Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

St. Petersburg High…

December 27th, 2012

The only image of St. Petersburg more plentiful in western books about 19th century Russia than the bronze horseman, is the ice hill, or “flying mountain,” a peculiarly Russian entertainment that may have something to do with the fact that Petersburgers are flatlanders. Paris, Rome, Athens, and Lawrence have their high points, hogbacks, and hills, but at no point on the delta on which Peter built his city is there a spot over thirty feet above sea-level. Of all the ailments that have plagued that city – typhoid fever, typhus, cholera, giardia, influenza, malaria, diphtheria, syphilis, smallpox, and the common cold – altitude sickness has not been one of them, and actually the hill provides some relief from high barometric pressure if not from a queasy stomach.

Image of title page and frontispiece of Scenes in Russia [...], 1814 (Call number: Children A933)

Scenes in Russia; Describing the Manners, Customs, Diversions, Modes of traveling, &c. of the Inhabitants of that Country. London: printed for J. And E. Wallis, 1814. Call Number: Children 5310  (click image to enlarge).

Image of Scenes in Russia Frontispiece

This contraption seems to be a combination of ski-jump and roller coaster: each person climbs into a small 4-wheeled shallow sided box at the top of a platform and careens downhill on a track. Sometimes ridges (moguls?) are added to increase velocity coming down enough to send them up the other side. When the River Neva is frozen the flying mountains are erected on the ice.

Adapted from the Spencer Research Library exhibit, Frosted Windows: 300 Years of St. Petersburg Through Western Eyes.

Sally Haines
Rare Books Cataloger

Lastest Finding Aids and Additions to Finding Aids

December 20th, 2012

Trying to decide what you would like to do over the winter holidays?  Why not get a head start on your research?  Here is a list of the newest finding aids and additions to finding aids available at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library.  Please scroll down for images from three of these collections.


Image of "Free the KU Twelve" buttons

Image of Letter from Jennie Johnson to Will Johnson, January 26, 1886  Image of Letter from Ernest Boyd to Kenneth Reddin, October 14, 1936.

Top: “Free the KU Twelve” buttons. Gail J. Hamilton Collection. Call Number: PP 497: Box 1, Folder 26; Left: Letter from Jennie Johnson to Will Johnson, January 26, 1886. Jennie Johnson Collection. Call Number: RH MS P909: Folder 1; Right: Letter from Ernest Boyd to Kenneth Reddin, October, 14, 1936. Kenneth Reddin Collection. Call Number: MS 14: Box 3, Item C1. Click images to enlarge.

Vivat Liber!

December 13th, 2012

Here at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library, we take for granted that when you say “Sandy,” people know who you mean. Alexandra (Sandy) Mason (1931-2011) was a distinguished librarian who served the University of Kansas from 1957 until her retirement in 1998. She built special collections of extraordinary research value, guided generations of scholars and librarians, was a leader in the Rare Books and Manuscript Section of the American Library Association, and received numerous awards for her lifetime of accomplishments. More information about her is available here.

In May, 1999, many of her colleagues and friends gathered in Lawrence to mark Sandy’s retirement with a series of tributes appropriately titled Vivat Liber (“Long live the book!”). Upon Sandy’s death, the idea of publishing these tributes again came to mind as a way to honor her memory. It is with great joy and pride that I announce the publication of Vivat Liber: Reflections Marking the Occasion of Alexandra Mason’s Retirement from the Kenneth Spencer Research Library, which was made possible with the assistance of Stuart Roberts, Courtney Foat, Marianne Reed, and Brian Rosenblum.

Image of Cover of Vivat Liber Photograph of Sandy Mason, 1998
Left: Vivat Liber: Reflections Marking the Occasion of Alexandra Mason’s Retirement from the Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Editor: Beth M. Whittaker. Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Libraries, 2012. Right: Sandy Mason. 8/14/1998. University Archives. Call Number: RG 41/0: Mason, Alexandra.

Click here to read Vivat Liber through KU Scholarworks.

Beth M. Whittaker
Head of Spencer Research Library

Jayhawks on Display

December 7th, 2012

Have you ever wondered what steps are involved in mounting an exhibit? We recently completed installation of “100 Years of Jayhawks: 1912-2012,” curated by University Archivist Becky Schulte, with assistance from Letha Johnson and Sherry Williams. The exhibit celebrates the evolution of the Jayhawk, the mascot of the University of Kansas, from the first, long-legged version drawn by Hank Maloy to the present design. This is the first exhibit to be mounted in a newly renovated space in Spencer, in the former location of the Special Collections reception area.

Becky Schulte retrieved many items from the stacks and determined the theme of each of the five cases. Assistant Conservator Roberta Woodrick and I covered the exhibit case bases with the cloth Becky had selected. Once the cases were ready, Becky laid out objects in the cases in rough configurations, determining the best location for each item while considering the flow of the exhibition “story.”

Photograph of initial layout of materials in the case
Initial layout of materials in the case. Click image to enlarge.

After items were placed in the cases, we constructed mounts for materials in order to elevate, highlight, and soundly support them during the course of the exhibit. For this exhibition we selected archival matboard and Volara polyethylene foam as mount materials, both of which are inert and will not chemically or physically damage objects on display.

Photograph of University Archivist Becky Schulte positioning an item on mat board within the case
University Archivist Becky Schulte positioning an item on matboard within the case.
Click image to enlarge.

Once the labels and mounts were finished, the Jayhawks were placed in the cases. We measured and determined safe lighting levels for the exhibition space to limit light exposure to objects on display.

Photograph of finished exhibition case
Finished Product! The final version of one of the exhibition’s five display cases.
Click image to enlarge.

The exhibit will be on open through March and may be viewed during regular Kenneth Spencer Research Library Hours:  Monday-Friday, 9:00am-5:00pm, and (when regular classes are in session) Saturday 12:00pm-4:00pm. Please visit and let us know what you think!

For images from the exhibition’s opening celebration on Wednesday, December 5, please click on the thumbnails below.

Image of crowd at Exhibition Opening: 100 Years of Jayhawks, 1912-2012    Photograph of guests examining an exhibition case at the exhibition opening of "100 Years of Jayhawks, 1912-2012"    Photograph of guests Mingling in the new exhibition space at the opening of the "100 Years of Jayhawks, 1912-2012" exhibition.    Photograph of Dean Haricombe addressing the audience.

Whitney Baker
Head, Conservation Services