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Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Books on a shelf

Welcome to the Kenneth Spencer Research Library blog! As the special collections and archives library at the University of Kansas, Spencer is home to remarkable and diverse collections of rare and unique items. Explore the blog to learn about the work we do and the materials we collect.

That’s Distinctive!: Langston Hughes

February 3rd, 2023

Check the blog each Friday for a new “That’s Distinctive!” post. I created the series because I genuinely believe there is something in our collections for everyone, whether you’re writing a paper or just want to have a look. “That’s Distinctive!” will provide a more lighthearted glimpse into the diverse and unique materials at Spencer – including items that many people may not realize the library holds. If you have suggested topics for a future item feature or questions about the collections, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page.

This week “That’s Distinctive!” celebrates Langston Hughes, whose 122nd birthday was on February 1st. (Several years ago, former Kansas Poet Laureate and Washburn University English Professor Eric McHenry discovered that Hughes was likely born in 1901 and not 1902, as had long been thought. McHenry’s discovery was covered by The New York Times in 2018.) An African American poet and social activist born in Joplin, Missouri, Hughes was “one of the earliest innovators of the literary art form called jazz poetry [and] is best known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance” (per the Wikipedia article about him). In addition to poetry, Hughes wrote non-fiction, plays, and short stories, and he even had a column in The Chicago Defender.

In honor of Hughes’s birthday, this week I am highlighting a small taste of the poems in his book The Dream Keeper and Other Poems. As you can see, some pages in the book include sketches in addition to the poems.

Two-page spread of off-white paper with black text and four small illustrations.
The title page of Langston Hughes’s book The Dream Keeper and Other Poems. Call Number: RH C7466. Click image to enlarge.
Black text with a black-and-white pen-and-ink sketch above. The illustration includes various things including flowers in a vase, a book, and a house.
The poem “The Dream Keeper” by Langston Hughes, in The Dream Keeper and Other Poems. Call Number: RH C7466. Click image to enlarge.
Two-page spread of black text with three black-and-white pen-and-ink sketches, two of flowers and one of a bird.
The poems “Autumn Thought” and “Dreams” by Langston Hughes, in The Dream Keeper and Other Poems. Call Number: RH C7466. Click image to enlarge.

Along with this book, Spencer also holds many other books and manuscripts by Hughes; The Life of Langston Hughes, a biography by Arnold Rampersad (Call Number: RH C7898); and some photos. You can find all of these sources by searching the KU Libraries online catalog and Spencer’s finding aids. You can also view an online exhibit on Hughes curated by former Kansas Collection Curator Sherry Williams.

Though he was born in Missouri, Hughes often claimed to be a Kansan because he grew up in the Lawrence and Topeka areas. Over the years, Lawrence has shown its appreciation for Hughes with a number of plaques around town and an elementary school named in his honor, as well as a library in one of his childhood schools (Pinckney Elementary). Other landmarks connected to Hughes in Lawrence include the church he attended, the library he frequented, and the graves of his grandparents. Hughes later returned to Lawrence and spoke on KU’s campus three times: in 1932, 1958, and 1965. Visitors to Spencer’s North Gallery can listen to a selection of audio clips from his 1965 visit, which include Hughes reading his poetry and sharing some of his reminiscences about his youth in Kansas.

Tiffany McIntosh
Public Services

That’s Distinctive!: Kansas Day

January 27th, 2023

Check the blog each Friday for a new “That’s Distinctive!” post. I created the series because I genuinely believe there is something in our collections for everyone, whether you’re writing a paper or just want to have a look. “That’s Distinctive!” will provide a more lighthearted glimpse into the diverse and unique materials at Spencer – including items that many people may not realize the library holds. If you have suggested topics for a future item feature or questions about the collections, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page.

This week “That’s Distinctive!” celebrates Kansas Day! This year Kansas Day, which is January 29th, marks Kansas’s 162nd year of statehood. Kansas became the 34th state in 1861. You can find some fun facts about Kansas day via the National Today website and the Kansas State Historical Society’s Kansapedia.

In honor of Kansas Day, I have chosen to exhibit The Kansas Guidebook for Explorers by Marci Penner. The inside cover boasts that “this is the most comprehensive guidebook to exploring Kansas.” The book is split into sections by different areas of the state and then breaks down further into counties and cities/towns. The book boasts over 400 pages of places to visit throughout Kansas. Written in 2005, you may find that some (or many) of the businesses have closed but the most loved are still in existence today. In 2012, Marci Penner and WenDee Rowe set out to release The Kansas Guidebook 2 for Explorers. Below are a few pages from the 2005 edition (including Lawrence, of course).

