Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

KU Greek Archives Project

September 8th, 2017

Image of a Kappa Delta scrapbook title page, 1993

Kappa Delta scrapbook title page, 1993.
Kappa Delta Scrapbooks, 1989-1998.
Call Number: RG 67/459.

One thing that sets Spencer Research Library (SRL) apart from other on campus jobs at KU is that student workers get to see the importance of well-maintained historical records first hand. As a history major, working around these materials is an amazing experience and inspiration. This background got me started on my Undergraduate Research Project, which works within the University Archives.

During a historical research methods class in Spring 2016, it became apparent to me that a great way to evaluate the changing social history of KU is through Greek life records. This is because each chapter keeps detailed minutes on weekly proceedings; records their events through monthly or yearly reports; and has a plethora of pictures and a rich collection of ephemera such as t-shirts, banners and flyers.

However, when examining the archives, I found that there are significant gaps of multiple years in the records of the Greek houses. Usually, there is little to no material after the 1980s. While KU students are still engaged in Greek life, this gap showed me that the materials simply are not being deposited into the University Archives. There could be several reasons for this; perhaps many Greek chapters are switching over to mostly paperless records, or perhaps the chapters do not know that SRL would be interested in their records. Either way, this seemed to me like a problem that needs addressing. With encouragement from my history professor Jonathan Hagel, I utilized my background at SRL and my connections to Greek life at KU to get the KU Greek Archives project off the ground.

My project is twofold. First, I’m conducting a survey of the University Archives to get a more complete picture of the types of materials that are already in the library and which Greek organizations are represented. Once this is complete, the gaps in the historical record where there are little to no materials will appear and indicate what years to focus on when gathering materials.

The next step is reaching out to the Greek chapters still currently on campus to see what materials they have in their possession that they would be willing to donate to University Archives. This process has taken the form of attending Panhellenic meetings with all of the chapter presidents to explain my project and sending many emails to chapter presidents and historians.

In the midst of the outreach and the archival survey, I wanted to use my own chapter, Kappa Delta (KD), to catalyze the process and lend credibility to my project as a sort of trial period. To begin, I looked around my chapter house for any relevant materials. Since KD is one of the newer houses on campus, the materials I expected to find would not be as old as some of the other chapters at KU; at the earliest, these sources would originate from KD’s establishment in 1990. The sources I did find are rich in the history of my chapter as well as others in the Greek community.

Image of an excerpt of the Kappa Delta Historian’s report, November 1990

Excerpt of the Kappa Delta historian’s report, November 1990.
Kappa Delta Scrapbooks, 1989-1998. Call Number: RG 67/459.
Click image to enlarge.

The most common materials are scrapbooks. These depict Kappa Delta’s new members, the remodeling of the house, and the first few years after Kappa Delta was established. Additionally, I found a binder of historian’s reports, which are composed of several pages summarizing each month’s activities of the KDs. Paired with some of the photographs in the scrapbooks, I found a comprehensive record of Kappa Delta from its founding in 1990 to about 2008.

While filling the gaps in the archival record is important, ensuring that the record is current is vital to the social history of KU. But gathering sources that are more current presents a problem. While Greeks are still documenting their social experience at KU, the majority of this is now digital. Minutes are distributed electronically, and scrapbooks can now be made in the form of videos posted online. Electronic minutes and records can always be printed and donated to University Archives, but saving videos is a problem that I have not yet explored.

As my project continues, I hope to uncover many more sources from each individual chapter at KU. However, this project cannot be complete without the participation of those in the Greek community. Several chapters have offered to donate materials, and I hope to recruit many more.

For more information about my project, please check out my blog.

Check out the Spencer website to learn about the University Archives records of student life and about the process of donating materials to the library.

Shea O’Sullivan
Public Services Student Assistant

 

Throwback Thursday: Suitcase Avalanche Edition

August 17th, 2017

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!

Today is Move-In Day, and new and returning Jayhawks are arriving on Mount Oread. This week’s post features a verbal description and visual depiction of what this looked like at the beginning of KU’s 1928-1929 academic year, according to the 1929 Jayhawker yearbook.

Happy greetings…hand shaking…taxis whizzing away loaded with newly arrived students…perspiring baggagemen swearing at an avalanche of trunks and suitcases…The sleepy town of Lawrence suddenly awakened to the realization that another nine months session had begun at K.U.

Page from the Jayhawker yearbook, 1929 Page from the Jayhawker yearbook, 1929

Selected pages from the 1929 Jayhawker yearbook. University Archives.
Call Number: LD 2697 .J3 1929. Click images to enlarge.

