Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

30th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall

November 6th, 2019

The Berlin Wall stood in the center of Berlin, Germany, from 1961 to 1989. It acted as a physical symbol of the divide between East and West, not just in Germany, but between Western European democracy and Eastern European communism after the end of World War II. It was a literal “Iron Curtain,” in Winston Churchill’s words, and its fall in the late 1980s coincided with the end of the Soviet Union and Eastern European communism.

Materials related to the Berlin Wall at Spencer Research Library focus on its meaning soon after it was built in the early 1960s and its obliteration in the late 1980s and early 1990s. To commemorate the fall of the Berlin Wall thirty years ago this month (November 9, 1989), we thought we would share some of the more interesting pieces we have at Spencer Research Library related to this topic.

Holland Roberts, then director of the American Russian institute in San Francisco, wrote about the wall soon after it was built, in 1962. He argued that it was to protect East Berlin and East Germans from the militarism rising in West Germany, led by former Nazi officers. “The Wall will come down when the two Germanys disarm and form the core of a neutral peaceful zone in the heart of Europe,” Roberts wrote.

Image of “Behind the Berlin Wall” by Holland Roberts, 1962
The first page of “Behind the Berlin Wall” by Holland Roberts, 1962. Call Number: Josephson 2427. Click image to enlarge.

American journalists Margrit and John Pittman also wrote about the Berlin Wall soon after its construction. They too focused on West German propaganda against East Germany, as well as German perceptions of Americans visiting or stationed in their divided country.

Image of "Sense and Nonsense About Berlin” by Margrit and John Pittman, 1962
“Sense and Nonsense About Berlin” by Margrit and John Pittman, 1962. Call number: RH WL B1977. Click image to enlarge.

The items in Spencer’s collections from when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 seem more hopeful than these earlier written works. For example, Bob Swan’s Citizen Diplomacy Archives collection focuses mostly on the relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union rather than the relationship between the German Democratic Republic (GDR or East Germany) and the U. S. However, Mr. Swan donated a chunk of the Berlin Wall as part of his collection. Throughout the 1980s, East Germans increasingly filed requests to immigrate to West Germany; with the (false) announcement of a new emigration policy on November 9, 1989, thousands rushed the Wall. Thereafter, individuals began picking off pieces such as this one to keep as souvenirs until the wall was finally dismantled systematically in the summer of 1990.

Photograph of a piece of the Berlin Wall
While it does not look like much, this piece of concrete from the Berlin Wall saw a lot of significant twentieth-century history. Call Number: RH MS Q426, Box 1. Click image to enlarge.

Professional photographer Gary Mark Smith spent some time in Europe in 1990 and took pictures of the streets in Berlin before the wall was entirely dismantled. He also took pictures of proud Germans waving a reunited German flag in Cologne.

Photograph entitled “Berlin Wall #1," 1990
An East German Trabant car is visible through the holes in the concrete in this photograph, entitled “Berlin Wall #1,” by Gary Mark Smith, 1990. Call Number: RH MS-P 1380, Box 6, Folder 16. Click image to enlarge.
Photograph entitled “Berlin Wall Guard Tower,” 1990
Does the graffiti at the base of the guard tower diminish its forbidding height in any way? This photograph was taken by Gary Mark Smith in 1990 and entitled “Berlin Wall Guard Tower.” Call Number: RH MS-P 1380, Box 6, Folder 15.
Photograph entitled “Flag Celebration #2," 1990
Germans parading with a German flag in honor of reunification on October 3, 1990. This photo by Gary Mark Smith is titled “Flag Celebration #2.” Call Number: RH MS-P 1380, Box 6, Folder 9. Click image to enlarge.

The fall of the Berlin Wall is one of those globally historic moments, the kind that has people asking each other “Where were you when….?” Were you alive when the Berlin Wall fell? Do you remember what you were doing that day in November 1989 when you heard the news?

Marcella Huggard

LGBT History Month: Remembering Kristi Parker and Liberty Press

October 2nd, 2019

This LGBT History Month we would like to commemorate the life of Kristi Parker, a prominent activist in the LGBTQ community in Kansas and the founder of Liberty Press, Kansas’s first and only LGBTQ news magazine.

