Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

On the Research Trail: World War II Prisoners of War in Kansas

May 4th, 2018

The diversity of the Spencer Research Library collections is explored through the description of a search process related to a research question or theme.

In my first months as an employee of the University of Kansas, I was curious about the history of the buildings on campus. In particular, the Danforth Chapel piqued my interest as I wondered what the connection might be between the Danforth for whom the chapel is named and the former chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis, my alma mater. I went to the University Archives page on the Spencer Research Library website and clicked on Campus Buildings to see what I could find out. I then clicked on Campus Buildings Directory.

Screenshot of the Campus Buildings page on the Spencer Research Library website

Click image to enlarge.

This took me to the KU Places Directory page. I typed “Danforth Chapel” (without quotation marks) into the search box.

Screenshot of the KU places directory website

Screenshot of information about Danforth Chapel on the KU places directory website

Click images to enlarge.

I was surprised to learn that German prisoners of war (POWs) from a camp in Lawrence participated in the construction of the Danforth Chapel. My research path took a turn in pursuit of answers to new questions: When was this? Where was the Lawrence POW camp located? How had POWs become involved in a campus project? What was this experience like for those involved?

Knowing that most of the buildings on campus have files in the University Archives, I started my quest for answers by using the search interface for findings aids on the Spencer website. I typed “Danforth Chapel” (without quotation marks) into the Search for field. I retrieved four results. The first item in the results list was the finding aid for the University of Kansas General Records. I clicked on this item.

Screenshot of the Spencer Research Library finding aid search results page

Click image to enlarge.

Looking at the left side of the finding aid, I skimmed through the list of different types of general records to find and click on Buildings. In the Buildings section, I located Buildings Scrapbooks as well as Danforth Chapel.

Screenshot of a portion of the finding aid for KU General Records at Spencer Research Library

Click image to enlarge.

Scrapbooks are collections of newspaper clippings and other relevant artifacts related to a particular topic that were gathered and organized by KU librarians up until approximately the 1960s. The scrapbooks for KU buildings are organized by date. Examining the records for a specific building first, before looking through the four volumes of scrapbooks, is useful because the files for a building often contain an index that points the researcher to the volume and page numbers of relevant items in the scrapbooks as well as to sources of other related information at Spencer.

Photograph of materials in the Danforth Chapel building file

Materials in the Danforth Chapel building file.
Call Number: RG 0/22/14. Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of pages in a KU buildings scrapbook

Pages in a KU buildings scrapbook. Call Number: SB 0/22 volume 1. Click image to enlarge.

I found an index in the Danforth Chapel box of records and looked at each page listed in the corresponding scrapbook volume. The clipped articles were about the role of the chapel, fundraising, opening ceremonies, etc., and did not answer my questions. I continued to look through the box of Danforth Chapel records which are organized by year. In the 1945 folder, I discovered photocopies of two newspaper articles about the role of German prisoners of war on campus.

Photograph of folders in the Danforth Chapel building file

Photograph of newspaper articles in the Danforth Chapel building file

Folders and newspaper articles in the Danforth Chapel building file.
Call Number: RG 0/22/14. Click images to enlarge.

One of the photocopies did not include the source information for the article. It was evident from the surrounding information on the page that it was from the KU newspaper, the University Daily Kansan (UDK), but I wanted to know the date it was published. Inferring the date range from the second photocopied article, which did have source information, I located the appropriate roll of microfilm on the UDK shelf in the Spencer Reading Room. I loaded it on the microfilm reader and found the article in the June 4, 1945, issue. I put that date in context by a quick check online to confirm that June 1945 was one month after the surrender of German forces in the European theater of World War II.

Photograph of the microfilm reader in the Reading Room

From the first article, entitled “Fifteen German Prisoners Detailed to Campus to Work on Danforth Chapel and Grounds,” I learned that the POW camp in Lawrence was located near the Santa Fe railroad station. The POWs were paid contract workers and had been brought into the area to meet labor shortages in agriculture and industry.

