Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

We’re Not Just About Papers

January 31st, 2013

When the Spencer Research Library receives a collection of personal papers it can sometimes include materials that aren’t papers at all. Further, the creator of the papers may just be the most famous of a whole constellation of friends and family members whose stories are also revealed in those papers.

This first came to my attention, as an assistant in the Processing Department, with the personal papers of E. H. S. Bailey (call number: PP 158).  Edgar Henry Summerfield Bailey arrived at the University of Kansas in the fall of 1883, where he taught chemistry for the next fifty years until his death in 1933. In addition to teaching he also authored the lyrics for the famous KU “Rock Chalk” chant and pioneered the detection and exposure of fraudulent practices on the part of food manufacturers in the early 20th century.

Late in his life, he took a great interest in genealogy, and his papers include much about his relatives in 19th century Connecticut. Among them, his maternal grandmother, Charity Birdsey Miller, is vividly represented by a surviving portrait in oil (artist unknown) that also arrived with the Bailey papers. A stern, sensible-looking woman, she is portrayed wearing eye glasses. Those spectacles are included with Bailey’s papers in the University Archives, as is the original case in which they were sold by a jeweler and optician in Meriden, Connecticut.

Portrait of Charity Birdsey Miller

Photograph of Charity Birdsey Miller's glasses and glasses case

Top: Portrait of Charity Birdsey Miller.  Personal Papers of E. H. S. Bailey.  Call Number:  PP 158, Oversize Folder 8.  Bottom: Charity Birdsey Miller’s eye glasses and eye glasses case.  Personal Papers of E. H. S. Bailey.  Call Number:  PP 158, Box 4, Folder 140. Click images to enlarge.

For further insight into the life of this woman, the collection includes her Last Will and Testament, as well as probate documents inventorying her possessions and their distribution among her three grown daughters.

Thus, a collection which might have been expected to address only the life of a Midwestern academic in the early 20th century can also be of great value in illuminating the life of a virtuous woman of modest property in early- and mid-19th century New England.

Larry M. Brow
Program Assistant,  Spencer Research Library Processing Department

Meet Caitlin Donnelly, Spencer’s New Head of Public Services

January 24th, 2013

Photograph of Caitlin Donnelly

Caitlin Donnelly, Head of Public Services

I am absolutely thrilled to be the new Head of Public Services at Kenneth Spencer Research Library! In this position, I’ll be working with students, faculty members, scholars, and other patrons and visitors who come to the library to conduct research, attend class, or tour the North Gallery and exhibit area.

I have long been especially passionate about access, reference, instruction, and outreach in special collections. Early in my career, my personal interest in history matured into a professional enthusiasm for helping patrons connect with historical resources and the past in ways they find meaningful. More recently, my interest has evolved to focus on facilitating and expanding the use of special collections; demonstrating the relevance of history and special collections to a variety of scholarly disciplines and groups of non-academic users; and helping researchers become comfortable and competent users of special collections materials.

A native of St. Louis, Missouri, and sister of a KU alumnus, I have a BA in Humanities–American Civilization from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (2004), an MA in public history from North Carolina State University (2006), and an MSLS from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2008). Before joining the team at Spencer, I was the Archivist at the Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library at the Alamo (2008-2012), where I was responsible for all duties associated with managing the archival collection. I also have additional professional experience with the Missouri State Archives-St. Louis, UNC’s Documenting the American South, the NCSU Special Collections Research Center, the UIUC Government Documents Library, and the National Park Service.

I look forward to helping improve patrons’ experiences at Spencer Research Library. Have a question about our collections, services, or procedures? Feel free to give me a call at (785) 864-4456 or drop me an email at I look forward to hearing from you!

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Collection Snapshot: Living the Dream

January 21st, 2013

Reposted from the KU Libraries Facebook page:

Picture of marchers with the banner, "Living the Dream - Martin Luther King Jr / University of Kansas Jan. 20, 1986" on the KU Campus

Remembering Dr. King today with an image from the University Archives in the Spencer Research Library, home to some of the most precious materials in the world–and to gems like this one–that capture remarkable moments in our rich KU history.

Getting Out of a Sticky Situation

January 18th, 2013

One of the tasks most conservators find quite challenging is the removal of cellophane, masking, or other types of tapes from papers and books. These tapes, called “pressure-sensitive” because they adhere with just the pressure of one’s hand–no heat or solvents required–are wonderful for household tasks but should not be placed on objects of historic or artistic value. Tapes may turn yellow and stain the paper, turn brittle and detach, or get gummy and spread adhesive beyond the confines of the tape. When left in place, tape may damage the artifact to which it is attached, but sometimes it is so well attached that leaving in place is the best option.

Removing tape is challenging and should only be done by a trained conservator. Sometimes the process requires solvents that must be used in a fume hood. Other times we are lucky and the tape may be removed with a handy tool, the Zephyronics Art Air Pencil. It blows a steady, gentle stream of directed hot air, which in many cases is enough to soften the tape’s adhesive and allow the tape backing to be lifted. The gummy residue left behind is removed with a crepe eraser.

Close-up of air pencil on masking tape

Photograph: Removing tape with air pencil machine

Photograph: Using crepe eraser in final step

Top: Close-up of air pencil on masking tape.  Middle: Removing tape with air pencil machine
Bottom: Using crepe eraser in the final step. Click images to enlarge.

Even with the convenience of the air pencil, it’s a slow and precise job. So next time you are tempted to use a piece of tape on that photo, letter, or book, try to resist.

Whitney Baker
Head, Conservation Services

Collection Snapshot: Teacher on the Plains

January 11th, 2013

Kate Warthen was a teacher who homesteaded and taught in Hamilton County, Kansas in the 1880s.
Shown here are her 1889 teaching contract, and a photo of her as a young woman.

Photograph of Kate Warthen Searcy as a young woman

Photograph of Kate Warthen Teaching Contract, 1889


Top: Photo of Kate Warthen. Kate Warthen Searcy Photograph Collection. Call Number: RH MS-P 34, box 1, folder 3. Bottom: Kate Warthen Teaching Contract, 1889.  Kate Warthen Searcy Papers.  Call Number: RH MS 34, box 2, folder 7. Click images to enlarge. 

Sheryl Williams
Curator of Collections / Kansas Collection Curator