Inside Spencer: the KSRL Blog

Kangaroos on Machu Picchu?

August 29th, 2014

The late marsupialist John A.W. Kirsch was interviewed by a local (Peruvian) newspaper while on a collecting trip in South America back at the end of the 1960s. He described the kinds of animals he was looking for and was shocked to see the headline a few days later: KANGAROOS ON MACHU PICCHU.

While it’s true that the mammal group we call marsupials includes the kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, koalas, and bandicoots that are usually associated with Australia, and that the New World once did boast a rich and diverse marsupial fauna, most of the New World forms are now extinct and, sad to say, there are no kangaroos on Machu Picchu.

Image of an Opossum from Nieremberg's Historia naturae (1635).

Opossums (and yes, there are several pictured above): Juan Eusebio Nieremberg (1595-1658).  Historia naturae. Antverpiae: ex Officina Plantiniana Balthasaris Moreti, 1635. Call Number: Summerfield E1105. Click image to enlarge (and reveal the well-camouflaged opossum young.)

The marsupial heyday began to end circa three million years ago when a land bridge over the Isthmus of Panama provided for northern migration of animals including the ancestors of our familiar opossum, who dates back to around 35 million years ago and looks today pretty much the same as he did then. During the same period, some of the northern placental mammals migrated south over the same land-bridge. Thus, for example, it appears that the placental sabre-toothed tiger from the North began to compete with the marsupial sabre-toothed tiger and soon put him on the road to extinction. But the marsupials are survivors, nevertheless, and the American opossum, the only one of the family in North America, is just one of seventy some opossum species to survive; the ‘possum family is restricted to the New World, and except for Didelphis virginiana, whose range extends from southern Canada into Central America, the rest of the family is restricted to Central and South America.

Earlier travel accounts and herbals had described the plants and animals of the New World, but Juan Eusebio Nieremberg’s account was the first comprehensive natural history of the area, dealing primarily with Mexico and the West Indies. This illustration of the Virginia or American opossum is the earliest printed portrait of the earliest discovered (by Europeans, at least) marsupial anywhere.

Sally Haines
Rare Books Cataloger

Adapted from her Kenneth Spencer Research Library exhibit, The Haunted Forest: New World Plants & Animals (1992).

Summertime in University Archives: Artifacts, Books, and Photographs, Oh My!

August 25th, 2014

As an intern in the University Archives at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library this summer, I experienced and accomplished many projects and duties. It feels like just yesterday that I received an interesting and varied list of assignments at the beginning of June. Where did the summer go? Let me show you.

Photograph of University Archives intern JoJo Palko at the desk

University Archives Intern JoJo Palko. Click image to enlarge.

Part of the story starts back in the fall of the 2013. I was hired as a research assistant for the publication of KU’s 150th anniversary book, Toward the Blue, working out of the University Archives. Fast forward to May and we are selecting the photographs and images to be used in the book. By the end of May, the other research assistant, the editors, and I had compiled a selection of over 200 images from the archives. So what was waiting for me when I started my internship? You guessed it—those photographs (funny how that worked). Over the course of a few weeks, I entered the metadata for each image. Fortunately for me (and you) these photographs are little treasures from the university’s past and I really enjoyed going through every single one. I have selected a few to share here.

Photograph of two KU football fans, 1973

Indeed, Kansas is for lovers! Two football fans show their
spirit in true 70s fashion. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/66/14 1973 Prints: Student Activities: Football (Photos).
Click image to enlarge.

 Photograph of the hill and campanile during a football game, 1975-1976

View of the hill and campanile during a
football game, 1975-1976. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/0 1975-1976 Prints: Student Activities (Photos).
Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of Grupo de Kansas, 1970

Grupo de Kansas, a group of KU students, arriving in Costa Rica, 1970.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 12/1 1970 Prints: International
Programs: Study Abroad (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of Chancellor Chalmers with new Baby Jay at Homecoming, 1971

Chancellor Laurence Chalmers with new Baby Jay at Homecoming, 1971.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 2/13 1971 Prints: Chancellors:
Chalmers (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

One other project that took up most of my time was to reorganize, house, and label the archive’s artifacts and to update the database and spreadsheet to make it more efficient for anyone to look up these items in the future. I started the process with a large book truck full of items that were not labeled, not housed, and not in any order that made sense. I panicked. How was I supposed to go through this truck plus the other two boxes full of items? Luckily, my supervisor, University Archivist Becky Schulte, calmed me down and told me to take it one step at a time. I managed to figure out what record group every object belonged in, found a box for those that needed it, labeled them, and entered the information into the databases. That was the end of a very long first step. The second step was just as much fun. There are three rooms that house the University Archive’s artifacts. In order to make room for the new additions, an entire reorganization of the rooms needed to occur. On the positive side, for those few weeks I did not need to work on my upper body at the gym. On the negative side, artifacts continued to come out their hiding places (behind doors) and others were found that needed labels or boxes. As I put the finishing touches on this project, I am really satisfied with how everything turned out and I loved seeing all the interesting “stuff.” Check out the images below to see the final results!