The second article (shown below) provided me with some insights into how the relationship between the prisoners, their guards, and the KU community was governed by a set of rules.

Photograph of Danforth Chapel article in the University Daily Kansan, 1945

Article about German POWs in the University Daily Kansan,
August 5, 1945. Call Number: UA Ser 69/2/1. Click image to enlarge.

I wondered if there are items in the collections of the Spencer Research Library that might provide information about World War II prisoner of war camps in Lawrence and other parts of Kansas. I went to the Spencer website and clicked on Search KU Libraries Catalog. To search only in the Spencer Research Library holdings, I clicked on Set Other Search Limits. (Note: This is an alternative to the search method described in my previous blog post.)

Screenshot of the KU Libraries online catalog

Click image to enlarge.

I then selected Spencer Research Library as the Location and clicked on Set Limits.

Screenshot of the search limits page in the KU Libraries online catalog

Click image to enlarge.

In the Advanced Search interface, I typed in “prisoner of war camp Kansas” (with no quotation marks) and “prisoners of war Kansas” in two of the Search for fields. I clicked on Or in between the two fields to search for either of the two keyword phrases. (Note: You can leave out the word of when entering the keyword phrases.)

Screenshot of the advanced search page in the KU Libraries online catalog

Click image to enlarge.

This search retrieved eighteen results. Since I did not specify World War II or German prisoners, some of the results were related to other wars or other groups of prisoners. Scanning through the list of items, I found six that appeared to be relevant to my research questions. The items included a curriculum for courses taught at the camps in Kansas, oral histories of prisoners and community members, and a book providing a comprehensive overview of the POW camps in Kansas at the end of World War II.

Screenshot of a search results page in the KU Libraries online catalog

Click image to enlarge.

Pursuit of answers to my research questions was well-supported by utilization of the collections at Spencer Research Library. I found materials to address my initial questions and a wide variety of additional sources to allow for deeper investigation of the topic of POW camps in Kansas.

Stacey Wiens
Reference Specialist
Public Services

On the Research Trail: Blue Books

March 30th, 2018

The diversity of the Spencer Research Library collections is explored through the description of a search process related to a research question or theme.

After having two encounters with items called “blue books” in as many days, I wondered what the origin of the term blue book is. I turned to a resource found in the Reference section of the Spencer Reading Room, i.e., the Webster’s New International Dictionary of the English Language. According to this edition published in 1959, a blue book is defined as follows:

  1. In England, a parliamentary publication, so called from its blue paper covers; in some other countries, any similar official publication. Hence, also, an authoritative report or manual issued by a department, organization, or party.
  2. Colloq., U.S. a A register or directory of persons of social prominence. b In certain colleges, a blue-covered booklet used for writing examinations.
  3. [caps.] Trade-mark for a guidebook entitled Official Automobile Blue Book, showing roads, routes, etc., esp. for automobile tourists; also [sometimes not caps.], the guidebook itself. U.S.

Would it be possible to find an example of each type of blue book described in the dictionary definition by looking solely in the collections available at the Spencer Library? I wanted to find out.

I started with a search online at the KU Libraries website. First, I clicked on the Advanced Search button below the Quick Search box because I wanted to limit my search to the Spencer Research Library.

Screenshot of the Primo search box on the KU Libraries homepage

Click image to enlarge.

I typed in “blue book” (without quotation marks) in the first box to find items that contain those keywords. Next, I selected Library from the dropdown menu and typed in “Spencer” (without quotation marks) in the next box to limit the search to items showing Spencer Research Library as the location.

Screenshot of Primo advanced search page

Click image to enlarge.

This led to 2,476 results. In a quick scan of my first few pages of search results, I did not immediately find irrelevant items, i.e., those that might contain the word blue and the word book somewhere in the catalog record but not together. (Note: selecting is exact from the dropdown menu instead of contains has the same effect as using quotation marks around the words blue book. The system searches for both words together as a phrase, bringing the search results down to 2,370 results.)

