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Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Books on a shelf

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.

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

Heads in Boxes: Rehousing Plaster Masks for the Archives

May 10th, 2013

This week’s blog post comes from Museum Studies Graduate Student and Conservation Student Assistant Jami Roskamp.

There are always hidden treasures in the Archives; however, the containers they are kept in can be far from the treasure chests that these gems deserve.  One of the many interesting items that can be found in the University of Kansas Archives is a collection of plaster masks (call number: 22/12) originally from the Art Department Sculpture Studio.  Several of these plaster masks capture the likenesses of past chancellors and students.  Initially some of these masks were housed in cardboard boxes and wrapped in newsprint, while others were placed in file boxes that did not adequately accommodate the object’s size. 

Photograph of plaster mask prior to rehousing. Photograph of plaster mask fragments

The challenge: how to rehouse fragile plaster masks (some of which were in pieces)

Under the supervision of Whitney Baker, Conservator for KU Libraries, I was tasked with providing the plaster masks with more suitable forms of housing to extend preservation and accommodate their ranging sizes.  I conducted an item condition report on each of the masks–recording measurements for size, material, and damage, if the object had any–prior to rehousing the masks in new containers. 

Photograph of Jami Roskamp examining a plaster mask

Jami Roskamp examines a plaster mask in order to determine how best to rehouse it.

For the rehousing of the masks, they were placed in archival quality boxes that were padded with Ethafoam so the objects would be securely stored.  A few of the masks were in more fragile condition and needed to have further padding created for them to secure their pieces.  Now the plaster masks are placed in spacious new storage containers that effectively house and preserve them so that they will be protected for future Jayhawks to view.

Photograph of mask fragments rehoused. Photograph of new housing for plaster masks of former KU Chancellor Franklin D. Murphy

New housings for plaster masks: (left)  fragmented mask by or of “Nelson” and (right) mask of former KU Chancellor Franklin D. Murphy.

Jami Roskamp
Museum Studies Graduate Student and Conservation Student Assistant


A Nest for Metal Jayhawks

October 10th, 2012

Former conservation student assistant Haley Trezise reports on how she met the challenge of safely housing a group of metal Jayhawks.

I could hear the individual metal pieces sliding around inside before I even opened the box containing the metal Jayhawk paraphernalia.  There was a small metal pendant set aside in an envelope; however, the rest of the items in the collection were awkwardly arranged at the bottom of a tall, slender box.  Projects like this challenged me to find or make appropriate housing for Spencer items.

Photo of note and envelope accompanying the metal Jayhawk paraphernalia

Image of Metal Jayhawk #1     Image of Metal Jayhawk #2

The challenge: A note to the archivist and two of several metal Jayhawk items all to be housed together.
Spencer Library Call Number: RG 0/25

I worked as a conservation student employee and Museum Studies intern during my last two semesters at KU.  For one of my projects as an intern, I was asked to upgrade the housing for some metal Jayhawk paraphernalia.  The parameters: all material should stay together in one box, including the accompanying written documents.  I was provided a rather small, off-the-shelf box and told that all items should fit within that enclosure.

Image of a new housing for Jayhawks
A new nest for metal Jayhawks.  Spencer Library Call Number: RG 0/25

After considering various arrangements for best placement, I used  plastazote foam, an inert (non-damaging) material that is easily shaped, to cut indentions for each object. I took a picture of the  proper place for each item and placed it, along with the written information, in a sleeve inside the lid of the box.  The image of what is stored in the box was also attached to the outside of the box so that the archivists can see what is inside without opening the lid.

Photograph of exterior of box of the new Jayhawk Paraphernalia housing

Photos affixed to the exterior of the housing reveal at a glance the Jayhawk paraphernalia contained inside.
Spencer Library Call Number: RG 0/25. Click image to enlarge.

Haley Trezise
Former Conservation Student Assistant