Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Anger

May 23rd, 2014

Aesop’s fables are directly descended from the 11th century Physiologus of Theobaldus and other medieval bestiaries, or treatises on birds and beasts who were blessed with certain moral, physical, and mental attributes.They were largely the creations of early Christian teachers and were a mix of natural history and Gospel Truth with snippets of folk-lore, travellers’ tales, and dimly understood scientific ideas thrown in, served up with all the authority of the Church behind them. They have continued to be popular long after they ceased to be used for religious instruction, and as has oft been pointed out, there’s a lot of “zoology” in them, and thus, they do deserve a niche in the history of science.

 Howitt, Samuel. A New Work of Animals, 1818. Call number Ellis Aves E102. Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

 Howitt, Samuel. A New Work of Animals, 1818. Call number Ellis Aves E102. Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.
Text excerpt (top) and accompanying plate (bottom) from Howitt, Samuel. A New Work of Animals, 1818.
Call number Ellis Aves E102.  Click images to enlarge.

Among the chief emblems of the original Physiologus were numerous herps including the sun lizard, viper, serpent, sea-tortoise, crocodile, frog, and salamander. In this fable about porcupine and snakes, there’s no bias against snakes; both herp and mammal behave badly.

Sally Haines
Rare Books Cataloger
Adapted from her Spencer Research Library exhibit and catalog, Slithy Toves: Illustrated Classic Herpetological Books at the University of Kansas in Pictures and Conversations

Legacy of the White City: Revisiting the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893

May 16th, 2014

The 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, or the Columbian Exposition, served to showcase the transformation of America’s international presence from the wild frontier to a dominant world power. It also signaled Chicago’s rise to fame from the ashes of its Great Fire of 1871. Among the Fair’s major themes were architecture, women’s representation, diversity, and technology. From May 1 to October 31 of 1893, the World’s Columbian Exposition attracted 27 million visitors—a quarter of America’s population at the time.

More than 120 years after the Columbian Exposition, the Fair’s American legacy can be seen in this exhibit. We invite you to explore this period of rapid change, innovation, culture, and ingenuity.

Image of museum studies graduate students installing the exhibition.  Image of installed case on architecture at the Fair

Image of people at the exhibition opening.

Top: Installing a case Bottom: Conversations at the exhibition opening

This exhibition, which opened on May 8th, 2014, features original literature from the Fair.  Most displayed objects originate from Spencer’s Thomas D. and Sharon Perry Galloway Collection. The exhibit was designed and executed by students Rachel Gibson, Alissa Meehan, Meg Schwend, and Sabrina Shafique as part of a an exhibition planning and design course (MUSE 703).

Image of the four exhibition curators in front of the exhibition sign

Exhibition curators (from left to right): Alissa Meehan, Sabrina Shafique, Rachel Gibson, Meg Schwend.

Meg Schwend
Museum Studies Graduate Student

KU Students Studying Hard, 1950-1985

May 14th, 2014

Spring has finally, truly arrived on Mount Oread, which has meant the eagerly-awaited return of warmer weather and the not-so-eagerly-awaited return of final exams. The Student Activities record group in University Archives contains a number of photographs showing the bowed heads of generations of anxious KU students poring over their work.

While it’s unclear, in almost all cases, whether these pictures were taken during final exams, this time of year seems like the most appropriate time to feature some of these fun images here at “Inside Spencer.”

Good luck to all KU students on their final exams!

Photograph of group of female students studying, 1950s.

Group of students studying, 1950s. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/0/1950s Prints: Student Activities (Photos).
Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of student with typewriter outside, 1950s.

Student with typewriter, 1950s. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/0/1950s Prints: Student Activities (Photos).
Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of student studying with bare feet, 1950s.

Bare feet, 1950s. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/0/1950s Prints: Student Activities (Photos).
Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of student asleep while studying, 1967-1968.

Asleep while highlighting, 1967-1968. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/0/1967-1968 Prints: Student Activities (Photos).
Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of student studying under trees, 1969-1970.