Book title in white text against a colored background, with photos of Kansas places above and below.
The cover of The Kansas Guidebook for Explorers, 2005. Call Number: RH C10896. Click image to enlarge.
The inside cover and title page of The Kansas Guidebook for Explorers, 2005. As you can see, the library’s copy is signed by author Marci Penner. Call Number: RH C10896. Click image to enlarge.
Selected pages featuring places to visit in Lawrence, from The Kansas Guidebook for Explorers, 2005. The book offers 3 ½ more pages of Lawrence content, beyond what is shown above. Call Number: RH C10896. Click image to enlarge.

The Kansas Guidebook for Explorers is part of the Kansas Collection at Spencer Research Library. One of the main collecting areas at the library, the Kansas Collection covers regional history in the state and its neighbors from the territorial period up through the present.

Tiffany McIntosh
Public Services

New Finding Aids, July-December 2022

January 25th, 2023

It was a busy back half of 2022 for the manuscripts processing team at Kenneth Spencer Research Library. We hired two new full-time staff members, which has helped us a great deal in getting more collections processed and finding aids produced!

See below a listing for the finding aids newly produced between July and December 2022, with a selection of images from some of these newly processed collections.

Preliminary Report on the Geology and Oil Potential of the Snyder Lease, Linn County, Kansas, approximately 1964 (RH MS P989)

Evacuation of Wounded in Modern Wars, 1912, 1917 (RH MS D303)

Walt Mason Rhymes, 1943-1944 (RH MS D304)

Origin of Names of Army and Air Corps Posts, Camps and Stations in WWII in Kansas, approximately 1953 (RH MS P990)

A.A.B. Cavaness Poems, December 9, 1901 (RH MS P991)

Student articles on [Native American] Personalities, March 1-23, 1964 (RH MS 1559)

Passing of the Eldridge House: The Birthplace of Kansas, February 24, 1924 (RH MS P992)

Right Reverend Thomas Hubbard Vail and the Right Reverend Elisha Smith Thomas, January 6, 1890 and April 14, 1895 (RH MS Q490)

Edna Worthley Underwood collection, 1919-1947 (bulk 1924) (RH MS E213, RH MS P993)

Kansas Pre-War Army, September 1939 (RH MS P994)

Hopefield Presbyterian Mission, March 30, 1951 (RH MS P995)

Discussions by Thomas Ewing, August 11, 1871-October 31, 1887 (RH MS C94)

Four Centuries in Kansas, January 20-February 23, 1930 (RH MS E214)

Michael Shaw papers, 1978-2018 (RH MS 1560)

First Twenty Years of the M.E. Church, 1865-1978 (bulk 1865-1885) (RH MS P996)

Personal papers of John Dardess, 1919-2016 (bulk 1966-2016) (PP 635)

American Indian Movement protest photograph collection, July 6, 1976 (RH WL MS Q13)

Black-and-white photograph of a man standing with his hand over his mouth.
An Indigenous person looks on during a protest at the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C., July 1976. Police attacked and arrested American Indian Movement protestors. American Indian Movement Protest Photograph Collection. Call Number: RH WL MS Q13, Box 1, Folder 7. Click image to enlarge.

Martha “Matt” Mueller collection, 1851-2010 (RH MS P997)

Gene Burnett papers, December 4, 1919-October 3, 2013 (RH MS 1561)

Joyce Fent papers, 1928-August 28, 2002 (RH MS 1562)

Theatre Guild Picnic production records, March 1, 1949-November 8, 1972 (bulk 1950s) (RH MS 1563)

Michael A. Smith papers, 1966-December 2, 2019 (RH MS 1564, RH MS Q493, RH MS R502, RH MS R503)

Pamphlets on Cherokee Neutral Lands, 1868-1872 (RH MS 1565)

Dirk Shears-Klocke family correspondence, June 1975-March 30, 2008 (RH MS 1566, RH MS R504)

Richard “Dick” Gunn photographic collection, February 8, 1991-March 8, 1998 (RH PH 565, RH PH 565(f))

Ernest Manheim papers, 1900-2015 (MS 373, MS Qa42, SC AV 42)

Records from the University of Kansas Center for Research, 1953-2018 (RG 49)

Personal papers of Michael Swann, 1968-2020 (PP 636)

Document with black typed text plus handwritten notes and a sketch in blue ink.
Agenda from a Quindaro Town Preservation Society meeting, May 28, 1994. KU School of Architecture and Design Professor and Assistant Dean Michael Swann sketched out (the Quindaro?) town site and took notes from the meeting. Personal Papers of Michael Swann. Call Number: PP 636, Box 8, Folder 56. Click image to enlarge.

“The Tall Four,” 1861-October 1880 (RH MS D305)

Edgar and Elizabeth Begole’s Santo Tomas Internment Camp collection, November 1940-October 1996 (bulk 1942-1944) (RH MS 1567, RH MS R507)

Thomas Woodson Poor papers, 1904-July 10, 2021 (RH MS 1568)

Brown cover with handwritten text and glued-on printed letters.
Front cover of Tom Poor’s “A High Jumper’s [Sporting] Scrapbook,” in which he kept materials related to the 1925 Kansas Relays. Poor won the high jump category in the first Kansas Relays of 1923. Thomas Woodson Poor Papers. Call Number: RH MS 1568, Box 1, Volume 1. Click image to enlarge.

