Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

On a roll

Conservation Services is working on a project to better store our rolled collection material. During the assessment of rolled collections, University Archivist Becky Schulte and Assistant University Archivist Letha Johnson presented us with a fat, canvas roll. It wasn’t labeled on the outside, so we had to unroll it to determine what it was.

Unrolling a mural that once hung in the Kansas Union, University of Kansas, 1950s.  Rolling a mural that once hung in the Kansas Union, University of Kansas, 1950s.

Unrolling (left) and re-rolling on an alkaline buffered core (right) a mural that once hung in the Kansas Union.
Call number 0/22/54/i 1950s, University Archives. Click images to enlarge.

Turns out, it is a mural depicting scenes from prairie life in the days of the “Wild West.” There are cowboys rounding up a herd of cattle, settlers waving goodbye to a group of covered wagons and a stagecoach, and two Native Americans watching the scene. The faces of Spanish explorers who once searched the plains for El Dorado, the city of gold, peer out from the clouds in the middle of the mural.

Detail of a mural once hung in the Kansas Union, University of Kansas, 1950s.     Detail of a mural once hung in the Kansas Union, University of Kansas, 1950s.

Details from the mural. Stagecoach with Spanish explorer in the clouds (left) and Native Americans observing the scene (right). Call number 0/22/54/i 1950s, University Archives. Click images to enlarge.

The mural was painted by H. C. Crain in 1952 and measures 46 feet, 9 inches long and 5 feet tall. In the 1950s it adorned a wall in the Trail Room on the second floor of the Memorial Union. Not much else is known about its origins.

Photograph of a mural in the Kansas Union, University of Kansas, 1950s.     Photograph of a mural in the Kansas Union, University of Kansas, 1950s.

Photograph of a mural in the Kansas Union, University of Kansas, 1950s.

Images of the mural when it hung in the Kansas Union cafeteria, 1950s. Left section (above left), middle section (above right), and right section (below). Call number 0/22/54/i 1950s, University Archives. Click images to enlarge.

Staff in Conservation Services transported the mural to Spencer Library’s North Gallery in order to unroll it for photography and re-roll it on an alkaline-buffered tube. The completed roll will be covered with a muslin dustcover and labeled with an image of the mural to prevent unnecessary handling. As we improve rolled storage in Spencer Library, we will eventually hang this rolled item, along with others, on specially designed racks.

Whitney Baker
Head, Conservation Services

Tags: , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *