Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Throwback Thursday: Springtime Weather Edition

February 25th, 2016

Each week we’ll be posting a photograph from University Archives that shows a scene from KU’s past. We’ve also scanned more than 23,200 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

It may be cloudy and cold today, but we’re scheduled to have beautiful springlike weather this weekend.

Photograph of students sitting near Potter Lake, 1969

Students sitting near Potter Lake, 1969. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 0/24/1 Potter Lake 1969 Prints: Campus: Areas and Objects (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Melissa Kleinschmidt, Megan Sims, and Abbey Ulrich
Public Services Student Assistants

Meet the KSRL Staff: Deborah Dandridge

February 22nd, 2016

This is the sixth installment in what will be a recurring series of posts introducing readers to the staff of the Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Deborah Dandridge is the Field Archivist/Curator for the African American Experience Collections in our Kansas Collection.

Deborah Dandridge. Field Archivist/Curator for African American Experience Collections.

Deborah Dandridge reading over her presentation notes
at the Black Archives of Mid-America conference held in
Kansas City, MO this past October.

Where are you from?

I was born in Topeka, Kansas, where I attended school K through 12. I began kindergarten at Washington School, one of the city’s four elementary schools designated for African American students and teachers. After the 1954 Brown v. Topeka Board of Education U.S. Supreme Court decision, I completed my grade school education at Washington because my parents determined that Washington’s excellent faculty and supportive environment afforded me the best opportunity for a quality education, although I lived only a half block from a previous whites-only school.

What does your job at Spencer entail?

I reach out to communities across the state for donations of their historical materials (i.e. written and photographic) that document the experiences of African American families, churches, organizations, and businesses and I serve as curator of these materials (i.e. the African American Experience Collections).

How did you come to work at Spencer Research Library?

I began my work in KSRL as field archivist for a 1986-1989 National Historical Publications and Records Commission grant awarded to the Kansas Collection, in cooperation with KU’s African and African American Studies department.

What is the strangest item you’ve come across in Spencer’s collections?

All of the items reflect important experiences in the lives of the donors. They represent special moments or routine activities of the past that inform us about the present.

What part of your job do you like the most?

Visiting with potential donors of materials and participating in community public programs across the Kansas region.

What are your favorite pastimes?

Although it’s difficult, I’m enjoying my new journey into the world of physical training as a client of an expert in the field.

What piece of advice would you offer a researcher walking into Spencer Research Library for the first time?

Be prepared to embark upon a fascinating, never seen before, exploration of the rich, diverse record of human past.

Deborah Dandridge
Field Archivist/Curator
African American Experience Collections
Kansas Collection

A Philosophy and a Photograph: Frank Snow’s Gift to a Modern Historian

February 19th, 2016

On Sunday, PBS will air the final episode of a six-part miniseries called Mercy Street, set at a Union hospital in Alexandria, Virginia, during the Civil War. This is the second of two blog posts that will explore a Spencer connection to that program; it’s an excerpt from a longer piece to be published later this year. Both entries have been guest written by Spencer researcher Charles Joyce. Mr. Joyce is a labor attorney in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and also a long-time collector and dealer of Civil War photography.

In my previous blog post, I introduced readers to an early KU professor and Chancellor of KU, Francis Snow, and linked his life to the PBS miniseries Mercy Street. The physical bridge between the two takes the shape of a seven by five and one-half inch albumen photograph that I purchased in an eBay auction, shown below. Images of U. S. Colored Troops, as they were officially designated, in such a grouping are themselves relatively rare, but what makes this image truly remarkable is that each soldier is identified on the pasteboard mount by a penciled notation, written in a very distinctive hand.

Photograph of African American soldiers from L'Ouverture Hospital, circa 1864

African American Union soldiers from L’Ouverture Hospital, in Alexandria, Virginia,
probably taken between early December 1864 to early April 1865. The men – a corporal,
eight infantryman, a drummer, and a fifer – appear to have been arrayed as an
Honor Escort for a deceased private. From left to right they are Tobias “Toby” Trout,
William DeGraff, John H. Johnson, Jerry Lyles (or Lisle), Leander Brown, Samuel Bond,
Robert Deyo, Adolphus Harp, Stephen Vance, George H. Smith, Adam Bentley, and
Reverend Chauncey Leonard. Private collection of Charles Joyce; used with permission. Click image to enlarge.

Close-up of soldiers' names

Close-up of the soldiers’ names, written by Francis Snow at the bottom of the mount.
Private collection of Charles Joyce; used with permission. Click image to enlarge.