Photograph of University Archives artifacts room

Photograph of University Archives artifacts room

Photograph of University Archives artifacts room

The three above photos show University Archives artifact rooms after
the completion of my reorganization project. Click images to enlarge.

Photograph of Bolshevik Jayhawk Statue

Photograph of Bolshevik Jayhawk Statue in box

This Bolshevik Jayhawk Statue – also shown in its new housing created by the Libraries’
Conservation Department – was sent to the School of Journalism in 1921 by a
former KU student who found it in a Bolshevik Prison camp. University Archives Artifacts.
Call Number: RG 23/0 School of Journalism (Artifacts). Click images to enlarge.

Besides the larger artifacts and metadata projects, I was kept busy throughout the summer with other tasks. One of the most interesting involved a transfer of items from KU’s Theater Department. Moses Gunn, renowned African American actor, attended KU for his graduate degree. It was here that Moses first performed the role of Othello, a character he would play throughout his career. Moses also went on to co-found the Negro Ensemble Company, receive an Emmy nomination, appear in movie and television roles, and perform in many Off Broadway productions. His collection of items that arrived at the University Archives was a glimpse into this great man’s life. Included were many awards and accolades, theater posters and photographs, art work and artifacts. Two of the artifacts were a bust of Moses and a partial mask with a long black wig attached that he wore in the role of Titus Andronicus. The artwork was beautiful and insightful: most depicted Moses in character on stage, or simply the stage set. All in all, ninety-eight items were received, each one adding to the history of Moses Gunn.

Photograph of a bust of Moses Gunn

Bust of Moses Gunn. Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of a mask worn by Moses Gunn in the role of Titus Andronicus

Mask worn by Moses Gunn in the role of Titus Andronicus.
Click image to enlarge.

Throughout my internship I completed several reference and research requests (another one was just handed to me). By completed, I do not mean that I was able to find the information every time, because I quickly learned that sometimes the record or document in question does not exist in the archives. It took me a few of these dead-ends to come to terms with the fact that there are time periods, events, and people missing, with records never being created or donated. However, when I would find the desired document that was one of the best feelings. Most of the requests came from Jayhawk Generations—people wanting to know if their relative attended KU. Others were from researchers wanting to know about a specific topic, or from community members looking for photographs of family members. One of the most personally satisfying research requests was for any information relating to World War I that the archives held. Being a favorite history topic of mine and with the centennial anniversary underway, this was a great topic for me to explore and find all of the related material.

Another aspect of my time here was to learn about a few online archives systems. For this assignment, Assistant University Archivist Letha Johnson showed me the digital ways of archives. One such system was Archives Online. For several weeks I would spend a little bit of time every day entering data and uploading documents to KU’s ScholarWorks website. The documents were mostly weekly newsletters or updates from different KU departments. So now there are 271 new items on this system relating from a week in KU Athletics or the Dole Institute of Politics. Another system that I received an overview about was Archive-It, a site that the archive uses to capture certain websites at a certain time in order to preserve institutional memory and history. The last one was ArchivesSpace, a system that the Kenneth Spencer Research Library is just starting to implement. If time and manpower allow, this database could became the main system for accession records management for the entire library.

Speaking of records management, I was also able to learn about this aspect of the behind the scenes workings of the archive. Records and transfers would come into the University Archives constantly throughout the summer. I worked on one of these transfers with the Moses Gunn records, but then a couple of smaller projects also helped me become familiar with the processing of a university record. Another out of sight aspect of the archives that I received a glimpse into is the wonderful world of conservation. I believe it was my first or second week here that I got a crash course in emergency conservation procedures. There was a large rain storm the night before and in the morning the staff discovered some leaks down in the basement. What else is an intern for than to help out in these types of situations? Working with Assistant Conservator Roberta Woodrick to drape giant plastic sheets over the shelves to protect the items was a fun (because it only lasted an hour) way to get acquainted with conservation work. I also received a grand tour of the conservation workspace from Whitney Baker, Head of Conservation Services, and got to see some of the projects their students were working on at the time.

