CENTER FOR DUBUQUE HISTORY
CENTER FOR DUBUQUE HISTORY. Priceless collection of Dubuque historical photographs and documents. Founded in 1976, the Center has been funded by and located on the campus of LORAS COLLEGE. The staff of the Center is appointed by the college president. Since 1983 the director of the Center has been Michael D. GIBSON.
The mission of the Center is to collect, organize, preserve, and provide materials for research; to conduct research of local interest; to publish studies of local history interest; offer special courses, workshops, lectures, and presentations for those interested in local history; and to provide internship and volunteer opportunities in archival studies. The Center continues to provide all of these services as the area’s largest local history research center. In 2008, an article stated that the Center hosts more than 500 in-person visitors annually, receives from 800-900 phone inquiries and as many letter and e-mail requests.
Among the types of material housed in the collection are manuscripts, diaries, ledgers, newspapers, an obituary index, photographs, slides, picture post cards, oral histories, videos and DVD’s, plat books, atlases, books, city directories, and maps. Today, the CDH is the only local history research center affiliated with a college or university in the state of Iowa. This is one aspect which makes Loras College unique which is appropriate for Iowa’s oldest college.
The Center for Dubuque History has served thousands of patrons from all parts of the world who have come to use the vast resources archived in the collections. Researchers have included elementary school pupils, high school and college students, novelists, movie producers, TV/radio station reporters, university scholars, historic preservationists, city, state and county departmental employees, archaeologists, geologists, environmentalists, journalists, publishers, genealogists, and local history buffs. Inquiries regarding local history arrive via mail, phone, and e-mail as well as in-person visitors.
In an effort to encourage interest in Dubuque history, the Center published Dubuque: Frontier River City edited by Loras librarian Robert F. KLEIN. Loan arrangements have been made for the video program "The Identity of Dubuque" by Father William E. WILKIE and a photo exhibit entitled "Iowa Women in the Workplace." Staff members have provided programs for groups and organizations.
The William J. Klauer Collection is one of the many priceless additions to the Center. In May and June of 1912, two itinerant photographers arrived in Dubuque and began shooting the photographs that would become the Klauer Collection. For three weeks they traveled throughout the city with a large-format camera and a magnesium-powder flash lamp taking approximately 440 photographs of workers in factories, offices, shops, saloons and even the operating room at Mercy Hospital. We don't know the photographers' names, although they each posed as customers as needed, leaving us with several self-portraits. This type of workplace photography was not unusual in 1912 – itinerant photographers traveled the country photographing cities large and small. However, the fact that most of the glass negatives did survive together, intact for 100 years, is unusual. Itinerant photographers could not carry their solid glass plates with them and instead sold them to junk dealers who scraped the emulsion clean and resold them. Fortunately, the Dubuque photographers sold the plates to Peter Klauer, then President of Klauer Manufacturing Company, who stored them in one of his warehouses. In the 1970s, at least two sets of contact prints were made and in the 1980s, Peter’s grandson, William, donated a set of contact prints to the Center for Dubuque History. Later, 330 of the glass plates - all that remained - were also donated.