Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Meet the KSRL Staff: Elspeth Healey

July 23rd, 2019

This is the latest installment in a recurring series of posts introducing readers to the staff of Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Today’s profile features Elspeth Healey, who joined the Spencer Research Library in 2011 as a special collections librarian. 

Where are you from?
I was born in the U.S., but I grew up in Toronto, Canada. From time to time, I’ll have a student come up to me after a class session and say “where are you from?” I have lived in the U. S. since college–so more than half of my life–but sometimes that Canadian accent still shines through!

Elspeth Healey in Spencer Library's North Gallery

Elspeth Healey, Special Collections Librarian, in Spencer Research Library’s North Gallery. Click image to enlarge.

What does your job at Spencer entail?
With my colleague Karen Cook, I am one of two special collections librarians. My curatorial responsibilities include materials for the Americas, including Latin America, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. In addition to building Spencer’s collections by working with donors and booksellers, I collaborate with cataloging and conservation to make the library’s collections accessible, lead instruction sessions, engage in outreach (through events, blog posts, exhibitions, etc.), answer reference queries for researchers on and off site, and contribute to digital projects.

How did you come to work in special collections and archives?
As an undergraduate, I had worked in the preservation department of my university’s special collections library, making mylar wrappers, drop-spine boxes, and other protective enclosures. I was fascinated by the variety of books that would come across my work bench, from 20th century poetry and plays to 18th century mathematical treatises. Later, as I was researching my dissertation in English literature, I came to realize that the moments that excited me most were those spent conducting archival research. I was energized not only by the materials I examined that related to my specific project, but I also enjoyed encountering materials that related to the projects of friends and colleagues and would alert them to those materials. That is what this job is at its heart: helping to connect researchers (of all types) with the materials that have the potential to advance and transform their understanding of a particular question or subject. I applied to library school as I was finishing my dissertation, and attended a program where I had the opportunity to work 20-hours a week in a special collections library while taking the coursework for my MSIS (Master of Science in Information Studies) degree. I always advise those who want to enter the field that gaining hands-on experience working in a special collections library and archives is one of the most important things you can do in library school: it is what will help you secure a job following graduation, and it is what will enable you to determine if this is really what you want to do as a profession.

What is the strangest item you’ve come across in Spencer’s Collections?
There are so many strange and interesting things in Spencer’s collections. We have a three volume scrapbook containing rare ephemera for Astley’s Amphitheatre, which opened in London in the late 18th-century and was originally known for its equestrian spectacles and show riding. As it developed, it incorporated circus-type features alongside other types of performance, so it is often recognized as London’s first circus. The posters, flyers, clippings, and ephemera in the scrapbooks offer a fascinating record of its history, and we hope to feature them at greater length in a future blog post. Other unusual items that pop to mind include 1930s form rejection letters from a science fiction pulp magazine, early Don Quixote fan fiction, and locks of hair (a favorite 19th century keepsake). I love that each day I might come across some new intriguing item that I can then share with others.

Scrapbook page containing flyer for "The Amazing Exhibition of the little Conjuring Horse," Astley's New Entertainments.   Scrapbook page containing "Ducrow's First Appearance this Season" with picture of a man with one foot on the back of each of two horses, April 1831. Astley's Royal Amphitheatre

Image of scrapbook page containing a poster for Astley's Royal Amphitheatre, advertising a Grand Equestrian evening and events featuring Pablo Fanque, Young Hernandez, etc.  Poster for "Astley's on Thursday, November 6, 1845 ...Gala Night," with pictures of show riding along the exterior of the poster in Astley's Amphitheatre scrapbook, volume 3, p. 237

Posterbills for Astley’s performances and Astley’s Amphitheatre in Astley’s Amphitheatre scrapbooks. Posters shown are circa 1775-1847. Call Number: G126, volumes 1-3. Click on images to enlarge (it’s worth it!)

What part of your job do you like best?
See above! I relish connecting researchers–whether students, scholars, or members of the public–with materials that will open up new perspectives and avenues of inquiry.

