Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Home for Thanksgiving

November 21st, 2017

Happy (early) Thanksgiving, everyone! We hope you all get the chance to enjoy a relaxing few days with your loved ones over the holiday! Please remember that the Spencer Research Library will be closed from Thursday to Sunday this week.

We invite you to take a moment and reflect on this thoughtful and introspective poem by award-winning poet, Linda Pastan. Entitled Home for Thanksgiving, the poem comes from her book, Setting the Table.

Poem "Home For Thanksgiving" by Linda Pastan

Cover of Linda Pastan's Setting the Table: Poems

“Home for Thanksgiving” by Linda Pastan from her collection, Setting the Table: Poems. Washington, D.C. ; San Francisco: Dryad Press, [©1980]. Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas. Call #: C9301. Click images to enlarge.

Emily Beran
Public Services

Thurgood Marshall Materials at Spencer Research Library

October 13th, 2017

Photograph of Thurgood Marshall and unidentified man, undated

Photograph of Thurgood Marshall (left) and an unidentified man, undated.
As shown by the apron he’s wearing, Marshall was a member of
Prince Hall Masons. J. B. Anderson Papers and Photographs.
Call Number: RH MS 1230. Click image to enlarge.

In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute.

             – Thurgood Marshall, Supreme Court Justice, 1967-1991

In 1967, Thurgood Marshall became the first African American justice appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States. Before his tenure on the Supreme Court, Marshall was a renowned attorney and founder of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and he championed civil rights through his work. One of these cases, State of Connecticut v. Spell, is the topic of the new movie Marshall. The film’s national release date – October 13th – closely coincides with the 50th anniversary of Marshall’s swearing in as a Supreme Court Justice (October 2, 1967).

Inspired by the release of Marshall, and in honor of the life and legacy of this remarkable man, Spencer Research Library invites you to explore our collections related to one of Thurgood Marshall’s most famous court cases: Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark case that ended racial segregation in schools.

Image of a letter from Thurgood Marshall to Charles S. Scott, July 30, 1952

Letter from Thurgood Marshall to Charles S. Scott, July 30, 1952.
Charles S. Scott Papers. Call Number: RH MS 1145.
Click image to enlarge.

Image of a telegraph from Thurgood Marshall to Charles S. Scott, April 6, 1955

Telegraph from Thurgood Marshall to Charles S. Scott, April 6, 1955.
Charles S. Scott Papers. Call Number: RH MS 1145. Click image to enlarge.

Charles S. Scott papers: Charles S. Scott was a prominent lawyer in Topeka, Kansas, and served as the attorney for one of the plaintiffs in the original Brown v. Board of Education Kansas case. Included in this collection are documents and correspondence from his work on Brown v. Board of Education, as well as materials related to his legal career and personal life.

J. B. Anderson papers and photographs – J. B. Anderson was a Topeka, Kansas, resident and active community member. He was also a popular photographer who documented the local African American community and their experiences in Topeka. In the photographs of this collection are a few photos of Thurgood Marshall at a Chicago-area Masonic event.

Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence and Research records – The Brown Foundation was established by community members in 1988 as a tribute to those involved in Brown v. Topeka Board of Education case. The Brown Foundation continues to provide support educational opportunities throughout the world. After years of work, the Brown Foundation also successfully secured designation as a National Historic Landmark for Monroe School – a key site in the history of the Brown v. Board of Education case. The site was later established as a unit of the National Park Service.

Emily Beran
Public Services

Military Musician: The Diary of Thomas C. Key

September 22nd, 2017

“This book while today may not be of much value to me, I hope will in future years become priceless.”

                – Diary of Thomas C. Key, 1918

Image of the cover of Thomas Key's World War I diary

The cover of Thomas C. Key’s diary.
Call Number: RH MS B75.
Click image to enlarge.

Image of the first page of entries in Thomas Key's World War I diary

The first page of entries in Thomas Key’s World War I diary.
Call Number: RH MS B75. Click image to enlarge.

Thomas C. Key was a member of Company F in the 357th infantry division of the American Expeditionary Forces from 1917 to 1919. In March 1918 he became a member of the infantry band before being transferred overseas. He was stationed in parts of France and Germany from 1918 until his discharge in June 1919. During his time in the Army, he filled this diary with daily updates – concert preparation details; the receipt of a letter from his wife, Edna; the daily weather, etc. – so that in later years he would have a record of his military service.

Image of the title page of Thomas Key's World War I diary

The title page of Thomas Key’s World War I diary with a photograph
of his wife, Edna. Call Number: RH MS B75. Click image to enlarge.

Image of a list of European towns in Thomas Key's World War I diary

Key’s list of the towns he visited in Europe during World War I.
Call Number: RH MS B75. Click image to enlarge.

In addition to Key’s entries from his time in Europe, the diary includes entries from his life after he returned home as well as a list of addresses for his bandmates, some of his family history details, and his transcriptions of military poems, essays, and burial rites.

Image of the civilian addresses of bandmates in Thomas Key's World War I diary

The civilian addresses of Key’s bandmates.
Call Number: RH MS B75. Click image to enlarge.

Image of family history information in Thomas Key's World War I diary

Family history in the diary, including information about Thomas’s relative
Francis Scott Key, who wrote the Star-Spangled Banner.
Call Number: RH MS B75. Click image to enlarge.

Emily Beran
Public Services

Total Eclipse of the Heart(land)

August 18th, 2017

In honor of Monday’s total solar eclipse, the Spencer Research Library staff was curious about our collection holdings related to this celestial phenomenon. We found two reports detailing previous solar eclipses, one from South America in 1889 and one from the United States in 1900.

Selected from from the Report on the Total Eclipse of the Sun, 1889

Selected from from the Report on the Total Eclipse of the Sun, 1889

This image was developed using the negative from the exposure
created with the 18-inch reflector. Report on the Total Eclipse of the Sun,
Observed at Cayenne, French Guiana, South America, December 22, 1889

by S.W. Burnham and J.M. Schaeberle. Sacramento: A.J. Johnston,
Supt. State Printing, 1891. Call Number: C13311. Click images to enlarge.

The first report is from the Lick Observatory team’s visit to Cayenne, French Guiana, South America in 1889. The team left New York and traveled via boat to South America to observe and document the total solar eclipse on December 22nd. Despite some initial concerns about the weather, they were able to use several different lenses to create exposures of the eclipse that were later developed for further study.

Selected page from Total Eclipse of the Sun, May 28, 1900

Selected page from Total Eclipse of the Sun, May 28, 1900

The image shows what Charles Howard experienced when looking through
the telescope at the moment of the eclipse. Total Eclipse of the Sun,
May 28, 1900, Observed at Winton, North Carolina by Charles P. Howard
Hartford, Conn.: R.S. Peck & Co., printers and engravers, 1900.
Call Number: C13310. Click images to enlarge.

The second report is from Charles P. Howard’s visit to Winton, North Carolina, for the total solar eclipse in 1900. Howard joined the Trinity College team to observe and document the eclipse on May 28. Howard’s report also included images – created by the author – to convey his observations. His recorded thoughts show that he felt his images paled in comparison to the actual spectacle of the eclipse: ‘The view through the telescope, however, was far grander than the naked eye view and most awe-inspiring. Around the Sun was an appearance that almost made one exclaim, ‘the Sun is an enormous magnet, alive and hard at work.’” His illustration attempts to show the radiating waves he saw around the sun at the time of the eclipse.

If you are interested in learning more about the science behind a total solar eclipse, please take a look at Eclipse 101 from NASA!

Emily Beran
Public Services

The Pelican in Her Piety

July 24th, 2017

Just a few months after I began working at Kenneth Spencer Research Library, Dr. Elspeth Healey, one of our Special Collections librarians, showed me some materials she had pulled for a class on Renaissance printmaking. With my background in Medieval and Renaissance art history, I was excited to explore the materials she had selected. She drew my attention to a small image in Conrad Gessner’s Historiae Animalium, a sixteenth-century natural history tome featuring various bird species. The somewhat bizarre and gruesome image in question shows a pelican pecking at its breast with visible blood spilling on a nest of baby birds – a startling depiction but one familiar to me from medieval bestiaries. The rather macabre bird depicted was none other than a vulning or heraldic pelican.

Image of a vulning pelican in Historia animalium, 1555

A vulning pelican in Historia animalium by Conrad Gessner, 1555.
Call Number: Ellis Aves G97. Click image to enlarge.

The term vulning comes from the Latin verb “vulno” which means “to wound.” When pelicans feed their young, the mother macerates fish in the large sack in her beak then feeds it to her babies by lowering her beak to her chest to transfer the regurgitated fish more easily. The observation of this feeding practice led to the mistaken descriptions of female pelicans pecking their breasts and spilling blood onto their babies to provide sustenance. The idea of a pelican wounding herself for the sake of her young gained a religious connotation and became a symbol for Jesus Christ and his sacrificial death and resurrection – a necessary sacrifice for the redemption of humanity according to the Christian tradition. Also described as a “pelican in her piety,” the vulning pelican became a popular symbol in medieval heraldry and was featured in bestiaries (books about a mixture of real and imaginary animals) because of this religious association.

The presence of the vulning pelican in bestiaries could explains how this popular piece of religious symbolism found its way into a scientific study from the sixteenth century. Bestiaries were collections of descriptions of both real and mythological beasts. These creatures were typically accompanied by some moral tale that was meant to be instructional for the reader. While bestiaries had been around for centuries, they gained a high level of popularity during the Middle Ages. These bestiaries were in some ways the forerunners to later scientific publications like Conrad Gessner’s book about the natural history of animals. It is not surprising that certain illustrations were carried over from the bestiaries into early scientific books during the transition from the Medieval to the Renaissance period.

However, the vulning pelican also appeared in emblem books, a type of book that originated in Italy in the mid-sixteenth century, rapidly became fashionable throughout Europe, and remained popular until the early eighteenth century. An emblem book consists of a series of pictures, each accompanied by a motto and an explanatory poem, which together present a concept, usually with a moral, about a theme, such as religion, politics, or love. The vulning pelican appears in emblem books with a religious theme. This continuing popularity via another source could also account for the vulning pelican imagery’s use in naturalist texts.

The appropriation of the vulning pelican from religious symbol to scientific illustration has helped preserve the history of this strange depiction. Considering the vulning pelican’s history as a symbol of the Christian resurrection, it is rather ironic to see how this depiction has experienced a resurrection of its own throughout the centuries.

Emily Beran
Public Services