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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!: KU Campus Map

June 21st, 2024

Check the blog each Friday for a new “That’s Distinctive!” post. I created this series to provide a lighthearted glimpse into the diverse and unique items at Spencer. “That’s Distinctive!” is meant to show that the library has something for everyone regardless of interest. If you have suggested topics for a future item feature or questions about the collections, you can leave a comment at the bottom of this page. All collections, including those highlighted on the blog, are available for members of the public to explore in the Reading Room during regular hours.

This week on That’s Distinctive! I am sharing a University of Kansas campus map from August 1947. Usually KU related items are housed in University Archives, but this particular map belongs to the Kansas Collection. It was created by Frank A. Russell with contributions by KU’s Department of Engineering Drawing. The map was donated by Clayton Crosier, who has other collections at Spencer Research Library. This includes a collection of photographs and papers in the Kansas Collection and a collection of personal papers related to his time at KU in University Archives. Crosier (1903-1984) received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Kansas. Later, in 1945, he joined KU as a faculty member teaching Applied Mechanics and Civil Engineering. He retired in 1971.

Upon close inspection, one can see that some buildings remain in the same place today while others have moved around quite drastically. Some notable buildings that can still be found in the same location today include the Memorial Union, Spooner Hall (though it is listed as the art museum), and Watson Library. Some buildings that have moved locations include Green Hall and Robinson Gymnasium. Additionally, there are some buildings now on campus that did not yet exist such as Joseph R. Pearson Hall and, most notably, Spencer Research Library. Before the library opened in 1968, several annex buildings occupied the space behind Strong Hall.

Looking at the way campus has changed over time can be interesting given we are so used to the way it is now. As a former religious studies student, I find it interesting that the former religious studies building known as Smith Hall is titled on the map “Bible Chair.” It implies that the building served the same purpose, but the name shifted over time. Smith Hall was slated to be demolished in the 2023 fiscal year, but plans to do so have been postponed. In 2022 the University Daily Kansan (UDK) published an article about initial reactions to the announcement of the potential demolition. Smith Hall has since been added to the University of Kansas East Historic District.  

Looking at the map, it is also interesting to think about why buildings moved significantly rather than staying where they were. The ways in which campus has shifted over time tell a story about the needs of the university. Despite all the changes, I hope there is something on the map you find interesting or did not know before.

Black-and-white map of the KU campus.
Map of Campus of the University at Lawrence, Kansas, by Frank A. Russell. Lawrence: KU Department of Engineering Drawing, 1947. Call Number: RH Map R355. Click image to enlarge.

Tiffany McIntosh
Public Services

My Research of Juneteenth: Understanding Emancipation Celebrations

June 18th, 2024

Over the past few years, before Juneteenth became a national holiday, KU Libraries gave employees the day off as a Day of Reflection. We used this time to reflect on what we knew and learn more about African American history, understanding the history of emancipation.

This image has the text of the title.
Official souvenir program from the 23rd annual Emancipation Celebration in Dayton, Ohio, 1923. Marcus Hamilton Papers. Call Number: RH MS 667. Click image to enlarge.

I grew up in Battle Creek, Michigan. It wasn’t as big as Detroit or Grand Rapids, but it was a large city with a number of companies that kept the city in business. Battle Creek is where the Kellogg brothers and Charles W. Post invented cereal. Those companies employed the majority of Battle Creek’s population. It is also the place where Sojourner Truth is buried.

Having this connection to the Underground Railroad where I lived, I became more interested in history.  However, we learned about emancipation only from one view. 

This image has the text of the title with a black-and-white sketch of two African American men, one standing and one down on one knee.
The front cover of Freedom to the Free: Century of Emancipation, 1863-1963, a report to the President by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, 1963. Call Number: RH WL C10768. Click image to enlarge.
This image has text, including a list of events such as a rodeo, ball, bowling tournament, and jazz festival plus pageants, parades, exhibits, and speakers.
A flier for the 1963 Emancipation Celebration in Wichita, Kansas. Leonard Garrett Papers. Call Number: RH MS 689. Click image to enlarge.

