Our month long celebration of local history is over for another year. In May, National Historical Preservation month, we highlight local history during a series of programs we call WOW—Weber on Wednesday. The programs honor Iowa City’s unofficial historian, the late Irving B. Weber.
This year we heard about historical gardens, beer caves, food history (oyster bars galore, who knew!), corner grocery stores, downtown Iowa City, and early Coralville. We also hope to encourage interest in local history and get people involved in preserving and researching. We offered special scanning days to allow people to use professional grade scanners to digitize documents and solicit items for our Digital History Project.
Of all the programs this year the one that most imbodies the spirit of Irving Weber was a presentation by the 6th grade girls of Helen Lemme school who visited the University of Iowa Women’s Archives, the State Historical Society Library and the Iowa City Public Library to research their school’s namesake, Helen Lemme. They presented their finding at a WOW program and also shared it with the governor this week. Their research and work reflects that our history is for everyone – not just scholars.
Many people are concerned about access to the records that make this and future research possible. The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs which oversees all the state’s arts and cultural programs, including state historical libraries in Des Moines and Iowa City, has reduced hours at both facilities to just three days a week. The Iowa City State Historical Society of Iowa had a staff of 20 in 2000, as of July 1, they will have two.
University of Iowa associate professor of history and geography, Tyler Priest, has focused well deserved attention on concerns regarding access to the historical documents housed in the Iowa City Centennial Building. His perspective is as teacher and a scholar. The issues he raises affect all Iowans. We are all “citizen historians,” just like Irving Weber. All of us who care about the history of our state need to educate ourselves about the situation and follow up on the consultants’ report due out in about a month that the DCA has commissioned.
Currently, the DCA is gathering feedback on how historical collections in Des Moines and Iowa City are used. If you are interested please complete the survey:
<http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?e=001YdNu7DMwVzH4raGEeYA-8Z1fTPY4vdfIwNOxhkrQkRkTnKZQtM7HP4WdOpXAWYi4MCdl_zCjI_MXkpeh_oKMPZo6pe4-_N2I9mkRPp2q-22a1dNUETjMOt6QqaTmoULR3ywLPt4k76SbyFs5xX9kcQ==> now through Tuesday, June 30. It will take approximately 10 minutes or less to complete.
Irving B Weber would thank you for your interest!