Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Working as a Team to Make Collections Accessible

February 11th, 2020

Lynn Ward, Processing Archivist:

When new collections, or additions to existing collections, are accessioned into the Spencer Research Library, I arrange and describe the material so that researchers can access them.  More often than not, when I begin to look through the unprocessed boxes, I find some interesting surprises.

The Frowe and Lathrop families collection recently received a donation of many additional boxes of correspondence, photographs, diaries, slides, documents, and other material. This collection comprises several generations of the Frowe and Lathrop families from the 1840s to 2016, many of whom lived primarily in Kansas.

Addition to Frowe and Lathrop Families Records prior to processing.
The collection addition was received in multiple boxes. A photograph of Eva Lathrop can be seen on top of one of the boxes. Frowe and Lathrop Families Records. Kansas Collection. RH MS 1510. Click image to enlarge.

One of the interesting items that I found while going through the unprocessed boxes was a red satin Valentine box. When I opened the candy box, underneath cherished cards and invitations, I found an inscription on the bottom written by Eva Lathrop, “Feb[ruary] 14, 1924/ Fred had my diamond ring in this box of chocolates and presented it to me. The ring box was wrapped in the foil off of one of the pieces of candy.” She accepted A. G. (Fred) Phillips’ proposal, and they were married several months later. Spencer Research Library doesn’t always keep objects unless they have a good story to tell, which this candy box does. Kaitlin McGrath, a student in the conservation department working with Collections Conservator Roberta Woodrick, created a special box to house the Valentine box. 

Valentine candy box with inscription.
The Phillips’ valentine candy box with a ‘sweet’ story! Frowe and Lathrop Families Records. Kansas Collection. RH MS 1510, box 14. Click image to enlarge.

One of the most interesting sets of finds in this collection were very early family photographs inside hinged cases, dated from the 1850s-1870s.  There are over 20 daguerreotypes, tintypes, and ambrotypes of identified or partially identified men, women, and children related to the Frowe and Lathrop families. Some of the small, ornately-decorated cases appear to be made out of gutta purcha or vulcanite—common plant-based materials used in this time period. Normally, print photographs are put into acid-free folders and a document case. However, these fragile, bulky photographs in their cases needed special consideration for housing and accessibility.  

Valentine poem in a photograph case.
The interior of a photograph case containing a Valentine poem clipped from a newspaper. Frowe and Lathrop Families Records. Kansas Collection. RH MS-P 1510(f), box 1. Click image to enlarge.
Exterior of a photograph case containing a Valentine poem.
Exterior of a photograph case containing a Valentine poem. The case is possibly made out of gutta purcha or vulcanite. Frowe and Lathrop Families Records. Kansas Collection. RH MS-P 1510(f), box 1. Click image to enlarge.

Angela Andres, Special Collections Conservator: 

Most of the cased photographs that Spencer already holds are individual items within their collections, so they are housed individually in custom enclosures. The size of this group makes that approach impractical; it would be time-consuming to make so many special enclosures from scratch, and they would take up a lot of shelf space, which is always a consideration when housing our collections. Housing this group of photographs together also made sense from an access perspective; a single container is easier for staff to retrieve and for researchers to view than twenty-some separate containers.

I estimated that I could fit all of the photographs into one standard size flat archival box, provided I could safely arrange them in two layers. Lynn sorted the photographs by family groups into two sets, and then set about devising a lightweight but protective structure for the interior of the box. I created two trays from layers of archival corrugated cardboard, with cavities cut to fit each of the cased photographs. Each cavity is lined with soft Tyvek® fabric to prevent abrasion of the cases, and cases with loose covers are tied with cotton tape to prevent shifting. I attached strips of archival foam around the edges of the lower tray to support the upper tray, and added handles of linen tape to the upper tray for easy removal.

Upper tray of housing for cased photographs from the Frowe and Lathrop Families Records.
The upper tray of the photograph housing, with handles for lifting the tray out. Frowe and Lathrop Families Records. Kansas Collection. RH MS-P 1510(f), box 1. Click image to enlarge.
Lower tray of housing for cased photographs from the Frowe and Lathrop Families Records.
The lower tray of the photograph housing, with foam bumpers to support the upper tray. Frowe and Lathrop Families Records. Kansas Collection. RH MS-P 1510(f), box 1. Click image to enlarge.

