Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Manuscript of the Month: What Is in a Medieval Chronicle?

June 30th, 2020

N. Kıvılcım Yavuz is conducting research on pre-1600 manuscripts at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Each month she will be writing about a manuscript she has worked with and the current KU Library catalog records will be updated in accordance with her findings. 

The description of Kenneth Spencer Research Library MS B90 was titled “Contemporary Manuscript of the World Chronicle of Martin of Troppau” in William Salloch’s Catalogue 258 dated to 1968. Marianne and William Salloch were the founders of the successful bookselling business based in New York, William Salloch, Old, Rare and Scholarly Books. William (1906–1990) was a medievalist by training and the 422 catalogs he and Marianne issued between 1939 until 1989 went beyond being simple sales listings for rare books and manuscripts, becoming reference books in their own right. Over the years, the University of Kansas acquired several manuscripts from the Sallochs, including this one and another, MS D13, that was the topic of my blogpost last month.

The author in question, Martin of Troppau, is better known in English today as Martin of Opava or Martin of Poland (from Martinus Oppaviensis or Martinus Polonus in Latin). Based on contemporary references, it is thought that Martin was from Opava (Troppau in German), today a city in the Czech Republic, and was born sometime before 1230. A Dominican friar, he became active in Rome and served the Papacy first under Pope Alexander IV (1199 or around 1185–1261) and then under several of his successors until his own death in 1278, shortly after being appointed Archbishop of Gniezno in central-western Poland. As the author of the Chronicon pontificum et imperatorum (The Chronicle of Popes and Emperors), Martin of Opava is considered by many scholars to be the most influential European chronicler of the later Middle Ages. The Chronicle is estimated to have survived in around 500 manuscripts in the original Latin as well as in several translations, including Greek, Armenian and Persian in addition to western European vernacular languages. It was also used as a source or continued with current events by later chroniclers.

Soon after the acquisition by the Spencer Library of item no. 10 in the Sallochs’ Catalogue 258, the manuscript was given the shelfmark MS B90 and was cataloged under the name “Martinus Polonus” in the in-house manuscript catalog of the Library called Catalog IV. This information was later transferred to the description in the online catalog of the University of Kansas Libraries and later also to that of the Digital Scriptorium website, which serves as an online union catalog and image repository for US institutions, of which Spencer Library is a member.

It was noted in the Salloch’s catalog description that “the history of the text and its tradition is quite complicated since Martin of Troppau revised his own history several times; each manuscript offers an original and different text.” This warning in disguise was followed by a list of scholarly works including Ludwig Weiland’s 1872 edition of the text in the renowned Monumenta Germaniae Historica series, which remains the only modern edition of Martin of Opava’s Chronicle. During the half century since the manuscript was purchased by the Spencer Library in 1969, no one has embarked on verifying the information provided by the bookseller, that is, whether or not the work in MS B90 is in fact Martin of Opava’s Chronicle. Despite her careful examination of the contents of the manuscript, Ann Hyde, the former Manuscripts Librarian at the Spencer Library, noted in the entry she made for Catalog IV: “I did not examine these works [the edition of the text and the other reference works mentioned in the description by Salloch] and do not know where our version stands in the text-pedigree, or if it is known at all.”

The text preserved in MS B90 is one of the so-called “pope-and-emperor chronicles,” a famous model for chronicles in the Latin Middle Ages, in which short biographies of popes and emperors of Rome were narrated in chronological succession from Antiquity to the contemporary present day. Martin of Opava was certainly not the first author to compile such a chronicle and he utilized several previous histories and chronicles as his sources. He envisaged, however, a novel layout for his Chronicle, in which each page had fifty lines and each line corresponded to a year. He further arranged his chronicle so that the history of the popes faced the history of the emperors in any given opening of the book. Thus, each opening would depict a fifty-year period, with the papal and imperial histories also chronologically aligned. In the final version of his Chronicle, this tabular history of the popes and emperors was prefaced by a geographical and historical introduction, especially focusing on Rome.

Image of Front Cover (wooden board) and folio 1 recto of Spencer Research Library manuscript MS B90.
Interior of the front cover on the left and the beginning of the text on fol. 1r on the right. Cathalogus sive cronica omnium pontificum et imperatorum Romanum [Catalog or Chronicles of All Popes and Emperors of the Romans], central Europe or Italy?, last quarter of the thirteenth century? Call # MS B90. Click image to enlarge.