What are your favorite pastimes outside of work?
The usual things like reading, walking, movies, and travel, but I also love tracking down some of my favorite Canadian delicacies whenever I can: Nanaimo bars, butter tarts, poutine, and candy bars like Eat-more and Coffee Crisp. I’m still waiting for the day when they open a Tim Horton’s in Kansas… Lawrence certainly has much better (and less corporate) coffee and pastries, but some things just remind you of your youth…

What piece of advice would you offer a researcher walking into Spencer Research Library for the first time?
Not everything is in the online catalog. We aspire to get it all there one day, but every special collections library holds materials that haven’t quite made it into the catalog yet for one reason or another. Accordingly it’s always worth speaking to the librarian who oversees the subject area in which you are conducting research to see if there might be materials you that have missed.

The other piece of advice is to enjoy the research process. Sometimes the thing that you came to the library to examine won’t end up being the thing that really captures your intellect and imagination. Instead, it will be a folder of letters you might come across in the box next to the manuscript you were seeking to examine. This unanticipated discovery may lead your project in a new direction. Embrace the serendipity that archival research permits!

 

Elspeth Healey
Special Collections Librarian

Throwback Thursday: Snyder Book Collecting Contest Edition, Part II

January 31st, 2019

Each week we’ll be posting a photograph from University Archives that shows a scene from KU’s past. We’ve also scanned more than 34,800 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

Book lovers, it’s that magical time of year! The competition for the 63rd Annual Snyder Book Collecting Contest is officially open. KU students should enter their collections by February 24, 2019 to win cash prizes as well as a gift card from contest co-sponsor Jayhawk Ink (more on the prizes below…).

Not only will the winners earn prizes, bragging rights, and a place in KU history, but they might even set themselves off on a future career. The picture below from the 1960 competition holds a special place in our hearts here at KU Libraries. The first place winner in that year’s contest was Ann Hyde (d. 2014), who would eventually go on to become Spencer Research Library’s longtime manuscripts librarian.

Ann Hyde (1960 Emily Taylor Book Collecting Contest winner), with second place winner E. Bruce Holmes (left), and KU libraries Assistant Director, Robert L. Quinsey (center)

Ann Hyde (right), 1960 winner of what was then called the Taylor Book Collection Contest,
with second place winner E. Bruce Holmes (left) and KU libraries Assistant Director
Robert L. Quinsey (center). University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 32/40 1960:
University of Kansas Libraries: Book Contests (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

In recent years, Snyder Book Collecting Contest winners have achieved national recognition for their bibliophilia. First place winners in KU’s undergraduate and graduate divisions are eligible to enter the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest. Since 2014, KU students have won prizes at the national level three (!) times, including last year’s graduate student winner Paul T. Schwennesen, who placed second in the 2018 national competition, with his collection “Borderlands — A Manifesto on Overlap.”

Picture of 2018 Graduate Student Category winner, Paul T. Schwennesen, with his collection titled "Borderlands — A Manifesto of Overlap."

Throwback to the recent past! Graduate student Paul T. Schwennesen
(Department of History) with his collection at the 2018 Snyder Book Collecting Contest.
Schwennesen placed first in the graduate student category and then took second place
at the national contest in Washington, DC. Image courtesy of KU Libraries. Click image to enlarge.

Want to join in the fun? Start reviewing your bookshelves and enter this year’s competition! Winners of the 2019 (63rd Annual) Snyder Book Collecting Contest will be selected in both the graduate and undergraduate divisions, with the following awards:

First Prize: $500
Second Prize: $350
Honorable Mention: $100

Each winner will also receive a gift card in the following amounts from contest co-sponsor Jayhawk Ink, a division of the KU Bookstore:

First Prize: $100
Second Prize: $50
Honorable Mention: $25

As noted above, the first place winners in each division may enter the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest, which awards a top prize of $2,500.

To learn more about the Snyder Book Collecting Contest and how to enter, please visit the contest page on the KU Libraries website. There you will find the contest rules, a handy FAQ, as well as selected essays, bibliographies, and a sample collection to help you on your way.

Whether the subject of your collecting passion is Writings from the Black Revolution, Science Fiction as a Space for Feminist Discourse, Contemporary Theatre of the Southern Cone, or Vintage Textbooks of the Natural and Physical Sciences, start thinking (and writing!) about your collection. Contest entries are due by 11:59pm on Sunday, February 24, 2019.

