Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Workshop Recap: Care and Identification of Photographs with Gawain Weaver

June 20th, 2016

Last week Spencer Research Library hosted a workshop on the care and identification of photographs, taught by photograph conservator Gawain Weaver. I was fortunate to attend the four-day workshop along with three other fellow Spencer staff members from Conservation, Public Services, and Processing, as well as archivists and conservators from Missouri, Texas, and elsewhere in Kansas.

Our group met in Spencer’s Johnson Room and jumped right into things on day one by preparing paper to make our own salt prints. We coated paper first in a sodium chloride solution and, once dry, in a silver nitrate solution, then we placed leaves on the coated paper and exposed them in the sunlight over our lunch break. This simple exercise was a fun and engaging way to demonstrate the fundamentals of photographic chemistry.

Salt print (photograph)

The salt print I made in the workshop…it isn’t pretty, but the exercise was very useful!

Over the four days, we divided our time between Gawain’s incredibly information-packed lectures on the history of photographic and photomechanical processes, and lively hands-on sessions examining examples of many of the processes we’d learned about. The workshop fee included a small 60x-100x handheld microscope and a binder filled with the lecture slides, reference guides for identifying various processes, articles and recommended reading lists, and lots more useful information. Participants also had the option to purchase a sample set of photographic and photomechanical prints – a great addition to an archivist’s or conservator’s reference library.

Hand-held microscope

This microscope is small, inexpensive, and very handy for identifying photographic & printmaking processes.

Photographic sample set provided by Gawain Weaver

Photograph sample set of eighteen different photographic and photomechanical prints.

In addition to covering photographic history and technique, Gawain also discussed digital prints and issues of photograph deterioration, storage conditions, and proper housings. I enjoyed this workshop a great deal, and I came away with a clearer understanding of how photographs are made as well as greater confidence in my ability to identify photographic processes and to better address the particular preservation needs of photographs in the collections I work on. Many of the guides and resources in the workshop packet are available for purchase or to download for free from Gawain’s website, along with links to many more resources and information about this and other workshops that Gawain offers.

Angela Andres
Special Collections Conservator
Conservation Services

Meet the Staff: Marcella Huggard

November 30th, 2015

This is the fifth installment in what will be a recurring series of posts introducing readers to the staff of the Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Joining us in October 2015, Marcella Huggard is Spencer’s newest team member; she’s the Manuscript Processing Coordinator.

Marcella Huggard. Archives Manuscript Coordinator

Marcella Huggard working with materials in the beginning stages of being processed
in what is lovingly referred to as Smaug’s Cave.

Where are you from?

I grew up in Valparaiso, Indiana, which is what I like to call a suburb of a suburb of Chicago. Since then I’ve lived in Illinois, Colorado, and Kansas. My mom is from Topeka so I came to Kansas a lot as a kid for family reunions.

What does your job at Spencer entail?

I’m in charge of coordinating the processing of the unpublished manuscript materials at Spencer. This includes personal papers, diaries, correspondence, business records, organizational records, and a wide variety of other materials that can be found in the personal papers of KU alumni and faculty, the Kansas Collection devoted to regional history mostly dating from 1854-onward, and the Special Collections.

Processing entails arranging and describing these collections of materials in order to make them more easily available to our researchers and to let our patrons know what we actually have. Often we receive collections in a fair amount of disarray, and we have to make order out of chaos—and describe that order—so that our patrons know what we have even before they come in our doors.

How did you come to work in special collections and archives?

I was in my junior year of college and trying to figure out what I wanted to do after college—I knew I didn’t want to teach, but I also wanted to use my history degree. My college’s career center helped me find an internship at a nearby historic house museum, and the following fall I got to do an internship at my college’s archives, among other duties transcribing the 1820s love letters of Eli Farnham, one of the college’s founders, and his future wife. After that kind of introduction to working with historical materials, I was hooked. I worked on my Masters at Colorado State University-Fort Collins, where I was able to concentrate both on museum studies and archives administration in order to broaden my career opportunities.

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

I haven’t yet gotten to dive too deeply into the collections here—I started working at Spencer in late October—but I did come across an accession document for an inkwell I have yet to track down. I was also just introduced to a mask worn by Moses Gunn in Titus Andronicus.

What part of your job do you like best?

I really enjoy solving problems, and processing archival materials is a series of problem-solving!

What are your favorite pastimes outside of work?

My husband and I love to ballroom dance (not that we’re any good, mind you). I also sing with the Lawrence Civic Choir and a small group of women called Heartland Harmony operating out of Topeka, and I really enjoy trying out new crockpot recipes.