The tools used to determine who these men were – and to posit a reason why this image was made in the first place and how it finally ended up in the personal effects of a University of Kansas Chancellor – were found chiefly in two repositories: The National Archives in Washington, D.C., and the Records of the Office of the Chancellor at Kenneth Spencer Research Library.

President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation made the enlisting of black men into the Union Army a reality, and by the end of the Civil War roughly 179,000 black men (10% of the Army) had served as soldiers, with another 19,000 having served in the Navy. The War Department created a Bureau of Colored Troops to oversee, in as orderly a fashion as possible, the induction and service of the black soldiers. Because of the Bureau, records kept of those men were both systematic and fairly scrupulous, as illustrated by the documents below. Moreover, soldiers who survived the fighting – especially if they had been wounded or ill during their service – usually filed for a federal pension. This process generated reams of additional bureaucratic paperwork. While undoubtedly maddening for the claimant, these records are invaluable to the modern-day researcher. Today, the service and pension records of the USCTs are mostly digitized and available using online pay-for-use services like Ancestry.com or Fold.com; copies of records can usually also be obtained for a fee by an online request or personal visit to the National Archives.

Image of NARA Toby Trout service record

A page from Tobias (Toby) Trout’s service file.
Original document held by the National Archives and
Records Administration. Copy in the private collection of
Charles Joyce; used with permission. Click image to enlarge.

Image of NARA Toby Trout record of effects

This document shows the belongings – or personal effects –
Toby Trout left behind when he died at L’Ouverture Hospital of
“gangrene of the lungs.” His effects included a fife, possibly the one
he’s holding in the photograph above. Original document held by
the National Archives and Records Administration. Copy in the private
collection of Charles Joyce; used with permission. Click image to enlarge.

Image of NARA George Smith service file

A page from George Smith’s service file, which describes a gunshot wound
to his right hand received at the Battle of the Crater. The injury disabled him for life and
can be seen in the photograph above. Original document held by the
National Archives and Records Administration. Copy in the private collection of
Charles Joyce; used with permission. Click image to enlarge.

My research into these records revealed that six of the soldiers in the photograph were wounded at the hellish Battle of the Crater on July 30, 1864. Encountering wounded soldiers from the battle, Francis Snow recorded in his diary on August 9th that “no visitor at L’Ouverture Hospital would for a moment cherish the shadow of a doubt concerning the bravery of the Negro troops on Sat. July 30th. The charge is utterly false that the battle was lost on account of their ‘cowardly behavior.’” The “calamity,” he insisted, was instead “due to some blunder on the part of officers high in command.”

The service and pension records of the men in the photograph also reveal telling details of their lives before the war. For example, Adolphus Harp had been flogged in the groin by his master with a rawhide whip when he was thirteen years old; fifty years later, he had to explain to pension doctors why the scar was still there. Robert Deyo was court-martialed for desertion (but acquitted) and Jerry Lyles (or Lisle) was similarly tried for breaking his musket over the head of one of his fellows during a drill. Wounded during the Crater fight, he was released from the hospital only to be readmitted some months later, now suffering from the effects of “secondary syphilis.”

Service and pension records tell us this much, but it remains puzzling why the image was made and how it came to be found in Chancellor Snow’s private papers. Fortunately, KU’s University Archives at Spencer Research Library retains many of Snow’s letters, journals, and diaries of the Civil War period, including a memorandum book he kept as a Christian Commission delegate stationed at Alexandria. This established that one of his duties included ministering to the spiritual and physical needs of sick and wounded USCTs. And, while there is no account of him dealing directly with any of the men in the photograph – other than the Hospital’s Chaplain, Reverend Chauncey Leonard – Snow’s writings, including the examples shown below, are those of a young man who viewed African Americans as fully worthy of their freedom.

Image of Francis Snow's "Negro Patriotism" entry in journal, 1864

Image of Francis Snow's "Negro Patriotism" entry in journal, 1864

Image of Francis Snow's entries about African Americans in journal, 1864

Some of Francis Snow’s thoughts and observations about African Americans
in the journal he kept while working for the U.S. Christian Commission
in Alexandria, 1864. University Archives. Call Number: RG 2/6/6. Click images to enlarge.

Plainly, Snow’s brief month-long sojourn affected him greatly. So, when an image was made of a group of black soldiers, Snow not only received a copy, but took the time to write each man’s name down – again in his own unmistakable hand – and kept the photograph for the rest of his days, until unearthed in another century, at a time when questions of race and justice nonetheless continue to confound us.

Charles Joyce
Guest Blogger and Spencer Researcher
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Throwback Thursday: Team-Building Edition

February 18th, 2016

Each week we’ll be posting a photograph from University Archives that shows a scene from KU’s past. We’ve also scanned more than 23,200 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

Good luck to the KU baseball team as it kicks off the 2016 season on Sunday. Rock Chalk!

