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How have horses shaped Iowa's life and culture? Exhibit at University of Iowa library goes in-depth

A 16- by 9-foot' screen at the center of the Main Library Gallery shows the documentary film #x201c;The Pull of Horses i
A 16- by 9-foot’ screen at the center of the Main Library Gallery shows the documentary film “The Pull of Horses in Urban American Performance, 1860-1920,” produced by exhibit co-curators Dr. Kim Marra and Mark Anderson. Foreground: a horse sculpture, built to scale by the co-curators, helps visitors understand the size of these animals. (Photo courtesy of Main Library Gallery of the University of Iowa Libraries)
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IOWA CITY — A new exhibit this month at the University of Iowa Libraries Main Library Gallery offers visitors a step back in time when horse and buggies were the popular mode of transportation, and businesses of blacksmiths and livery stables lined the streets.

The Pull of Horses on National and Local Histories and Identities” exhibit is at the gallery through March 29. Sara Pinkham, exhibit and engagement coordinator with the Main Library Gallery, said the exhibit focuses on the compelling connections between humans and horses at the height of the equine culture in this country.

Horses, along with their human companions, helped build Iowa City, the state and the nation. The animals “profoundly shaped human identities,” Pinkham said.

The exhibition is a collaboration between curators, Kim Marra and Mark Anderson. Marra is a UI professor of theater and performance history, professor of American Studies and director of graduate studies in the Department of Theatre Arts.

Anderson is the digital scholarship and collections librarian in the Digital Scholarship and Publishing Studio at the university libraries.

A lifelong interest in horses drew Marra to research their influence on society, Pinkham said. While writing a book on horses in performance in New York City around 1900, she realized an intermedin presentation would capture the full experience of working with horses in the city.

Marra then asked Anderson, whose expertise is in finding and digitizing materials in the libraries’ archives, to help her create a documentary film, “The Pull of Horses in Urban American Performance, 1860-1920.”

Their work on the film “sparked the idea for an immersive exhibition” that shows facets of daily life with horses in both urban and rural settings. To help exhibit visitors experience the physical and social impact of these huge, powerful animals, the curators show the film in the center of the gallery, displayed at life-size scale.

Pinkham said the exhibit also offers displays of local equine history through glimpses of town and campus life in Iowa City. Visitors learn about national equestrian culture, with a special emphasis on the multitudes of women who took up the sport of riding and advocated for suffrage.

One of the displays features a scrapbook of articles and photos from the time period and includes a war bride, Magdalena “Helen” Tylee, born in 1894 in Germany who came to Iowa in 1922. She and her husband farmed in Linn County. When he left home to serve in World War II, The Gazette published a feature story in 1942 about Helen — “She’s a Soldier, Too.” The article pointed out that Tylee opposed the Nazis and was doing her part on the home front to defeat them while her husband served in the armed forces.

The overall exhibit illustrates the predominance of horse culture in Iowa City’s and the country’s past. The stories about life with horses are told through original and reproduction publications, photos, artifacts and ephemera from Special Collections, the Iowa Women’s Archives, the University Archives at the University of Iowa Libraries, the State Historical Society of Iowa in Iowa City, and from private collections, Pinkham said.

The exhibit is supported by Friends of the UI Libraries, the Arts and Humanities Initiative, the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, the UI Theatre Arts Department and the UI Department of American Studies.

If you go

What: “The Pull of Horses on National and Local Histories and Identities” exhibit

Where: University of Iowa Libraries Main Library Gallery, 125 W. Washington St., Iowa City

When: Monday and Wednesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m., through March 29

Cost: Free

More info: www.lib.uiowa.edu/gallery

Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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