Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

William S. Burroughs’ Last Journals Come to KU Libraries

February 7th, 2014

It’s been an exciting week or two in Lawrence for scholars and fans of William S. Burroughs.  Wednesday, February 5 was the centenary of the writer’s birth, and around town events and exhibitions have been exploring his writing, art, and deep ties to Lawrence.  Burroughs made Lawrence his home during the last fifteen years of his life, and now, thanks to a gift from James Grauerholz, executor of the Burroughs estate and a KU alumnus, the influential author’s last journals will join the collections of KU Libraries.

Burroughs helped revolutionize the post-WWII literary landscape with novels like Naked Lunch and Nova Express, the latter a part of his cut-up trilogy.  To celebrate the gift, five of the ten journals will be on display in the Kenneth Spencer Research Library’s lobby through February.  These notebooks, which span from November 1996 to Burroughs’ death in August of 1997, were the basis for Last Words: The Final Journals of William S. Burroughs, a volume edited by Grauerholz and published in 2000.  In their pages we see literature, politics, art, and philosophy collide with everyday life.  A reference to speaking with an ailing friend, poet Allen Ginsberg  (“His voice over the phone from Beth Israel Hospital in NYC sounded very weak”), appears alongside a reminder to buy disposable razors.  The final entry (see below) offers a meditation on conflict and love.  To the left Burroughs has written:  “Love? What is it? / Most natural pain / killer what there is. / L O V E.”

Image of William Burroughs' last entry in one of his final journals.

William S. Burroughs’ final journal. Image courtesy of Chuck France / KU Office of Public Affairs.  Click here for a larger version.

 

Image of display case containing five of Burroughs' last journals  Image of display case containing five of William S. Burroughs' last journals, as seen from above.

On display through February in Spencer Research Library’s lobby: five of the ten journals donated by the Burroughs estate.

 

In addition to the journals, the gift also includes typescripts and draft materials for the edition Grauerholz produced. Once cataloged, these “last words” of William S. Burroughs will be available for researchers and the public to consult at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library.

Elspeth Healey,
Special Collections Librarian

Going “Dutch”: The Lawrence Windmill

August 15th, 2013

Did you know that a windmill used to be the main landmark in Lawrence? The “Old Dutch Windmill,” as many called it, was located near the corner of what is now 9th Street and Emery Road. It was the first wind-driven mill in Kansas, and Lawrence was chosen as the location for the mill because there was a lot of grain farming in the area and the town was rapidly growing. The idea to erect the mill came from business partners John Wilder and Andrew Palmquist (whose name was later changed to Palm when he became a naturalized U.S. citizen). Palm returned to his native Sweden for several months to get help with the mill’s design. He brought back machinery as well as several millwrights—craftsmen who specialized in building windmills. Construction on the mill began in July of 1863. The mill sustained some minor damage during William Quantrill’s raid on Lawrence on August 21st of that same year. However, the damage was quickly repaired and the mill was completed in June of 1864.

Photograph of Lawrence Windmill, June 1892. Photograph of the Lawrence Windmill with a man sitting where the arms of the windmill intersect

Left: “A Dutch Relic”: Lawrence Windmill, June 1892. Lawrence Photo Collection. Call Number: RH PH 18 E:5.
Right: Lawrence Windmill with man sitting where the windmill’s arms intersect, undated. Lawrence Photo Collection.
Call number RH PH 18 E:16(f). Click images to enlarge.

The Lawrence windmill had two sets of millstones—one to grind corn and the other to grind wheat—which were imported from France due to their high quality. The windmill measured 64 feet above ground level and each of the arms was 34 feet long. It had an octagonal shape, with shingles on the upper part of the windmill and a base made of stone. These features are considered typical of Dutch windmills. However, the Lawrence windmill had a unique feature with its onion-shaped dome, which can be seen on some Swedish churches.

Color postcard featuring the Lawrence Windmill, undated.

Color postcard of the Lawrence Windmill, undated. Lawrence Photo Collection. Call Number: RH PH 18 E:20.1.
Click image to enlarge.

