Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Education: The Mightiest Weapon

March 22nd, 2017

Spencer’s current exhibit Education: The Mightiest Weapon is free and open to the public in the Spencer Exhibit Space through May 18, 2017, during the library’s regular business hours.

Field Archivist and Curator Deborah Dandridge with
her student assistant Arielle Swopes. Click image to enlarge.

“While white folks have been wrangling as to whether colored children should be admitted into the public schools,” reported the Evening Dispatch newspaper in 1859, “Mrs. Burnham, a colored woman, has been teaching a school for Negro children on the corner of Potawatomie and Third streets,” in Leavenworth, Kansas. Like Mrs. Burnham, African American settlers in Kansas found a variety of ways to pursue their cultural tradition of placing a high value on formal education, despite laws and practices that denied them equal access to all public schools.

Education: The Mightiest Weapon highlights the public school experiences of African Americans governed by the 1879 Kansas law allowing public school boards in cities of 10,000 or more to decide whether to establish racially segregated grade schools. Except for special legislation passed in 1905 for Kansas City, Kansas, Kansas law prohibited racially segregated public high schools. It features schools in Kansas’ urban and rural areas, African American state supported schools, and the 1951 U.S. District Court case in the landmark 1954 Brown v. Topeka Board of Education U.S. Supreme Court decision.

Setting up the Education exhibit

Setting up for the exhibit. Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of Zachary Lassiter and Arielle Swopes

Zachary Lassiter, a Public Services student at Spencer Library
majoring in history, with Arielle Swopes. Click image to enlarge.

Statement from student assistant Arielle Swopes

In 2014 I started at KU as a Behavioral Neuroscience major, and began working as a student assistant in Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Working on the current exhibit, Education: The Mightiest Weapon, has given me even greater insight about how enduring and adaptable African Americans have been. For this exhibit I’ve had access to hundreds of pictures and been able to read letters, petitions, newspapers, and posters that all show the daily life and struggles of African Americans from the 1890s to the 1970s. From all of these materials it is easy to see the determination that these people had to always find a way to persevere.

Photograph of the Sumner High School Second Orchestra, 1918

Sumner High School Second Orchestra,
Kansas City, Kansas, 1918. Sumner High School Collection.
Call Number: RH MS-P 1137. Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of the first page of a letter to the Lawrence School Board, 1942 Photograph of the second page of a letter to the Lawrence School Board, 1942

A letter from the city’s African American community to the
Lawrence, Kansas, School Board opposing the Board’s
suggested plan to place all African American elementary students
in Lincoln School in North Lawrence, November 12, 1942.
USD 497 (Lawrence School District) Collection.
Call Number: RH MS 1255. Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of the Monroe School eighth grade class, 1932

Eighth grade graduating class of Monroe School, Topeka, Kansas, 1932.
Cooper-Sheppard-Cox Family Collection. Call Number: RH MS-P 576.
Click image to enlarge.

Arielle Swopes
Spencer Research Library Student Assistant
African American Experience Collections

Deborah Dandridge
Field Archivist and Curator
African American Experience Collections

Exhibition Snapshot: Sumner High School, Kansas City, KS

February 27th, 2017

Spencer Research Library’s current exhibition, Education: The Mightiest Weapon,” highlights African American school experiences in the state of Kansas, focusing primarily on the period before 1955.  In the coming days we’ll feature a longer post on the exhibition, but today we share an image and a label to whet your appetite. “Education: The Mightiest Weapon” is on display in Spencer Library’s gallery space through May 18th, 2017.

Sumner High School, Kansas City, KS

Sumner is a child not of our own volition but rather an offspring of the race antipathy of a bygone period. It was a veritable blessing in disguise—a flower of which we may proudly say, “The bud had a bitter taste, but sweet indeed is the flower”

Photograph of Students in Chemistry Classroom, 1930s, Sumner High School, Kansas City, KS

Chemistry Classroom, 1930s, Sumner High School.  Sumner High School Collection. Call #: RH MS-P 1137.
Click image to enlarge.

In 1905, the Kansas State Legislature passed a law exempting Kansas City, Kansas from the state law prohibiting racially segregated public high schools. Reluctantly, the Governor of Kansas E. W. Hoch signed the bill, but persuaded the majority of Kansas City, Kansas voters to construct a new high school building for African Americans at no less than $40,000 and to be as well-equipped as the existing Kansas City, Kansas High School. Determined to overcome the inequities of racial segregation, the teachers, students and community members of Sumner High School strove to develop a tradition of academic excellence. They countered the local school board’s proposals for an emphasis on manual training courses by implementing a curriculum that emphasized college preparatory classes at Sumner.  By 1914, Sumner was a member of the prestigious North Central Association of Secondary Schools. Until the 1970s, the majority of African American students attending the University of Kansas were graduates of Sumner High School.