Not all later scribes adhered to Martin of Opava’s original layout of tabular, parallel histories when they copied his Chronicle. It can be immediately seen that a parallel layout was not the case in MS B90 either. Written by a single hand, the text in MS B90 runs like a narrative with no schematic arrangement and the papal accounts precede the imperial ones. The manuscript opens with the following rubric (fol. 1r):

Incipit cathalog(us) sive cronica om(n)iu(m) ponti | ficum (et) imp(er)ato(rum) Romano(rum) ubi anni et | menses (et) dies eo(rum) ponunt(ur) (et) notabilia f(a)c(t)a | eo(rum) (et) distinguit(ur) quis imp(er)ator sub quo | papa sedit. Incipiens a (Christ)o q(ui) fuit p(ri)mus (et) | su(m)mus pontifex (et) ab Octaviano Augusto | q(ui) ei(us) t(em)p(or)e imp(er)avit p(er)tingens usque ad Hono | riu(m) t(er)ciu(m) papa(m) et ad Fredericu(m) qui nu(n)c ad imp(er)iu(m) sublimat(ur).

In this very brief preface, the reader is told that this is a chronicle of all popes and Roman emperors and that it will begin with Jesus Christ and the Emperor Augustus, who reigned during Jesus’s youth, and continue until Pope Honorius III and Emperor Frederick, who is now in power. Pope Honorius III was the head of the Catholic Church from 1216 until his death in 1227. During that time, Frederick II was the Holy Roman Emperor, between 1220 and 1250. The mention of Honorius III and Frederick II as the endpoint of the chronicle indicates that they were the author’s contemporaries, which in turn provides a time frame in which this preface was put down into writing: not before 1220 and not after 1227. This is when Martin of Opava was probably not even born.

Indeed, this same preface is found in another pope-and-emperor chronicle, written by Gilbert of Rome, which was among the many sources Martin of Opava listed in his much longer preface to his Chronicle. Nothing is really known about Gilbert (also known as Gilbertus Romanus) except that he was perhaps a native of Italy and that he was active in Rome. The 1879 MGH edition of the text, which again remains the only modern edition of Gilbert of Rome’s Chronicle to date, identifies less than 20 surviving witnesses of his Chronicon pontificum et imperatorum Romanorum (The Chronicle of Popes and Emperors of Rome). What is more, the majority of the accounts of the popes in MS B90 follow Gilbert of Rome’s Chronicle almost to the letter. Some of the popes, however, such as Pope Sylvester II (999–1003) and Pope Gregory VII (1073–1085) receive a longer treatment than it is found in any of the other known witnesses of Gilbert’s Chronicle. Furthermore, the accounts of the popes do not conclude with Pope Honorius III as was promised in the preface but instead continue seamlessly until Pope Clement IV (1265–1268). These observations on the papal accounts indicate, on the one hand, that the prologue in MS B90 was copied from Gilbert’s Chronicle and the text is heavily based on it (up to the 1220s) but, on the other hand, that there are additions that take the accounts of the popes to the late 1260s.

Image of folios 16v-17r of MS B90, showing the end of the accounts of the popes on fol. 16v and the beginning of the accounts of the emperors on fol. 17r.
End of the accounts of the popes on fol. 16v and the beginning of the accounts of the emperors on fol. 17r. Call # MS B90. Click image to enlarge.

Whereas the account of the popes concludes with Pope Clement IV, whose papacy ended on November 29, 1268, the account of the emperors ends with the year 1270 in MS B90. Although this seems like a discrepancy at first sight, it is not surprising. Following the death of Pope Clement IV came the longest papal election in the history of the Catholic Church and the successor of Pope Clement IV, Pope Gregory X, only began his office on September 1, 1271. This special set of circumstances enables us to date the text to sometime in 1270 or early 1271.

Most of the accounts of the emperors in MS B90 have additions to them that are not found in Gilbert’s Chronicle but neither do they match exactly that of Martin’s. The closest account that matches that of Martin’s is perhaps the account of Emperor Frederick II. This is in fact the last account in Gilbert of Rome’s Chronicle. After the narration of Frederick II’s reign, both MS B90 and Martin of Opava’s Chronicle begin narrating the events by year, starting with 1250. This final part of the text in MS B90 again does not match fully with that of Martin of Opava’s Chronicle. For example, the years 1259 and 1263, which get a special mention of events in Martin’s Chronicle, are completely left out in MS B90.

