Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Spencer Research Library and Archaeology

February 19th, 2019

This month’s temporary exhibit in Spencer’s North Gallery – titled “Spencer Research Library and Archaeology”features a collection of materials available through Spencer that could or have proven to be useful in archaeological research. Spanning from tomes written during the developmental days of archaeology as a science to modern articles on the forefront of archaeological investigations, the collections at Spencer Research Library offer a broad assemblage of knowledge not available through most library settings.

The first display case demonstrates the spectrum of resources available to archaeological researchers by highlighting a sample from each of Spencer’s collections. This includes documents of early Old World archaeology, books on regional archaeology, archaeological reports, and serial clippings and publications featuring archaeological findings and collections. Such materials are often used as supplementary materials in extant studies, though there is plenty potential for new studies to be conducted as well.

Image of pages from Archaeologia cambrensis, January 1846

Archaeologia cambrensis (Welsh Archaeology), volume 1, number 1, January 1846.
Published by the Cambrian Archaeological Association with the goal of interpreting cultural significance
over material value, Archaeologia cambrensis illustrates a transitional period
in the development of archaeology as a science. Call Number: C16530. Click image to enlarge.

Cover of the book Kansas Archaeology, 2006

Kansas Archaeology, 2006. This work offers a broad perspective of the
archaeological history of Kansas. It is accessible to those with or without a
strong background in archaeology. Call Number: RH C11685. Click image to enlarge.

The second display case features materials available at Spencer Research Library that have been used in archaeological projects. One such project is the Douglas County Cellar Survey, known colloquially as the “Caves Project.” The Caves Project is a survey funded by the Douglas County Natural and Cultural Heritage Grant Program with the goal of locating and documenting stone arched cellars. The cellars (referred to as “caves”) – constructed from the 1850s into the 1920s – represent a cultural phenomenon unique to the region; thus, archaeologists hope to properly document these caves before they are lost to time. The Caves Project has utilized Spencer Research Library materials such as plat maps, deed records, and topical books on regional history.

Map of Lecompton Township, 1909

Plat map of Lecompton Township in Plat Work and Complete Survey of Douglas County, Kansas, 1909.
This map was used in the Caves Project to locate potential cave structures. In addition to
revealing site locations, the map was also superimposed with older plat maps of the same area to
indicate images that were no longer extant. Call Number: RH Atlas G32. Click image to enlarge.

Also included in the second display case is an artifact, known as a projectile point base, that comes from the Clovis Paleoamerican culture of North America. Likely a broken spear tip, this artifact is likely around 13,000 calendar years old. Found during a 1976 pedestrian survey of site 14DO137 near Clinton Lake in Douglas County, Kansas, this point base is one of the only remaining items left by some of – if not the – first people to ever walk in eastern Kansas. Reviewed as part of an ongoing survey of literature for the Caves Project, multiple archaeological reports indicated that the point was donated to the University of Kansas Archaeological Research Center. Thanks to their cooperation, the point has been loaned to Spencer Research Library for this current exhibit and, as seen below, three-dimensionally scanned. The point has been used in a number of archaeological investigations, including a report on the presence of Clovis people in southeastern Kansas by KU’s Dr. Jack Hofman.

Frank Conard
Spencer Research Library Public Services Student Assistant and KU Anthropology Major

Spring 2019 Exhibit: “Meet the Spencers: A Marriage of Arts and Sciences”

February 5th, 2019

Who was Kenneth Spencer, the namesake of Spencer Research Library? Why is the library named after him? If you’ve ever asked yourself these questions and wondered about the library’s origins, be sure to visit and explore its current exhibit, “Meet the Spencers: A Marriage of Arts and Sciences.”

Kenneth and Helen Spencer in their garden, 1959

Kenneth and Helen Spencer with their dog Topper in the garden of their home at
2900 Verona Road in Mission Hills, Kansas, spring 1959.
Helen Foresman Spencer Papers. Call Number: RH MS-P 542. Click image to enlarge.

The exhibit provides a personal look at the lives of Kenneth Spencer and his wife Helen, including:

  • their childhoods growing up in southeastern Kansas and southwestern Missouri
  • their relationship and marriage
  • their hobbies and interests
  • Kenneth’s work as an engineer and accomplishments as a business leader in Kansas City
  • the creation of Kenneth Spencer Research Library.

