Inside Spencer: the KSRL Blog

Throwback Thursday: Family Weekend Edition

September 18th, 2014

Each week we’ll be posting a photograph from University Archives that shows a scene from KU’s past.

We selected this week’s picture in honor of Jayhawk Family Weekend, taking place on campus this Saturday and Sunday.


Photograph of a KU student with his family on Parent's Day, 1955

A KU student with his family on Parents Day, 1955. Note the Memorial Campanile
in the background. Lawrence Journal-World Photo Collection, University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG LJW 71/8 1955 Prints: Student Activities: Parents Day (Photos).
Click image to enlarge.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Throwback Thursday: Fall Preview Edition

September 11th, 2014

Each week we’ll be posting a photograph from University Archives that shows a scene from KU’s past.

The official beginning of autumn may still be almost two weeks away, but this week we’re getting a preview of cooler fall-like weather on Mount Oread. Who else is ready for sweaters, colorful leaves, and pumpkin-flavored treats?


Photograph of a KU student resting surrounded by leaves, undated

In this undated photograph (circa 1990-2000), a KU student rests on a blanket
surrounded by leaves. Snow Hall can be seen in the background. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 0/24/1 Trees No Date Prints: University General: Campus Areas and Objects (Photos).
Click image to enlarge.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Vivak exhibition cradles

September 8th, 2014

Soon, Spencer Library will unveil its latest exhibition, on the work of John Gould and his atelier. Conservation Services staff support exhibition design by helping the curators present the items in their best light. For bound volumes this work often involves the construction of a supportive cradle.

Many library conservation labs construct cradles and supports from Vivak, a transparent, cold-bendable, PETG plastic. Unlike the more traditional Plexiglas, Vivak can be cut on our board shear (no scoring required).

Cutting Vivak to make exhibit cradle.

Cutting a piece of Vivak on the board shear.

Once the sheet is cut, the locations for bending are transferred from a paper template to the Vivak sheet. Vivak comes with a protective plastic film that is left in place until the final installation to prevent scratching of the soft plastic.

Transferring paper template marks to the Vivak.

Transferring marks from a paper template to the Vivak.

The plastic can be bent by hand, but we use a sheet metal bender to make the process easier. Plexiglas requires heat to bend, so we are happy to avoid that step and the accompanying fumes that result. Making cradles with Vivak is much quicker and less toxic.

Using sheet metal bender to bend Vivak for cradle.

Bending the plastic using a sheet metal bender


Completed Vivak book cradle.

A finished Vivak cradle.

Vivak is not as sturdy as the Plexiglas we used to use, but if stored properly cradles can be reused for multiple exhibits.

Whitney Baker
Head, Conservation Services

Throwback Thursday: Kick Off Edition

September 4th, 2014

This is the first in what will be a series of weekly posts highlighting the history of the University of Kansas using a photograph from University Archives.

This week, we celebrate the start of the 2014 football season on Saturday with this image of the old scoreboard at Memorial Stadium. You can learn more about the history of this building at the KU Places Directory and the KU History website.

Photograph of KU football scoreboard, 1938

KU football scoreboard at Memorial Stadium, 1938. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 66/14 Games 1938 Prints: Athletic Department: Football (Photos).
Click image to enlarge.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

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).