Picture of the opening Folios 50v-51r of MS B90, giving the end of the accounts of the emperors and the beginning of the account on the life of Jesus Christ on fol. 51r
End of the accounts of the emperors and the beginning of the account on the life of Jesus Christ on fol. 51r. Call # MS B90. Click image to enlarge.

Following the end of the accounts of the emperors with the year 1270, MS B90 has an additional account on the life of Jesus Christ that spans fols 51r-52v. And, this is in fact how Martin’s account of the popes with Jesus Christ begins in his Chronicle. Although again not an exact match, the version in MS B90 is quite close to what is recorded in Martin’s Chronicle. The fact that this extended, longer version of the account of Jesus Christ is appended to the end of the text as a discrete section, especially when another version of the account is already narrated in the very beginning where it supposed to have been narrated, is quite intriguing. Relying on past sources, adding, subtracting, redacting and every aspect imaginable of réécriture were at the heart of medieval historiographical writing and in that regard MS B90 is no exception in displaying how texts came to be in the Middle Ages.

It is certain that the version of the Chronicle of Popes and Emperors we have in MS B90 was composed sometime around 1270. Whether the manuscript was also copied around the same time is another matter. A series of paleographical features in MS B90 such as the crossed Tironian et sign (⁊) and the letter a with open upper bow as well as certain codicological features such as the manner in which the wooden boards are attached to the bookblock may very well indicate that this manuscript was copied at the end of the thirteenth century, as suggested by Salloch. Therefore, it seems as though MS B90 is a clean copy of a very early draft of Martin of Opava’s notes, which consisted a copy of Gilbert of Rome’s Chronicle with expansions of some of the earlier accounts and additions until the year 1270. Since MS B90 has virtually no corrections or annotations, this cannot be Martin of Opava’s working copy, but rather a copy made from his notes before he began to expand and rewrite the majority of the accounts. Alternatively, this could be an expansion and continuation of Gilbert of Rome’s Chronicle, independent of Martin of Opava’s work, which may even have served as one of Martin’s as yet unidentified sources. Although it is clear that we can no longer call MS B90 a witness to Martin of Opava’s Chronicon pontificum et imperatorum, a closer investigation into the manuscript might reveal clues as to the earlier stages of his composition of his Chronicle.

The Kenneth Spencer Research Library purchased the manuscript from William Salloch in January 1969, and it is available for consultation at the Library’s Marilyn Stokstad Reading Room when the library is open.

Editions of both texts are available online:

  • Gilbert of Rome. Chronicon pontificum et imperatorum Romanorum, ed. Oswald Holder-Egger. In Monumenta Germaniae Historica. Scriptores, SS 24, 117–140. Hannover: Hahn, 1879. [open access]
  • Martin of Opava. Chronicon pontificum et imperatorum, ed. Ludwig Weiland. In Monumenta Germaniae Historica. Scriptores, SS 22, ed. Georg Heinrich Pertz, 377–475. Hannover: Hahn, 1872. [open access]

N. Kıvılcım Yavuz
Ann Hyde Postdoctoral Researcher

Follow the account “Manuscripts &c.” on Twitter and Instagram for postings about pre-1600 manuscripts from the Kenneth Spencer Research Library.

Working from Home Without Manuscripts or Rare Books

June 24th, 2020

During Covid-19 isolation, our team in the cataloging and processing department at Kenneth Spencer Research Library has been busy working from home. Instead of working hands-on with the rare books and manuscripts, like we normally do, we have been working on our databases and other online sources to ensure that our all of our material is easily searchable and discoverable for researchers and scholars, not only here in Kansas, but worldwide. This work is important to the mission of the library.

Five professionals from the cataloging and processing department share their working-from-home experience.

Marcella Huggard, Manuscripts Coordinator

What are you working on?

I am continuing to coordinate my team’s projects of data cleanup or data creation for legacy collections that never had online finding aids; I’m also coordinating other folks’ work on legacy data projects. One of my own cleanup projects—consolidating finding aids that had been separated when they were first put online, due to descriptive decisions made at the time that no longer hold true—is something I’ve been wanting to focus on for a couple years now. I have also been working on a research project to document the history of the Menninger Foundation’s archives.

Why is this work important to the library?

The projects that I’m coordinating and working on myself continue to enhance access to our manuscript collections, so that when researchers request materials they’ll have a better sense of what we have available, and they’ll be able to find that information that much more easily in an era where expectations are that information will be discoverable online.