From junior high to college, many of my classmates were African American. I also had teachers, principals, and a high school counselor who were Black. It was only when I lived in and traveled around the country that I became aware of the lack of diversity in many communities.

This image has text.
A flier for the 1992 Juneteenth Celebration at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut. Personal Papers of Moses Gunn. Call Number: PP 463. Click image to enlarge.

Working at Spencer with our African American Experience collections, I have become more knowledgeable about history from the African American perspective.

Black ink sketch of people in a covered wagon pulled by horses with the text "Nicodemus Homecoming Celebration 1986 Participant," all against a green background.
A 1986 Homecoming Celebration ribbon from Nicodemus, Kansas. Nicodemus Historical Society Collection – Original Donations. Call Number: RH MS 545. Click image to enlarge.

When I began my research on Juneteenth, I could not find much information. A colleague mentioned that I should use “emancipation” as my search term instead. I wanted to learn the importance and history of the Juneteenth holiday. I found that emancipation celebrations were held on different days of the year in different locations. 

This image has text, primarily a list of events such as a jazz concert, dance, pancake breakfast, parade, and fashion/talent show.
A flier for the “Nicodemus 128th Emancipation Celebration and Nicodemus National Historic Site 10th Year Anniversary,” 2006. Nicodemus Historical Society Collection – Original Donations. Call Number: RH MS 545. Click image to enlarge.
Round button with a tan background, the text "Nicodemus Homecoming 2006," and a map of Kansas.
A 2006 Homecoming Celebration button from Nicodemus, Kansas. Nicodemus Historical Society Collection – Original Donations. Call Number: RH MS 545. Click image to enlarge.

With Juneteenth becoming a national holiday, I hope it is a catalyst for people understand and learn more about African American history from their perspective. Juneteenth is more than a day off work. It is a day to celebrate African American history and U.S. history to the present. 

This image has black text against a red background.
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This image has the text of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" and the order of events in the program.
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This image has text about the significance and observance of Juneteenth.
A Juneteenth Celebration program, 2008. Records of the Topeka Council of Colored Women’s Clubs. Call Number: RH MS 1289. Click image to enlarge.

Researching our collections, I was able to find many documents on emancipation. This blog post is only a small sample from our holdings.

I encourage you to visit Spencer to see and touch the historical materials housed at the library. Spencer is free and open to the public. A reference librarian can work with you to find resources on emancipation, Juneteenth, and broader African American history in Kansas. See the library’s website for more information.  

See you soon!

Meredith Phares
Operations Manager

That’s Distinctive!: Recipes from Lawrence Public Schools

May 17th, 2024

Check the blog each Friday for a new “That’s Distinctive!” post. I created this series to provide a lighthearted glimpse into the diverse and unique items at Spencer. “That’s Distinctive!” is meant to show that the library has something for everyone regardless of interest. If you have suggested topics for a future item feature or questions about the collections, you can leave a comment at the bottom of this page. All collections, including those highlighted on the blog, are available for members of the public to explore in the Reading Room during regular hours.

This week on That’s Distinctive! I am sharing an item from our collection of Lawrence Public Schools (USD 497) records. The collection spans 1858 to 2022 and contains a myriad of items including records, reports, newsletters, yearbooks, and photographs. The collection consists of 144 boxes, 33 oversize boxes, 24 oversize folders, 143 video tapes, 18 audio tapes, and seven CDs. According to the collection’s finding aid, “the State of Kansas unified Lawrence schools in 1965, creating Lawrence Unified School District #497, or the Lawrence Public Schools. This was during an era when schools were consolidating across the state in part due to better transportation options.”  

The pages shared below are from “Charlsia’s Cordley [Elementary School] Recipe Book.” The document is undated, although other items in the box range from 1962 to 2012. The recipe book contains various recipe entries for date cake, applesauce salad, refrigerator rolls, and more. I assume the recipes were submitted by students.

Before finding this item, I did not know that the USD 497 collection existed. I was digging through the finding aids looking for old recipes when I found this folder. I thought it would be fun to share given the school district is here in Lawrence.

