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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

March 9, 2007

Restoring history

by Erin Rosacker


Alison Kilman, conservator in ISU's preservation department, works to extract pages from a volume of Iowa's Secretary of State records on loan from the State Historical Society. The 1858 act that founded Iowa State University will be featured in the library's sesquicentennial display. Kilman is restoring the damaged volume's cover and binding. Photo by Erin Rosacker.

Responding to a push to establish a State Agricultural College and Model Farm, the Iowa Legislature crafted and passed a bill, which Gov. Ralph Lowe signed on March 22, 1858. That date would come to be Iowa State's founding date, which makes this spring the beginning of a year-long sesquicentennial celebration.

The 1858 act, held in the volumes of the State Historical Society, is on loan to Parks Library's Special Collections department through December. It will be featured in the Special Collections Reading Room (403 Parks Library) as part of the sesquicentennial exhibit, "Treasures from the Archives: Celebrating 150 Years of Iowa State University," which opens to the public April 21.

Prior to going on display, the act is getting a facelift in the library's preservation department. Specialists are working on the slightly charred volume that contains the act, as well as the nine original handwritten pages that will be extracted and displayed in the exhibit.

According to the Iowa Legislature Web site, a fire started by a workman's candle during renovations damaged the north wing of the state's Capitol building on Jan. 4, 1904.

In addition to replacing the fire-damaged covers of the book, conservator Alison Kilman is removing and replacing the disintegrating glue binding of the book's spine. The act, recorded as No. 91 and located near the end of the volume, doesn't show smoke damage on its pages.

"Given the age of the paper and what the book has been through, the pages are in good condition," Kilman said. "They were protected from exposure to smoke because the book was closed."

In addition to the governor, the speaker of the house, president of the senate and chief clerk signed the act.

Other featured items of the sesquicentennial exhibit will include Iowa State president Adonijah Welch's handwritten speech for the 1872 graduation ceremony, the Campanile's original key and Margaret Stanton's death mask.


The original pages of the 1858 act that established Iowa State University will be on display in the library's Special Collections Reading Room, beginning April 21. The act, on loan from the State Historical Society, is part of the "Treasures from the Archives: Celebrating 150 Years of Iowa State University" sesquicentennial exhibit.