Elspeth Healey
Special Collections Librarian

How Well Do You Know Your Irish Fairies?

March 14th, 2018

With St. Patrick’s Day (March 17th) just around the corner, grocery stores and pubs are suddenly awash in four-leaf clovers, leprechauns, and other trappings of the commercial elements of the holiday.  But why fixate on leprechauns when the world of Irish fairy folk is so much broader?  How well do you know your Irish fairies?

Frontispiece and title page of W. B. Yeats' Irish Fairy and Folk Tales (1893), an editon of his 1888 Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry, with 12 illustsrations by James Torrance.

Title page and frontispiece from Yeats’s Irish Fairy and Folk Tales (1893),
an illustrated edition of his earlier Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry (1888).
Call Number: Yeats Y191. Click to enlarge.

The Irish poet W. B. Yeats wrote more than once about Ireland’s different varieties of fairies. In 1888, when Yeats was in his early twenties, he edited a volume titled Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry, which collected stories and poems by a variety of writers on the supernatural elements of Irish folklore. In organizing the book, he assembled its pieces under several headings, including “Ghosts,” “Giants,” and “Saints, Priests.” However, he accorded fairies a place of particular honor (as is their due in Irish folklore) by beginning the anthology with them and including several short section prefaces detailing their ways. When a few years later Yeats published the anthology Irish Fairy Tales (1892) for T. Fisher Unwin’s “Children’s Library Series,” he penned  an appendix offering a “Classification of Irish Fairies.”

It would be a mistake to confuse one’s Leprechauns with one’s Merrows, since fairies — or the “gentry” as they prefer to be called — are easily offended. Thus in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, we share a shortened version of Yeats’s classification below.

Yeats begins his schema by dividing Irish fairydom into two classes: the sociable (or “Trooping Fairies,” as he named them in Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry) and the solitary. Of these two varieties, he writes, “The first are in the main kindly, and the second are full of uncharitableness.”

The Sociable Fairies “go about in troops, and quarrel, and make love, much as men and women do.”  They are subdivided into two main types:

  1. The Sheoques (in Irish, Sidheog, “a little fairy”): Sheoques are land fairies, whom Yeats describes as “the spirits that haunt the sacred thornbushes and green raths.” While Sheoques are on the whole good, they have one “most malicious habit”: “They steal children and leave a withered fairy, a thousand or maybe two thousand years old, instead.”  If this isn’t enough to inspire terror in Yeats’s child readers, he continues nonchalantly, “Now and then one hears of some real injury being done a person by the land fairies, but then it is nearly always deserved.  They are said to have killed two people in the last six months in the County Down district where I am now staying.  But then these persons had torn up thorn bushes belonging to the Sheoques.” I suspect Yeats’s proviso comes as little comfort to anyone who counts yardwork or landscaping among their chores!
  2. The Merrows (in Irish, Moruadh, “a sea maid)”: These are water fairies. Yeats writes that Thomas Croker, the author of Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland (1825), suggests that “[t]he men among them […] have green teeth, green hair, pigs’ eyes, and red noses; but their women are beautiful and prefer handsome fishermen to their green-haired lovers.” Yeats, himself, is more skeptical and comments that he has never “heard tell of this grotesque appearance of the male Merrows” and judges it “probably a merely local Munster tradition.”

Title page for W. B. Yeats' Irish Fairy Tales (1892), with frontispiece illustration by Yeats's brother, Jack B. Yeats.

What type of fairy is that? Title page for W. B. Yeats’ Irish Fairy Tales (1892) with frontispiece illustration
by Yeats’s brother, Jack B. Yeats. Call Number: Yeats Y194. Click image to enlarge.

