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.
Check the blog each Friday for a new “That’s Distinctive!” post. I created the series because I genuinely believe there is something in our collections for everyone, whether you’re writing a paper or just want to have a look. “That’s Distinctive!” will provide a more lighthearted glimpse into the diverse and unique materials at Spencer – including items that many people may not realize the library holds. If you have suggested topics for a future item feature or questions about the collections, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page.
This week on “That’s Distinctive!” we will be highlighting photos from University Archives that show views of campus throughout the years. The University Archives houses over a million photographs along with departmental records, personal papers, university publications, and much more. Over 35,000 photos within University Archives have been digitized and can be browsed online. Many more photos of campus over the years can be found by using the search term “campus.”
If you are following the holidays we have correlated with previously and are still in the Valentine’s Day mood, check out our 2013 “Civil War Valentine” post by Whitney Baker, Head of Conservation Services at KU Libraries. It focuses on a handwritten poem titled “A Valentine” from one of Spencer’s regional history collections.
These items are meant to show that the library houses many things that many people may not realize. From books, to manuscripts, to maps and ephemera, if you can think of a topic, we likely have something related. Have a topic in mind? I have three unplanned weeks between March and April so please feel free to leave ideas/interests in the comment box below and I will see what items we may hold.
Happy Arbor Day Eve, Jayhawks! How will you be celebrating tomorrow?
Did you know that Lawrence’s first Arbor Day celebration took place on March 29, 1878? Chancellor James Marvin – an avid amateur horticulturist – declared a general university holiday, and local residents joined KU students and faculty to plant more than 300 young trees in North Hollow, the area that became known as Marvin Grove.
KU alumnus and Greek professor Miles Wilson Sterling described the event in an article “The Trees of the Campus,” which appeared in the December 1909 issue of the The Graduate Magazine.
“I have a vivid recollection of the day and the circumstances of the first planting of trees in the north hollow. At that time the ground was covered chiefly by prairie grass. There were a few clumps of crab apple and wild plum along the ravine, but nothing that could grow into a respectable forest tree. The Douglas County Horticultural society furnished free of charge several wagon loads of young elms, honey locusts, hackberries, evergreens, and other varieties of trees.
Early in the morning, several members of the faculty and several scores of young men led by Dr. Marvin, began the task of planting. The early part of the day was cloudy and chilly but the interest and rivalry in the work kept everybody warm and cheerful. Dr. Marvin went about personally directing the proceedings and sometimes taking a spade in hand to show how the planting should be done. Before noon it began to rain, and sometime later to snow; but by that time all the stock of trees had been properly placed.”
Opened in 1872, the “New Building” was KU’s second building. According to an article on the KU History website, “when John Fraser, KU’s second chancellor, took office in 1868, he found the school’s 122 students crammed into a single, 11-room building [North College] with no central heating, although each room did have its own stove.” North College does not appear to be visible in the above photo.
By comparison, the majestic “New Building” boasted the most modern of nineteenth-century amenities:
The entire structure, noted the Fort Scott Daily Monitor on June 6, 1872, “will be heated with steam and lighted with gas, and every room will be supplied with water.” And although electric lights did not appear at KU until 1888, the building featured electrically powered clocks in each room. In addition, mechanically inclined students would also be able to work with steam-driven engines, lathes and other machinery. Being 300 feet long, 100 feet wide, and rising four stories, it was spacious enough to house the entire University: departmental and administrative offices, laboratories, classrooms, the library, a student reading room, even a large, second-floor auditorium.
“New Building” became officially known as University Hall in 1879. KU changed the name of the building to Fraser Hall in 1897 to honor John Fraser, the building’s champion. “Old” Fraser Hall was razed in August 1965 to make way for the “New” Fraser Hall that stands on Mount Oread today.