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

The advice I offer to any researcher wherever I work that I think applies here at Spencer too is try to touch base with a Public Services staff member before you come—at least start looking at the catalog and finding aids so you have a good idea of what might be available for you to review. Letting our staff know you’re coming before you get here is always a great idea because they can give you lots of great information about what to expect when you arrive and can help you fill out your research requests, streamlining the process when you come to the library so you can dive right in!

Marcella Huggard
Manuscript Processing Coordinator

Counterparts and Crossed-out Prohibitions against Fornication; Or, Adventures in Indentures

September 26th, 2013

Anyone who has ever tried to read the fine print on a lease or an online click-through user agreement knows that contracts can at times be rather stultifying documents. Even in the early modern period, contracts used formulaic language that could be dry and impenetrable enough to put off all but the most dedicated reader. However the physical formats of these documents can be quite fascinating, especially to modern eyes.

An indenture is a legal contract between two or more parties which reflects an obligation or covenant between those parties. Common types of indentures include leases, bonds, apprenticeship agreements, and marriage agreements, to name a few.

Image of a lease indenture from the Kaye Family Estate Papers, 1639

Lease indenture between John Kaye of Denby Grange and lessee John North of Bankend for land in Almondbury in Yorkshire, 1639.  Kaye Family Estate Papers. Call Number: MS 240B: 111. Click image to enlarge.

The term “indenture” originally referred to the physical form of this contract. As a security and authentication measure, two or more copies of the deed would be written on the same piece of parchment (animal skin), usually head to head (i.e. with top of one copy facing the top of the other) and then the parchment would be cut in two in a wavy or zigzag pattern to produce the two copies of the contract. The authenticity of the indenture could then be validated by reuniting and matching its edges to those of its “counterpart.”

Image of an indenture and its counterpart matched along their serrated edges.

Indenture and counterpart matched along their scalloped edges. Lease between John Kaye, of Denby Grange and lessee John North of Bankend for land in Almondbury in Yorkshire, 1639. Kaye Family Estate Papers. Call Number: MS 240B: 110-111. Click image to enlarge.

In later years, it was not uncommon to see printed indentures–essentially “forms” in which the formulaic parts are printed and the particulars were added in manuscript.  Spencer’s English Historical Documents collection includes many printed apprenticeship indentures from the 19th century.  It is fascinating to see how the printed forms (still on parchment, mind you!) can be tailored to cover the specific details of a given agreement.  A common stipulation of such agreements was that the apprentice agree not to partake in a variety of activities that might negatively impact his Master or divert the apprentice’s attentions (“he shall not play at Cards, Dice, Tables, or any other unlawful Games…” nor “haunt Taverns or Playhouses, nor absent himself from his said Master’s Service Day or Night”).  In the case of the apprenticeship indenture of young Thomas Inkpen (who, based on his name, clearly missed his calling as a scrivener) to the tailor Dennis O’Leary (below), we can see that the prohibition against fornication or marriage has been struck out, leaving him free to marry during his seven-year term of apprenticeship. Indeed, this stipulation may have been omitted because Inkpen was already married or engaged. (It’s also interesting to note that Inkpen signs his own name, but O’Leary, the tailor to whom he will be apprenticed, signs only with his “mark.”)

Image of an apprenticeship indenture with fornication/marriage clause struck out, 1821.

Photograph of a detail from an apprenticeship indenture with clause prohibiting fornication/marriage struck out, 1821

Apprenticeship indenture of Thomas Inkpen to tailor Dennis O’Leary. February 28, 1821. English Historical Documents Collection. Call Number: MS 239:3818.  Click images to enlarge.

Female apprentices might also occasion the alteration of the printed part of the indenture, which most often assumed a male apprentice.  In the 1834 indenture of eleven year-old Rebecca Dale to  Richard Gray, a Tambour worker and Dressmaker, male pronouns on the printed part of the form have been crossed-out and replaced with female ones.

Image of an apprenticeship indenture form modified by hand for a female apprentice, 1834.

Detail from an apprenticeship indenture form with manuscript modifications for a female apprentice, 1834.

He to She and His to Her: Apprenticeship indenture for Rebecca Dale to Richard Gray, Tambour worker and Dress maker . December 13, 1834. English Historical Documents. Call Number: MS 239:3823. Click images to enlarge.

 Female apprentices soon became common enough that some printers left blanks on their forms to allow for the possibility.  Though the following 1842 indenture is for a boy, William Hicks, to be apprenticed to John Weekes, a Tinman, Coppersmith, and Brazier, the blanks permit it to accommodate a female apprentice with equal ease and even allow for a “Mistress” rather than a “Master.”