Definition 1: Official Publications and Authoritative Reports

As I scanned through my search results, I looked for items that might be examples of official or authoritative publications. Several of the items in the list were from the Little Blue Book series published by the Haldeman-Julius Press from 1919 to 1951.

Image of the cover of a Little Blue Book, "How to Find What You Want in a Library," 1929

Cover of How to Find What You Want in a Library
by Lloyd E. Smith, 1929. Call Number: RH H-J 1473 Little.
You can learn more about Little Blue Books in
Spencer’s North Gallery exhibit. Click image to enlarge.

I decided to filter my search results to remove all or most of the Little Blue Books in order to identify more easily other types of blue books in the list. On the left side of KU Libraries’ page, next to the search results, I found the Narrow My Results heading. As shown in the screenshots below, I clicked on More options under Author/Creator. Then, I selected to “Exclude” the Haldeman-Julius Company and some of the authors who contributed to the Little Blue Book series. After I clicked on Continue, my search results were reduced to 159 items.

Screenshot of the "Author/Creator" option on the KU Libraries advanced search page Screenshot of the "Exclude" function on the KU Libraries advanced search page

Click images to enlarge.

The example shown below is an additional authoritative or official blue book selected from my search results.

Image of the cover of Woman Suffrage: History, Arguments, and Results, 1917 Image of the title page of Woman Suffrage: History, Arguments, and Results, 1917

Cover (left) and title page (right) of “The Blue Book”; Woman Suffrage, History,
Arguments and Results
, 1917. Call Number: Howey B2835. Click images to enlarge.

In an attempt to find a British parliamentary blue book, I went back to the top of the search results page and added the word parliament to my search terms.

Screenshot of Primo advanced search page

Click image to enlarge.

This resulted in four search results including The Parliamentary Register, an eighteenth-century history of the proceedings and debates of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, shown below.

Image of the cover of the Parliamentary Register, 1779 Image of pages of the Parliamentary Register, 1779

Although it has faded, the cover of The Parliamentary Register (1779) is blue.
The KU Libraries catalog record explains that the volumes are “as issued,” i.e., “unopened,
in printed blue paper wrappers.” See in the image above how the pages
have not been cut open at the top. Call Number: Bond C291.

Definition 2a: Directory of Persons of Social Prominence

Having found examples of blue books from the 18th and 20th centuries, I hoped to find a social register from the 19th century. I went back to my list of 159 search results and narrowed my results again, this time by date. I typed in a date range of 1800 to 1899.

Screenshot of the date filter option on the KU Libraries advanced search page

Click image to enlarge.

I found the blue book shown below which was published in 1898.

Image of the cover of The Society Blue Book of Kansas City, Mo., 1898Image of the title page of The Society Blue Book of Kansas City, Mo., 1898

The Society Blue Book of Kansas City, Mo., 1898. Call Number: RH B30. Click image to enlarge.

Definition 2b: Booklet for Exams

I determined that a good place to look for an example of a blue book used for a college exam would be in a collection of unpublished, personal papers. I started my search online using the search interface for finding aids on the Spencer website. I typed “blue book” (with quotation marks to search for both words together as a phrase) into the Search for field. I retrieved nineteen results.

Screenshot of the Spencer Research Library finding aid search page

Click image to enlarge.

The third item in the results list seemed to be the type of blue book I was hoping to find.

Screenshot of a result on the Spencer Research Library finding aid search page

Click image to enlarge.

I clicked on this item and viewed the finding aid which further confirmed that the blue book was from course work in 1937 and identified in which box and folder I would find it.

Screenshot of a portion of the finding aid for the Cowell family papers

Click image to enlarge.

The exam blue book is shown below.

Image of the cover of a blue book from the Ellen Cowell School Papers, 1937

Cover of Pauline Rawlings’s blue examination book, 1937.
Ellen Cowell School Papers. Call Number: RH MS 1337.
Click image to enlarge.

Definition 3: Automobile Guide

Going back to the KU Libraries’ search results list of 159 items, I was able to locate a fascinating example of an automobile blue book, The Official Automobile Blue Book 1923, shown below.

