A report from the Iowa School for the Blind and Sight Saving School for Fall 2017. The future of the School for the Blind building and artifacts is in doubt, but if you want to do your part to encourage continued activities in Vinton please consider a membership. If visiting the blind school is important to you, do it as soon as you can – Sarah S. Uthoff
October 2017 marks the 5th year the IBSSS Mary Ingalls Society has been working with the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School. It is also time to renew memberships. With that in mind we thought we would share some highlights from this past year.
It has been a busy year that has brought over 600 people, from many other states as well as Iowa, through the front doors of Old Main. The number includes 6 bus tours and at our October 15 “Prairie Fiddle” show in the Auditorium.
In October 2016, through our “Lot 31 Project”, we dedicated a monument and headstones at Evergreen Cemetery in Vinton. They now mark the graves of students from the School who had been laid to rest there in the late 1800s and early 1900s without permenant monuments.
October 2016 also saw us making a presentation to the Iowa Board of Regents outlining our position on the disposition of historical artifacts and records for the School in light of the Board’s decision to sell the campus property. Our focus centered on the preservation of Old Main and maintaining the historically significant items there.
Throughout the year we continued the work of cataloguing and preserving historic records and photos. We used grant money obtained through the Benton County Community Foundation and your generous membership gifts on the following projects. 60 VCR tapes were digitized for easier viewing and use. Newspaper and scrap book articles dating from the 1950s through the 1980s were moved from folders in file drawers to acid free clear protective sleeves and stored in acid free boxes making them easy to view and available for use in displays and programs. Some of these articles accompanied us to a presentation at the State Lions Meeting in Cedar Rapids in June. Acid free sheets for photos are now being filled to further enhance their preservation and ease of use in displays. Additional storage boxes have also been purchased and filled with various archival materials.
In May 2017 we marked our second year for the Vinton-Shellsburg 6th graders to visit the campus. We are excited to tell you there are plans for the next group to visit in May 2018. The School also hosted a group of secondary students belonging to a group called, Future Leaders of America. Making this school connection has been a goal of ours since the beginning, and we continue to look at ways to expand our outreach to other schools in Benton County and beyond.
We participated in and had a display for the Rare Book event held at the Cedar Rapids Library.
This year has also marked a continuation of a great working relationship between the Mary Ingalls Society and the School’s alumni. They have been valuable allies in working on preservation of artifacts and have proven to be the highlights for many of our tour groups.
None of this work would have been possible without the participation of the IBSSS Mary Ingalls Society’s members/supporters. We sincerely thank you and invite you to renew your membership/support. If you are not a member, we invite you to join us in this work.
If you haven’t heard about it before the ISBSSS Mary Ingalls Society was founded to preserve and promote the history of the Iowa School for the Blind and its most famous alumnus Mary Ingalls (the sister of author Laura Ingalls Wilder). They maintain a museum on the site, offer tours, and put on a pageant each summer. Today they report on a new project. – SSU
IBSSS Mary Ingalls Society Reaches Their Goal
$6000.00 Fundraising Goal for the Lot 31 Project Met
In the 1800s a burial lot was purchased for the Iowa College for the Blind at the Evergreen Cemetery in Vinton, Iowa. Students were buried there through the end of that century, however no marker was ever erected on the site designating it was for students from the school or who they were. Six student names have been identified as being buried in the lot. Two additional students, who died in the early 1900s, have also been identified as being buried across the drive from the school lot. They also have no markers.
The Lot 31 Project was initiated in August 2015 by the Mary Ingalls Society to raise funds to purchase a headstone, have it engraved and installed on the lot plus two head markers for the students buried across the drive. The response of the community and friends of the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School has been amazing. As of 12/18/15 we reached the goal of $6,000.00, and work has begun to order the marker. Keep watching for updates on progress and a dedication date.
The Iowa School for the Blind and Sight Saving School (ISBSSS) of Vinton, Iowa has never had a calendar of its own in its 153 year history, so the IBSSS Mary Ingalls Society is very excited to offer 100 numbered copies of this First Edition Calendar. If this 2015 calendar does well there are plans to have calendars offered annually highlighting the school and its story. Each calendar has beautiful colored pictures of the school’s campus and some bits of information about Mary Ingalls.
Calendar #1 of this First Edition will be offered for sale through a silent auction. Bids can be made by calling the school 319-472-5221 Ext. 1110 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. A beginning bid of $25.00 has been made. The lucky winner will be announced on February 9, 2015.
Calendars may be purchased in person on at the main office of the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School for $10.00 per calendar. The office is open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 a.m. Monday through Friday. While you are there be sure to take a stroll through the Founders Room and at other artifacts displayed on the first floor of Old Main. The calendars will also be available through Vinton Unlimited office at 310 A. Ave. Be watching for other locations in town to see and/or purchase these keepsakes. We hope you take the time to stop in either location to take a look.
To order by mail, e-mail to the address above and you will be contacted with further information. To cover mailing expenses, the calendars will cost $12.50 to be purchased by mail. Payment will be accepted by check only. Checks need to be made out to VCF/IBSSS Mary Ingalls Society, P.O. Box 326, Vinton, Iowa 52349. These calendars are a great reminder of the beauty of the school and the community that is its home.
The Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School Mary Ingalls Society was founded in 2012 to work towards preserving the historical significance of the school and its connection to the Ingalls family. If you haven’t yet, LIKE their Facebook page.
The Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School Mary Ingalls Society just began its 3rd year, and we are very excited about the future. This excitement stems from the work of our first two years resulting in the following:
1. Vintage photo display in the front hall of Old Main.
2. Photo books showing students and activities at the school by decade.
3. Development of a Facebook page.
4. LOST funds grant for $1,000.00 to develop a Mary Ingalls display in the Founder’s Room.
5. Initial performance of the “Mary Ingalls – Her Journey” pageant
6. Rededication of the Founder’s Room in Old Main.
7. Tours – 814 people at the school in 2014
8. Installation of a museum display case in the Founder’s Room for Mary Ingalls artifacts
9. First biennial meeting of the general membership of the society.
Work on the roof of Old Main is completed so restoration and redesign of the museum on the third floor, seriously damaged in the storm of 2011, can begin. The second season of the Mary Ingalls – Her Journey pageant is scheduled for July 31, August 1 and August 2, 2015 and we are anticipating another busy year of tours coming through the school.
We are asking for your help to continue moving forward. We welcome anyone interested in joining the IBSSS Mary Ingalls Society through a financial contribution of $20.00 or more per year. Any financial donation is tax deductible, as we are covered by a 501C3 designation. You can also participate directly by becoming tour leaders, sorting and organizing materials and items, manning the Founder’s Room or museum and other jobs as they arise. Or you could become directly involved in the planning committee for the Society – this group meets at 9:00 a.m. the 2nd and 4th Thursdays of the month, so requires a regular time commitment. – Thank you
_____I wish to be an IBSSS Mary Ingalls Society member. ($20)
_____I wish to give an additional contribution of $___________ for 2014/2015.
_____I am interested in donating time or manpower to the Society. Here is my phone number _______________and/or email address ______________________.
Please print and mail this form with your donation and/or information regarding your wish to participate in the work of the IBSSS Mary Ingalls Society to Box 326, Vinton, Iowa 52349.
Recently I was the speaker (“In the Kitchen With Laura”) at the Johnson County (Iowa) Historical Society’s annual fundraiser tea. Among the guests was a family who came up and shared this story with me I asked if they’d write it up and send it to me and I’m happy to share it below.
Information on Araminta Keith, the last signatory on Mary Ingalls’s diploma:
Born in Huntington Furnace, Pennsylvania, to Colonel Adam Keith and Mary Jane Wilson Keith, she came to Vinton on a covered wagon with her brothers and sisters, to receive lands granted to Adam for military service. She taught at the School for the Blind for many years and later taught Kindergarten in the Vinton Schools. She is buried in the west cemetery as Minta Keith. She never used the full name of Araminta, but it is what is entered in the family bible as her birth name. She was unusual as a sighted person to be able to read Braille.
The school does not keep copies of diplomas, but after discovering the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Mansfield, Missouri held Mary’s, they requested and were given a copy which is now framed and hanging in the front hall of the school. They have also had it translated into Braille.
The Mary Ingalls Society has been hard at work. Not only were they able to put on their first event this year and gearing up for their first pageant this summer, but they’ve been doing a lot of behind the scenes work too. The previous museum space had been damaged during the straight line winds and closely following rains and retrieval efforts a lot of the organization of the system was lost as things were knocked around by the wind and thrown into boxes in the efforts to rescue them. Sadly some things were permanently lost, but Mary Ingalls Society volunteers have been re-organizing things and seeing that they are scanned for preservation, framed in correct conservation approved style, and other wise safely stored. They have been working in a couple of the rooms and plan on moving operations to a new location soon in the Iowa School for the Blind building.
The Mary Ingalls Society (ISBSSS) is very pleased to announce the return of Mary Ingalls to her alma mater in doll form. The Iowa School for the Blind and Sight Saving School has been working closely with Americorp who work and stay in ISBSSS buildings in Vinton. One of these Americorp staff members, Audra Piotti , has generously donated to the school four dolls from the Ashton Drake Ingalls family doll set. Besides Mary Ingalls herself, her sister Laura (of author fame), her brother-in-law Almanzo, and the Ingalls girls nemesis, Nellie Olesen were all part of the donation.
These dolls are part of an 8 doll set of the complete Ingalls family, minus Baby Freddie, plus Almanzo and Nellie that came out a doll at a time starting in 1995. It was created by doll artist Joan Ibarolle. The set is very popular with Laura Ingalls Wilder fans and a full set of the dolls can be seen on display at both the Pepin, Wisconsin and Burr Oak, Iowa, Laura Ingalls Wilder museums (in fact Burr Oak has two sets).
Now that “Mary” has returned we hope to have her show you around the School in the coming months. We are also interested in adding to our collection of Mary dolls. Several of the homesites have offered versions of a Mary doll over the years and we’d be interested in adding them to our display if your “Mary” is looking for a new home.