Kristi Parker and Sharon “Vinnie” (Levine) Reed in the Liberty Press office, late 1990s
Kristi Parker, left, and Sharon “Vinnie” (Levine) Reed in the Liberty Press office, late 1990s. Call Number: RH MS-P 1480, Box 2, Folder 1. Click image to enlarge.

This October marks eighteen months since the final issue of Liberty Press was published shortly before Kristi Parker’s unexpected death last year at the age of forty-nine. During the Liberty Press’s twenty-four-year run, Parker and her team tackled an enormous variety of topics affecting the Kansas LGBTQ community, including politics, art, sports, health, parenting, events, religion, and education. The magazine was truly one of a kind in the central Midwest, and its regional focus created a sense of collective identity for Kansas’s LGBTQ community.

In addition to her role as editor and publisher of Liberty Press, Parker was also a member of the Wichita Pride Committee and Kansans for Human Dignity, and she was a member the governing board of The Center, an LGBTQ community center in Wichita.

We are fortunate to hold the papers of Kristi Parker at Spencer Research Library and would like to highlight a few items from the collection that demonstrate Parker’s role in the history of the Kansas LGBTQ community.

The evolution of Liberty Press covers over the years. Call Number: RH MS 1480, Boxes 1-2. Click image to enlarge.

We hold a nearly-complete run of Liberty Press issues from the second issue published in 1994 through the magazine’s final issue in 2018, as well as a full run of the Kansas City-specific edition, Liberty Press Kansas City. The production files that accompany each issue of the magazine include preparatory correspondence, mock-ups, photographs, and sample advertisements, all of which serve as evidence of the creative process behind the business. The files also provide invaluable insight into the LGBTQ community in Kansas from the mid-1990s through the 2010s, particularly through a selection of truly touching letters written by readers to Kristi Parker and others behind the magazine. Many letters come from members of the LGBTQ community living in small towns in Kansas; they write about the struggles and loneliness they feel as LGBTQ individuals in these rural communities, but also about the life-changing impact Liberty Press had on their lives. The magazine encouraged them to be confident and proud as LGBTQ Kansans and affirmed that they were not alone in their experience, but rather were part of a widespread, vibrant community across the state.

Buttons collected by Kristi Parker at LGBTQ Pride events in Wichita, Topeka, and Kansas City. Call Number: RH MS Q420, Box 2. Click image to enlarge.

Kristi Parker’s involvement in the LGBTQ community began several years before the founding of Liberty Press. Parker attended Stonewall and Pride events from the 1980s onward and became deeply involved in Wichita Pride in the early 1990s, writing guides for the festival, providing press coverage, and later sitting on the organizing committee. Her collection holds a vast amount of ephemera from Wichita Pride and other Kansas-based Pride events, including colorful buttons, lanyards, flags, magnets, posters, sashes, trophies, and even t-shirts. These artifacts complement the collection’s documentary evidence of these parades, rallies, and concerts celebrating the LGBTQ community in a very tangible way, allowing us to visualize these events and the energetic, joyful experience had by Parker and other attendees.

Rosie O’Donnell, a staff favorite among the Kristi Parker artifacts, relaxes in the Spencer Research Library mailroom. Call Number: RH MS Q452, Box 2. Click image to enlarge.

There are countless other gems throughout Kristi Parker’s papers that testify to the Kansan LGBTQ experience and to Parker’s work, life, and lasting impact on the community. We hope you have enjoyed this brief tour of the insight Parker’s papers have to offer, and we invite you to continue exploring her papers and other collections we hold regarding the history of LGBTQ communities in Kansas this October and beyond.

Vannis Jones
Processing Archivist

2019 Ringle Internship: Preserving Local Television History

August 28th, 2019

This summer I had the opportunity to be the first Ringle conservation intern in the Audiovisual Preservation Unit at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library. I worked with videotapes from the Channel 6 program, As Time Goes By, which was a public-access program created by and for senior citizens in Douglas County that aired from 1992 to 2000. Sherry Williams, the recently retired Kansas Collection Curator at Spencer, chose the show to be the pilot for this project because of its historic and cultural value. In the eight weeks of the internship, I gathered descriptive metadata on and housed 213 tapes and digitized 30 of these tapes. By the end of my time there, I really had a feel for Lawrence’s senior citizen community in the 1990’s!