Additionally, the exhibit examines the Spencers’ significant philanthropic work, particularly Helen’s dynamic leadership of the Kenneth A. and Helen F. Spencer Foundation after her husband’s death in 1960. The foundation provided funds for major construction projects at many institutions throughout the Kansas City area, including KU’s Lawrence campus. For example, gifts from the Foundation and from Helen personally ensured the construction of Spencer Research Library as well as the Helen Foresman Spencer Museum of Art.

Photograph of the installation of wall labels for the "Meet the Spencers" exhibit

Installing wall labels can be a messy business. Shown here is a
timeline of the early history of Spencer Research Library
in the context of KU’s history in the 1960s, part of the new
“Meet the Spencers” exhibit. Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of the installation of items for the "Meet the Spencers" exhibit

The installation of items for the “Meet the Spencers” exhibit.
Library staff try not to open the heavy glass case covers too frequently.
In 1968, Helen Spencer selected and purchased the five large German-made
display cases now located in the Exhibit Space. Click image to enlarge.

The opening reception for “Meet the Spencers” will be held this Thursday, February 7, 2019. The exhibition will be installed in the third-floor Exhibit Space through June 2019 as part of ongoing celebrations for Spencer Research Library’s fiftieth anniversary. It is free and open to the public.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Marcella Huggard
Archives and Manuscripts Processing Coordinator

December-January Exhibit: Women Students’ Writings in KU’s Department of English, 1899-1900

December 11th, 2018

A new temporary exhibit is currently on display at the entrances to the North Gallery at Kenneth Spencer Research Library. This exhibit is titled “Writing within Required Genres: Women Students’ Writings in KU’s Department of English, 1899-1900” and showcases many of the materials that serve as the basis of my dissertation work in the Department of English’s Rhetoric and Composition Ph.D. program.

Photograph of the east side of Spencer Research Library's North Gallery

Photograph of the temporary exhibit case on the east side of Spencer Research Library's North Gallery

The temporary exhibit case on the east side of Spencer’s North Gallery.
Click images to enlarge.

Throughout its history, the Department of English at the University of Kansas has experienced many changes in its structure, policies, and approaches to the teaching of writing. In this exhibit, materials from KU’s University Archives at Kenneth Spencer Research Library help narrate a snapshot of time in that history—the turn from the nineteenth to the twentieth century, and a course titled “Advanced English Composition.”

This exhibit provides information about the Department of English, its teachers, and this particular course. Moreover, it showcases the importance of examining the writings of individual students and their unique responses to the writing instruction they received.

Exhibit Case 1 is located at the west entrance to the North Gallery. It contains materials that help contextualize “Advanced English Composition” and the student writings produced for it. Included are course catalogues, photographs, English Department publications, and more.

Photograph of the temporary exhibit case on the west side of Spencer Research Library's North Gallery

Exhibit Case 1 seeks to contextualize the writings of students
Margaret Kane and Kate Hansen. Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of pages in a diary kept by KU English Professor Edwin M. Hopkins

A sample item on display in Exhibit Case 1: a diary of KU English Professor
Edwin M. Hopkins. Call Number: PP 73. Click image to enlarge.

Exhibit Case 2 is located at the east entrance to the North Gallery. It contains the actual writings produced by two women students for “Advanced English Composition”: the 1899 course notes of Margaret Kane (PP 23) and the 1900 course papers of Kate Hansen (PP 19). These texts were required for the successful completion of their courses. They show instances of Margaret and Kate writing within, pushing against, and even occasionally even moving beyond the expectations of these genres. These writings stress the importance of viewing students—those in the past and in the present—as unique individuals, not a homogeneous group.

Phtoograph of selected writings of Margaret Kane

Exhibit Case 2 highlights information from life of student
Margaret Kane and features her notebook and course notes.
Call Number: PP 23. Click image to enlarge.

Photographs of Kate Hansen

Exhibit Case 2 likewise highlights information about the life of student
Kate Hansen, including these two photographs taken during and
shortly after her time at KU. Call Number: PP 19. Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of "Description of a Library Chair" by Kate Hansen

Among Kate Hansen’s featured papers is her essay providing a
“Description of a Library Chair.” Call Number: PP 19. Click image to enlarge.

Curating this exhibit has been a joy. It has provided an opportunity to share my research with a more public audience, a feature that dissertations and the academic publications that stem from them too often lack. I’m extremely grateful to the staff at Kenneth Spencer Research Library—particularly those in public services, conservation, and University Archives—for assisting me with this process.

