home Resources and Services Unusual Collections Contain the Key to Scientific Discovery

Unusual Collections Contain the Key to Scientific Discovery

Image: The Agricultural Research Service Culture Collection is one of the largest public collections of bacteria and fungi in the world.

When imagining a library’s collection, it’s natural to visualize volumes on shelves. Books and journals have certainly been central to the dissemination of knowledge for hundreds of years. Today, however, the concept of a “collection of knowledge” goes far beyond just books.

In recent years, the more advanced libraries have expanded to include collections of raw data. With powerful software tools for analysis, it is now possible to acquire new knowledge by uncovering patterns within vast quantities of data.  There is similar potential inside other sorts of collections — not books or even data, but in collections of things.

Scientists have a long tradition of collecting physical items pertaining to their research. Geologist’s rock collections and entomologists’ butterflies are two very common examples. They save such items because as knowledge progresses, scientists can return to original samples and use them build upon existing knowledge.

As any librarian will tell you, preserving collections for future generations is crucial. Members of the federal scientific community face a very similar task – it is only the type of objects differ. The government has repositories of tissue samples, geologic materials, dust from outer space, plant specimens and even microbes. Hidden in these collections may be the cure to cancer, keys to climate change, or hints about cataclysmic events eons ago and light years away.  The preservation of these collections depend on a number of factors, not the least of which is funding.

In an effort to preserve the potential for expanded knowledge made possible by such samples, the federal government has commissioned an Interagency Working Group on Scientific Collections (IWGSC) to analyze the costs and benefits of collection maintenance.  As a University library, we are interested in this group’s framework for estimating long-term operating costs, and in the five methods they have identified for estimating and documenting the benefits generated by collections. For more information, visit the IWGSC website, and click to watch the short video.

home Staff news Kudos for Government Information

Kudos for Government Information

home Government Information, Resources and Services Take a Look at the Fashions of the First Ladies with Government Documents

Take a Look at the Fashions of the First Ladies with Government Documents

With the opening of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute’s annual fashion exhibition coming up next week (accompanied, of course, by the opening celebration Gala on Monday), May means fashion. To add to this month’s conversation on fashion and its place in society, we are excited to showcase the delightful government publication The Dresses of the First Ladies of the White House by Margaret Brown Klapthor.

Published in 1952 by the Smithsonian Institution, this book contains images of dresses worn by First Ladies, from Martha Dandridge Curtis Washington to Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, lovingly displayed on a plaster figure with the appropriate accessories, coiffure and posture of the woman who wore them.

Detailed descriptions of each dress, as well as a portrait and brief biographical sketch of each woman, are also included. The gowns, which belong to a collection of the United States National Museum, “represent the changes in fashions in this country from the administration of President George Washington through the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt” as Klapthor says in her introduction.

Klapthor authored two supplements to this title, The Gown of Mrs. Dwight D. Eisenhower (1958) and The Gown of Mrs. John F. Kennedy (1963), to extend her survey of fashion through the Kennedy administration.

To view the gown of your favorite First Lady, visit the Government Information department at Ellis Library.


All images from Dresses of the First Ladies of the White House, by Margaret B. Klapthor, 1952.

home Government Information Historic climatological publications available from the National Centers for Environmental Information

Historic climatological publications available from the National Centers for Environmental Information

This winter has certainly been one for the history books when it comes to weather—it is a rare event indeed for Chicago to be colder than the North Pole! Weather data is fascinating, but knowing where to go to find historical data can be tricky.

Luckily, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Information exists to preserve and provide public access to the Nation’s weather data and information! Their site has an impressive digital archive of historical climatological data publications, with access to series such as Climatological Data, Storm Data, Hourly Precipitation Data, Monthly Climatic Data for the World, Local Climatological Data, and more.

The Weather Bureau’s Climatological Data series, for example, is a monthly publication with an annual edition as well. The monthly issues contain tables of daily maximum and minimum temperatures and precipitation amounts at over 8000 weather stations all across the nation, while the annual gives an overview of the year, including temperature extremes and freeze data. They are issued by state, and date all the way back to 1884!

These could be used to find out what the weather was like a hundred years ago today, on days of historical significance, on the day you were born, or more. Most fascinating, don’t you think?




home Government Information, Resources and Services Government Information takes you behind the scenes of Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Government Information takes you behind the scenes of Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

The 2019 Oscar nominations get one thinking of all the great films that came out in 2018. What were some of your favorites? Academy Award-winning director Morgan Neville’s documentary about Mister Rogers, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, certainly garnered a great deal of acclaim! It also gives us an opportunity to make use of historic U.S. government publications.

One important scene in the film shows Fred Rogers speaking before the Senate Subcommittee on Communications; the date is May 1, 1969 and the committee is in hearings on a bill that would authorize the appropriation of $20 million to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for the 1970 fiscal year. Mister Rogers gives a powerful testimony that can be read in full in the published hearing Extension of Authorizations Under the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, which the University Libraries have access to through our online database subscriptions.

An excerpt from Fred Rogers’ statement in Extension of Authorizations Under the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967

The film, which played locally in 2018 at both Ragtag Cinema and True/False Film Fest, is available at the Columbia Public Library if you are interested in watching it.

And if you want to find out if more of your favorite personalities have made appearances before Congress, visit the Government Information department at Ellis Library.


Lindsay Yungbluth

Lindsay Yungbluth is a Library Information Specialist at Ellis Library where she works in Government Documents.

home Staff news Concannon Publishes on Government Information Blog

Concannon Publishes on Government Information Blog

“The PEGI Project National Forum: Looking Together Toward a Shared Destination”
PEGI (Preservation of Electronic Government Information) Project Blog, December 21, 2018

home Government Information, Resources and Services Government Documents give a glimpse at the beginnings of Daylight Saving Time in the U.S.