As a first timer in Kansas, I came into the project most excited to work with a large local access program that would surely teach me so much about the history and culture of Lawrence. I wasn’t disappointed. Some of my favorite episodes included a conversation with a Holocaust survivor who settled in Lawrence, a conversation with Indigenous seniors who attended the Haskell boarding school in the 1920s, and last but not least, an episode about the  “unusual” tombstones in Douglas County and in America’s Heartland.

Still frame image from an episode of As Time Goes By, a production of Channel 6 in Lawrence, Kansas.
A still from episode 186 of As Time Goes By entitled “Commemorating Our Mortality.” The episode featured Jean Snedeger and John Gary Brown, two authors who wrote books about tombstones in Douglas County and America’s heartland, respectively. Click image to enlarge.

In 2017, after its 45 year run, Channel 6 was sold to Midco Communications and the question of if and how their videotapes would be preserved was posed to the Lawrence community. Sherry felt that Spencer would be an appropriate repository to store the collection in perpetuity. On the day Channel 6 was moving out of their building, Spencer staff gathered box after box of the nearly one thousand videotapes from the station and loaded them up in a van to be sent to their new permanent home at Spencer. I am amazed and inspired by their commitment to preserving the cultural heritage of Douglas County.

Boxes containing video tapes and other material from the Channel 6 collection acquired by Spencer Research Library in 2018.
Boxes at Spencer Research Library containing materials from the former Channel 6 News station. Click image to enlarge.

Public-access programming can serve as a glimpse into communities during a certain point in time. In my time observing Lawrence in the 1990’s, through As Time Goes By, I learned about topics such as the history, buildings, fashion, public school system, museums, law enforcement, food, festivals, under-represented communities, and much more about Douglas County. It’s my hope that As Time Goes By will become highly accessible to members of the community in the near future.

Julia Davila Coppedge
2019 Ringle Intern, Conservation Services

“My Dear Mother”: Letters by William Clarke Quantrill

August 20th, 2019

One of the most renowned collections in Spencer Research Library is a series of letters written by William Clarke Quantrill to his mother, Caroline Cornelia Clarke Quantrill, between 1855 and 1860. During this period, Quantrill wrote sporadically to Caroline, letting her know his whereabouts, describing his plans for the future, promising he would come home soon, and vowing to send money when he could. Quantrill rarely revealed his views on politics or current events in these letters, and nothing in them hints at the course he would choose after he stopped writing home altogether. On August 21, 1863, 156 years ago this week, Quantrill gained infamy for organizing and leading a guerrilla raid on Lawrence in support of the Confederate cause.

Quantrill was born in Dover, Ohio, on July 31, 1837. After graduating from high school at age sixteen, he began teaching school in Dover, a career he would return to off and on several times. His father passed away in 1854, leaving Quantrill, as the eldest of eight children, the male head of the family. Caroline took in boarders, and his oldest sister took in sewing jobs, but the family remained very poor.

In the summer of 1855, Quantrill joined a group of other Dover residents and traveled to Illinois to seek better farmland and to see what other opportunities may lie a little farther west. In the letter below, dated August 8, 1855, he tells Caroline of his safe arrival, indicates he will try to send her some money, and mentions the possibility of getting a teaching position. “This country is a great deal different from Ohio,” he writes, “for miles around I can see nothing but tall grass.”

Image of a letter from William Clarke Quantrill to his mother Caroline, August 8, 1855
Image of a letter from William Clarke Quantrill to his mother Caroline, August 8, 1855
William Clarke Quantrill’s letter to his mother Caroline, August 8, 1855. A transcription of the entire letter is available online. Call Number: RH MS 75. Click images to enlarge.

By July 1859, Quantrill had tried his luck at various occupations, in addition to teaching, and had explored business enterprises in Mendota, Illinois; Fort Wayne, Indiana; and the Kansas and Utah Territories. He had even tried his luck in the gold mines of Colorado. He was restless, and nothing seems to have satisfied him. The letter below, written to Caroline on July 30, 1859, was from Lawrence, Kansas, the place where he would gain his notoriety. In it, he relates a story to his mother that must have stirred her worst fears for her son’s safety.

Image of a letter from William Clarke Quantrill to his mother Caroline, July 30, 1859
Image of a letter from William Clarke Quantrill to his mother Caroline, July 30, 1859
William Clarke Quantrill’s letter to his mother Caroline, July 30, 1859. A transcription of the entire letter is available online. Call Number: RH MS 75. Click images to enlarge.

