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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: Lynn Ward

February 20th, 2018

This is the thirteenth (lucky number thirteen!) installment in a recurring series of posts introducing readers to the staff of Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Today’s profile features Lynn Ward, who joined the Spencer Research Library processing unit in late October as a processing archivist. 

Where are you from?
Since most of my adult life has been spent in Lawrence, I like to say that’s where I’m from. I grew up in Missouri but attended the University of Kansas for my bachelor’s degree (anthropology) and masters (museum studies). I have moved from Lawrence a few times, but I keep coming back!

What does your job at Spencer entail?
How do researchers know what’s on the shelves in the archives? That’s my job. I work on making all the amazing information that is here in the library—in documents, letters, maps, photographs, diaries, drawings, scrapbooks, and records—accessible. I do that by processing donations and collections and then making finding aids for them online. Then the information contained in the donations and collections can be searched, found, and utilized.

Lynn Ward in the Kansas Collection Stacks

Making Spencer’s collections accessible:
Lynn Ward in the Kansas Collection stacks.

How did you come to work at Spencer Research Library?
This isn’t the first time I have worked at Spencer Research Library. When I was a graduate student in the Museum Studies program here at KU, I worked in the University Archives up on the 4th floor. That was my first archives position. Since then, I have had a long career working in a variety of museums, archives, and libraries. At each one, I have learned new skills, experienced many situations, and gained lots of knowledge! I’m happy to bring all this to Spencer Research Library where I can use all these skills and knowledge, plus learn even more from the excellent staff here. In a way, I’ve come full circle and now I’m back home.

What is one of the most interesting items you’ve come across in Spencer’s collections?
It’s hard to narrow down one, because I find it all so interesting! I have worked on some great collections since starting here in late October. But, I would have to say that I am most interested in the territorial Kansas and also the early KU history material. In the lobby of the Spencer Research Library there is a map of Lawrence from 1854 that I love to look at—especially since “Kansas” is spelled with a “z”—“Kanzas.” I also like to walk in the North Gallery and see a cross-section of all the fascinating collections that are in the library. I love looking at all of the books and exhibits in that beautiful space.

Picture of the 1854 SearleMap of Lawrence housed in the Spencer Research Library Lobby

Map of “Lawrence City, Kanzas Territory, Surveyed Oct. 1854 by A. D. Searl.”
This map hangs in the Spencer Research Library lobby. Click image to enlarge.

What part of your job do you like best?
I like the feeling of being part of a team. We are all working to make the collections accessible so that everyone—the public, historians, students, genealogists—can benefit from them.

What are some of your favorite pastimes outside of work?
I love, love, love to travel and explore. I’m happy going anyplace and doing anything. For example, a few weeks ago, I went with a friend on a fun daytrip exploring territorial history in Big Springs, Kansas. And last summer, my daughter and I found a cool shark’s tooth near Hays, Kansas. (I’m a huge dinosaur and prehistoric life fan.) I enjoy little adventures like that! I’ve got two teenage kids, so my husband and I spend a lot of our time involved in their activities. I also read a lot—mostly books about Kansas history—but I do enjoy a good historical fiction or a Michael Creighton novel, too!

What piece of advice would you offer a researcher walking into Spencer Research Library for the first time?
I would tell them to take the time to talk to the reference room staff. If the staff know about your research project, they can help you think of resources here at Spencer Research Library.

Lynn Ward
Processing Archivist

Perfect Stranger

August 22nd, 2016

Recently, I have been working with Sherry Williams, Curator of Collections and Curator of the Kansas Collection, to survey and treat priority materials from the Kansas Collection. Many of these items had notes in the finding aids about conservation treatment needs.

One particular item was accompanied by a note—dated 1968, the year Spencer Library opened—indicating that the item should not be used until treatment could be secured. The item, which was received in a mailing tube, had been dutifully filed away. We were happy to find it and finally be able to address its needs. Inside was a rolled paper item with a linen backing. It was a plat map of the town of Stranger, KS, surveyed by A.D. Searl and dated June 11, 1867. The item was caked in mud, extremely stained, and very fragile.

Map of Stranger, KS. Call number RH VLT MS Misc 5, Spencer Research Library

Rolled item as it appeared when removed from the tube. Call number RH Map R560. Click image to enlarge.

Map of Stranger, KS. Call number RH VLT MS Misc 5, Spencer Research Library

Detail of the mud along top edge, also showing linen backing below. Call number RH Map R560. Click image to enlarge.

I removed as much dirt and mud as possible with a tool called a microspatula (shown in the above image), lightly dry-cleaned the item with vinyl eraser crumbs to remove additional surface dirt, and removed the linen backing, which peeled right off. The map was placed in a bath to wash away as much of the water-soluble degradation products as possible, then placed in an alkaline bath to add a buffer as the paper ages. Next, it was lined on the back with Japanese paper and wheat starch paste to provide more support to the fragile item. Areas of loss were filled in with toned Japanese paper.

Map of Stranger, KS. Call number RH VLT MS Misc 5, Spencer Research Library     Map of Stranger, KS. Call number RH VLT MS Misc 5, Spencer Research Library

Map of Stranger, KS, before and after treatment. Call number RH Map R560. Click images to enlarge.

Once the treatment was completed and I could safely view the map, I had to learn more about this town with the “strange” name. From the History of Leavenworth County Kansas by Jesse A. Hall and Leroy T. Hand (Topeka: 1921), I discovered that the town was originally named “Journey-Cake” after a nickname given to a Delaware chief who lived nearby. When the town was platted in 1867 (the date of the map), the name was changed to Stranger after the Big Stranger Creek that flowed through the town. However, another nearby town had the same name, so in 1877 the name was again changed to Linwood, in honor of the linden trees in the area.

As you can see from the map, Stranger was situated along both the Big Stranger Creek and the Kansas River. In May and June of 1903, excessive flooding wreaked havoc in the town. On the evening of May 29, 1903, Hall and Hand note, “Many frame houses were swept away in the newly made channel of the Kaw. Some were upturned and were not swept away. Water in places was 20 feet deep over what had been Linwood. The postoffice was completely submerged” (324). The townspeople eventually decided to move their town of Linwood a mile north, where it remains today.

Kaw River flood, 1903? Call number RH Ph P 1055_2, Spencer Research Library

Photo print of flood, possibly 1903. Call number RH PH 1055.2.
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Whitney Baker
Head, Conservation Services