Lynn Ward, Processing Archivist:

After the cases returned from conservation in their special box, I needed to come up with a way to describe the cased photographs. Normally for a print photograph, the description would be connected to the folder in which the photograph is housed. Since these cased photographs were arranged in layers in their special box, I decided to describe them by layer and by rows within each layer. Each photograph in its case was described with its location in the box, as well as the identification, or partial identification of the individual(s) when known.   

The Frowe and Lathrop families collection finding aid can be accessed online. For more information on how to access these materials, see our website: https://spencer.lib.ku.edu/using-the-library/use-collections.

Ho Chi Minh, the Black Panther Party, and the Struggle for Self-Determination

January 15th, 2020

The temporary exhibit described in this post will be on display in Spencer’s North Gallery through the end of January.

Photograph of one of the title labels in the Ho Chi Minh temporary exhibit
One of the title labels in the Ho Chi Minh temporary exhibit. Click image to enlarge.

As a student assistant for the African American Experience Collections, I recently had an opportunity to produce a temporary exhibit in Kenneth Spencer Research Library.

After reviewing the 1968-1970 issues of The Black Panther, which was published by the Black Panther Party in Oakland, California, I uncovered an astonishing connection linking African Americans and Asians: In 1969 and 1970, the Minister of Information of the Black Panther Party, Eldridge Cleaver, led delegations of African Americans to visit North Vietnam, North Korea, and China.

Although I would have loved exploring the connections between the Black Panther Party, North Korea, and China, as a Vietnamese-American, I found myself inextricably drawn to the history of Ho Chi Minh and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. With the topic of my temporary exhibit decided, I scoured Kenneth Spencer’s collections in search of material relating to Ho Chi Minh and the Black Panther Party.

Photograph of the Ho Chi Minh temporary exhibit under development
Developing my temporary exhibit. Shown here is the second exhibit case focusing on African American anti-war sentiment. Click image to enlarge.

For my first exhibit case, I decided to focus solely upon Ho Chi Minh. (Notably, Ho Chi Minh is one of many pseudonyms he adopted.) I found two Black Panther Party newspapers in the African American Experience Collections but for the rest of my materials, I went digging around in the Wilcox Collection. I was fortunate enough to find a wonderful poster of Ho Chi Minh in the Counter Culture Posters Collection, along with two primary sources written by Ho, including Ho Chi Minh Answers President L.B. Johnson (Call Number: RH WL B3690) and Against U.S. Aggression for National Salvation (Call Number: RH WL B3593).

A poster of Ho Chi Minh, circa 1960s-1970s
A poster of Ho Chi Minh, circa 1960s-1970s. Counter Culture Posters Collection. Call Number: RH MS R23, Folder 3. Click image to enlarge.

Around the same time I was creating my temporary exhibit, I was also participating in an independent study relating to eighteenth-, nineteenth-, and twentieth-century Vietnamese history. There I learned that in 1924 Ho Chi Minh had penned two essays titled “Lynching” and “the Ku Klux Klan.” In these essays, Ho Chi Minh wrote about the violence and racism African Americans faced in the United States, demonstrating his awareness of the oppressions endured by peoples outside Vietnam. It is highly probable that Ho read documents published from the NAACP’s anti-lynching campaign, which included information and statistics about African Americans lynched in the United States each year beginning in 1909. However, it is also worth noting that Ho worked aboard a steamship and traveled internationally to the United States, France, England, and other European countries.

Some of the most memorable quotes from his essay on “Lynching” include:

  • “After sixty-five years of so-called emancipation, American Negroes still endure atrocious moral and material sufferings, of which the most cruel and horrible is the custom of lynching.”
  • “From 1899 to 1919, 2,600 Blacks were lynched, including 51 women and girls and ten former Great War soldiers.”
  • “Among 78 Blacks lynched in 1919, 11 were burned alive, three burned after having been killed, 31 shot, three tortured to death, one cut into pieces, one drowned and 11 put to death by various means.”
  • “Georgia heads the list with 22 victims. Mississippi follows with 12. Both have also three lynched soldiers to their credit.”

Upon Ho Chi Minh’s death, The Black Panther’s newspaper issue printed on September 13, 1969, included these two essays, along with an essay commemorating Ho’s death. However, Ho wrote these essays almost four decades before the Black Panther Party newspaper issues were printed in 1968-1970, during the height of the Vietnam War (1955-1975).