Studying in the shade, 1969-1970. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/0/1969-1970 Prints: Student Activities (Photos).
Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of a student sleeping with note, 1970s.

“I’m too nervous to sleep in my room,” 1970s. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/0/1970s Prints: Student Activities (Photos).
Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of a student studying on a stump, 1975-1976.

Studying on a stump, 1975-1976. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/0/1975-1976 Prints: Student Activities (Photos).
Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of student studying on top of backpack, 1976-1977.

Backpack as table, 1976-1977. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/0/1976-1977 Prints: Student Activities (Photos).
Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of a panicked student looking up, October 1978.

Panic, October 1978. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/0/”A Day in the Life of KU, October 13, 1978″
Prints: Student Activities (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of student studying with calculator and printouts, 1979-1980.

Calculator and computer printouts, 1979-1980. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/0/1979-1980 Prints: Student Activities (Photos).
Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of student studying behind grate, 1979-1980.

Creative (and uncomfortable?) study location, 1979-1980. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/0/1979-1980 Prints: Student Activities (Photos).
Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of two students studying on stairs, 1980-1981.

Studying on stairs, 1980-1981. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/0/1980-1981 Prints: Student Activities (Photos).
Click image to enlarge.

Overhead photograph of student studying, 1981-1982.

Sprawled out, 1981-1982. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/0/1981-1982 Prints: Student Activities (Photos).
Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of student working in his room, 1982-1983.

Student working in his room, 1982-1983. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/0/1982-1983 Prints: Student Activities (Photos).
Click image to enlarge.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Spencer Library Guest Book

May 1st, 2014

Many visitors to Spencer Research Library walk straight into the Marilyn Stokstad Reading room, a classroom, or the exhibit space, bypassing the elegant furnishings of the Spencer Lounge and missing completely the large and imposing ledger nestled in an 18th century secretary desk on the north wall. This book has served as the library’s guest book since the opening of the building in 1968.

Guest book at Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

Spencer Library guest book, located in the Spencer Lounge. Click image to enlarge.

Researchers who come to use the collections at the Spencer Library now use our Aeon system to register and make requests, and before that, a number of different paper forms recorded names, addresses, and call numbers. So the guest book was never an official document required for using the collection, but instead a ceremonial record of visitors.

The first page, with beautiful calligraphy attributed  to librarian Jim Helyar, marked the building’s opening on November 15th, 1968. Entries continue through 1974, when it was set aside from daily use. After a few blank pages, names, messages, and the occasional doodle resume, coinciding with its “rediscovery” and reinstatement in 2002.

Detail of guest book at Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

Guest book calligraphy on the first page. Click image to enlarge.

The first entries were clearly in pen, probably the same pen used throughout the opening celebration.  At least since 2009, and probably earlier, an iconic green “Spencer pencil” has sat aside it, although many guests do sign in (presumably their own) pen. We are in the process of ordering some pigment based pens to place conveniently at hand so that the inscriptions will endure as part of the history of the building.

Detail of guest book at Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.     Detail of guest book at Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

Examples of guest signatures, including “Jesus Christ” (L) and an enthusiastic video gamer (R).
Click images to enlarge.

Like so many things in this inspiring building, the guest book is humbling. Distinguished visitors, scholars, and schoolchildren have walked through this place and left their mark. The pages are filling up again, and I hope to be able to place another, equally impressive volume, in its place. I began this project thinking I would highlight some of the most interesting entries. I was charmed by the young child from “SUMSET HILL” [sic] and intrigued by non-Roman scripts I could not even identify. I wondered what would motivate a person to draw a big heart around their name in such a formal setting, and I spent a lot of time looking for the name “Don Johnson,” who allegedly signed the book during his days as a student here at KU. In the end, although I could not pick a favorite, I spent much time leafing through the pages and I encourage you to do the same the next time you visit the library.

Beth M. Whittaker
Assistant Dean of Distinctive Collections
Director, Kenneth Spencer Research Library