Government Documents give a glimpse at the beginnings of Daylight Saving Time in the U.S.

“This daylight-saving plan will afford an opportunity to many thousands of working people, those who work in offices and in factories and in mills and probably in mines, and on railroads, so that if they feel disposed they will have an opportunity to use an hour in the evening, or more, to till their gardens. If we are going to start an individual conservation scheme, and it looks as though that idea is going to take root, it will be one of the blessings that will grow out of this world difficulty. It will get the people back to the land, if it is only a square rod or two. It will give them an opportunity to know how to raise produce.”

Thus spoke Mr. Arthur E. Holder, representing the American Federation of Labor, at a hearing before the Committee on Interstate Commerce on Thursday, May 3, 1917, where he was adding his voice to the support of a bill to establish a daylight saving time in the United States.

Harris & Ewing, photographer. Senate Sergeant at Arms Charles Higgins turns forward the Ohio Clock for the first Daylight Saving Time, while Senators William Calder NY, William Saulsbury, Jr. DE, and Joseph T. Robinson AR look on, U.S. Capitol building, Washington, D.C. [Between 1910 and 1920] Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress.
With the end of this year’s Daylight Saving Time approaching on November 4th, MU Libraries’ historical government document collection can shed a little light on the early days of national daylight saving laws (there have been many) in the United States – a little something to think about as you turn your clocks back.

The 1958 Interstate Commerce Commission monograph Standard Time by Thomas E. Pyne examines the Standard Time Act, the result of ‘the agitation for ‘daylight saving’ during World War I to conserve fuel and increase national efficiency”, which caused the first national daylight saving to be inaugurated at 2 o’clock on March 31, 1918.

“The act, approved March 19, 1918, is entitled ‘An act to save daylight and to provide standard time for the United States.’ It served a twofold purpose. It divided the territory of the continental United States into five zones, eastern, central, mountain, Pacific, and Alaska…. It also provided that the time of each zone should be advanced 1 hour on the last Sunday in March of each year and returned to normal time on the last Sunday of October…”

The document gives a glimpse of the situation prior to this act, when each State adopted one of four standards of time “for its own use by statute, ordinance, or more usually, public sentiment or habits”:

“The areas embracing the States, cities, towns, and railroads observing the same standard of time were so irregular as to preclude an attempt to define them even approximately. In some instances localities employed a different time form that of the railroad serving them, and in other instances two railroads serving the same point used different standards of time.”

Imagine how difficult that must have made coordinating travel and the transport of goods!

While the daylight saving provision of this Standard Time Act was short lived (it ended after only two summers), other national daylight saving laws have a curious history in the U.S.—one was reinstated year round during World War II, another was passed in 1966, more—that you can learn more about by visiting the Government Information department at Ellis Library after you enjoy an extra hour of sleep on Sunday.

And now you know a bit more about daylight saving time in the United States, how it was initially coupled with the standardization of the time zones and how it was influenced by railroads and the World Wars.

home Ellis Library, Events and Exhibits, Government Information Century-old Soil Survey Maps Also Reveal the Built Environment

Century-old Soil Survey Maps Also Reveal the Built Environment

Have you seen our latest display in the Bookmark Café? From a distance, these maps–neither paintings nor drawings–look like antique marbleized papers with amorphous shapes in a dreamy blending of lavenders, corals, blues, golds and pinks. But up close another scene is unveiled: villages as they appeared nearly a century ago. Schoolhouses on hilltops. Green plantations on the banks of the Rio Grande river, looking out into Mexico. Islands in lakes. Cemeteries and church buildings. Serpentine trails that wander through the wilderness, terminating at lone cabins. On the south wall, you can visit Las Vegas back when it only had a dozen streets each way, dots indicating buildings.

Sampson County, North Carolina

For nearly 100 years, a large collection of these soil survey maps have been folded up and tucked in the back of U.S. Department of Agriculture documents in Mizzou Libraries’ Government Information collection. Although the project’s purpose was to document soil types and alkalinity, the maps show much more than that.

These maps are generally too fragile to unfold without tearing, but with the help of award-winning preservation specialist Michaelle Dorsey, some maps from a 1923 volume were very carefully opened up and placed inside clear plastic envelopes, custom made in our on-site preservation shop. See the original maps on display now because they are for the most part not available online. However if you want to see one for a different place or year, you can use this guide to discover which areas were mapped on which dates, and we can help you view others in our print collection.


home Resources and Services New Research Guide: Negro, Black and African-American Census Reports

New Research Guide: Negro, Black and African-American Census Reports

Did you know that the Census Bureau completed a census on Negro newspapers in the 1930s? Are you curious about the population, income, and housing of Black farmers in the 1950s? Interested in learning more about childcare arrangements in the 1980s? The Census Bureau does much more than the decennial census. Reports cover agriculture, poverty, insurance, government, education and a host of other topics.

Our new guide to Negro, Black and African-American Census Reports provides resources for statistics, analysis and demographics on African-Americans from 1790 to the present.

home Staff news Concannon Attends FDLP Anniversary at Rockhurst University

Concannon Attends FDLP Anniversary at Rockhurst University

On November 14, Marie Concannon traveled to the Rockhurst University Library in Kansas City to give a speech in honor of their 100th anniversary in the FDLP.

Green Lease Library Marks Century as a Federal Depository