In addition, I also wanted to showcase the Black Panther Party’s anti-Vietnam propaganda and demonstrations. Once again, I found myself digging around in the Wilcox Collection. Among the items I chose for the second exhibit case include A Taste of Power: A Black Woman’s Story by Elaine Brown (Call Number: RH WL C2210). Brown acted as the Black Panther’s Southern California Chapter’s Deputy Minister of Information. Brown also accompanied Eldridge Cleaver on his visits to North Vietnam, North Korea, and China.

One of my favorite items in the exhibit is Vietnam: An Anti-War Comic Book by Julian Bond, a founder of the Atlanta sit-in movement and of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). The comic book is a piece of anti-war propaganda that highlights the connections between the struggles of African Americans and the Vietnamese people during the 1970s.

Photograph of the cover of Vietnam: An Anti-War Comic Book by Julian Bond
Vietnam: An Anti-War Comic Book by Julian Bond. Frederick Allan Whitehead Papers. Call Number: RH MS 162, Box 8, Folder 8. Click image to enlarge.
Photograph of the Ho Chi Minh temporary exhibit
The finished exhibit. Click images to enlarge.

A huge thank you to Caitlin Donnelly Klepper, Angela Andres, and Letha Johnson for helping me at various stages of my exhibit, as well as to my supervisor, Deborah Dandridge, for supporting my interest in exploring a fascinating side of history that was unknown to me at the time that Kenneth Spencer Research Library provides in its variety of collections of resources. Another thank you to the staff and students at the Reading Room reference desk, who helped me with my requests.

Sophia Southard
African American Experience Collections Student Assistant

Treatment of Mary Huntoon’s “Kansas City, Kansas Grain Elevators,” an Etching: Part 1

December 3rd, 2019

The Kenneth Spencer Research Library is home to the collection of papers and original artwork by Kansas artist and art therapist, Mary Huntoon (1896-1970). As part of a collaborative initiative between KU Libraries and the Spencer Museum of Art, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, many of the prints, drawings, and watercolors by Huntoon are being treated over the next two years.

Huntoon was born in Topeka, Kansas. After graduating from Washburn University in 1920, she studied at the Art Students League in New York City for six years under Joseph Pennell and Robert Henri, and was a good friend and colleague of William Stanley Hayter, founder of Atelier 17. She later became director of the Kansas Federal Art Project and made significant contributions to the early development of art therapy.

Artist Mary Huntoon draws with a stylus on a copper printing plate.
Artist Mary Huntoon draws with a stylus on a copper printing plate. Mary Huntoon Papers. Call Number: RH MS 209. Click image to enlarge.
Artist Mary Huntoon stands before an easel, at work on a painting.
Artist Mary Huntoon stands before an easel, at work on a painting. Mary Huntoon Papers. Call Number: RH MS 209. Click image to enlarge.

Kansas City, Kansas Grain Elevators, is an artist’s proof print (a print made prior to the final edition), an etching in black printing ink on cream, laid, machine-made paper. The primary condition issue involves two large brown stains along the top edge that interrupt the image area and cause distortions in the sheet. An overall washing treatment was proposed in order to reduce the appearance of the stains.

The Mary Huntoon print, "Kansas City, Kansas Grain Elevators," prior to treatment.
The Mary Huntoon print, “Kansas City, Kansas Grain Elevators,” prior to treatment. Mary Huntoon Papers. Call Number: RH MS 209. Click image to enlarge.
The Mary Huntoon print, "Kansas City, Kansas Grain Elevators," in raking light, prior to treatment.
The Mary Huntoon print, “Kansas City, Kansas Grain Elevators,” in raking light, prior to treatment. Mary Huntoon Papers. Call Number: RH MS 209. Click image to enlarge.

In preparation for the treatment, the printing inks were tested to ensure they would be stable during the wet treatment. The outer margins and back of the print were selectively surface-cleaned with a soft sponge, avoiding all printed areas, as well as the graphite pencil inscription. Surface-cleaning ensures that loose and embedded dirt and grime are not driven deeper into the paper support during the wet treatment.

A soft sponge is used to remove embedded surface dirt and grime from the Mary Huntoon print, "Kansas City, Kansas Grain Elevators."
A soft sponge is used to remove embedded surface dirt and grime from the Mary Huntoon print, “Kansas City, Kansas Grain Elevators.” Mary Huntoon Papers. Call Number: RH MS 209. Click image to enlarge.