What will you miss from home when we go back to work in the Spencer building?

Sleeping in an extra hour! I will also miss the scheduling flexibility.

Photograph of Marcella and Salty Bear
Marcella’s new co-worker, Salty (short for Salted Caramel) Bear. “My spouse, a teddy bear himself, likes to buy me teddy bears; he got me this one soon after I started working from home.” Click image to enlarge.

Mike Readinger, Special Collections and Manuscript Cataloger

What are you working on?

I am working on ArchivesSpace database clean-up and creating bibliographic records for the legacy finding aids. In the early 2000s, we switched from using card files. Thousands of records in Voyager (the old, though still in use, KU Libraries online catalog) were created using these bibliographic cards. Those records were brief, so now I am using this time to create more complete records.

Why is this work important to the library?

These completed records will be put on OCLC WorldCat. The work done in cataloging and processing is the first step in letting the whole world know what we have. We make the information known, then our great reference staff can serve the scholars and researchers.

What will you miss from home when we go back to work in the Spencer building?

Right now, I have my home office set up in our basement. I can run upstairs to get dinner started, then come back down and keep working. I like the ease of doing those kinds of things.

Photograph of Mike and his supervisor
Mike and his supervisor look out the window in Mike’s home office. Click image to enlarge.

Jennifer Johnson, Manager of the Non-Manuscript and Inventory Unit

What are you working on?

I am editing and creating personal name authorities and name/subject headings for the library catalog. Plus, I have been removing duplicate records from the catalog.

Why is this important to the library?

Authority control is important because it creates organization and structure of information resources, making the materials more accessible, allowing better researching for the users.

What will you miss from home when we go back to work in the Spencer building?

I love working from home! I really enjoy being able to go grab something to eat or drink. I work by a window that I can open. I’ll also miss being able to switch tasks, for example, I can do the dishes at lunchtime. And I love getting to see my son more often!

Photograph of Jennifer and her dog

Jennifer’s loyal co-worker. Click image to enlarge.

Mary Ann Baker, Special Collections and Manuscript Processor

What are you working on?

I have been working on the Access database listing of The Miscellany part of the English Historical Documents Collection. Almost all the manuscripts in this collection were acquired in the late 1960s. Over all the decades that these collections have been worked on, data transference from one program to another has resulted in some data corruption. For example, the pound symbol (£) turned into an umlauted u (ü). So, I have been cleaning up the errors and expanding abbreviations to prepare the database for publication as part of the finding aid for the Miscellany Collection. 

Why is this important to the library?

Working on this collection contributes to making Spencer Library’s holdings known globally and accessible to all, one of the goals of the KU Libraries.

What will you miss from home when we go back to work in the Spencer building?  

Naps at their will. I will not miss Zoom meetings.

 

Lynn Ward, Manuscripts Processing

What are you working on?

I have been working on projects to clean-up and refine the information in our archives database, ArchivesSpace. I added “containers” to hundreds of the earlier resources that lacked box or volume information. I also have been adding collection inventory information directly to the ArchivesSpace resource; this information had previously only been available via a link to a separate scanned PDF document.

Why is this important to the library?

Adding “containers” makes it possible for researchers to request the material, which helps our reference staff to connect researchers with what they need. Adding the inventory information from the PDF to the resource makes the information more discoverable for researchers and scholars when they search online.

What will you miss from home when we go back to work in the Spencer building?

I have really been enjoying the extra time with my family, so I will miss that when I go back to working in the building.

Photograph of Lynn and her dog

Lynn’s co-worker requires daily walks. Click image to enlarge.

The work described above is important to the library’s mission.

All of the faculty and staff working at the Spencer Research Library share one mission: to connect scholars in varied disciplines with the information that is critical to their research, while providing excellent services in a welcoming and comfortable environment.

The work in the cataloging and processing department is an important step to that mission. Even while we are enjoying different aspects about working from home during Covid-19, we are continuing to work hard to make sure scholars and researchers can search, find, and connect with the information contained in Spencer Research Library’s collections.

Lynn Ward
Processing Archivist

Joseph Pennell Collection: Fathers with Their Children

June 18th, 2020

In honor of Father’s Day, please enjoy this selection of photographs of fathers with their children, taken from the Joseph Pennell photograph collection of Fort Riley and Junction City, Kansas.