It has been some time since I wrote to you, and I am now a long ways distant from the place I last wrote to you. I have seen some pretty hard & scaly times, both from cold weather & starvation & the Indians & I am one of 7 out of a party of 19 who started from Salt Lake City for the Gold Mines of Pikes Peak which are talked of all over the country & undoubtedly the Humbug of all Humbugs. I say so because I spent two months in the gold region haveing [sic] my own experience & that of a number with whom I was acquainted to prove it conclusively…

I am now in Lawrence after having spent over $300 & many a day & night when I expected either to be killed or freeze to death & at last when nearly in the settlements to have my horse and all taken from me & a companion of mine shot in 3 different places & left for dead & all that saved my head was I was out hunting away from the camp about a mile and a half & hearing the firing hurried to camp in time to see the indians driving off our horses & my friend lying on the ground apparently dead but still breathing with difficulty having been shot 3 times, his leg broke below the knee, shot in the thigh with 7 iron slugs & last shot through the body with an arrow which I first thought would kill him but he lives yet & if taken care of properly will be as well as ever in 6 or 8 weeks. I hardly know what to do at present nor where to go but in my next letter I will be able to tell you some more. I think my friend & myself will make goverment pay us for our losses by the Indians if possible when he gets well.

You would hardly know me if you were to see me I am so weather beaten & rough looking that every body says I am about 25 years of age.

In his final letter to Caroline, written on June 23, 1860, Quantrill inquires about the money he says he sent to her, tells her he will send more when he can and talks about the weather and his health. H also speaks of wanting to visit, but says he cannot get away. After this letter, Caroline would contend that she had no more word from him, relying on rumors and reports that she heard from the newspapers, her neighbors, and strangers to try to know his whereabouts.

Image of a letter from William Clarke Quantrill to his mother Caroline, June 23, 1860
William Clarke Quantrill’s letter to his mother Caroline, June 23, 1860. Handwritten copy of the original. A transcription of the entire letter is available online. Call Number: RH MS 75. Click images to enlarge.

Caroline loved her son and found many of the stories about him quite hard to accept or even untrue. Caroline wrote the letter below on February 24, 1889, to the childhood friend of her son, William W. Scott. In it, she rails against Scott for what she perceives as his attempt to vilify and profit from her son. “You have told me a great-deal to hirt [sic] my feelings,” she tells him. Scott had become like a son to Caroline and often provided for her. He also wanted to write a book about Quantrill, but out of respect to Caroline, he was waiting until her death to do it. When she found out about the book, she turned on him, writing

Now I will tell you some thing of your Self The foalks in these parts did not have any confidence in you from the fact of you Being a Yankey Man They could not depend on your word They didnt know but you were a Son of Some Old Yankey. hunting up something to make money out off. I have had to tell as much as fifty time all about your place of birth, and that my Husband educated you along with My Son. & that you Boath graduated at the same time, & were fine scholars. So you see I had a goodeal [good deal] of talking to do to make it good on your side…

You may as well give up writing a History of my Dear lost Boy, for you never will get any thing correct. no one but His men & friends and my-self could get up a correct History of him. His men never will Enlighten the Yankeys on the Subject. So what they gather up will be mostely Lies.

Image of a letter from Caroline Clarke Quantrill to W.W. Scott, February 24, 1889
Letter from Caroline Clarke Quantrill to W. W. Scott, February 24, 1889. A transcription of the entire letter is available online. Call Number: RH MS 75. Click images to enlarge.

Caroline defended her son until her death in 1903.

Kathy Lafferty
Public Services


William Clarke Quantrill Correspondence. RH MS 75. Kansas Collection, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries.

Leslie, Edward E. The Devil Knows How to Ride. New York: Random House, 1996.

Spencer Research Library: Home of Kansas’s Apollo 17 Moon Rock

July 17th, 2019

We have previously highlighted the oldest man-made item in Spencer’s collections: a cuneiform tablet that is more than 4,000 years old. You can visit the library and see the tablet on display in the library’s North Gallery exhibit.

But, did you know that there is one item in Spencer’s holdings that is even older than the cuneiform tablet? It’s a moon rock that is approximately 3.7 billion years old!

