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Lida Cochran papers

Identifier: IWA0581

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Scope and Contents

The Lida Cochran papers date from 1917 to 2006 and measure 7.9 linear feet. The papers are arranged in four series: Biographical information, Visual Scholars Program, Photographs, and Artifacts.

The Biographical Information series (1981-2006) consists of notes of an interview with Lida Cochran in 2002. This includes a summary of the origins and development of the Visual Scholars Program at the University of Iowa. Included is the pageant written and directed by Cochran to commemorate the centennial anniversary of the founding of the Shawnee Indian Mission in Kansas City, Kansas, a letter that details the car accident that lead to her first husband Harry Myer's death, a memoir written by her second husband, Lee W. Cochran, and letters of congratulations on her retirement in 1987. Two biographical videocassettes complete the series. The first is a 1996 interview with Ellen Buchanan on the Iowa City Public Library program, One of A Kind. The second is a recording of Cochran's 90th birthday celebration in 2001, which consists of a biographical collage of photographs and an open-mike forum with her friends and family.

The Visual Scholars Program series (1973-1990) consists of three subseries: Departmental History, Class Materials, and Research Presentations. The Departmental History subseries (1973-1980) contains administrative documents and correspondence pertaining to the early development of the Visual Scholars Program. The Advisory Committee meeting minutes and Kodak Report provide insight into the program's vision, goals, and agenda. The Class Materials subseries (1975-1979) contains course outlines and teaching materials for classes taught in the Visual Scholars Program. The Research and Presentations subseries (1973-1990) consists of articles and audiovisual productions written and produced by Cochran for scholarly journals, along with drafts, manuscripts, and correspondence with editors, co-authors, and colleagues. Included are presentations given by Cochran at local schools and national organizations. Papers, bibliographies and reviews of literature relevant to the study of visual language written by Visual Scholars students and faculty comprise the Research by Others subseries. A finding aid for the Lida Cochran papers retained within the Visual Literacy Collection at Arizona State University Libraries completes the series.

The Photographs series (1917-2001) contains Cochran's family albums and memory books, and photographs of herself, husband, and son on vacation in Washington. Included is an album of photographs honoring Cochran at her 90th birthday party. Cochran's professional photography includes action and landscape images taken throughout Washington, and studio portraits of children. Photographs of Visual Scholars students and faculty interacting and presenting at conferences and visual literacy slides are included in this series.

The Artifacts series consists of Cochran's photography award ribbons, bowling club patches, a hand-sewn purse, beadwork, and membership pins. These pins include the Iowa Century Club, Iowa President's Club, Iowa Majority, IVLA, AECT, U.S. Army Officers Family pin, and a high school ring.


  • Creation: 1917-2006


Conditions Governing Access

The papers are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright held by the donor has been transferred to the University of Iowa.

However, copyright status for some collection materials may be unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owner. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility and potential liability based on copyright infringement for any use rests exclusively and solely with the user. Users must properly acknowledge the Iowa Women’s Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, as the source of the material. For further information, visit

Biographical / Historical

Lida Weed Myers Cochran was born in 1911 in Athol, Kansas to Fred and Edna Weed. Graduating from Washburn University in Topeka in 1934 with a degree in history and French, she initially planned to write historical novels. Lida Weed wrote one-act plays for the Kansas Day Commemorations in 1935, 1936, and 1937. In 1939, the Kansas State Historical Society hired her to write and produce a pageant honoring the founders of the Shawnee Indian Mission Society in Kansas City, Kansas.

In 1933 she married Harry A. Myers, a dentist. Their son, Dennis Craig, was born in 1940. To escape the Kansas heat, the family moved to Seattle, Washington in July 1941, six months before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. When the war began, Harry Myers joined the army and Lida Myers moved to Los Angeles, California where she studied photography, for which she received recognition in photographic exhibitions.

After the War, the Myers family moved back to Washington, to the small town of Elma, which needed a dentist. Lida Myers opened a photographic studio specializing in children's pictures, and in 1956 she was hired to head a new audiovisual program for the Montesano County, Washington schools. A year later, in December 1957, her husband, Harry Myers was killed in an auto accident.

In the summer of 1958, Lida Myers was awarded a graduate assistantship at Central Washington State University where she earned a masters degree in Education. The University hired her to teach photography and to establish a new audiovisual services unit for the University. Two years later the University sent her to visit audiovisual centers in the Midwest where AV services were emerging in universities.