Yeats next delineates nine subcategories of Solitary Fairies, whom he characterizes as “nearly all gloomy and terrible in some way”:

  1. The Lepricaun (in Irish, Leith bhrogan, “the one shoe maker”): Of this staple of St. Patrick’s Day, Yeats writes, “This creature is seen sitting under a hedge mending a shoe, and one who catches him can make him deliver up his crocks of gold, for he is a miser of great wealth; but if you take your eyes off him the creature vanishes like smoke.” Don’t expect to find him in outfitted in green, though. Yeats notes that according to McAnally, author of Irish Wonders (1888), the leprechaun wears “a red coat with seven buttons in each row, and a cocked-hat, on the point of which he sometimes spins like a top.”  One wonders if Yeats’s leprechaun might also be responsible for other types of mischief, such as the fact that Yeats spells his name “Lepracaun in Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry (1888) but “Lepricaun in Irish Fairy Tales (1892).
  2. The Cleuricaun (in Irish, Clobltair-cean): Yeats notes that some writers “consider this to be another name for the Lepricaun, given him when he has laid aside his shoe-making at night and goes on the spree.” These fairies’ enthusiasms include “robbing wine-cellars” and “riding sheep and shepherds’ dogs.”
  3. The Gonconer or Ganconagh (in Irish, Gean-canogh, i.e. love-talker):  A “creature of the Lepricaun type” who, unlike his industrious cobbler brethren, is idle. Yeats notes he “appears in lonely valleys, always with a pipe in his mouth, and spends his time in making love to shepherdesses and milkmaids.”

[Would Yeats have concurred that modern St. Patrick’s Day celebrants perhaps possesses a touch of the Clericaun and Gonconer in their (admittedly sociable) revelry?]

  1. The Far Darrig (in Irish, Fear Dearg, i.e. red man): This fairy is “the practical joker of the other world” whom Yeats deems a “lubberly wretch.” Like the Pooka (below), “he presides over evil dreams.”
  2. The Pooka (in Irish, Púca, “a word derived by some from poc, a he-goat)”: Yeats notes that this fairy usually takes the shape of “a horse, a bull, a goat, eagle, or ass” and “most likely never appeared in human form.” He is of the “family of the nightmare” and “[h]is delight is to get a rider, whom he rushes with through ditches and rivers and over mountains, and shakes off in the gray of morning.”
  3. The Dullahan: This fairy must be a relative of the headless horseman who appears in Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” Yeats explains that he “has no head, or carries it under his arm,” and can be seen “driving a black coach called coach-a-bower (Ir. Coite-bodhar), drawn by headless horses.” If you hear his carriage rumble by, keep your door closed, for if you open it “a basin of blood is thrown in your face.”  As one might guess from such an unwelcome greeting, the Dullahan is “an omen of death to the houses where it pauses.”
  4. The Leanhaun Shee (in Irish, Leanhaunsidhe, i.e. fairy mistress ): Yeats writes, “This spirit seeks the love of men. If they refuse, she is their slave; if they consent, they are hers, and can only escape by finding one to take their place. Her lovers waste away, for she lives on their life.” He also refers to her as the “Gaelic muse” and asserts that many of the Gaelic poets have had a Leanhaun Shee, “for she gives inspiration to her slaves.”
  5. The Far Gorta (man of hunger): An emaciated fairy who “goes through the land in famine time, begging and bring good luck to the giver.”
  6. The Banshee (in Irish, Bean-sidhe, i.e. fairy woman): In addition to the Leprechaun, the Banshee is perhaps the other Irish fairy who will be familiar to American audiences. Yeats notes that like the Far Gorta (and unlike the other solitary fairies), the Banshee possesses a “generally good disposition.”  He suggests that perhaps she isn’t really a solitary fairy after all, “but a sociable fairy grown solitary through much sorrow.” The Banshee wails over the impending the death of “a member of some old Irish family.”  Yeats observes, “Sometimes she is an enemy of the house and screams with triumph, but more often a friend.”  In Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry, Yeats remarks that the “keen [caoine], the funeral cry of the peasantry, is said to be an imitation of her cry.” If more than one Banshee arrives to wail, it is a sign the dying person “must have been very holy or very brave.”

Yeats closes his taxonomy by alluding to other varieties of fairies “of which too little is known to give them each a separate mention.” Among these are the Bo men fairies of County Down, whom Yeats suggests are “Scotch fairies imported by Scotch settlers.”  This last detail offers us some hope of encountering Irish fairies on American shores, for its seems that, like us, fairy folk can travel.