Finally, I will wrap up by saying that I thoroughly enjoyed my time here (if that wasn’t apparent already!). I never felt that I was just another warm body to be used to make copies all summer. There was always something to do, and not once was I bored. The staff is wonderful, helpful, and always willing to teach me their magical ways of knowing how everything works. I have gained a greater appreciation for just how much they put in to making the institution succeed, and for a couple of months I was glad to be a part of that team.

JoJo Palko
University Archives Intern

Peggy Hull Deuell: A Conservation Internship

August 15th, 2014

As the 2014 Summer Conservation intern, I performed treatment on the University’s collection of Peggy Hull Deuell, America’s first female war correspondent. This part of the Kansas Collection is comprised of a wide variety of materials: newspaper clippings from the 19th-20th centuries, manuscripts dating from 1774, photographs, oversized items such as maps, transparent documents, and scrapbooks.

A significant portion of time was taken to wash and alkalize the very brittle and disheveled collection of newspaper clippings. During the weeks performing treatment, I became very familiar with Peggy’s style of writing; her sassy personality and strength of character were true elements in her journalism. As the only records of her reporting, these newspaper clippings are important testaments to not only her personal struggles, but also to the relationship she had with readers of the numerous newspapers she wrote for (including the El Paso Morning Times, Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News, and Cleveland Plain Dealer).

Though Ms. Hull was born in Bennington, Kansas (in 1889), she was hardly the typical Midwestern girl of the late 19th century. She was independent, intelligent, and very restless. It’s surprising then, that she never graduated high school and was intended to settle down and study pharmacy. This path did not last long; with the family’s subsequent proximity to Fort Riley and its soldier population, and Peggy’s eagerness for change, she soon discovered a new career in the form of journalism. The rest you could say, is history.

Photograph of Peggy Hull Deuell. Kansas Collection, Call number RH MS 130. Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

Peggy Hull [Deuell] in WWI uniform, 1917. Kansas Collection, Call Number RH MS 130. Click image to enlarge.

It was a rocky start for Peggy, who struggled to become recognized in an incredibly male-dominated field. In fact, it took Peggy about 10 years and travels all over the world to finally become an accredited war correspondent. Through her journeys across the U.S., to the Mexican border, and to Paris, London, Siberia, and Shanghai, she was teaching people about the war, current events, and even her everyday life.  It was Peggy’s determination, unrelenting optimism, and quirkiness that I found most exciting about this collection.

My favorite articles are those that interact with the reader: where you can really get a sense of Peggy, the person behind the journalist. Also quite lovely are the assortment of letters between Peggy and unknown correspondences (or rather, named yet unfamiliar). One such letter was even imprinted with what I believe to be Peggy’s lipstick! The smell was still quite intense, and I could just about imagine Peggy sealing the letter with a kiss (something I imagine she’s done for her three husbands)!

Clipping from Peggy Hull Deuell Collection. Kansas Collection, Call number RH MS 130. Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

Amusing piece written by Peggy Hull Deuell. Peggy Hull Deuell Collection,
Kansas Collection, Call Number RH MS 130. Click image to enlarge.

Though the process of washing, repairing, and even reading Peggy’s newspaper clippings was intensive and often very entertaining, my favorite conservation treatment with this collection was of the oversized items. The flexibility of the project allowed me to spend time performing more in-depth treatment on a small selection of posters. One of the pieces is an article Peggy wrote about news in Siberia; the document had been pasted to a canvas, which was subsequently painted on the reverse. Over time, the newsprint became very brittle and discolored from both the adhesive and acidity of the material, resulting in a badly damaged article. To treat this object, I first removed dirt from the surface of the paper and then immersed it in a tray of water. After about 5 minutes of soaking in the bath, I was able to carefully separate the newsprint from the canvas. As suspected, the newsprint was extremely fragile and had broken into many pieces over its lifetime.  The canvas backing was discarded and the article was rewashed and alkalized in a separate bath to reduce its acidity. Then, after being dried and pressed flat, I undertook the tricky process of lining the article; in other words, I adhered a thin Japanese tissue to the back of the object in order to add strength and allow for the reattachment of its many pieces. Only when the pieces were reunited could I begin the process of toning papers and filling in missing areas to the overall document. Once treatment was completed, the article could be safely handled and more easily read.

Treatment of clipping from Peggy Hull Deuell Collection. Kansas Collection, Call number RH MS 130. Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.  Treatment of clipping from Peggy Hull Deuell Collection. Kansas Collection, Call number RH MS 130. Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.  Treatment of clipping from Peggy Hull Deuell Collection. Kansas Collection, Call number RH MS 130. Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

Before, during, and after treatment of a clipping from the Peggy Hull Deuell Collection.
Kansas Collection, Call Number RH MS 130. Click images to enlarge.

