Special Collections & University Archives houses a wide range of materials that document the university’s long history, from professors’ documents, presidents’ letters and records, to materials that document daily student life. Some might think of the archives as a storage unit for old and irrelevant papers, but that isn’t true at all! The Funeral for Academic event, 2012 collection proves these assumptions wrong.
This is one of my favorite collections in the archives. While this collection is unique for many reasons, two are especially notable: the materials in the collection are very large objects, about three feet in height, and they came from a relatively recent event in our school’s history. In 2012, over 100 students and faculty members marched from the ground floor of Seerley Hall to the Campanile in protest about budget cuts that would close the Malcolm Price Lab School, the UNI Museum, and cut several undergrad programs. The protestors used large, styrofoam tombstones as props, making their march look like a funeral procession. We have added these tombstones to the University Archives, and they list many majors and minors that were cut at that time.
The majority of what is held in the archives, mainly paper materials, fits into standard archival grade boxes that protect the materials from UV damage. However, due to how large the tombstones are, they require specialty boxes and are housed in a spot that has enough room for them. The boxes are also made for materials to lay flat, something that is not always usual for other archival materials. Special Collections & University Archives has figured out how to properly house a number of other materials that have come into our care that are unusual in size. For example, we have blueprints from campus buildings and large maps that have to be stored in drawers lying flat, and we have artworks that need specialty boxes so that they are properly protected.
These tombstones illustrate how important and versatile the archives are. Archives typically do have materials from hundreds of years ago, and Special Collections & University Archives is no exception. However, they also document history that is being made every day, and they do this by keeping materials that were made by ordinary people right now.
Do you have materials that show your experience at UNI? Special Collections & University Archives takes donations! We’ve added thousands of photographs, scrapbooks, flyers and programs from events, journals, and other items to our collections from alumni, professors, and community members, and we are always interested in materials from current students and student organizations. If you would like to donate your UNI memorabilia once campus re-opens after this COVID-19 outbreak, please visit with the University Archivist, Jaycie Vos, at (319-273-6307) or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Essay written by SC&UA student employee Lily Schwarz, April 2020
“Funeral for Academics Event, 2012.” Funeral for Academics event, 2012 | Special Collections & University Archives, April 2019. https://aspace.library.uni.edu/repositories/3/archival_objects/53146.
2 styrofoam tombstones, in the Student Life - General #17/00/05, Funeral for Academics event, 2012, Rod Library, University of Northern Iowa.
Ti, Linh Mai. “'Funeral' held to protest academic program cuts.” Northern Iowa, March 27, 2012, Special Collections & University Archives at Rod Library. https://indexuni.library.uni.edu/articles/73440, Accessed on April 8, 2020.