Kenneth Spencer Research Library’s North Gallery houses a permanent exhibit highlighting materials from the library’s various collecting areas: the Wilcox Collection, the Kansas Collection, Special Collections, and University Archives. While the library is closed to the public, we hope you enjoy the periodic exhibit highlights we’ll be sharing on the blog. Once Spencer reopens, we hope you’ll be able to visit the library and explore the full exhibit in person!
The University Archives portion of the North Gallery exhibit showcases materials related to University Chancellors, faculty, athletics, and student life. In one interactive part of the exhibit, visitors can peruse a timeline of highlights from nearly 150 years of KU’s history.
This is the latest installment in a recurring series of posts introducing readers to the staff of Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Today’s profile features Molly Herring, who joined Spencer in February as the Associate Archivist in University Archives.
Where are you from?
I was born in the Kansas City area, but I moved around a lot growing up. My father was a Chaplin in the Army, and over the past twenty-five years I’ve lived in eleven states and fifteen cities, and I even spent three years living in Germany. However, I spent my senior year of high school in Kansas and went to college at KU, so Kansas really feels like my home state.
How did you come to work in archives?
I had always planned on going to library school after teaching for a few years (I got my bachelor’s degree in Secondary English education), although at that point I was thinking more along the lines of working in a public library. While researching programs, I began to learn more about the field of archives and decided it was the place for me! I decided to go to graduate school immediately after college, got my Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree with a specialization in Archives and Information Science from the University of Pittsburgh in 2017, and then spent a couple of years working at the Indiana State Archives. I jumped at the opportunity to work in the University Archives, being a KU graduate myself as well as a fifth-generation Jayhawk.
What does your job at Spencer entail?
As the Associate Archivist, I appraise, accession, process, and manage records in all formats transferred to the custody of the University Archives. I answer research questions submitted by both on- and off-site patrons, participate in outreach services (such as exhibits, blog posts, etc.), work with donors who wish to give materials to the Archives, and collaborate with Digital Initiatives and Processing on digital collections management. Over the past couple months, as I’ve worked from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, I have devoted much time to working with Digital Initiatives and other Spencer Library staff on the University’s web archives.
What is one of the most interesting items you’ve come across in Spencer’s collections?
There are so many interesting items in the Archives its hard to pick one! One of my favorite things to tell people we have is a vial of uranium from the Manhattan Project. Another object I love is a wooden Jayhawk that was carved by a German POW who was sent to Kansas during World War II. On a more personal note I found some wonderful information on my great-great grandmother. She was the Women’s Student Government President in 1913 and, as an alumna, helped start KU’s chapter of the Alpha Chi Omega sorority, which I was a member of while at KU.
What part of your job do you like best?
My job entails a lot of different parts, which is something I really enjoy! I learn something new every day, and one day is never like the other. Also, although it’s a small part of my job, I really enjoy working on exhibits. It’s a wonderful way to get to know the collections and learn more about KU’s history.
What are some of your favorite pastimes outside of work?
I enjoy working on embroidery projects, baking, being outdoors, spending time with friends and family, and of course reading (sci-fi and fantasy in particular).
What piece of advice would you offer a researcher walking into Spencer Research Library for the first time?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and as many as you need to! Researching in special collections and archives can feel daunting, but we’re here to help!
Molly Herring Associate Archivist, University Archives
It’s the fourth-annual Color Our Collections week! Started by the New York Academy of Medicine Library in 2016, Color Our Collections is a week of coloring fun where libraries, archives, and other cultural institutions around the world share coloring pages that feature their collection materials.
KU Libraries is pleased to share this year’s submission for
the annual week of coloring craziness. Featuring the collections at Spencer
Research Library, this year’s coloring book celebrates nature, history, and
even mythical creatures! You
can download and print the book via the Color Our collections website.
While you are there, be sure to check out the submissions from our colleagues
at other institutions!
As a preview, here are three pages from the book. Click on the images to enlarge them.
Are you a fan of the collections at Spencer? Have you ever
come across an image in our materials that would make a great coloring page?
Tell us about it in the comments or email us at email@example.com!
The credit for the success of the women’s suffrage movement in the United States seems to always go to women like Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and other well-known women who fill the history books. While they most certainly deserve all of the accolades given to them, much of the groundwork for equal suffrage was done at the local level. These well-organized suffrage leagues and associations were part of a national network of volunteers, all working for one common purpose. The women, and often men, in these types of small, grass-roots groups were no less passionate about suffrage for women as their more famous counterparts.
The College Equal Suffrage League was a national organization begun in 1900. The mission of the League was to get college students involved in the women’s suffrage movement. The League fostered branches on college campuses around the country. The University of Kansas chapter of the College Equal Suffrage League was organized in January 1909.
Membership consisted of students, faculty, and staff. The first administrative sponsors of the KU league were Dr. William H. Carruth, Professor of Germanic Languages and Literature; Dr. Arvin S. Olin, Professor of Education; and Carrie Watson, Librarian. Student leaders were chosen from among the members. The women shown here were the officers of the KU chapter of the College Equal Suffrage League for 1909. Also shown is the often patronizing write-up that accompanied their senior class pictures in the yearbooks.
Evidence suggests that the KU League only existed until 1912, and disbanded after women in Kansas had been granted the right to vote in national elections. An article in the December 12, 1912, issue of the University Daily Kansan reports that the League met to “decide whether or not to disband, now that suffrage has carried in Kansas.” There is no mention of the KU League in the university yearbook or newspaper after this date, and, unfortunately, there are no known archival records for the student organization.
Smokey Bear recently celebrated his 75th birthday. Rudolph Wendelin, a KU student in the late 1920s and early 1930s, worked for the United States Forest Service and created Smokey Bear artwork over the length of his career.
According to the Forest History Society that houses his archives, Wendelin was born in Ludell, Kansas, and attended the University of Kansas School of Architecture, as well as art schools in Milwaukee and Washington, D.C. After serving in World War II, Wendelin “was given responsibility for the Smokey Bear project and proceeded to create hundreds of Smokey representations that highlighted natural resources conservation and forest fire prevention.”
In honor of Mr. Wendelin and Smokey Bear, we would like to highlight some of the examples of his artwork that are housed in KU’s University Archives. His artistic promise can clearly be seen in the samples featured here.
Rudolph Wendelin studied in the department of Architecture and Architectural Engineering. In a scrapbook from the School of Architecture and Architectural Engineering that spans the years 1913 through the early 1930s, there are many examples of Wendelin’s caricatures.
Wendelin captures student life, including the annual Architect’s Party. In 1932 the theme was “Depression.” The description in the scrapbook, most likely written by Wendelin, indicates that “costumes and decorations were in keeping with this feeling [of Depression] . . .” The event featured “singing and dancing by Bob Mann’s chorus, juggling of balls and jokes by Prof. Beal, and tap dancing by Ruth Pyle . . . Refreshments were served the hungry mob, and dancing followed–to depression music–the radio.”
Wendelin’s work was also included in the Humor section at the end of the 1930, 1931, and 1932 Jayhawker yearbooks. In 1931 he depicted the “Hill’s Hottest He,” which features Sennett Kirk as the most desirable bachelor on campus.
Rudolph Wendelin was also an accomplished sculptor. Early in his career, he used bars of Ivory soap to hone his craft. Rather amazingly, the Archives houses a collection of these tiny sculptures, dated 1929.