Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Throwback Thursday: KU Astronaut Edition

July 18th, 2019

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!

As we commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Apollo 11 – the first manned mission to land on the Moon – this week’s photograph features astronaut Ron Evans (1933-1990), a Kansas native who graduated from KU with a bachelor’s degree in 1955.

A Navy pilot during the Vietnam War, Evans was one of the nineteen astronauts selected by NASA in 1966. He served as a member of the astronaut support crews for the Apollo 7 and Apollo 11 flights and as backup Command Module Pilot for Apollo 14. Evans’ only space flight was as Command Module Pilot of Apollo 17. (It was during this December 1972 mission that the moon rock housed at Spencer Research Library was collected.)

Photograph of Astronaut Ron Evans presenting a memento carried to the moon, April 1973
Astronaut Ron Evans presenting a KU flag he carried to the moon during the Apollo 17 mission, April 1973. The plaque is inscribed “To the men and women of KU where I took my first steps toward the moon.” Lawrence Journal-World Photo Collection, University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG LJW P/ Ron Evans (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

During the Apollo 17 mission, Evans piloted the command module to the Moon. Once there, the lunar module separated from the command module and carried astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt to the Moon’s surface. Evans (and five mice) maintained lunar orbit while Cernan and Schmitt explored the Moon’s surface, setting records for the longest time in lunar orbit (almost 148 hours) and the number of lunar orbits (seventy-five). According to a NASA description of Apollo 17, Evans also conducted numerous scientific activities.

In addition to the panoramic camera, the mapping camera, and the laser altimeter (which were used on previous missions), three new experiments were included in the service module. An ultraviolet spectrometer measured lunar atmospheric density and composition, an infrared radiometer mapped the thermal characteristics of the Moon, and a lunar sounder acquired data on the subsurface structure.

Finally, Evans brought the astronauts back to Earth. While en route, he completed an hour-long spacewalk to retrieve film cassettes from the lunar sounder, mapping camera, and panoramic camera.

Evans returned to the KU campus in April 1973 to receive the university’s Distinguished Services Award, the highest honor given by the University of Kansas and the KU Alumni Association. (Kenneth and Helen Spencer were the first couple to receive the citation – in 1943 and 1968, respectively.) Evans also spoke a the Senior-Parent luncheon, an event for graduating seniors and their relatives. During the luncheon, Evans presented Chancellor Raymond Nichols with the plaque shown in the photograph above. The plaque was placed in the auditorium of Nichols Hall, which was then the space technology building on campus. The hall’s auditorium was renamed the Ron Evans Apollo Room.

A letter from Robert P. Ryan to Robert E. Foster, 1972
A letter from Robert E. Foster to Robert P. Ryan, 1972
One month before the Apollo 17 mission, KU alumnus Robert P. Ryan at NASA wrote to Robert E. Foster, KU’s Director of Bands, requesting a copy of KU fight songs. Ryan had “received permission to wake up Mr. Evans one morning with” one. Foster was able to provide the songs. Copies of letters in Ron Evans’ biographical file, University Archives. Click images to enlarge.

According to an account in the June 1973 issue of Kansas Alumni, Evans noted in his brief talk at the Senior-Parent luncheon that “I have come back to KU to redeem myself. One day during the flight, they played the Jayhawk fight song three or four times to wake me up and I didn’t hear it!”

An article entitled "Behind the Scenes in the Space Program," Kansas Alumni, March 1973
This article in the March 1973 issue of Kansas Alumni lists the names of KU alumni with known involvement in the space program during preparations for the Apollo 17 mission. Call Number: LH 1 .K3 G73. Click image to enlarge.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Throwback Thursday: First Chancellor’s Residence Edition

July 11th, 2019

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!

Did you know that KU did not have an official residence for the Chancellor until 1893, when the university was almost thirty years old? This first residence wasn’t The Outlook, the home of Jabez and Elizabeth Watkins that became the Chancellor’s Residence in 1939. It was another home at 1345 Louisiana that was demolished in 1953 to make way for present-day Douthart Hall.

Photograph of the KU Chancellor's Residence at 1345 Louisiana, 1897
The KU Chancellor’s Residence at 1345 Louisiana, 1897. It was located just behind Spooner Hall, the corner of which is visible on the left. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 0/22/11 1897 Prints: Campus: Buildings: Chancellor’s Residence (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

The article “An Old Friend” on the KU history website tells the story of how the first Chancellor’s Residence came to be built.

In 1891, the University had received a generous $91,618 bequest from the estate of William B. Spooner, a successful Boston leather merchant and philanthropist. Spooner, the uncle of then-KU Chancellor Francis Huntington Snow, had placed no restrictions on the use of his donation. The bulk of these funds, approximately $80,000, thus went to fill a desperate University need, that being a new freestanding library. Completed in 1894 and named in honor of its benefactor, the Henry van Brunt-designed Spooner Library – now known as Spooner Hall – stands today as Mount Oread’s oldest continually used academic structure.