Photograph of Sgt. Lynch with his baby, 1898
Sgt. Lynch with his baby, 1898. Just a year later, on October 6, 1899, the Junction City Union reported the death of Sgt. Lynch. He was killed in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. Joseph Judd Pennell Photograph Collection. Call Number: RH PH Pennell, Print 315, Box 10. Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).
Photograph of D.N. Hicks with his son, Lieutenant Harold Hicks, 1914
D.N. Hicks with his son, Lieutenant Harold Hicks, 1914. Just a year before this photograph was taken, the Junction City Sentinel carried the obituary of Mrs. Hicks, wife and mother. Lieutenant Hicks went on to be promoted to Colonel. Joseph Judd Pennell Photograph Collection. Call Number: RH PH Pennell, Print 2748, Box 59. Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).
Photograph of John Orr with two of his sons, 1919
John Orr with two of his sons, 1919. The Orrs had three sons: John E. Orr, Jr., Wilbur and Roy. All three enlisted during World War I, and all three were wounded and gassed on the front in France, but survived the war. Joseph Judd Pennell Photograph Collection. Call Number: RH PH Pennell, Print 3074, Box 69. Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).
Photograph of Lieutenant George Patton with his daughter, Beatrice, 1914
Lieutenant George S. Patton with his daughter, Beatrice, 1914. Patton was stationed at Fort Riley from 1913 to 1915. He was assigned to the Mounted Service School, and became the school’s first Master of the Sword, teaching a course in swordsmanship while a student. Patton would go on to become a general in command of the U.S. Seventh Army in the Mediterranean theater of World War II and the U.S. Third Army in France and Germany after D-Day. Joseph Judd Pennell Photograph Collection. Call Number: RH PH Pennell, Print 2759, Box 59. Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

More photographs from the Pennell Collection follow, but unfortunately no other information could be found about the people in them.

Photographh of the Lopez family, 1920-1921
The Lopez family, 1920-1921. Joseph Judd Pennell Photograph Collection. Call Number: RH PH Pennell, Print 3177.14, Box 72. Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).
Photograph of Lieutenant Dorsey with his baby, 1902
Lieutenant Dorsey with his baby, 1902. Joseph Judd Pennell Photograph Collection. Call Number: RH PH Pennell, Print 918.1, Box 24. Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).
Photograph of Lieutenant R.L. Cox with his baby, 1920-1921
Lieutenant R.L. Cox with his baby, 1920-1921. Joseph Judd Pennell Photograph Collection. Call Number: RH PH Pennell, Print 3257.6, Box 74. Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).
Photograph of Alex Johnson with members of his family, 1913
Alex Johnson with members of his family, 1913. Joseph Judd Pennell Photograph Collection. Call Number: RH PH Pennell, Print 2645, Box 56. Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).
Photograph of Captain Kinnington with his daughters, 1909
Captain Kinnington with his daughters, 1909. Joseph Judd Pennell Photograph Collection. Call Number: RH PH Pennell, Print 2180, Box 47. Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).
Photograph of Major Baird with his children, 1920-1921
Major Baird with his children, 1920-1921. Joseph Judd Pennell Photograph Collection. Call Number: RH PH Pennell, Print 3257.2, Box 74. Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Kathy Lafferty
Public Services

A Conservator Working from Home, Continued

June 9th, 2020

It’s hard to believe it’s been almost three months since we began working from home. Since March 18, most University of Kansas employees have been working away from campus as we do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19. I wrote about how I filled my time for the first month of work-at-home back in April; it’s now June, so I thought I would check in with an update. 

Much like the first month of working from home, I’ve spent most of my time doing online learning, development, and outreach activities, with Zoom meetings and some hands-on work rounding out the mix. 

In the professional development area, I’ve attended or viewed no fewer than 18 webinars, online forums, and recorded talks on topics ranging from preservation and conservation, of course, to social justice, wellness, and all things COVID-19 related. Highlights for me have been the series of conservation webinars sponsored by ICON, the professional organization for conservators in the UK; these talks have given me lots of ideas to follow up on when a more “normal” way of working returns. I have also been enjoying attending the virtual AIC – that is the American Institute for Conservation – annual meeting. And an especially powerful Zoom panel hosted by USC on supporting black employees and colleagues provided an intensely personal view, unfiltered by media accounts or editorializing, of how the culture of racial injustice in our country affects black people every day. This most recent national outpouring of emotion about racial injustice has led me to commit consciously to doing my own work to educate myself about racial inequality and to seek out ways in which I can be an anti-racist ally in both my personal and professional life.