Wilder and Palm used the windmill not only for grinding wheat and corn, but also to power their manufacturing business where they made carriages and plows. The business partners even produced their own brand of flour and were quite successful with their enterprises for several years. But by the 1880s there were larger mills in Douglas County that could grind more bushels of grain per day than the Lawrence windmill. Wilder and Palm had also acquired quite a bit of debt. In July of 1885, the company went into receivership—a type of corporate bankruptcy. Assets were liquidated over the next two years and the windmill stood unused until April 30, 1905 when it was destroyed by fire.

Advertisement for Wilder and Palm featuring the Lawrence Windmill

Advertisement for Wilder and Palm featuring the Lawrence Windmill, undated. Lawrence Photo Collection.
Call Number: RH PH 18 E:49(f). Click image to enlarge.

It was only after the mill stopped working that it became a symbol of the community. It was a popular picnic spot for KU students and was the subject of paintings, drawings, and photographs. More information about the “Old Dutch Windmill” can be found in John M. Peterson’s article “The Lawrence Windmill” in Kansas History: A Journal of the Central Plains, volume 3, issue 3, Autumn 1980, which is available in the Reading Room of the Kenneth Spencer Research Library (Call number F 681 .K177 v.3:3). Additionally, in Spencer Library’s Kansas Collection, there is a paper entitled “Once Upon a Time: A Windmill in Lawrence” written by Jean Paul Pentecouteau in 1987 (Call number RH D6161). Pentecouteau was a student in KU’s School of Architecture and Urban Design.

Melissa Doebele
Public Services Student Assistant and 2013 Museum Studies Graduate

Summer on the KU Campus, 1920s-2000s

August 6th, 2013

Celebrate the last weeks of summer (according to the academic calendar, at least) with these photographs of a sun-soaked past on the KU campus.  And while you’re at it, contemplate a new fall research project: when did Potter Lake lose its diving platform and why?!?

Photograph of people swimming at Potter Lake, 1925

Swimming at Potter Lake, 1925 (above) and circa 1926 (below).
Call Number: RG 0/24/1: Potter Lake (Photos). Click to images to enlarge.

Photograph of swimmers, diving platforms, and sunbathers at Potter Lake, ca. 1926

Photograph of four women with rackets preparing to play tennis or badminton, 1940s

Summer sports:  women with rackets, 1940s (above) and croquet during summer session PE, 1941 (below).
Call Number: RG 71/0: Student Activities (Photos). Click to images to enlarge.

Photograph of man with croquet mallet and ball during summer session PE class, 1941

Photograph of Potter Lake with two boys fishing , 1950.

Above: Fishing at Potter Lake, 1950. Photograph by Bill Olin. Call Number: RG 0/24/1: Potter Lake (Photos).
Below: Chatting in front of Watson Library, 1950s. Call Number: RG 71/0: Student Activities (Photos).
Click to images to enlarge.

Photograph of a man and a woman chatting in front of Watson Library, 1950

Photograph of two women playing in the water of the Chi Omega Fountain, 1970s

Above: Splashing in the Chi Omega Fountain, 1970s. Call Number: RG 0/24/1: Chi Omega Fountain (Photos).
Below: Fishing at Potter Lake, 1970s. Call Number: RG 0/24/1: Potter Lake (Photos). Click to images to enlarge.

Photograph of boy fishing at Potter Lake in the 1970s.

Photograph of man skateboarding Skateboarding at "Wescoe Beach" in front of Wescoe Hall, 1980s.

At “Wescoe Beach”: skateboarding, 1980s (above) and sunbathing, 1980/1981 (below).
Call Number: RG 71/0: Student Activities (Photos). Click to images to enlarge.

Photograph of student sunbathing at the "Wescoe Beach" in front of Wescoe Hall, ca. 1980/1981.

Photograph of two five students by the Chi Omega Fountain, 1991

Chi Omega Fountain: lounging by the edge, 1991 (above) and floating on rafts, 2000 (below).
Second photograph by Doug Koch. Call Number: RG 0/24/1: Chi Omega Fountain (Photos).
Click to images to enlarge.

Photograph of two men floating on rafts in the Chi Omega Fountain, circa 2000.