This image has the text of recipes for apple sauce salad, burnt sugar cake, date cake, and "my favorite recipe."
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This image has the text of recipes for ice cream pie, yellow angel food cake, cheese cake, and refrigerator rolls.
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This image has the text of recipes for Russian tea loaf dressing, ginger ale salad, savory meat balls, "Eri's favorite barbecued spareribs," and uncooked cookies.
Selected pages from “Charlsia’s Cordley Recipe Book,” undated. Unified School District 497 Records. Call Number: RH MS 1255. Click images to enlarge.

Tiffany McIntosh
Public Services

That’s Distinctive!: John Brown Portrait

May 10th, 2024

Check the blog each Friday for a new “That’s Distinctive!” post. I created this series to provide a lighthearted glimpse into the diverse and unique items at Spencer. “That’s Distinctive!” is meant to show that the library has something for everyone regardless of interest. If you have suggested topics for a future item feature or questions about the collections, you can leave a comment at the bottom of this page. All collections, including those highlighted on the blog, are available for members of the public to explore in the Reading Room during regular hours.

This week on That’s Distinctive! I am sharing an item from our artificial portraits collection. Artificial collections contain smaller collections that have been grouped and stored together based on some similarity. Oftentimes, items in artificial collections do not come to the library together. Per the finding aid for the portraits collection, “many of the purchases were selected by Spencer Research Library’s Kansas Collection photo archivist during the 1980s and 1990s. The collection consists of real photographic postcards, lithographic print postcards, cabinet cards, cartes de visite, mounted and unmounted prints, glass plate negatives, and other visually-based formats of individuals, couples, and groups posed formally, often in photographic studios.” The items date from approximately 1868 to 1986.

The portrait shared today is of John Brown (May 9, 1800-December 2, 1859). Brown was an American abolitionist who, according to PBS, “could not be deterred from his mission of abolishing slavery.” Throughout his life, Brown settled in many various states, held numerous jobs, and fathered twenty children. He “first reach[ed] national prominence in the 1850s for his radical abolitionism and fighting in Bleeding Kansas,” notes Wikipedia. For example, “in May 1856, Brown and his sons killed five supporters of slavery in the Pottawatomie massacre, a response to the sacking of Lawrence by pro-slavery forces.” In 1859, Brown was “captured, tried, and executed by the Commonwealth of Virginia for a raid and incitement of a slave rebellion at Harpers Ferry.”

Black-and-white portrait of a white man. There is text at the bottom.
Portrait of John Brown, 1884. This is an artist’s proof of a copperplate gravure of a painting by Selden J. Woodman of John Brown, signed by Woodman. Artificial Portraits Collection. Call Number: RH PH-540(f). Click image to enlarge.

Tiffany McIntosh
Public Services

That’s Distinctive!: Random Rhymes

May 3rd, 2024

Check the blog each Friday for a new “That’s Distinctive!” post. I created this series to provide a lighthearted glimpse into the diverse and unique items at Spencer. “That’s Distinctive!” is meant to show that the library has something for everyone regardless of interest. If you have suggested topics for a future item feature or questions about the collections, you can leave a comment at the bottom of this page. All collections, including those highlighted on the blog, are available for members of the public to explore in the Reading Room during regular hours.

This week on That’s Distinctive! I am sharing a book titled Random Rhymes by Ed Blair. The book was published in Spring Hill, Kansas, in 1939. It contains 213 pages of poems.

Not much about Random Rhymes can be found on the internet. It is another item that I stumbled upon while walking through the stacks. Sometimes I go wander around to see what titles pop out at me. I had no background knowledge on what the book held until I had it paged to the Reading Room. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I was delighted to find the poems. A couple of poems from the book are included below.

This image has text: the title and author's name in black lettering against a blue background.
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This image has text: the first part of the table of contents.
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This image has the text of the poem "Dreaming of My Kansas Home."
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This image has the text of the poems "The Little Old Town Where I Live" and "What Makes June."
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This image has the text of the poem "Kansas Invites You."
The front cover, the first page of the table of contents, and selected poems from Random Rhymes by Ed Blair, 1939. Call Number: RH C6635. Click image to enlarge.

Tiffany McIntosh
Public Services