To read Yeats’s “Classification of Irish Fairies” in full click here to access the appendix in PDF form or visit Spencer Research Library’s reading room to explore further writings on the topic by Yeats, Lady Wilde, Thomas Crocker, Douglas Hyde, and others in Spencer’s Irish Collections.  Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Elspeth Healey
Special Collections Librarian

Throwback Thursday: Snyder Book Collecting Contest Edition

February 8th, 2018

Each week we’ll be posting a photograph from University Archives that shows a scene from KU’s past. We’ve also scanned more than 34,800 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

Bibliophiles rejoice! It’s that time of year when KU students have the opportunity to translate their passion for collecting books into cold hard cash by entering the Snyder Book Collecting Contest.

Photograph of Elizabeth Snyder and Betty Ann Bush examining Bush's book collection at the Snyder Book Collecting Contest, 1969

Elizabeth M. Snyder (left) and Betty Ann Bush (right)
examining Bush’s winning collection, 1969.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 32/40 1969 Negatives:
University of Kansas Libraries: Book Contests (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

This week’s photo looks back to the 1969 competition and features Betty Ann Bush (right) with her winning collection, “Writings from the Black Revolution.” Also pictured is Elizabeth M. Snyder, who founded in the contest in 1957 to recognize and cultivate student interest in books and book collecting. At the time of the 1969 contest, first place garnered $100.

Earn your place in KU history by entering your collection in this year’s competition! Winners of the 2018 (62nd Annual) Snyder Book Collecting Contest will be selected in both graduate and undergraduate divisions, with the following awards:

First Prize: $600
Second Prize: $400
Honorable Mention: $100

Each winner will also receive a gift card in the following amounts from contest co-sponsor Jayhawk Ink, a division of KU Bookstore:

First Prize: $100
Second Prize: $50
Honorable Mention: $25

The first place winners in each division are eligible for the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest, which awards a top prize of $2,500.

Start scanning your shelves since entries to the Snyder Book Collecting Contest are due by 11:59pm on Sunday, February 25, 2018.

To learn more about the contest and how to enter, please visit the contest page on the KU Libraries website. There you will find the contest rules, a handy FAQ, as well as selected essays, bibliographies, and a sample collection to help you on your way.

Elspeth Healey
Special Collections Librarian

New Finding Aids Available, Part III

December 12th, 2017

Is the cold weather encouraging you to stay indoors? Why not dive into a new research project using one of the recently processed collections at Spencer Research Library? Today we share with you a list of finding aids published between May 2017 and November 2017. Finding aids are inventories or guide documents that assist researchers in navigating collections of manuscripts, organizational records, personal papers, photographs, and audio visual materials. You can learn more about finding aids in an earlier Finding Aids 101 post, and you can search the library’s finding aids here. As you begin your research, remember that Spencer Library will be closed for the holidays from December 23-January 1. However, if your New Year’s resolution is to conduct more archival research, you’re in luck since Spencer Library re-opens on January 2nd!

Enjoy a few images from three of these recently processed collections, and then scroll down for the full list of new finding aids.

Photograph of an opening showing an autograph and photo of Count Basie in vol. 1 of the Chesterman C. Linley jazz scrapbooks

Selected pages from a jazz scrapbook from the Chesterman C. Linley Scrapbooks.
Left page: Chesterman C. Linley with Count Basie at the at the Panhandle Christmas Party,
with Count Basie’s signature below. Right: Bobby Brookmeyer, Clark Terry, and Carmell Jones (top),
and Marilyn Maye (bottom). Call Number: RH MS EK5, Vol. 1. Click image to enlarge.

Velum binding with tawed skin ties for a volume containing two manuscripts by Mlle de Lubert Beginning of "Les evenements comiques conte", one of two literary manuscripts by Mlle de Lubert bound together in a volume.

A volume containing two literary manuscripts by Mademoiselle de Lubert, “Les événements comiques conte” (above) and “Chélidonide histoire grecque,” approximately 1740-1760. Call Number: MS B182. Click images to enlarge.

Image of a color postcards of Frazier Hall (1909) and a general view of campus (1910), University of Kansas

University of Kansas postcards showing Frazier (i.e. Fraser) Hall (1909)
and a general view of campus (1910), from the Miller Family Postcard Collection.
Call Number: PP 581. Click image to enlarge.

New Finding aids

Elspeth Healey
Special Collections Librarian
and
Marcella Huggard
Archives and Manuscripts Processing Coordinator