Sumner closed in 1978 under a federally mandated plan for racial integration of schools in Kansas City, Kansas.

Deborah Dandridge
Field Archivist and Curator, African American Experience Collections

Achievement of a Dream: The Birth of the University of Kansas

September 18th, 2015

Achievement of a Dream: The Birth of the University of Kansas, Spencer Library’s newest exhibit, opened on September 11, 2015.

The exhibit, developed in conjunction with the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the University, was curated by University Archivist Rebecca Schulte and Assistant Archivist Letha Johnson, with assistance from KU 150 Research Archivist JoJo Palko. It highlights original documents, photographs, and memorabilia that tell the story of the early years of the University from its beginnings in 1865 to the turn of the twentieth century. Exhibition items include Chancellor John Fraser’s Civil War-era Union lieutenant’s uniform and sword, early student activity photographs, and the diploma of KU’s first graduate, Flora Richardson. Whitney Baker, Head of Conservation Services at KU Libraries, and Angela Andres, Library Preservation Assistant, provided display support and conservation guidance.

Photograph of Flora Richardson

Flora Richardson, valedictorian of KU’s first graduating class (1873).
University Archives Photos. Call Number: P/ Richardson, Flora: People (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

List of degrees conferred, 1873

“Degrees Conferred. Commencement 1873, on Examination, Class of 1873.”
University Archives. Call Number: LD 2693 .U55 1873.
Click image to enlarge. See more documents from KU’s first
at Archives Online, part of KU ScholarWorks.

There had been many female students at the University of Kansas since it first opened in 1866 as a preparatory school, but only one has the double distinction of first graduate and class valedictorian: Flora Richardson. Flora graduated with the first class in 1873, earning a Bachelor of Arts. At commencement she spoke at length on the “Uses of Superstition.” She argued that superstition, though allegedly “hurtful to man’s progress,” actually furthered intellectual inquiry by inspiring reverent curiosity about the world. The speech was a success; the Daily Kansan Tribune lauded her performance, declaring that “the young lady came forward tastefully and elegantly attired in white, and delivered her oration in a firm, though pleasant voice.”

Flora’s remarkable collegiate career included joining the Oread Literary Society and being a founding member of the Kappa chapter of the “I.C. Sorosis” sorority, which in 1888 changed its name to Pi Beta Phi. She even created KU’s first entomological collection, a 140-specimen group including everything from cockroaches to walking sticks, as a pupil of Professor (and later Chancellor) Francis Huntington Snow.

 Image of Flora Richardson's KU diploma, 1873

Flora Richardson‘s diploma from the University of Kansas, 1873.
This was the first diploma ever awarded by KU.
Generously loaned to University Archives from Flora Richardson’s family.
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Flora’s diploma, the first ever awarded by KU, is now on display at Spencer Research Library as part of Achievement of a Dream: The Birth of the University of Kansas. The exhibit is free and open to the public in the Spencer Exhibit Space, located on the library’s third floor. The library is open Monday through Friday, 9:00am to 5:00pm; during the fall and spring semesters, when KU classes are in session, it is also open on Saturday, 9:00am to 1:00pm. For other closings and hours during semester breaks and holidays, see our Exception Dates.

JoJo Palko
KU 150 Research Archivist
University Archives

All Creeping Things: A History of Herpetological Illustration

May 26th, 2015

All Creeping Things: A History of Herpetological Illustration, Spencer Library’s newest exhibit, opened on May 14, 2015. Guided by Special Collections Librarian Karen Cook, students Megan Sims, Sydney Goldstein, and Ryan Ridder created and installed the exhibit for an exhibit planning and design course (MUSE 703). Whitney Baker, Head of Conservation Services at KU Libraries, Special Collections Librarian Sally Haines, and Caitlin Donnelly, Head of Public Services at Spencer, also assisted the students with their project.

The exhibit was developed in conjunction with the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles conference being held at the University of Kansas in July and features herpetological illustrations from seventeenth-, eighteenth-, and nineteenth-century books in Spencer Library’s Special Collections. Spencer has put on a few iterations of a similar exhibit for previous conferences. Each student had a unique perspective on their experience creating the exhibit.