Subsequent pages in the yearbook describe the high points of the first week of freshman life at KU. Some events are familiar to modern students, for example participating in fraternity and sorority recruitment and learning about university customs and traditions. Other events – like taking a psychological examination, attending teas, and registering and enrolling for fall classes right before the beginning of the semester – would be foreign.

Page from the Jayhawker yearbook, 1929

Page from the Jayhawker yearbook, 1929 Page from the Jayhawker yearbook, 1929

Selected pages from the 1929 Jayhawker yearbook. University Archives.
Call Number: LD 2697 .J3 1929. Click images to enlarge.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Throwback Thursday: Fair Housing March Edition

March 17th, 2016

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 23,200 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

Next Monday, March 21st, marks the fifty-second anniversary of a fair housing march at KU, which occurred within a broader, longer struggle to ensure fair housing in Lawrence and at the University.

Photograph of the Fair Housing March, March 21, 1964

Two lines of marchers in front of the Sigma Nu house, Saturday, March 21, 1964.
Photograph by Duke D’Ambra. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/18 1964-03-21: Student Activities: Student Protests (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Photograph of the Fair Housing March, March 21, 1964

One of the two lines of marchers included KU football players Gale Sayers (third from right) and
Michael Shinn (fifth from right). Photograph by Duke D’Ambra. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/18 1964-03-21: Student Activities: Student Protests (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

The march took place on a Saturday, and the University Daily Kansan reported on it the following Monday.

The weather cleared, the sun shone, and 100 peaceful and orderly demonstrators turned out to picket Sigma Nu fraternity Saturday afternoon.

Picketers marched up and down Emery Road for almost two hours, protesting the discriminatory clause in the national constitution of Sigma Nu [which prohibited any local houses from pledging African Americans].

The number of demonstrators exceeded the expectations of everyone, including the leader of the pickets, George Ragsdale, Lawrence senior and chairman of the Civil Rights Coordinating Committee. The CRCC was formed to coordinate several campus organizations in mass demonstrations protesting alleged de facto segregation of KU fraternities and sororities…

The neatly-dressed demonstrators sang “We Shall Overcome,” while small groups of fraternity men looked on. The pickets paraded back and forth from the intersection of Oxford Road and High Drive to the front entrance of the Sigma Nu house…

The CRCC said it was picketing the KU chapter of Sigma Nu to help the chapter remove its discriminatory clause. The KU chapter unsuccessfully attempted to remove the clause from the Sigma Nu constitution at the last national convention.

The CRCC claims that pressure in the form of pickets will force the national chapter to remove the clause…

When the pickets arrived, after marching across Jayhawk Boulevard from the Kansas Union, a small group of fraternity men greeted them with a few verses of “Dixie.”

Later on, several cars flying Confederate flags drove past the demonstrators, but there were no other incidents…

At 2:30 P.M., the demonstrators lined up along the road in front of the Sigma Nu house and maintained a few minutes of silent protest. They then sand “We Shall Overcome,” and marched to the front steps of Strong Hall where they sang the first verse of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and then dispersed…

You can see additional photographs of the Fair Housing March, which have also been digitized and made available online.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Melissa Kleinschmidt, Megan Sims, and Abbey Ulrich
Public Services Student Assistants

Throwback Thursday: Holiday Party Edition

December 31st, 2015

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 17,900 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

We hope all of our researchers, visitors, friends, and supporters enjoy fun and safe celebrations to welcome in the new year! Spencer Research Library is closed through the weekend and will reopen on Monday, January 4th.

Photograph of Beta Theta Pi members at Christmas, 1935

Members of Beta Theta Pi celebrating at Christmastime, 1935.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 67/24 1935 Prints:
Student Organizations: Beta Theta Pi (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Melissa Kleinschmidt, Megan Sims, and Abbey Ulrich
Public Services Student Assistants

Throwback Thursday: New Year’s Edition

January 1st, 2015

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 1,700 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

We haven’t yet been able to locate any pictures of New Year’s Eve parties on campus, but we really like this fun and festive picture of a Delta Tau Delta party during the 1930s. From the decorations in the background, we think it might be a Valentine’s or sweethearts dance.

Happy New Year! Please remember that Spencer Research Library will be closed through Sunday, January 4,

Photograph of a Delta Tau Delta party, 1937-1938

Delta Tau Delta party, 1937-1938. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 67/170 1937-1938 Prints: Organizations: Delta Tau Delta (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Brian Nomura
Public Services Student Assistant