Photograph of the Kansas Apollo 17 lunar sample display, 1972
Kansas’s Apollo 17 lunar sample display, 1972. Robert Blackwell Docking Papers. Call Number: RH MS VLT 167. Click image to enlarge.

The rock was gathered during the December 1972 Apollo 17 mission, the last human expedition to the Moon. According to information from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum,

[Apollo 17] carried the only trained geologist to walk on the lunar surface, lunar module pilot Harrison Schmitt. Compared to previous Apollo missions, Apollo 17 astronauts traversed the greatest distance using the Lunar Roving Vehicle and returned the greatest amount of rock and soil samples. Eugene Cernan, commander of Apollo 17, still holds the distinction of being the last man to walk on the Moon, as no humans have visited the Moon since December 14, 1972.

Specifically, according to a NASA description of the mission, the Apollo 17 astronauts “deployed or conducted ten science experiments, including the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP) suite of instruments, took more than 2,000 photographs and collected about 243 pounds (110 kilograms) of soil and rock samples at twenty-two different sites.”

Photograph of the Kansas Apollo 17 lunar sample display, 1972
Photograph of the Kansas Apollo 17 lunar sample display, 1972
Close-ups of the lunar sample in Kansas’s Apollo 17 display. The 1.1 gram rock is encased in a small Lucite ball. Robert Blackwell Docking Papers. Call Number: RH MS VLT 167. Click image to enlarge. Click images to enlarge.

The moon rock now housed at Spencer was part of a larger sample gathered at the end of the third and final Extravehicular Activity (EVA) moonwalk on December 13-14, 1972. Here is what astronaut Eugene A. Cernan said as he collected the sample in the Taurus Littrow Valley. (The section below is excerpted from a transcription of the EVA-3 closeout at the archived Apollo 17 Lunar Surface Journal website. You can also watch footage of the sample being collected by clicking on the 169.41.46 video clip link; the section quoted below starts about a minute and a half into the footage.)

I think probably one of the most significant things we can think about when we think about Apollo is that it has opened for us – “for us” being the world – a challenge of the future. The door is now cracked, but the promise of the future lies in the young people, not just in America, but the young people all over the world learning to live and learning to work together. In order to remind all the people of the world in so many countries throughout the world that this is what we all are striving for in the future, Jack has picked up a very significant rock, typical of what we have here in the valley of Taurus-Littrow.

It’s a rock composed of many fragments, of many sizes, and many shapes, probably from all parts of the Moon, perhaps billions of years old. But fragments of all sizes and shapes – and even colors – that have grown together to become a cohesive rock, outlasting the nature of space, sort of living together in a very coherent, very peaceful manner. When we return this rock or some of the others like it to Houston, we’d like to share a piece of this rock with so many of the countries throughout the world. We hope that this will be a symbol of what our feelings are, what the feelings of the Apollo Program are, and a symbol of mankind: that we can live in peace and harmony in the future.

Photograph of the Kansas Apollo 17 lunar sample display, 1972
A close-up of the state flag on Kansas’s Apollo 17 lunar sample display. Robert Blackwell Docking Papers. Call Number: RH MS VLT 167. Click image to enlarge.

An article on the website Collect Space describes what happened to the larger moon rock when it arrived on Earth.

Three months after Apollo 17 returned home in December 1972, then-U.S. President Richard Nixon ordered the distribution of fragments from the rock that Cernan and Schmitt collected, since labeled sample 70017, to 135 foreign heads of state, the fifty U.S. states and its provinces. Each rock, encased in an acrylic button, was mounted to a plaque with the intended recipient’s flag, also flown to the Moon.

Photograph of Kansas Governor Robert Docking with KU Chancellor E. Laurence Chalmers at a basketball game, circa 1969-1972
Kansas Governor Robert Docking (right) with KU Chancellor E. Laurence Chalmers (left) at a basketball game, circa 1969-1972. Lawrence Journal-World Photo Collection, University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG LJW P/ Robert Docking (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Kansas’s Apollo 17 moon rock is housed at Spencer as part of Robert Blackwell Docking’s papers. Docking was the governor of Kansas at the time of the Apollo 17 mission (1967-1974); he donated his papers to Spencer in 1975.

A similar lunar sample display was presented to each state after the 1969 Apollo 11 mission, the first manned mission to land on the Moon. You can see Kansas’s Apollo 11 moon rock on display at the Kansas Museum of History.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services