Kenneth Crockett’s research material on Kenneth and Helen Spencer, 2010-2014 (RH MS 1569)

Willioughby L. Rowson’s personal financial ledgers, 1917-1944; 1964-1970 (RH MS 1570)

Benjamin LeRoy “Roy” Love collection, January 26, 1982-October 31, 2020 (RH MS 1572, KC AV 125)

“Depiction of the Nine Phases” scroll, approximately 1800-1865 (MS Roll 16)

Thomas Bewick wood engravings printed by Robert Middleton, 1970-1971 (MS E285, MS P762)

Black-and-white drawing of an otter with rocks and plants in the background.
Otter print created by Robert Middleton from one of Thomas Bewick’s wood blocks at the Newberry Library, Chicago. Part of a limited edition set, this print was donated by Harry Tyler, husband of D.D. Tyler, whose papers are also housed at Spencer Research Library. Thomas Bewick Wood Engravings Printed by Robert Middleton. Call Number: MS E285. Click image to enlarge.

Robert M. Mengel bird paintings, 1952, 1954 (MS Q99)

Preliminary sketch of “Le tarsier podge,” [between 1797-1800] (MS Qa43)

Palm leaf book extracts, [18th century or before?] (MS Q98)

Charles “Buddy” Rogers papers, approximately 1904-2011 (bulk 1920s-1990s) (MS 372, MS Q97, MS Qa41, SC AV 41, MS E284, MS G57, MS K36)

Barbara Bohm’s Star Trek scripts collection, May 26, 1966-July 23, 1973 (MS 374)

Jessica Mae Watts Elliott scrapbooks, 1909, undated (MS 376)

“Dutchman” collection, 1965-1967 (MS P763)

LaSalle Extension University collection, approximately 1927-1934 (MS 375)

Personal papers of Daryle S. Busch, 1946-2015 (PP 637)

Gretchen Cassel Eick collection, 1983-2017 (bulk 1990s) (RH MS 1574, RH MS R515, KC AV 126)

Dennis Enslinger papers, 1924-1996 (bulk 1980-1996) (RH MS 1576, RH MS Q498, RH MS R516)

James Dewey family collection, 1893-2002 (bulk 1910-1960) (RH MS 1575, RH MS Q497, RH PH P2847(ff))

Dine-A-Mite Inn and Borgen family collection, 1943-2007 (bulk 1950-1991) (RH PH 567, RH PH 567(f))

Robert L. Gilbert First Issues collection, 1810, [1855?], 1900s-1983 (bulk 1920s-1970s) (Gilbert)

Hacienda Sondor collection, 1850s-1860s (MS E286)

Madre Dona Juana Maria de la Fuente inventory, 1741 (MS E287)

Personal papers of William Staples, April 7, 1980-September 7, 2019 (PP 638)

Personal papers of Norris Nahman, September 1961-November 24, 2012 (PP 639)

Personal papers of Sheryl Williams, January 5, 1980-October 12, 2017 (PP 642)

Please explore these new finding aids and discover what exciting research opportunities you might find!

Marcella Huggard
Manuscripts Processing Coordinator

That’s Distinctive!: The Jayhawker

January 20th, 2023

New to the blog this week is the first of many posts in a series called That’s Distinctive! I created the series because I genuinely believe there is something in our collections for everyone, whether you’re writing a paper or just want to have a look. That’s Distinctive! will provide a more lighthearted glimpse into the diverse and unique materials at Spencer – including items that many people may not realize the library holds. The series will be posted weekly on Friday with occasional breaks. If you have suggested topics for a future item feature or questions about the collections, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page.

In honor of the return of students to campus, this week’s post highlights KU Jayhawker yearbooks. Here at the library, we have yearbooks ranging from 1874 to 2011, the last year it was a print publication (with a few missing here and there). While I am only highlighting a few this week, all of the yearbooks in Spencer’s holding are available for viewing in the Reading Room.

Two-page spread of black and white advertisements, mostly textual with two images.
Selected pages of advertisements in the 1899 Jayhawker yearbook. University Archives. Call Number: LD 2697 .J3. Click image to enlarge.
Two-page spread with a grid of advertisements on the left and an arrangement of snapshots on the right.
Selected pages of advertisements in the 1918 Jayhawker yearbook. University Archives. Call Number: LD 2697 .J3. Click image to enlarge.
Two-page spread of an index with two black and white advertisements.
Selected pages of advertisements in the 1993 Jayhawker yearbook. University Archives. Call Number: LD 2697 .J3. Click images to enlarge.
Two-page spread with a grid of advertisements on the left and the beginning of an index on the right.
Selected pages of advertisements in the 2000 Jayhawker yearbook. University Archives. Call Number: LD 2697 .J3. Click image to enlarge.

These images show select pages from four yearbooks displaying the variety of advertisements located in/near the index of each book. As the years go on, each yearbook seems to feature fewer ads. It can be interesting to browse the various sections of the yearbooks, which can include clubs, headshots, ads, building photos, memories of the past year, and much more.

Tiffany McIntosh
Public Services

Meet the KSRL Staff: Erika Earles

January 11th, 2023

This is the latest installment in a recurring series of posts introducing readers to the staff of Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Today’s profile features Erika Earles, who joined Spencer Research Library in June 2022 as a Manuscripts Processor.

Headshot of a woman standing in a field.
Manuscripts Processor Erika Earles. Click image to enlarge.

Where are you from?

I grew up on a farm in Baldwin, about fifteen miles southeast of Lawrence. My mom taught at Lawrence High, and I was glad to attend high school there as a result. We were the last class to graduate before Free State High opened. With about 800 graduates, the lengthy graduation ceremony was held at Memorial Stadium. Then I went to school in Upstate New York, worked trails across the West and in Yellowstone National Park, and settled in Teton Valley, Idaho, where I worked at the local library.

What does your job at Spencer entail?

My job is to look through the items that have been accepted into the library collection, put them in acid-free containers, and describe them in the KU Libraries online catalog so researchers can find them. I’m a manuscripts processor, so most of the items I deal with are papers and unpublished writing, but occasionally there are audiovisual materials, photographs, slides, or objects like scarves, flags, and toys. You never can tell what you’ll find.

What is one of the most interesting items you’ve come across in Spencer’s collections?

In my first weeks at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library, I processed the collection of Martha “Matt” Mueller, a KU graduate, librarian, and newspaper columnist. In addition to some of her writing, the items included several autograph collections. One of the pieces was a 5-pound check written out to cash, signed and underlined three times by Charles Dickens! He is one of my favorite authors. He’s still funny after 150 years! I was star-struck and astounded that I was touching the same piece of paper that he touched so many years before. My supervisor was unfazed – just a regular day at work for her – but I still get excited when I think about it.

That was the most exciting thing for me personally, but one of the most interesting things I’ve processed is the Pamphlets on Cherokee Neutral Lands. This was a bound volume, separated for preservation and ease of use, that included writing from people on many sides of a contested land issue in southeast Kansas. In 1866, the Secretary of the Interior sold the land to his brother-in-law, who represented a railroad company.

This collection includes the federal court papers detailing the two suits filed by the railroad to establish title to the land; pamphlets circulated by white farmers who asserted their right to the land as homesteaders and criticized the government support of corporate interests over the working man; and a statement from the chief of the Cherokee tribe stating that the tribe had paid for and continuously occupied the land, nullifying the right of the government to sell or the settlers to occupy it. It also includes an Indiana Representative’s report to the Indian Affairs Committee decrying a government that breaks its own treaties with various tribal nations despite their peaceful negotiation and warning that the recent Civil War had shown the United States what comes of denying legal rights to an entire group of people.

These documents are a reminder that racial and economic issues that we may think of as modern are not. People have fought for and against equity and fair distribution of resources since the founding of the country. The struggle for tribal sovereignty, full rights of citizenship, and racial equity – and the relationship between the federal government, corporations, and workers – are still being negotiated in our culture and our legal system 150 years later. Reading how people talked about these issues in their own words and how decisions were made helps you understand how we got to where we are today.

What part of your job do you like best?

Learning about local history is always interesting to me. I recently learned that the fire department in Lawrence used to be alerted by bells that would ring a certain number of times for each fire district. According to a local woman who gave a talk at Pinckney Elementary School in the 1970s, they rang those bells when World War I ended. When people called the local telephone operator to find out what was going on, they were told the good news. She said when World War II ended it was announced on the radio.

These kinds of details give you a real glimpse into the past. I enjoy learning about people and places this way and helping to ensure that their legacy will be available for future generations.

What are some of your favorite pastimes outside of work?

Walking in the woods with my dad under the Kansas sky is one of my favorite things ever. I also enjoy going to art museums, painting, drawing, reading, dancing, and hanging out with my stylish cat, Iyla View, a.k.a. Miss Pants. (The unusual spelling of Iyla’s name is a nod to her home state of Idaho, where people spell names however they choose.)

Gray tabby cat with white stomach, nestled in pink tulle.
Pants loves dresses. Click image to enlarge.

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

Search the catalog for something that interests you and let the friendly staff in the Reading Room help you find it. Don’t leave without getting something in your hands. There is nothing like looking at original materials.

Erika Earles
Manuscripts Processor