Nearing the flood anniversary

This weekend I clicked onto the UI Libraries' home page to start researching for a paper assigned in my summer art history class, and suddenly something familiar, yet lately absent from my life, caught my eye. The jolly, round face of Big Boy with his giant hamburger was a sight I hadn't seen in awhile, ever since the UIMA's collection was evacuated last summer. The poor guy still smiled through the layer of plastic wrap enveloping him.

The picture of Big Boy linked to the UI Libraries' Iowa Digital Library Flood Collection, an online compilation of over 3,400 photographs taken by the University News Services of the flood and its aftermath (including pictures of the water's impact on the former UIMA building—inside and out). The collection also includes oral history interviews recorded by the UI Anthropology Department and StoryCorps, a nonprofit organization that has recorded and archived more than 25,000 interviews throughout the country since 2003, making it the largest oral history project of its kind.

The Iowa Digital Library Flood Collection preserves the flood experience and commemorates the anniversary, coming up next week. Exactly one year ago on June 13, the UIMA was forced to close its doors after evacuating its 12,000-piece collection under the threat of rising floodwaters. It's hard to comprehend all that has changed for the UIMA in a single year: leaving the Riverside Drive building for good, moving the collection to Chicago and then to the Figge, renovating campus space for temporary galleries, and contemplating the next big project—envisioning a new museum building. It's been an action-packed year for the UIMA staff, no doubt.

If you were in Iowa City during those days of flooding, your memories, like mine, are probably still just as vivid and always will be. For more than 35 eastern Iowans, those memories will be archived with the Library of Congress by StoryCorps, preserved as a part of the country's history. The 45-minute recordings are up for listening on the Iowa Digital Library Flood Collection site and include participants such as UI President Sally Mason and her husband, who talk about moving the UIMA collection, and also members of the UI arts community. UI School of Art and Art History professors John Scott and Steve McGuire talk about their personal losses in the flood (McGuire lost both his office and his house), the changes that resulted for the School of Art and Art History (relocating around 142 classes to "MenArts" in the span of a month and a half), and the importance of campus culture and community. Hancher Executive Director Chuck Swanson and Production Manager Kenneth Schumacher talk about the flood's impact on the auditorium and what both evacuation and clean-up was like.

When they came to Iowa City last October, I interviewed one of the StoryCorps facilitators, Anna Walters, about the organization and her thoughts on hearing the firsthand accounts of the flood. I thought I'd post the interview here for anyone interested:

For more reflections on the flood experience, read this UIMA Art Matters' post from last July featuring a story written by Shanti Roundtree, an editor with the local publishing company Buckle Down, about her personal experience of evacuating her home off Riverside Drive during the flood.

It was definitely a week (and a year) none of us will forget.

--Claire Lekwa, UIMA Marketing and Media Intern

1 comment:

Teresa Kelly said...

What a great story and what a great blog!
I'm glad you're back in IC to keep us up to date.