Photograph of the baseball team painting "KANSAS" on a fence, 1984-1985

KU baseball players painting “KANSAS” on a fence, 1984-1985.
This is possibly the outfield wall at Hoglund Ballpark.
Photo by John Lechliter, Kansas Alumni magazine.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 66/12 1984/1985:
Athletic Department: Baseball Games and Teams (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Melissa Kleinschmidt, Megan Sims, and Abbey Ulrich
Public Services Student Assistants

The Long Haul: Treating one of the neediest cases

February 15th, 2016

(Part 1 in a series on the treatment of Summerfield D544)

The great majority of the items that we treat here in the conservation lab are in and out of the lab relatively quickly*. (*I use this word in a most qualified and highly subjective way! That usually means anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours to a couple of weeks.) A treatment need not be time-consuming or highly invasive in order to be effective; because there are so very many items in our collections that need treatment, and because we conservators try to take a conservative approach to treatments, we design most treatments to employ our resources – time and materials – as economically as possible while achieving the maximum benefit for the items being treated.

On occasion, however, we encounter items that need extra care and a fuller application of the tools available to us. These treatments are nursed along gradually and in stages, the work carried out alongside and in between shorter-term treatments, and sometimes put away for days or weeks at a time to let more immediate priorities take precedence. I currently have one such treatment on my bench, the Polish printed book, Kazania na niedziele calego roku [i.e., Sermons for Sundays of the Whole Year] by Pawel Kaczyński, published in 1683 (call number: Summerfield D544).

Book before treatment. Call number Summerfield D54, Special Collections, Spencer Research Library.

Summerfield D544 before treatment. Special Collections, Spencer Research Library. Click image to enlarge.

The catalog record notes that Spencer Library’s copy of this title is “imperfect;” indeed, we have only volume 1 of a three-volume set, our volume is missing one page, it has significant losses and edge damage throughout the text block, and not least of all, it is missing its binding. What remains of the volume is dirty and worn, and its sewing is rather carelessly executed, which limits the volume’s opening and has resulted in damage along the spine where sloppily-inserted thread has torn through the paper. In addition, the spine is coated with a thick waxy substance that is causing discoloration and breakage along the spine folds.

Book before treatment. Call number Summerfield D54, Special Collections, Spencer Research Library.

Example of damage caused by poor sewing. Click image to enlarge.

Book before treatment. Call number Summerfield D54, Special Collections, Spencer Research Library.

Damage caused by waxy spine coating. Click image to enlarge.

This poor volume had been housed in a simple envelope, and was at the very least in need of better housing, but one interesting feature drew our attention: a fragment of manuscript binder’s waste still adhered to the frayed cords on the back of the volume. It is not unusual to see repurposed manuscripts in books from this time, and the Summerfield Collection has many other examples of binder’s waste in its books. The fragment on Kazania is a bit different, however, because the language in which it is written appears to be Old Church Slavonic (while most of the manuscript fragments we see tend to be in Latin) and because the material it is written on is paper, rather than parchment.

Book before treatment. Call number Summerfield D54, Special Collections, Spencer Research Library.

Manuscript binder’s waste on the back of the volume. Click image to enlarge.

The fragment was dirty, torn, and completely obscured on one side by the pasted-down cords and layers of delaminated board from the missing binding. Normally we would attempt to preserve binder’s waste on the volume itself, but in this case, absent a binding and with the fragment at risk for further damage, we consulted with the collection curator and opted to release the fragment from the cords, clean it to the extent possible in order to reveal the concealed manuscript, and house it with the volume, including photographs of its original condition, as a teaching tool.

But what about the rest of the volume? In its present condition it is not suitable for use, and its sewing is causing damage to the text block, so we decided that the volume should be disbound, cleaned, mended, sewn up again, and placed into a limp paper conservation case binding. A paper case, similar to the one shown here at left, has many benefits: it will protect the text block and allow for safer and easier handling of the volume; it can be easily removed from the volume if its conservation or binding needs ever change in the future; and it will have an aesthetically appealing appearance that will integrate well on the shelf with other volumes in the collection.

This treatment, then, is one of those exceptions to our generally conservative practice – some items just need more help than others. Now that you’ve been introduced to this volume in its before-treatment condition, stay tuned to this blog for updates as the treatment progresses. The next installment in this series will cover the removal of the manuscript fragment, dismantling of the sewing, and the cleaning and preparation of the text block for re-sewing.

Angela Andres
Special Collections Conservator
Conservation Services