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Though they work behind the scenes, archivists, conservators, librarians, and museum curators put in a lot of time and effort to keep the artifacts and documents in their care in pristine condition. To help them in their efforts to preserve history, the Iowa Conservation and Preservation Consortium (ICPC) annually holds their Save Our Stuff (SOS) conference. Along with teaching conservationists and preservationists techniques to improve their skills, the SOS conference also provides an opportunity for participants to visit libraries and museums all across Iowa. On June 7th, the ICPC brought their SOS conference to Muscatine for the first time ever, exposing people from around the state to the fantastic work going on at Muscatine Community College (MCC), the Muscatine Art Center (MAC), and the National Pearl Button Museum @ History and Industry Center (NPBM).
In this day long conference at Muscatine Community College (MCC) attendees learned about conservation and preservation in its many forms. SOS opened with a keynote presentation by Ron Bovard of Stained-Glass Art at Bovard Studio in Fairfield, Iowa, about his work restoring stained glass in churches, buildings, and historic homes around the state.
Also of note, Shelby Strommer, Preservation Processing Coordinator Librarian for the University of Iowa Libraries, discussed what to do when a collection gets damaged from either a natural disaster or vandalism. With this spring’s flooding, Strommer’s presentation proved even more timely than ever.
In an innovative new SOS session, the ICPC demonstrated how people can preserve local history through creative works. By presenting a scene from the play Bread, Roses and Buttons: Pearl McGill and the 1912 Lawrence Textile Strike, the ICPC showed how playwrights and local historians can keep pieces of history alive through drama. In the process, the audience also learned about the Muscatine pearl button factory strike and how it led a local teenager, Pearl McGill, from Louisa County, to become a national workers rights advocate who helped organize the 1912 Lawrence, Massachusetts textile workers strike.
After these and several other sessions and a chance to tour the recently renovated MCC library, SOS conference goers had the opportunity to explore two other Muscatine locations practicing conservation and preservation, the NPBM and the MAC. In particular, Onnica Marquez, ICPC Board President, felt that getting to see the work done at the NPBM made Muscatine the perfect location to host this year’s SOS conference.
By bringing the SOS conference to Muscatine, the ICPC not only taught many professionals about the latest in conservation and preservation, but also highlighted the city as a treasure trove of historical knowledge and artifacts. As more groups take note of Muscatine’s rich history and collections of artifacts and documents, more professional groups and history buffs will make their way here to see this pearl of preservation.

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