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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.

Meet the KSRL Staff: Deborah Dandridge

This is the sixth installment in what will be a recurring series of posts introducing readers to the staff of the Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Deborah Dandridge is the Field Archivist/Curator for the African American Experience Collections in our Kansas Collection.

Deborah Dandridge. Field Archivist/Curator for African American Experience Collections.

Deborah Dandridge reading over her presentation notes
at the Black Archives of Mid-America conference held in
Kansas City, MO this past October.

Where are you from?

I was born in Topeka, Kansas, where I attended school K through 12. I began kindergarten at Washington School, one of the city’s four elementary schools designated for African American students and teachers. After the 1954 Brown v. Topeka Board of Education U.S. Supreme Court decision, I completed my grade school education at Washington because my parents determined that Washington’s excellent faculty and supportive environment afforded me the best opportunity for a quality education, although I lived only a half block from a previous whites-only school.

What does your job at Spencer entail?

I reach out to communities across the state for donations of their historical materials (i.e. written and photographic) that document the experiences of African American families, churches, organizations, and businesses and I serve as curator of these materials (i.e. the African American Experience Collections).

How did you come to work at Spencer Research Library?

I began my work in KSRL as field archivist for a 1986-1989 National Historical Publications and Records Commission grant awarded to the Kansas Collection, in cooperation with KU’s African and African American Studies department.

What is the strangest item you’ve come across in Spencer’s collections?

All of the items reflect important experiences in the lives of the donors. They represent special moments or routine activities of the past that inform us about the present.

What part of your job do you like the most?

Visiting with potential donors of materials and participating in community public programs across the Kansas region.

What are your favorite pastimes?

Although it’s difficult, I’m enjoying my new journey into the world of physical training as a client of an expert in the field.

What piece of advice would you offer a researcher walking into Spencer Research Library for the first time?

Be prepared to embark upon a fascinating, never seen before, exploration of the rich, diverse record of human past.

Deborah Dandridge
Field Archivist/Curator
African American Experience Collections
Kansas Collection

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