“We are not makers of history. We are made by history.” — Martin Luther King Jr.
Dating back to the arrival of its founders, Robert and Elizabeth Alexander, Upper Iowa University has long possessed an extensive collection of documents, artifacts and other memorabilia. Due to the generous donations of alumni and their families, and the dedicated efforts of faculty and staff, a gateway to this ever-expanding history was recently opened to benefit this and future generations.
The University Archives and Foster Cass Archives Walk opened in October. Strongly supported by alumnus Foster Cass ’41, the Archives Walk provides a self-guided tour of UIU’s extensive collection of exhibits and displays featured in Henderson- Wilder Library, Alexander-Dickman Hall, Parker Fox, Dorman Memorial Gymnasium, Baker-Hebron Hall, Andres Center for Business and Education and UIU Student Center.
The centerpiece of the Foster Cass Archives Walk is the University Archives, located on the first floor of Henderson- Wilder Library. The wide array of documents, collections and memoirs on display pay homage to all things UIU. Among the permanent and rotating exhibits are a salute to Upper Iowa University Recruits Company C and the Civil War, Peacock Spirit, UIU Founders, Traditions, Yearbooks, Ornate Tableware and The Arts.
During a visit to the University Archives, alumni and other guests are also invited to participate in the Oral History Project. As part of the interactive exhibit, visitors may record their own story to become part of the collection or view previously recorded alumni stories.
Opening eyes and minds to UIU history
The public caught its first glimpse of the more easily accessible Upper Iowa historical exhibits during Homecoming 2015.
President William R. Duffy and UIU Archives Committee member Holly Wolff welcomed faculty, students, staff, alumni and other friends to the Upper Iowa University Archives for a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“Throughout its history, Upper Iowa University has benefited from an immeasurable amount of loyalty and support from its students, alumni, faculty, staff and the entire Peacock family,” Duffy said. “In an effort to provide each of us the opportunity to better appreciate the trials and tribulations, traditions and souvenirs, memories and memorabilia that have molded UIU, a great amount of teamwork has helped create this permanent archives collection and the oral history project on the Fayette campus.
“I am extremely grateful to each and every one of those who have donated funding, items to be displayed, their time and resources in making this all happen. From Foster Cass, the entire Parker family, and each of the donors, to the University Archives Committee, UIU director of library services Becky Wadian and the library and facilities staff, I believe each of your dedicated efforts have visibly paid off,” added Duffy.
The Upper Iowa University Archives Committee members were Holly Wolff ’10, Wayne Converse, Scott Figdore, Jackson
Hayek ‘02, Joel Kunze, Jan O’Brien, Bill Prochaska, Barb Schultz, Irina Varzavand, Becky Wadian ’72 and the Henderson-Wilder Library staff. Meanwhile, archives donors included Foster
Cass, the C.C. Parker Family, National Christian Foundation of California, Ellen Daugherty, Timothy F. Gillen ‘64, Julie Goebel, Thomas ’80 and Ann Joseph ‘82, James D. Parker, Richard R. Patrick, Lee Tillotson and Tim and Holly Wolff.
“I believe the entire Archives Committee would agree that over the last couple of months we may have felt at times that we were going to be a part of the permanent display here in the University archives. Although we spent countless hours elbow deep in boxes and preparing displays, we have been uncovering some truly extraordinary items and it has been a most worthy achievement,” Holly Wolff added. “But this is only the beginning. We will continue to preserve and open new exhibits as we work to ensure that our vast archival history is rightly recorded and maintained.”
While Foster Cass was unable to attend the grand opening, his daughter Ann (Cass) Testolin proudly shared a prepared statement from the UIU alumnus. Foster explained his support of preserving the University’s history: “There are many artifacts and items from the rich history of UIU that should not be discarded or stored away, unavailable to the students and friends. They should be preserved for future generations and made available for their understanding of the rich heritage that is important in their lives today.”
Revolving exhibits and future projects
Among the soon-to-be-featured revolving exhibits is an extensive Civil War–era medical collection donated to UIU by the descendants of Dr. C.C. (Charles Coleman) Parker, who served in the 12th Iowa Infantry Regiment (University Recruits) during the Civil War as a regimental surgeon and was Fayette’s first town doctor.
Last May, UIU administrators, faculty and staff joined three generations of C.C. Parker family descendants in unboxing the donated items in Henderson-Wilder Library.
“This is actually the first time I have looked at the entire collection, myself,” admitted Dr. James Parker as he examined his great-grandfather’s assortment of medical equipment and supplies. “It appears to be a complete collection of what a doctor would use in his office or when called to travel outside of town. When examining the collection, a person soon realizes how important it was for a doctor of that time to know his botany. Many of the medicines here are derived from plants.”
Parker noted among the more remarkable items were surgical knives and tools used in amputation and childbirth procedures; a box of medicine bottles, with about half of the original labels still legible; normal tissue samples from lungs and kidneys; and pathology samples of leprosy and tumors.
A long-range conservation plan of these and other exhibits includes a parallel focus on funding strategies for the archives, including writing grants for specific projects.
Anyone wishing to donate funding to the University Archives may contact the Office of Institutional
Advancement and Alumni Development by phone at 563-425-5388, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit the Archives
Upper Iowa University archivist Janette Garcia reminds patrons that an informational brochure, which includes a recommended tour map of the Foster Cass Archives Walk and the various historical exhibits on campus, is available at Henderson-Wilder Library. For additional information or to donate Upper Iowa University artifacts, please contact Garcia at 563-425-5722 or by email at email@example.com.