Ryan Ridder

“One of our goals was to be distinct from Slithy Toves [a previous exhibit, by Sally Haines] and to present images that viewers familiar with that exhibition, and associated book, might not see as often. We ended up repeating a few irresistible images – the giant salamander, Agassiz’s turtles, and the famous frontispiece to Rössel von Rosenhof’s frog volume – but everything else you see is different. We thought touching on embryological illustrations would give our exhibit another unique slant.”

Photograph of Megan and Ryan installing books

Megan Sims and Ryan Ridder installing books in the cases. Click image to enlarge.

Sydney Goldstein

“I found this class to be both an overwhelming and an incredibly eye-opening experience. Coming from a graphic design background I’ve never gone through the steps of curating an exhibition or working off the computer. It was fun to rummage through a variety of books to select illustrations, figuring out how they will fit in the cases, selecting wall graphics, and working in a group. The most rewarding part was applying our vinyl title graphic ourselves. Overall, a great experience!”

Photograph of the MUSE 703 group hanging vinyl

Megan, Sydney, and Ryan hanging the vinyl title graphic.

Megan Sims

“I have installed many exhibits according to specific designs from clients, but this was my first experience selecting objects, designing signs and labels, and fabricating book mounts and wall graphics for an exhibit. Both the physical process and communication were challenging at times, but seeing the finished product was very rewarding. I’m excited for the conference members and the Lawrence community to see this exhibit!”

Photograph of the MUSE 703 exhibit team in front of title

Ryan Ridder, Sydney Goldstein, Megan Sims, and curator Karen Cook. Click image to enlarge.

All Creeping Things is free and open to the public through August 2015.

Megan Sims
Museum Studies Graduate Student

Love Apples: Guess the Fruit

March 30th, 2015

The first fruits (berries, botanically speaking) of these vines to be eaten in Europe were probably yellow varieties: “golden apples” the Italians called them. The Italians loved them, but the rest of the world needed more convincing of their merits because they were thought to be either poisonous or aphrodisiac “love apples”, not too surprising considering their resemblance to other dangerous members of the same plant family.

At any rate, as late as the nineteenth century in America Dr. George Washington Carver, interested in improving nutrition among the poor, got up on a stage and ate these in public in order to prove that they were not poisonous.

In the annals of medical mysteries there was a case involving one of these ‘berries’ that killed off some folks; mystery solved when it was discovered that its stems had been spliced to the stems of one of the poisonous members of the family, jimsonweed, not with any mal-intent (pun intended), apparently, just the desire for bigger, better, and juicier.

They should have waited; genetic engineers are now splicing away, but at the genetic level. But … caveat emptor:  in 1992, just prior to the mounting of the Haunted Forest exhibition in which this label originally appeared, the first President Bush announced that the government would allow the sale, without government testing – by 1993 – of the Flavr Savr, courtesy of Calgene, Inc. of Davis, California. Long story short, the experiment failed: rising costs prevented the company from becoming profitable, and the Flavr Savr was gone by 1997.

Have you guessed the identity of the fruit whose vine is pictured below?

The name of this common berry is… TOMATO (highlight the blank space to the left to reveal the plant’s name).

Plate for Solanum lycopersicum  (tomato) in  Kniphof's Botanica in originali seu Herbarum vivum (1757-1767).

Our mystery berry: Solanum Lycopersicum. Johann Hieronymus Kniphof (1704-1763). Botanica in originali
seu Herbarum vivum
. Hallae Magdeburgicae, 1757-1767.  Centur. 4, 1758. Linnaeana E15 Click image to enlarge.

This unusual-looking botany book is one of the earliest, if not the first work of any extent, to use the process known as nature printing, by which a plant is laid out flat, blackened with printer’s ink, and placed between two pieces of paper to which pressure is applied. The ink imparts an impression of veins and fibers which is then colored by hand. Like a number of the works shown in this exhibition, this is one of considerable bibliographical complexity and it exists in fewer than fifteen copies, not all of which are colored and no two appear to be alike. This herbarum vivum is notable for being perhaps the first botanical plate book to cite Linnaeus’s Species plantarum, 1753, in which binomials were first used consistently for naming plants.

Title page, featuring nature printing, for Centur III-IV of Kniphof's Botanica in originali seu Herbarum vivum

Title page for Centur III-IV of Kniphof’s Botanica in originali seu Herbarum vivum.
Hallae Magdeburgicae, 1757-1767.   Linnaeana E15 Click image to enlarge.


Sally Haines
Rare Books Cataloger

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