20th century.

The African American Women in Iowa Digital Collection, on the web at, is a collaborative project coordinated by the Digital Library Services department of the UI Libraries. Featuring digitized material from the Iowa Women's Archives and the African American Historical Museum and Cultural Center of Iowa (AAHMCCI), the collection includes items dating between 1924 and 1970 that were formerly owned by Iowans ranging from sorority girls to civil rights activists.

A highlight from the collection is AAHMCCI's scrapbook of Althea Beatrice Moore Smith, an African-American student at the UI from 1924 to 1928. Filled with photographs of Smith and her friends posed on the Old Capitol steps and other familiar locations around campus, the scrapbook's 50 pages also contain invitations, concert programs and autographed messages from her wide acquaintance among the local African-American community.

"This scrapbook is a wonderful snapshot of what it was like to be African American, female, and a student at the University of Iowa in the 1920s," says Susan Kuecker, curator of the African American Historical Museum and Cultural Center of Iowa, located in Cedar Rapids. "The museum staff and board are so pleased that this scrapbook will be placed online so that anyone with Internet access can view it and appreciate it for the treasure that it is."

Other items include materials from the Iowa Women's Archives, which began an initiative in the mid-1990s to acquire papers and oral histories from African-American women around the state. Among the documents currently digitized from these collections is a 1929 pamphlet for the Iowa Federation Home, created to house female African-American students at the university before dormitories were integrated, and the mid- to late-1960s newsletters of the Fort Madison branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

"It's exciting to see how the landscape of Iowa's African American history has changed over the past decade. When we began preserving the documents and stories of African-American women in 1995, very little historical material was available. Our work was a real act of discovery," says Kären M. Mason, curator of the Iowa Women's Archives. "Since that time many groups have joined the effort to preserve and record this history. Now African American history in Iowa is not only available but visible in the African American museum, in a major published history, 'Outside In,' and in these digital collections."

The African American Women in Iowa Digital Collection is the latest in a series of projects coordinated by Digital Library Services for inclusion in the UI Libraries' Iowa Digital Library web site, as well as the statewide Iowa Heritage Digital Collections consortium.

"This project demonstrates how technology can be used to preserve Iowa history and make it accessible to anyone in the state, from schoolchildren to scholars," says Paul Soderdahl, director of Library Information Technology and interim coordinator for Digital Library Services. "Through this collaborative effort, we can leverage the University Libraries' technical infrastructure and digital library expertise to expose the diverse and precious collections of the Archives and the museum."

To view more digital collections created from the UI Libraries' archives, visit the Iowa Digital Library web site at

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

CONTACTS: Media: George McCrory 319-384-0012,; Program: Kristi Bontrager, Public Relations Coordinator, University of Iowa Libraries, 319-335-5960; Writer: Kristi Bontrager