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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.

KU Flashback: 150 Years Ago…

March 20th, 2015

…to March 21, 1865. A small group of men commissioned by the Kansas State Legislature meet in the Council Rooms of the City of Lawrence “to permanently locate the State University at some eligible point in or adjacent to the city of Lawrence.” The journal recording that historic event now resides in the University Archives.

Image of the Board of Regents journal, 1865-1872, page 4

The first entry in the first journal of the Board of Regents, March 21, 1865.
University Archives. Call Number: RG 1/2. Click image to enlarge.

At that meeting, past Kansas governor Charles Robinson was appointed chairman pro tem and Reverend R. W. Oliver of the Episcopal Church was elected the first chancellor.

Photograph of Charles Robinson

Charles Robinson. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG P/ Charles Robinson (Photos).
Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of R. W. Oliver, chancellor, 1865-67

Robert W. Oliver, chancellor, 1865-67. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 2/1 Chancellors: Oliver (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

The entire journal covering 1865 through 1872 can be found in the Archives Online community within KU ScholarWorks.

Becky Schulte
University Archivist

Exhibiting Free Speech: The Wilcox Collection at 50

March 16th, 2015

This post is written to highlight the current exhibit at Spencer Library: Free Speech in America: The Wilcox Collection at 50. A reception will be held on March 25 at Spencer Library to celebrate the Wilcox Collection.

Fifty years ago Laird Wilcox was a student at the University of Kansas. He had started collecting political literature in his teen years, fueled in this interest by his diverse family leanings and volatile discussions over family meals. He wanted to understand what motivated people to believe the things they did and act on those beliefs.

In 1964 Laird entered and won the Elizabeth Taylor Book Collecting Contest sponsored by the KU Libraries. The Libraries purchased his collection in 1965 (then four filing cabinets of materials). Today the Wilcox Collection of Contemporary Political Movements is one of the largest assemblages of left and right wing U.S. political materials anywhere. There are thousands and thousands of pamphlets, books, newsletters, audio recordings, and political ephemera such as bumper stickers, posters, flyers, organizational membership mailings, and book catalogs, relating to some 10,000 organizations at the fringes of the political spectrum. There is also a growing component of manuscript collections as well, including Laird Wilcox’s personal papers.

1964 Contest Winners Laird Wilcox, Lawrence Morgan, and Jerry L. Ulrich, with Elizabeth M. Taylor.

The winners of the Taylor Book Collecting Contest, KU Libraries, 1964. Laird Wilcox, far left, and Elizabeth M. Taylor (sponsor of the contest), second from left. University Archives. Call Number: RG 32/40. Click image to enlarge.

Laird Wilcox in Wilcox Collection stacks, University of Kansas Libraries

Laird Wilcox standing in the Wilcox Collection stacks, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, KU, 1996. University Archives. Call number: RG P/LW. Click image to enlarge.

In 2015 an exhibit was mounted in Spencer Research Library to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Wilcox Collection. The exhibit includes examples of books, newsletters, and ephemera, and highlights some of the many books that have resulted from research in the collection. Materials from the collection include items from a scrapbook that Laird kept as chair of the Student Union Association Minority Opinions Forum, a FBI wanted poster with photos of Bernadine Dohrn and William Ayers from the ephemera file of the Weather Underground, and examples of Laird’s many publications.

Flyer from Wilcox Collection depicting American flag

Poster for a documentary film shown at KU in 1964 focusing on the Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC). From the Laird Wilcox scrapbook. Kansas Collection. Call number: RH WL MS Q5. Click image to enlarge.

Wanted poster from Wilcox Collection, University of Kansas Libraries

FBI wanted poster from the ephemera file of the Weather Underground which operated as an underground urban guerilla force. Kansas Collection. Call number: RH WL EPH 2094. Click image to enlarge.

One of the strongest features of the Wilcox Collection is ephemeral materials, including bumper stickers, buttons, and flyers. Because of their “throw-away” nature ephemera are often overlooked as an information source, but can provide the original message of the creator in a way that is often concise and colorful.  On display are materials from the National Youth Alliance, Community Churches of America, the American Education Lobby, the Lesbian/Gay Labor Alliance, the Student Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam, T.R.A.I.N. (To Restore American Independence Now), Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum, Phoebe Courtney’s Tax Fax, and The Fact Finder published by Harry Everington. There are more than 200,000 pieces of ephemera in the Wilcox Collection.

Ephemeral materials from Wilcox Collection, Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas

Representative ephemera from the Wilcox Collection. Kansas Collection. Call number: RH WL EPH. Click image to enlarge.

The Wilcox Collection is a prime example of one of the world-class collections that reside within the Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Researchers from many parts of the globe have traveled to the KU campus to view this collection, an opportunity that is easily available to KU’s students and faculty.

Rebecca Schulte
University Archivist and Curator, Wilcox Collection

Sherry Williams
Curator of Collections and Curator, Kansas Collection



Collection Snapshot: Chancellor Fraser’s Saber and Belt

April 25th, 2014

John Fraser, KU’s second Chancellor, served as a general in the Union Army during the Civil War.  Displayed here are his dress saber and saber belt.  The saber was an 1862 gift from “the ladies of Canonsburg,” Pennsylvania, in appreciation of his service.