Image of the title page of the Official Automobile Blue Book, Volume 4, 1923

Title page of the Official Automobile Blue Book, Volume 4, 1923.
At the time, not all roads were paved or marked.
Getting from one city to another sometimes meant paying close attention
to the mileage from one turn or fork in the road to the next.
Call Number: C11263. Click image to enlarge.

My search process was a success! In the Spencer Research Library collections, I was able to locate examples of each type of blue book that is described in the dictionary definition. Often, research leads to more questions. I found myself wondering about the choice of blue paper for the covers of the British parliamentary publications. Why blue? Sounds like a great topic for a new search and another blog post!

Stacey Wiens
Reference Specialist
Public Services

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

Chesterman C. Linley with Count Basie at the at the Panhandle Christmas Party, with Count Basie’s signature below (left) and Bobby Brookmeyer, Clark Terry, Carmell Jones (top right) and Marilyn Maye (bottom right) in a jazz scrapbook from the Chesterman C. Linley Scrapbooks. Call #: 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.

Volume containing two literary manuscripts by Mademoiselle de Lubert, “Les événements comiques conte” (above) and “Chélidonide histoire grecque,” approximately 1740-1760. Call #: 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

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

New Finding aids

Elspeth Healey
Special Collections Librarian
and
Marcella Huggard
Head of Manuscripts Processing

New Finding Aids Available: Part II

April 4th, 2017

Finding aids are documents created by a repository’s staff members as a point of access for an archival or manuscript collection. To understand more about how finding aids helps researchers navigate collections of manuscripts, organizational records, personal papers, letters, diaries, and photographs, check out our Finding Aids 101 blog post. Here’s a list of some of Kenneth Spencer Research Library’s newest finding aids, so see which collections interest you!

A photograph of members belonging to the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity at a banquet from the Dorothy McField collection of sorority and fraternity papers. African American Experience Collection, Spencer Research Library.

A photograph of members belonging to the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity at a banquet
from the Dorothy McField collection of sorority and fraternity papers.
African American Experience Collection. Call number: RH MS P944.3. Click image to enlarge.

The first page of a listing of titles for Éigse Eireann ["Poetry Ireland"] from the Catholic Bulletin collection. Special Collections.

The first page of a listing of titles for Éigse Eireann [“Poetry Ireland”]
from the Catholic Bulletin collection. Special Collections.
Call number: MS 329 Box 2 Folder 45. Click image to enlarge.

A photograph of two cowboys on horseback from the Wallace, Kansas photographs collection. Kansas Collection.

A photograph of two cowboys on horseback from the Wallace, Kansas photographs collection.
Kansas Collection. Call number: RH PH 60 Folder 1. Click image to enlarge.

The title page from Eugène Farcot’s Literary Manuscript Un Voyage Aérien; Dans Cinquante Ans. Special Collections.

The title page from Eugène Farcot’s Literary Manuscript Un Voyage Aérien; Dans Cinquante Ans.
Special Collections. Call number: MS K32. Click image to enlarge.

May 7th and 8th from the five year Diary of Maude Egbert, note her entry on May 8, 1945 or Victory in Europe Day (V-E Day). Kansas Collection.

May 7th and 8th from the five year Diary of Maude Egbert, note her entry on May 8, 1945
or Victory in Europe Day (V-E Day). Kansas Collection.
Call number: RH MS B77. Click image to enlarge.

Other new finding aids:

Mindy Babarskis
Reference Specialist
Public Services

Finding Aids 101

June 20th, 2014

Pillsbury Family Papers finding aid

Screenshot of the top of a Spencer finding aid for the Pillsbury Family Papers. This will be
the example finding aid used throughout this blog post. The full document
is available on the Library’s website. Click image to enlarge.

Have you ever conducted research at an archives or special collections library, come across the term “finding aid,” and wondered, “what in the world does this mean?!” If so, you’re not alone. Finding aids are a standard tool for archival materials, but most people who aren’t archivists, special collections librarians, or experienced researchers are unfamiliar with the term. On the other hand, finding aids are the gateway to archival collections – for better or worse – so understanding what they are is an important component of conducting archival research.