Image of apprenticeship indenture with blanks to accommodate both sexes, 1842

Image of a detail from a printed apprenticeship indenture with blanks to allow for either a master or mistress or a male or female apprentice

Fill in the blank: M(aster) or M(istress)? Indenture for William Hicks, Jr. to be apprenticed to John Weekes, Tinman, Coppersmith, and Brazier. November 28, 1842. English Historical Documents Collection. Call Number: MS 239: 3787.

Spencer’s English Historical Documents collection, comprising over 7000 English deeds and manorial, estate, probate and family documents dating roughly from 1200 to 1900, offers a rich resource for investigating the changing face of the indenture.  It also offers insight into two prominent English families, the Kayes of Yorkshire, and the North Family, whose illustrious members include Frederick North, Prime Minister of Great Britain during the American War of Independence.   An online finding aid is currently in progress, but in the interim we encourage interested researchers to contact us with their queries.

Elspeth Healey
Special Collections Librarian
[With special thanks to Mary Ann Baker, processing archivist for the English Historical Documents collection, for locating and identifying the counterparts referred to in this post.]

New Finding Aids Available

June 6th, 2013

Finding aids are inventories that help researchers navigate collections of manuscripts, organizational records, personal papers, and photographs. Please scroll down for a list of the Kenneth Spencer Research Library’s newest finding aids and then visit the library and explore!

Film still from The Cheat, 1915

Newly inventoried! A still from The Cheat (1915), part of a sizable collection of Movie Stills, 1895-1998, amassed by KU Professor of Film & Media Studies John C. Tibbetts. Call Number: MS 297, Box 1, Folder 72

 

 

To search across all of Spencer’s finding aids, please click here.

 

History in a Bottle

April 18th, 2013

Those of you who have visited the Kenneth Spencer Research Library in the past few months have discovered that we are in the midst of another small renovation project. This time, we are renovating our processing spaces, where books, manuscript collections, and other items are described and prepared for use. Our collections keep growing, while the space we have for these essential activities does not, so we are removing some interior walls and opening up some spaces to allow us to house materials more efficiently before and during processing, and also to refresh staff spaces. There has been some noise and some other disruption, but work is well underway, and we look forward to great results.

As part of this process, the in-wall exhibit case that had once welcomed visitors into the  space when it was the Kansas Collection reading room was removed. One day a few weeks ago, KU Libraries Associate Dean Kent Miller arrived at my office door with a small glass bottle. The demolition crew had found it in INSIDE the wall as they took down the case, so it was obviously placed there during construction.

Image of whisky bottle found during construction at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library.

This bottle of Grant’s Stand Fast Scotch (8 years old) is empty, but still has the tax sticker, and you can see a yellow notation of “238.” I have no idea what a half-pint of scotch costs now, so I’m not sure this would reasonably have been a price in the late 1960s—perhaps it means something entirely different. I am certainly not a historian of alcohol, international commerce, or product design. But I have been keeping this bottle in my office and thinking a lot about it lately as we continue to rethink the physical spaces that we inhabit.

First of all, this bottle was empty, so I’m wondering who drank it, and when. Was it a construction worker who brought it from home as a lark? Or was it consumed in situ? I have been told of a tradition where building workers leave behind something, like a mark that will be covered by paint, to claim their work. If this is the case, who could this bottle of scotch have served as a signature? Or perhaps a prankster staff member snuck it in during construction? Is the person who did this still in Lawrence, and have I unknowingly seen them at Dillon’s?

Forbidden substances, of course, have a colorful history in libraries, and the Spencer Library is no exception. We still prohibit food and drink in most areas, although we maintain a robust schedule of catered events, and our staff members have a comfortable break room as well. We are scrupulous about removing trash every day to discourage pests and protect collections even from a seemingly harmless glass of water. Smoking has been prohibited for decades, but I remember sneaking a smoke in what is now one of our classrooms when I was a student assistant, something that is inconceivable now. We certainly never would have expected whiskey-drinking construction workers to leave behind evidence, but we do still need to remind visitors that their Cokes and Skittles should be consumed outside.

I spend a lot of time imagining how these amazing spaces may evolve, and this small time capsule forces me to consider how it once was. The care and dedication and craftsmanship that led to this beautiful building reflects a time when even a utilitarian item like an alcohol bottle seems to have been created a little more carefully. The processes for printing both the duty stamp and the label itself were much more labor-intensive than in the computerized present. And while I celebrate the changes we have brought to make our library more functional, more inviting, and more comfortable, I’m tempted to raise a glass to the people who put that bottle in the wall forty-five years ago, reminding me of where we have been as we look towards where we want to go.

Beth M. Whittaker
Head of Kenneth Spencer Research Library