CONTACT: TOM SNEE
300 Plaza Centre One
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0010; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: Jan. 21, 2003
UI Library aerial photo collection shows unique view of Iowa history
Click photo for enlargement.
the 1937 photo, Kinnick Stadium sits virtually alone, out past the Field House
and University Hospital, surrounded by fields, clearly on the edge of Iowa
But its not as lonely in the photo taken in the 1950s, joined by a
new housing subdivision and a growing hospital. By the time the photos in
the 1970s are taken, Kinnick has been completely swallowed by parking garages,
a greatly expanded UIHC and still more houses.
The photos, shot from several thousand feet in the air, are graphic visual
evidence of the changes in Iowas landscape during the past seven decades.
A collection of more than 100,000 of them covering virtually the entire state
is housed in the map collection the UI Library and is available for public
Its a unique resource for the state and one that many people
find useful, said Mary McInroy, who oversees the photos in the map collection.
The photos are part of a program launched by the U.S. Department of Agriculture
in the mid-1930s to shoot aerial photos of every state and provide them to
local county extension and farm service agencies for agricultural planning
purposes. With the exception of the World War II years, the USDA has shot
the photos every five to eight years.
When a new set of photos arrives, many of the county-level agencies give
their old photos to either the UI or Iowa State University. The UIs
collection was recently bolstered by the addition of about 16,000 photos that
had been given to ISU, which is no longer accepting them because of limited
space. UI staff is currently inventorying the ISU photos. Although some of
the ISU photos will duplicate current UI holdings, in many cases the new photos
will add considerable depth to the UIs historical county-by-county coverage.
McInroy said the photos are a fascinating record of what Iowa used to look
like and a journal of how the states landscape has changed. Mosaics
of small farm plots are turned into large fields, stands of forest disappear
under urban encroachment and two-lane country roads give way to interstate
But McInroy said the photos provide more than an historical record, theyre
a useful resource for a variety of different organizations that use them for
their own planning purposes, agricultural and otherwise. For instance, Mark
Anderson, a project director in the Office of State Archaeologist, says his
office uses the photos while planning every project to see what each site
looked like in the past so their digging doesnt damage historic sites.
Thanks to the photos, Anderson has found long-gone historic farmsteads at
project sites, observed the effects of stream channel modification over several
decades, and found new burial mounds at the Turkey River burial mound site.
None of that information could have been obtained from ground observation,
Its a fabulous resource and easily at hand for us, he
Aerial photos for Iowa and other states are all available for individual
purchase from federal agencies. McInroy said. The UIs Iowa photo collection
is free to anyone who wants to see and use it. For a listing of aerial photos
held at the UI, log onto the Map Collections web site at http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/maps/
and click on Aerial Photos of Iowa. This listing does not yet
include the ISU photos.
Although extensive, the UI collection is far from complete and McInroy is
trying to find photos not in the collection. Shes hoping Iowans who
have photos will donate them to the university, or provide a financial gift
that will help the library buy the photos it needs from federal agencies to
help fill the gaps. For more information on the collection, contact McInroy
at (319) 335-6247 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.