Brown paper tape attachments on the top edge of the front and back of the print were removed with a methylcellulose poultice. The attachments had been partially removed at some point, and the top layer of the paper was slightly skinned. The poultice delivers moisture in a controlled way, softening the adhesive, and allowing safe removal of the attachment.

A methylcellulose poultice is applied to deliver controlled moisture to soften adhesive and brown paper attachments on the Mary Huntoon print, "Kansas City, Kansas Grain Elevators."
At left, brown paper attachments had been partially detached at some point, skinning some of the paper fibers. At center, a methylcellulose poultice was applied to the attachment to deliver controlled moisture to the area. At right, the poultice softened the adhesive and paper. It was gently removed at an acute angle with tweezers and dried flat. Mary Huntoon Papers. Call Number: RH MS 209. Click image to enlarge.

The print is now ready to be washed. Stay tuned for Part 2 to learn how the stains were reduced.

Jacinta Johnson
Associate Conservator, Mellon Initiative

30th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall

November 6th, 2019

The Berlin Wall stood in the center of Berlin, Germany, from 1961 to 1989. It acted as a physical symbol of the divide between East and West, not just in Germany, but between Western European democracy and Eastern European communism after the end of World War II. It was a literal “Iron Curtain,” in Winston Churchill’s words, and its fall in the late 1980s coincided with the end of the Soviet Union and Eastern European communism.

Materials related to the Berlin Wall at Spencer Research Library focus on its meaning soon after it was built in the early 1960s and its obliteration in the late 1980s and early 1990s. To commemorate the fall of the Berlin Wall thirty years ago this month (November 9, 1989), we thought we would share some of the more interesting pieces we have at Spencer Research Library related to this topic.

Holland Roberts, then director of the American Russian institute in San Francisco, wrote about the wall soon after it was built, in 1962. He argued that it was to protect East Berlin and East Germans from the militarism rising in West Germany, led by former Nazi officers. “The Wall will come down when the two Germanys disarm and form the core of a neutral peaceful zone in the heart of Europe,” Roberts wrote.

Image of “Behind the Berlin Wall” by Holland Roberts, 1962
The first page of “Behind the Berlin Wall” by Holland Roberts, 1962. Call Number: Josephson 2427. Click image to enlarge.

American journalists Margrit and John Pittman also wrote about the Berlin Wall soon after its construction. They too focused on West German propaganda against East Germany, as well as German perceptions of Americans visiting or stationed in their divided country.

Image of "Sense and Nonsense About Berlin” by Margrit and John Pittman, 1962
“Sense and Nonsense About Berlin” by Margrit and John Pittman, 1962. Call number: RH WL B1977. Click image to enlarge.

The items in Spencer’s collections from when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 seem more hopeful than these earlier written works. For example, Bob Swan’s Citizen Diplomacy Archives collection focuses mostly on the relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union rather than the relationship between the German Democratic Republic (GDR or East Germany) and the U. S. However, Mr. Swan donated a chunk of the Berlin Wall as part of his collection. Throughout the 1980s, East Germans increasingly filed requests to immigrate to West Germany; with the (false) announcement of a new emigration policy on November 9, 1989, thousands rushed the Wall. Thereafter, individuals began picking off pieces such as this one to keep as souvenirs until the wall was finally dismantled systematically in the summer of 1990.

Photograph of a piece of the Berlin Wall
While it does not look like much, this piece of concrete from the Berlin Wall saw a lot of significant twentieth-century history. Call Number: RH MS Q426, Box 1. Click image to enlarge.

Professional photographer Gary Mark Smith spent some time in Europe in 1990 and took pictures of the streets in Berlin before the wall was entirely dismantled. He also took pictures of proud Germans waving a reunited German flag in Cologne.

Photograph entitled “Berlin Wall #1," 1990
An East German Trabant car is visible through the holes in the concrete in this photograph, entitled “Berlin Wall #1,” by Gary Mark Smith, 1990. Call Number: RH MS-P 1380, Box 6, Folder 16. Click image to enlarge.
Photograph entitled “Berlin Wall Guard Tower,” 1990
Does the graffiti at the base of the guard tower diminish its forbidding height in any way? This photograph was taken by Gary Mark Smith in 1990 and entitled “Berlin Wall Guard Tower.” Call Number: RH MS-P 1380, Box 6, Folder 15.
Photograph entitled “Flag Celebration #2," 1990
Germans parading with a German flag in honor of reunification on October 3, 1990. This photo by Gary Mark Smith is titled “Flag Celebration #2.” Call Number: RH MS-P 1380, Box 6, Folder 9. Click image to enlarge.