So, what is a finding aid?

It’s a document, on paper and/or online, created by a repository’s staff members.

It generally contains the same information found in a catalog record (an overview of the collection) plus much more detailed information that the catalog record can’t accommodate.

It describes the materials in a specific collection.

It provides contextual information about the collection.

It’s an essential tool for library staff members and researchers. Without finding aids, a library would be full of collections but have nothing written down about them. Locating and understanding collections and materials within them would be immensely difficult, if not impossible.

Who creates finding aids and why?

When a repository like Spencer acquires an archival collection, a substantial amount of work is then required to prepare the materials for use by researchers. This effort, undertaken by library staff members, is called processing. It involves going through all of the materials in the collection; organizing or arranging them in a systematic way that will facilitate use; rehousing materials in acid-free enclosures, like boxes and folders; and administering basic preservation treatments and looking out for larger problems like mold or insect damage, which is harmful to materials and users. As they work, archivists make decisions and discoveries. They record this information; combine it with details gleaned from materials in the collection, provided by the donor, or acquired through additional research; and compile everything in one place, a finding aid.

How do finding aids help researchers?

The primary goal of a finding aid is to aid, or assist, researchers (including staff members) in finding the materials they need. Hopefully, information obtained from finding aids will minimize the amount of time researchers spend examining collections or parts of collections that are irrelevant to their work.

I sometimes think of a finding aid as a Choose Your Own Adventure book. Each section of the document reveals additional details about the collection, and after reading each section the researcher asks him/herself: given what I now know about this collection, do the materials it contains still seem relevant to my project? If the answer is yes, the researcher will either continue reading the finding aid or decide to begin examining the materials in the collection. If the answer is no, the researcher can abandon the finding aid and begin the process again with a new one.

RH_MS_802_finding_aid_002

Click image to enlarge.

Look, for example, at the Collection Summary section of the example finding aid above (for Spencer’s collection of Pillsbury Family papers). It provides information to answer these important questions: How much time do I need to allot to go through this collection – is there one box or one hundred? Are the materials in the collection written in a language I can read? Are these the types of materials I need – or, for example, does this collection contain only photographs when I need correspondence? Are the people who created these documents the people I’m researching, or are they related or an entirely different group? Do the materials in the collection fall within the date range I’m studying?

RH_MS_802_finding_aid_003

Click image to enlarge.

Subsequent sections of the finding aid more thoroughly answer these questions or address new ones. Perhaps most significant is the Collection Description. This section identifies the contents of specific boxes and/or folders and also indicates how materials are arranged (e.g. by format, date, author or recipient name). Having determined that the collection may be relevant to his/her project, the researcher can use the information in this section to ascertain how much of the collection s/he will need to go through and where specific documents (or groups of documents) are located.

What are the limitations of finding aids?

Depending on factors like the size of a collection, the type of materials it contains, and when it was processed, finding aids generally provide some information about significant people, places, events, and topics represented in the collection. However, without unlimited time to process, staff members are unable to create completely comprehensive finding aids that list all names and topics that occur within all documents in a collection. Most, in fact, are not included.

RH_MS_802_finding_aid_004

Think of how many letters about Christmas (and other topics) might be “hidden” in these boxes!
Click image to enlarge.

The result is that a finding aid search may turn up few or no results, not because a repository doesn’t have archival materials on that topic, but because that topic wasn’t specifically named in a finding aid. When this happens, try different search terms or approach your topic from another angle. For example, if you’re looking for information about how Christmas was celebrated in nineteenth-century America, and a search for “Christmas” turns up limited or unhelpful results, you might instead search for collections containing family correspondence from that time period. The larger task would then be to read letters sent and received in December and January of various years.

Finding aids are exceptionally useful, but they can also be tricky documents to navigate, even for experienced researchers. If you encounter any difficulties using Spencer’s finding aids, don’t hesitate to contact me (cdonnelly@ku.edu) or another staff member for assistance.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services