Sarah E. Polo
KU Doctoral Candidate in Rhetoric and Composition
Public Services Student Assistant

Celebrating Fifty Years of Spencer Research Library

November 28th, 2018

This week’s post is a slightly revised version of remarks given by Beth M. Whittaker, Associate Dean for Distinctive Collections and Director of Spencer Research Library, at the library’s fiftieth anniversary celebration on November 8th.

Photograph of event programs at Spencer Research Library's fiftieth anniversary celebration, 2018

Event programs at Spencer Research Library’s fiftieth anniversary celebration,
November 8, 2018. Photograph by LeAnn Meyer. Click image to enlarge.

It was not long after I returned to Kansas that I realized that the 50th anniversary of Spencer Research Library was impending; it seemed a long way off and we spent a lot of time thinking about how we would mark this occasion. Looking back at the many celebrations Spencer has commemorated, there were so many possible ways to go. The dedication of the building in 1968 was an august affair. Lord C. P. Snow spoke on the topic of “Kinds of Excellence” and if you’re interested you can read the remarks recently added to KU’s Scholar Works repository.

The 25th anniversary included a signature exhibit and catalog that we still reference today; other anniversaries have come and gone more quietly, many of them witnessed by people still here with us.

Photograph of a guest exploring the "50 for 50" exhibit at Spencer Research Library's fiftieth anniversary celebration, 2018

A guest exploring the “50 for 50” exhibit at the
fiftieth anniversary celebration, November 8, 2018.
Photograph by LeAnn Meyer. Click image to enlarge.

But what we really wanted to do for an exhibit was not to talk about the collections ourselves, as we so often do, but to get the stories from people who had used them for study or research. That, after all, is why we are here, and why this building has stood for fifty years and will stand for the future. Many of our friends and supporters answered our call, and the exhibit currently on display is the result. Although the word has become watered down by trendiness, this exhibit is actually “curated” by everyone who submitted a suggestion, took a walk down memory lane, or sent an email, and it is a reflection of the value of these items and these collections. It will live on in the gorgeous exhibit book we produced which is also available electronically. It is my hope that this exhibit stands the test of time for another fifty years.

Of course, this exhibit is not the whole story of the golden anniversary of the library. On February 7, 2019 we will celebrate our next exhibit “Meet the Spencers: A Marriage of Arts and Sciences,” which will focus on this extraordinary couple and their philanthropy across the region. Please mark your calendars and plan to join us. For a sneak peek at the kind photographs and correspondence that will help shape this exhibit, make sure to check out the small exhibit cases on either entrance of the North Gallery on your next visit.

Photograph of Beth M. Whittaker speaking at Spencer Research Library's fiftieth anniversary celebration, 2018

Beth M. Whittaker speaking at the fiftieth anniversary celebration,
November 8, 2018. Photograph by LeAnn Meyer. Click image to enlarge.

It is traditional in these situations to talk about how much has changed, but I want to lead with what is the same. Every day, we welcome students (from KU to preschool and everything in between), researchers and the community into our beautiful spaces; we lead tours and classes; we support researchers both here and remotely; and we share the joy and wonder of original documents with everyone. As Associate Professor of English and stalwart friend of Spencer Library Laura Mielke said in her submission for the exhibit:

Every time my students and I come to the Spencer Research Library, we have a transformative moment. Eyes light up, hands reach out gently, smiles spread across faces.

This has been happening for fifty years, and will continue.

Photograph of attendees at Spencer Research Library's fiftieth anniversary celebration, 2018

Attendees listening to remarks at the fiftieth anniversary celebration,
November 8, 2018. Photograph by LeAnn Meyer. Click image to enlarge.

However, some things HAVE changed. New collections have sprung up and grown; new formats have emerged to convey information; researchers have asked new questions of our materials; and new classes have come through our doors. If we had asked the attendees of the dedication in 1968 what the research library would look like in 2018, I doubt any of them would have come close to predicting this future.

The building itself, of course, has also changed. Those of you who have been here before know that my passion for this building includes always looking for ways to make it better, so we looked at the 50th anniversary as a chance to do some “touch-ups” after years of significant renovation projects. After the creation of the Stokstad Reading room and the exhibit space that currently houses “50 for 50”; renovation to work spaces that make cataloging, digitization, and conservation easier and more efficient; and most significantly and gloriously, the renovation of the North Gallery, the 50th gave us an excuse to do things like freshen the classrooms, install new technology, and reupholster Mrs. Spencer’s specially selected furniture. Through it all, we have tried to honor the style and inspiration that Helen Spencer brought to the building. She did not want a “museum or a mausoleum.” She wanted this library it to be a useful and workable addition to academic life, and as that academic life has changed, so have we.