The fall of the Berlin Wall is one of those globally historic moments, the kind that has people asking each other “Where were you when….?” Were you alive when the Berlin Wall fell? Do you remember what you were doing that day in November 1989 when you heard the news?

Marcella Huggard
Archives and Manuscripts Processing Coordinator

LGBT History Month: Remembering Kristi Parker and Liberty Press

October 2nd, 2019

This LGBT History Month we would like to commemorate the life of Kristi Parker, a prominent activist in the LGBTQ community in Kansas and the founder of Liberty Press, Kansas’s first and only LGBTQ news magazine.

Kristi Parker and Sharon “Vinnie” (Levine) Reed in the Liberty Press office, late 1990s
Kristi Parker, left, and Sharon “Vinnie” (Levine) Reed in the Liberty Press office, late 1990s. Call Number: RH MS-P 1480, Box 2, Folder 1. Click image to enlarge.

This October marks eighteen months since the final issue of Liberty Press was published shortly before Kristi Parker’s unexpected death last year at the age of forty-nine. During the Liberty Press’s twenty-four-year run, Parker and her team tackled an enormous variety of topics affecting the Kansas LGBTQ community, including politics, art, sports, health, parenting, events, religion, and education. The magazine was truly one of a kind in the central Midwest, and its regional focus created a sense of collective identity for Kansas’s LGBTQ community.

In addition to her role as editor and publisher of Liberty Press, Parker was also a member of the Wichita Pride Committee and Kansans for Human Dignity, and she was a member the governing board of The Center, an LGBTQ community center in Wichita.

We are fortunate to hold the papers of Kristi Parker at Spencer Research Library and would like to highlight a few items from the collection that demonstrate Parker’s role in the history of the Kansas LGBTQ community.

The evolution of Liberty Press covers over the years. Call Number: RH MS 1480, Boxes 1-2. Click image to enlarge.

We hold a nearly-complete run of Liberty Press issues from the second issue published in 1994 through the magazine’s final issue in 2018, as well as a full run of the Kansas City-specific edition, Liberty Press Kansas City. The production files that accompany each issue of the magazine include preparatory correspondence, mock-ups, photographs, and sample advertisements, all of which serve as evidence of the creative process behind the business. The files also provide invaluable insight into the LGBTQ community in Kansas from the mid-1990s through the 2010s, particularly through a selection of truly touching letters written by readers to Kristi Parker and others behind the magazine. Many letters come from members of the LGBTQ community living in small towns in Kansas; they write about the struggles and loneliness they feel as LGBTQ individuals in these rural communities, but also about the life-changing impact Liberty Press had on their lives. The magazine encouraged them to be confident and proud as LGBTQ Kansans and affirmed that they were not alone in their experience, but rather were part of a widespread, vibrant community across the state.

Buttons collected by Kristi Parker at LGBTQ Pride events in Wichita, Topeka, and Kansas City. Call Number: RH MS Q420, Box 2. Click image to enlarge.

Kristi Parker’s involvement in the LGBTQ community began several years before the founding of Liberty Press. Parker attended Stonewall and Pride events from the 1980s onward and became deeply involved in Wichita Pride in the early 1990s, writing guides for the festival, providing press coverage, and later sitting on the organizing committee. Her collection holds a vast amount of ephemera from Wichita Pride and other Kansas-based Pride events, including colorful buttons, lanyards, flags, magnets, posters, sashes, trophies, and even t-shirts. These artifacts complement the collection’s documentary evidence of these parades, rallies, and concerts celebrating the LGBTQ community in a very tangible way, allowing us to visualize these events and the energetic, joyful experience had by Parker and other attendees.

Rosie O’Donnell, a staff favorite among the Kristi Parker artifacts, relaxes in the Spencer Research Library mailroom. Call Number: RH MS Q452, Box 2. Click image to enlarge.

There are countless other gems throughout Kristi Parker’s papers that testify to the Kansan LGBTQ experience and to Parker’s work, life, and lasting impact on the community. We hope you have enjoyed this brief tour of the insight Parker’s papers have to offer, and we invite you to continue exploring her papers and other collections we hold regarding the history of LGBTQ communities in Kansas this October and beyond.

Vannis Jones
Processing Archivist