While visiting the University of Iowa, Lida Myers met Lee W. Cochran. He had started working with films while in high school, working for Iowa's Extension Division, which serviced schools and organizations in the Midwest with 16 mm films and glass slides. From these beginnings Lee Cochran went on to serve in the Navy during World War II, he created the Audiovisual Center in the Extension Division at the University of Iowa, and taught audiovisual courses in the College of Education. Lida Myers and Lee Cochran met in August and were married in December of 1960.

The University of Iowa's College of Education hired Lida Cochran as a half-time instructor in the summer of 1961 and promoted her to a full-time assistant professor in 1969. Cochran attended state meetings of the Audiovisual Education Association of Iowa (AVEAI) where she was the only woman. In 1968 she was elected president. Cochran also was active in the national audiovisual organization, the Department of Audiovisual Instruction (DAVI), for which she served as National Membership Chair and later as a member of the National Board. In 1972 DAVI ceased to be a Department of NEA and changed its name to the Association of Educational Communications and Technology. Cochran's class produced the sound-slide program, "What is DAVI?" The program was so well received by the DAVI Board that it persuaded Kodak to print fifty copies, one for each State Membership Chair.

In 1967 Cochran met John L. Debes III, from the Eastman Kodak Company and was introduced to his idea of Visual Literacy, that 'visuals are a language.' At a Visual Literacy Workshop hosted by the University of Iowa in 1973, Debes met Howard Jones, Education Dean at the University of Iowa and Iowa Testing Programs Director, William Coffman. Later that year Debes and Cochran discussed the need for a national Visual Literacy Center and the possibility of locating it in Iowa. Cochran submitted a proposal and in August 1974, Debes and Eric Johnson, Head of Kodak's Education Services Department, met with Dean Jones, Coffman, and others who could potentially be included in a Visual Literacy project. The Iowa Visual Scholars Program at the University of Iowa was officially funded by Kodak in 1975. Cochran announced the new program at the annual meeting of the International Visual Literacy Association (IVLA) in Portland, Oregon.

As Co-Acting Directors, Coffman and Cochran advertised for a recognized scholar to head the new program and for creative graduate students to conduct research. Bikkar S. Randhawa, an Education Psychologist from the University of Saskatchewan was hired as program director in 1975, and Paul Younghouse and Sarah Donnelley were the first students in the program. Randhawa resigned from the program after two years and was followed by Kathryn Lutz, a computer-assisted instruction professional from the University of Illinois. When Dean Jones retired in 1976 the Visual Scholars Program lost its major support within the University. Cochran continued teaching and working for the program until May 1981, when she retired as Associate Professor Emeritus.

The Visual Scholars Program ended in the early 1980s when its funding ran out, yet its impact continued in the ongoing work of the many graduate students who participated in the Visual Scholars program. Cochran continued in her search for a theory that would describe how Visual Language fits with other languages of human communication and worked on a paper proposing such a theory well into her nineties.

Cochran attended IVLA and AECT conferences through the year 2000 and served as managing editor of The Journal of Visual Verbal Languaging. Her leadership in the field was recognized through awards ranging from the Jack Debes Award from IVLA, and the Distinguished Service Award from AECT, to status as Emeritus Member of the ECT Foundation Board, and the Advisory Board for the Benedict Visual Literacy Collection at Arizona State University.

At retirement Cochran was also actively engaged in political and charitable organizations. She continued her membership with the League of Woman Voters, the Johnson County League of Nations-- USA, the Foreign Relations Council, the University of Iowa Retirees Association, and in two honorary fraternities, the Phi Delta Kappa and Delta Kappa Gamma. She supported a new Public Access Channel on the Hawkeye TV Cable in Iowa City by producing videotapes of her travels and helping others to record their activities and cablecast them, and represented WillowWind school on the Education Channel. She served for six years on both the Public Access Board and on the board supporting United Action for Youth. In 1978 Cochran was featured in the Who's Who of American Women.

Lida Cochran died in November 2007.


8.00 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Audiovisual educator and professor in the Education Department at the University of Iowa.

Method of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 916) were donated by Lida Cochran in 2003.

Related Materials

Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) records

The National Public Broadcasting Archives, University of Maryland

Joel and Irene Benedict Visual Literacy Collection

Lida Cochran papers, Arizona State University Library

Iowa Educational Media Association Papers

Rod Library, Special Collections, University of Northern Iowa

Jun-Nicole Matsushita, 2006. [CochranLida.doc]
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Script of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Iowa Women's Archives Repository

100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242 IaU
319-335-5900 (Fax)