Chancellor Fraser's saber and belt

Saber inscription
Saber belonging to John Fraser. Records of  the Office of the Chancellor: John Fraser. Call Number: RG 2/2: Saber

For additional images, please click to enlarge:

Belt detailSaber detail

Becky Schulte
University Archivist

Jayhawks on Display

December 7th, 2012

Have you ever wondered what steps are involved in mounting an exhibit? We recently completed installation of “100 Years of Jayhawks: 1912-2012,” curated by University Archivist Becky Schulte, with assistance from Letha Johnson and Sherry Williams. The exhibit celebrates the evolution of the Jayhawk, the mascot of the University of Kansas, from the first, long-legged version drawn by Hank Maloy to the present design. This is the first exhibit to be mounted in a newly renovated space in Spencer, in the former location of the Special Collections reception area.

Becky Schulte retrieved many items from the stacks and determined the theme of each of the five cases. Assistant Conservator Roberta Woodrick and I covered the exhibit case bases with the cloth Becky had selected. Once the cases were ready, Becky laid out objects in the cases in rough configurations, determining the best location for each item while considering the flow of the exhibition “story.”

Photograph of initial layout of materials in the case
Initial layout of materials in the case. Click image to enlarge.

After items were placed in the cases, we constructed mounts for materials in order to elevate, highlight, and soundly support them during the course of the exhibit. For this exhibition we selected archival matboard and Volara polyethylene foam as mount materials, both of which are inert and will not chemically or physically damage objects on display.

Photograph of University Archivist Becky Schulte positioning an item on mat board within the case
University Archivist Becky Schulte positioning an item on matboard within the case.
Click image to enlarge.

Once the labels and mounts were finished, the Jayhawks were placed in the cases. We measured and determined safe lighting levels for the exhibition space to limit light exposure to objects on display.

Photograph of finished exhibition case
Finished Product! The final version of one of the exhibition’s five display cases.
Click image to enlarge.

The exhibit will be on open through March and may be viewed during regular Kenneth Spencer Research Library Hours:  Monday-Friday, 9:00am-5:00pm, and (when regular classes are in session) Saturday 12:00pm-4:00pm . Please visit and let us know what you think!

For images from the exhibition’s opening celebration on Wednesday, December 5, please click on the thumbnails below.

Image of crowd at Exhibition Opening: 100 Years of Jayhawks, 1912-2012    Photograph of guests examining an exhibition case at the exhibition opening of "100 Years of Jayhawks, 1912-2012"    Photograph of guests Mingling in the new exhibition space at the opening of the "100 Years of Jayhawks, 1912-2012" exhibition.    Photograph of Dean Haricombe addressing the audience.

Whitney Baker
Head, Conservation Services

Portal to the Past: KU’s Yearbook

September 20th, 2012

I find the KU yearbooks to be one of the most informative and entertaining resources in the University Archives. When you open the covers you are transported back to the 1930s, 1960s, or even the 1900s. The yearbooks span from 1873 to the present and depict student life, campus growth, and university history as it was happening.  By 1901 the University’s yearbook was given the name “The Jayhawker.”  The name was chosen by a committee of student representatives from each class with the hope that “The Jayhawker” would become the permanent name of the Annuals of Kansas University.  Their wish came true and the yearbook retains that title today.

The covers on display below have been chosen because they are indicative of the years they represent and are just plain fun – Enjoy!

Becky Schulte
University Archivist

Jayhawker: A Record of Events of the University of Kansas for the Year…
Spencer Library Call Numbers: LD2697 .J3 (Reading Room Reference Collection copy);
UA Ser 69/1 (University Archives copy). Click images to enlarge.

Image of 1902 Jayhawker  Image of 1926-27Jayhawker Yearbook

Above: 1902                                                         Above: 1926-1927
Below: 1927-28                                                       Below: 1930-31

Image of cover of 1927-28 Jayhawker Yearbook      Image of cover of 1930-31Jayhawker Yearbook

Image of cover of 1933-34 Jayhawker Yearbook      Image of Cover of 1934-35 Jayhawker Yearbook

Above: 1933-34                                                Above: 1934-35
Below: 1935-36                                                     Below: 1949

Image of Cover of 1935-36 Jayhawker Yearbook      Image of cover of 1949 Jayhawker Yearbook

   Image of Cover of 1958 Jayhawker Yearbook     Image of cover of 1959 Jayhawker Yearbook

Above: 1958                                                Above: 1959
Below: 1969                                                    Below: 1985

Image of cover of 1969 Jayhawker Yearbook     Image of cover of 1985 Jayhawker Yearbook

Want to browse more yearbooks in person?  Copies of  all of KU’s yearbooks are housed with the reference collection in the Kenneth Spencer Research Library Reading Room (you don’t even have to fill out a paging request). Come in and travel back in time with a KU yearbook!