Treatment of the Peggy Hull Deuell Collection was very successful, and I had a wonderful summer working between the Watson and Spencer Research Libraries. Peggy’s collection is also one of the many fantastic features that facilitates our study of war history, and in particular, helps to commemorate the 100th anniversary of World War I. I do think that Peggy would be quite proud of her collection as well!

For further reading about Peggy and her adventures, I highly recommend The Wars of Peggy Hull by Wilda M. Smith and Eleanor A. Bogart, a book written with the consultation of this very collection!

Amber Van Wychen
2014 Summer Conservation Intern, Stannard Conservation Lab

Collection Snapshot: A Book of Polish Costume

August 8th, 2014

A number of works in the Kenneth Spencer Research Library’s collection of Polonica are a good source for the study of Polish costume: the chromolithographs by Racinet, engraved colored plates by Jacquemin, colored and uncolored plates in the two volumes of Zaydler, and plates in the costume books by Kretschmer and Vecellio.

image of the plate "Harvest-home in the environs of Sandomir"

“Harvest-home in the environs of Sandomir” from Jozef Zienkowicz’s Les costumes du peuple Polonais.  A Paris: Librairie Polonaise; A Strasbourg: chez l’éditeur; A Leipzig: chez F.A. Brockhaus, 1841.  Call Number: B819. Click image to enlarge.

The colored lithographs of Zienkowicz’s Les costumes du peuple Polonais are particularly interesting: “Harvest-home in the environs of Sandomir” (above) illustrates the rich harvest tradition of a country that until recently was primarily agricultural. Poles today celebrate an annual Harvest Festival in early September.  In olden days the best girl reaper would bestow on the master of the house the gift of a wreath of wheat and rye adorned with flowers, fruits, and ribbons; feasting and merry-making followed the ceremony. Although folk costumes are not now in general use in Poland and are worn mostly for festivals and national celebrations, Poles in rural areas wear folk dress on church holidays and for family celebrations such as weddings.

Sally Haines
Rare Books Cataloger

Adapted from her Kenneth Spencer Research Library exhibit, Poland: A Thousand Springtimes.

“Grass cutting is sport with a VAC-U-MOW!”

August 1st, 2014

August has now arrived, and so the dog days of summer begin. The weather gets a bit steamier and we all realize summer will be over before we’re ready. So we want to pack our weekends full of fun, not full of dreaded summer chores like mowing the lawn.

Take a look back in time, to the 1950s, when Granger Manufacturing Company of Kansas City, Missouri, had a patent pending for the VAC-U-MOW.

Vac-U-Mow advertising brochure, Granger Manufacturing Company, page 1

Love the outfit and shoes! Granger Manufacturing Company’s
advertising booklet for the VAC-U-MOW, circa 1950-1959.
Kansas Collection. Call Number: RH P 884. Click image to enlarge.

According to an advertising brochure that is part of Spencer’s Kansas Collection holdings, “enjoyment takes the place of drudgery with the new VAC-U-MOW — a high-power mower designed to combine maximum efficiency with utmost safety.“ Moreover, the new machine was promised to be versatile enough for a variety of landscapes: “From the neat, smooth lawn to the roughest weed patch, your VAC-U-MOW makes any grass-cutting job a pleasure. Sprouts and dandelions cut as smoothly as the finest blue grass. The garden, orchard and cemetery are easy to tend with a VAC-U-MOW.”

Image of Vac-U-Mow advertising brochure, Granger Manufacturing Company, page 2

Image of Vac-U-Mow advertising brochure, Granger Manufacturing Company, page 3

Middle and back pages of the VAC-U-MOW advertising booklet.
Kansas Collection. Call Number: RH P 884. Click images to enlarge.

The booklet goes on to promise potential customers that they can “trim right up against buildings with your VAC-U-MOW! It gets into places where the old-type, bulky mowers will not go. It cuts right up under hedges just as neatly as old-fashioned hand shears but without the hard work. Wet grass is no problem. You can use your VAC-U-MOW right after a rain. Large, rough lawns can be trimmed in a fraction of the ordinary time. No wonder users say ‘grass cutting is sport with a VAC-U-MOW’!”

An ad in The Kansas City Star newspaper on April 13, 1952 listed the price for a new VAC-U-MOW as $134.50, which seems to have made it one of the more expensive lawnmower options at the time.

Meredith Huff
Operations and Stacks Manager, Public Services