Adequate library space was hardly the only thing the not yet 30-year-old University of Kansas lacked at this time. Also missing was an official chancellor’s residence, which forced KU’s early chief executives to keep their own private homes in town. Perhaps it was only fitting, then – considering the Spooner endowment’s familial origins – that when KU decided to spend the remaining $12,000 to construct a proper chancellor’s quarters, Chancellor Snow should be the first one to benefit.

Another van Brunt creation, the three-story, early Prairie Style home located at 1345 Louisiana Street welcomed the Snow family in December 1893.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Wayback Wednesday: American Flag Edition

July 3rd, 2019

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!

Photograph of an American flag flying over Memorial Stadium, 1969
An American flag flying over Memorial Stadium, 1969. Note the two men in uniform saluting the flag. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 71/66/14 1969/1970 Prints: Student Activities: Sports: Football (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Throwback Thursday: Jayhawk Boulevard Edition, Part II

June 27th, 2019

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!

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Photograph of Jayhawk Boulevard, 1920s
Jayhawk Boulevard looking west from where Fraser Hall now stands, 1920s. Old Snow Hall (on the left covered in ivy) stood in front of Watson Library; the building barely visible behind it was the Commons. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 0/24/1 Jayhawk Boulevard 1920s Prints: Campus: Areas and Objects (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Students’ Adventures in University Archives

June 25th, 2019

This week’s post was written by Hannah Scupham, an English 102 instructor and Doctoral Candidate in English Literature at the University of Kansas.

“I feel like a detective!”

“I didn’t even know this stuff was here!”

“This is SO cool!”

These are just a few of the comments I heard as my English 102 students (mostly freshmen and sophomores) hunched over folders and boxes from the University Archives about past student life and organizations from the past 100 years at KU. For most of my students, this was their first experience in Spencer Research Library, and this experience with archival documents was new and exciting. Although most professors and graduate students use archives for their own research, undergraduate students are often unaware of why archives exist and how they operate. This past semester, I brought my English 102 students into Spencer Research Library and, with the help of University Archivist Becky Schulte, they got hands-on experience doing exciting research with primary sources from the University Archives.

Photograph of a CORE group in front of Lawrence City Hall, 1964
A CORE group in front of Lawrence City Hall (now the Watkins Museum of History), 1964. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 71/18 1964 Negatives: Student Activities: Student Protests (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).
Photograph of Black Student Union students riding in the Homecoming parade, 1998
Black Student Union students riding in the Homecoming parade, 1998. Photograph by R. Steve Dick for KU University Relations. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 71/1 1998 Prints: Student Activities: Homecoming (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

The goal of English 102 is to teach students how to become scholarly writers and researchers and to expose them to scholarly writing genres and research methods. For the past few years, I have always included a unit in my English 102 course that tackles debates and issues in higher education. I want my students to consider the point of their college education as well as learning about issues such as the adjunct crisis, student debt, academic freedom, and increasing administrative oversight. One of the major issues that my students enjoy debating and discussing is student activism. Many students hold the misconception that college campuses have recently become political spaces in just the past five years, yet after diving into the University Archives, we can see that universities and colleges have always been spaces that reflect and respond to the opinions, needs, desires, and politics of its students.

For this assignment, each student was responsible for learning about their chosen KU student organization through archival materials, and they shared their findings with their classmates through presentations that highlighted a particular object from the archive. By examining both the mundane documents of past student life organizations and the media coverage of former student activist groups, my students discovered the lives of past KU students.

Photograph of members of Students Concerned with Disabilities in front of Fraser Hall during Disabled Awareness Week, 1982
Members of Students Concerned with Disabilities in front of Fraser Hall during Disabled Awareness Week, 1982. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 71/27 1982 Prints: Student Activities: Persons with Disabilities (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).
Photograph of members of KU's Tau Sigma Dance Society, 1932
Members of KU’s Tau Sigma Dance Society next to Potter Lake, 1932. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 67/100 1932 Prints: Student Organizations: Tau Sigma (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Taking all of the student presentations as a whole, the University Archives depict KU’s rich and vibrant history featuring passionate, curious, and community-orientated students. The Archives detail the past lives and struggles of KU student activists like the members of CORE, who fought for desegregation in Lawrence. The archival information about groups such as the Black Student Union, the February Sisters, and Students Concerned with Disabilities also serve as a potent reminder of how students can agitate for change within the university. The University Archives also offers a glimpse into the types of communities from athletics (Tau Sigma [Dance] and Sasnak) to events (KU Medieval Society and KU Home Economics Club) to specialized studies organizations (Graduate Math Women and Wives and the Cosmopolitan Club) that students have made possible throughout KU’s history. My students finished their time in Spencer Research Library not only knowing the basics of how to use archival sources, but also having a larger sense of how their own time at KU will contribute to a long tradition of student life. Many of them noted how much they enjoyed working with primary documents and how they hoped they would be able to return to Spencer Research Library for work in their future classes! (Perhaps there will be a wave of new librarians and archivists in the next four years? Hopefully!)

Personally, I want to give a big thank you to everyone in Spencer Research Library who helped my English 102 students during this process, and a very special thank you for Becky Schulte, without whom these projects could not have happened.

Hannah Scupham, M.A.
University of Kansas Doctoral Candidate, English Literature
Chancellor’s Fellow
Lilly Graduate Fellow