We have also used the occasion of the 50th anniversary to tackle some programmatic needs. Thanks to generous donors, our research grant program has been reinvigorated and we offer three grant programs to bring people to Lawrence to use our collections. In time for the 50th we instituted regular drop-in, staff-guided tours. If you haven’t yet come to one of our Friday afternoon tours, please do so and spread the word. We have kept busy.

Photograph of Spencer Research Library's North Gallery in snow during the fiftieth anniversary celebration, 2018

Spencer Research Library’s North Gallery in snow during the fiftieth anniversary celebration,
November 8, 2018. Photograph by LeAnn Meyer. Click image to enlarge.

This exhibit and our celebration on November 8th kept us even busier. I need to give my thanks to the exhibit team, who worked with me to refine my wild idea and shape it into something magical: Sherry Williams, Angela Andres, Meredith Huff, and Mary Ann Baker.

My colleagues in Spencer Public Services: Caitlin Klepper, Kathy Lafferty, Stacey Wiens, and the indomitable Meredith Huff and Emily Beran, who may finally be able to get back to their primary responsibilities without me interrupting them constantly with “50th” ideas and concerns.

Librarians and archivists Sherry Williams, Elspeth Healey, Karen Cook, Becky Schulte, Letha Johnson, and Deborah Dandridge, who helped select and provide context for items from the collections they curate. Catalogers, manuscripts processors, conservators, digitization experts and always changing brigade of student workers–I am especially grateful to the student workers.

Our colleagues in KU Libraries Office of Communication and Advancement: Nikki Pirch, whose beautiful graphics have enriched everything about the 50th, and Bayli Rindels, who supported me throughout the planning for the event, along with LeAnn Meyer, Leah Hallstrom and Courtney Foat, under the leadership of Christy McWard, who arrived at KU Libraries only to learn her new colleague had an ambitious plan already in place; she and her team jumped in with both feet.

Finally, I have to thank those who came before me in this role. Sandy Mason, who set and steered the course for decades; Bill Crowe, whose leadership and vision helped the library manage a time of extraordinary change; and Sherry Williams, who served in the interim and from whom I continue to learn something new every single day. As Jim Gunn, emeritus professor of English — and, dare I say lifetime support of this library — told me, “You walk in big shoes.”

Beth M. Whittaker
Associate Dean for Distinctive Collections
Director of Spencer Research Library

August-September Exhibit: KU Student Enrollment

August 17th, 2018

As part of my Museum Studies student internship this summer, one of my assignments was to create and design an exhibit to be displayed in the North Gallery at Spencer Research Library from the beginning of August through mid-September. I had to choose a topic concerning KU history, one that I could easily pull materials from the archive to support as a concept. I thought back to the time I spent perusing the yearbooks while working on another research project. One topic that intrigued me, and remained in the back of my head for some time, was that of enrollment. It had never occurred to me to even consider the fact that enrollment had not always been digital and computerized. The process, procedure, the manual entry of data – it was all foreign to me. The immediate question became “how did the university handle the process of enrollment?”

Photograph of the enrollment exhibit being installed

In-progress installation of the exhibit. Click image to enlarge.

I began my research by investigating the enrollment process from as far back as the university records could reach. In order to fully understand the concept I took notes on each version of the enrollment procedure I could find in the primary sources. I created a step-by-step bullet point list for each major era (every ten to twenty years or so). Doing this helped me narrow the focus of the exhibit, focusing mostly on enrollment between the 1950s through the 1980s, with a brief section on the early history of the process.

Searching the archive for images and artifacts was the exciting part for me. I’ve selected some photographs taken by the Lawrence Journal-World, multiple pamphlets distributed to students during orientation, some class guides, and registration instructions, and I will include one of the card boxes from the era of IBM punch cards. Since I had limited space, my labels consist of basic descriptors of each artifact and a few expository labels that explain the enrollment process across the history of the university.

Photograph of the enrollment exhibit

One of the two finished exhibit cases. Click image to enlarge.

My hope and intent for this exhibit is to instill the same fascination for a bygone method that I originally had when I began my research. I want to illustrate the complexities of this older version of a process that all students partake in – while hopefully remaining accurate to the memories of those who did participate in these older systems of enrollment. It’s an important aspect of KU history that I feel deserves its own exhibition.

Mallory Harrell
KU Museum Studies graduate student and University Archives intern