 

Elspeth Healey
Special Collections Librarian

River City Rebels: Beat Poetry in Lawrence

May 17th, 2013

In this week’s post, Museum Studies graduate students Anna Paradis, Bre Wasinger, Karrah Whitlock, and Melody Yu reflect on the experience of curating and mounting the exhibition “River City Rebels: Beat Poetry in Lawrence,” which is currently on display in the Kenneth Spencer Research Library’s exhibition gallery.

On Thursday, May 9th, we celebrated the opening of our new exhibit with a reception. This event marked the completion of the semester-long project in which four museum studies graduate student collaborated with Elspeth Healey, Whitney Baker, and other KU Libraries staff to create an interactive exhibit that compellingly tells the story of Lawrence’s River City Reunion and introduces visitors to some of its more notable characters, including writers Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, and Diane Di Prima.

Image of students installing the exhibit Photograph of Museum Studies student Bre Wasinger in front of the case she developed on Allen Ginsberg.

Left: Museum Studies students Anna Paradis, Karrah Whitlock, and Melody Yu install materials in an
exhibition case for the River City Rebels exhibition. Right: Museum Studies student Bre Wasinger
in front of the case she developed on Allen Ginsberg. Click images to enlarge.

Student curator Bre Wasinger remarked she is particularly proud of the “interactives” (or interactive features of the exhibition) – “the listening lounge and poetry wall bring an air of creative sharing and activity to the space that emulates the creative process so central to the Beat community. I hope that people who experience this exhibit find themselves feeling more connected to and curious about Lawrence’s past. Knowing that these rebellious writers were so drawn to Lawrence (a town historically known for its own rebellious attitude) makes me proud to be here, and I hope we can impart this feeling onto others who visit the Kenneth Spencer Research Library.” Fellow students, Anna Paradis, Karrah Whitlock and Melody Yu, learned a lot about the individual poets and the town, as well as the many processes central to planning and executing exhibits through their MUSE 703: Introduction to Exhibits course taught by Bruce Scherting, the Exhibits Director at the Biodiversity Institute.

Photograph of exhbiition visitor at the magnetic poetry wall. Photograph of visitors at the River City Rebels exhibition opening

Left: Exhibition visitor at the Beat-themed magnetic poetry wall.
Right: Visitors at the River City Rebels exhibition opening. Click images to enlarge.

River City Rebels showcases the diverse and interesting holdings at Spencer Research Library for Beat poetry. Karrah Whitlock described the challenges the group experienced when choosing objects for the exhibition, as there were so many unique and visually interesting pieces. Many non-traditional items such as t-shirts, event flyers, handwritten journals, and personal photographs are featured in the collections. It was also important to the student curators to illustrate the strong link of several of the iconic Beat figures to Lawrence. At the exhibit opening several local Lawrencians had personal stories of interactions and experiences with William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, as well as memories of the River City Reunionwhich took place in Lawrence in 1987.

Exhibition case featuring materials from the 1987 River City Reunion in Lawrence, KS. Exhibition case featuring William S. Burroughs materials

Left: Exhibition case featuring materials from the 1987 River City Reunion in Lawrence, KS.
Right: Exhibition case featuring William S. Burroughs materials. Click images to enlarge.

This was a true team effort and the student curators are indebted to librarian Elspeth Healey and KU Libraries Conservator Whitney Baker. Both of these staffers worked closely with the exhibit team and assisted in so many ways. The experience has strengthened our knowledge as well as our real-world abilities to create and share an enriching experience – none of which would have been possible without the support of each other and our collaborators.

Photograph of River City Rebels student curators

Graduate student curators (left to right) Karrah Whitlock, Anna Paradis, Bre Wasinger, and Melody Yu
in front of the River City Rebels: Beat Poetry in Lawrence exhibition title wall

It should also be noted that there are two other student-curated exhibits currently taking place through the museum studies program: Continued Dedication, a special exhibit honoring Senator Dole’s service at the Dole Institute, and Occasional Mayhem: Exploring Crime and Punishment in Lawrence at the Watkins Museum (which coincidentally also features William Burroughs).

Anna Paradis, Bre Wasinger, Karrah Whitlock, and Melody Yu,
Museum Studies graduate students in MUSE 703: Introductions to Exhibits (Instructor: Bruce Scherting)