Three infographics showing statistics related to the productivity of student employees in Conservation Services department of KU Libraries.
I created these infographics (using the free online software Piktochart) to celebrate the amazing contribution that our student employees make to the work of Conservation Services and the Libraries. Click image to enlarge.

I have also been spending time online posting to social media (you can find me @midwestconservator on both Instagram and Tumblr) about what I’m working on at home, and following other conservators and library professionals who are also sharing their remote work activities. Preservation Week was April 26-May 2, and I had a lot of fun designing a series of special infographics to share during that week, focusing on the incredible volume and variety of work done by student employees in the Conservation Services department. I’ve stayed in touch and engaged with my colleagues in the Libraries and the conservation field through a lot of Zoom meetings as well as good old-fashioned emails and phones calls!

A small book lies on a cutting mat; the book is bound in the limp binding style, with a laced paper case, green and yellow endbands, and a fore-edge tie closure.
One of the limp binding models I have made while working from home, this one with a laced pastepaper cover and green and yellow endbands. Click image to enlarge.
A handmade cloth face mask sits on a tabletop next to a sewing machine and other sewing supplies.
One of several face masks that I made in preparation for an eventual return to working in the lab. Click image to enlarge.

To balance all that online time, I’ve kept up with some hands-on projects, with my kitchen table serving as both office and workbench. I’ve been making some small models of limp bindings, and doing a lot of reading to go along with those. I’ve sewn some denim covers for bag weights, and made a small book futon to use at my bench in the lab. I also made myself a pile of masks to wear when I return to working in the lab. The return to campus will be phased, and early stages will certainly require use of face coverings in shared spaces such as the conservation lab. 

Angela Andres
Special Collections Conservator
Conservation Services

Meet the KSRL Staff: Molly Herring

June 3rd, 2020

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 Molly Herring, who joined Spencer in February as the Associate Archivist in University Archives.

Photograph of Associate Archivist Molly Herring
Associate Archivist Molly Herring. Click image to enlarge.

Where are you from?

I was born in the Kansas City area, but I moved around a lot growing up. My father was a Chaplin in the Army, and over the past twenty-five years I’ve lived in eleven states and fifteen cities, and I even spent three years living in Germany. However, I spent my senior year of high school in Kansas and went to college at KU, so Kansas really feels like my home state.

How did you come to work in archives?

I had always planned on going to library school after teaching for a few years (I got my bachelor’s degree in Secondary English education), although at that point I was thinking more along the lines of working in a public library. While researching programs, I began to learn more about the field of archives and decided it was the place for me! I decided to go to graduate school immediately after college, got my Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree with a specialization in Archives and Information Science from the University of Pittsburgh in 2017, and then spent a couple of years working at the Indiana State Archives. I jumped at the opportunity to work in the University Archives, being a KU graduate myself as well as a fifth-generation Jayhawk.

What does your job at Spencer entail?

As the Associate Archivist, I appraise, accession, process, and manage records in all formats transferred to the custody of the University Archives. I answer research questions submitted by both on- and off-site patrons, participate in outreach services (such as exhibits, blog posts, etc.), work with donors who wish to give materials to the Archives, and collaborate with Digital Initiatives and Processing on digital collections management. Over the past couple months, as I’ve worked from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, I have devoted much time to working with Digital Initiatives and other Spencer Library staff on the University’s web archives.

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

There are so many interesting items in the Archives its hard to pick one! One of my favorite things to tell people we have is a vial of uranium from the Manhattan Project. Another object I love is a wooden Jayhawk that was carved by a German POW who was sent to Kansas during World War II. On a more personal note I found some wonderful information on my great-great grandmother. She was the Women’s Student Government President in 1913 and, as an alumna, helped start KU’s chapter of the Alpha Chi Omega sorority, which I was a member of while at KU.

What part of your job do you like best?

My job entails a lot of different parts, which is something I really enjoy! I learn something new every day, and one day is never like the other. Also, although it’s a small part of my job, I really enjoy working on exhibits. It’s a wonderful way to get to know the collections and learn more about KU’s history.

What are some of your favorite pastimes outside of work?

I enjoy working on embroidery projects, baking, being outdoors, spending time with friends and family, and of course reading (sci-fi and fantasy in particular).

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

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and as many as you need to! Researching in special collections and archives can feel daunting, but we’re here to help!

Molly Herring
Associate Archivist, University Archives