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Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

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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.

That’s Distinctive!: Lewis Lindsay Dyche’s Panorama

June 2nd, 2023

Check the blog each Friday for a new “That’s Distinctive!” post. I created the series because I genuinely believe there is something in our collections for everyone, whether you’re writing a paper or just want to have a look. “That’s Distinctive!” will provide a more lighthearted glimpse into the diverse and unique materials at Spencer – including items that many people may not realize the library holds. If you have suggested topics for a future item feature or questions about the collections, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page.

This week on That’s Distinctive! we share some photos from the KU Natural History Museum’s collection within University Archives. In the library we house many photographs from the museum from throughout their years as well as some of their records. The photos we share this week show early displays of the museum’s panorama from 1893. From the museum’s website:

“The Panorama is an American cultural treasure, a 360-degree-view exhibit that embodies a historic first in the representation of nature for the public. As part of the official Kansas Pavilion in the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, it was unique and revolutionary in depicting, for the first time, mounted groups of North American mammals in their natural surroundings. Lewis Lindsay Dyche created this exhibit on the cusp of growing scientific awareness of ecological systems and the need to conserve natural resources for the better good…the exhibit has grown over the years to include more different environs and species. The Panorama represents the university’s early efforts to document and understand the life of the planet — research that continues today through the KU Biodiversity Institute.”

Sepia-toned photographs of two large animals, probably moose, locking antlers.
Sepia-toned photograph of two large animals (probably moose) locking antlers with a variety of smaller animals in the background.
Sepia-toned photograph of many animals, large and small, in a lightly-wooded environment with a tall rock feature in the background.
Sepia-toned photograph of the entire diorama, taken from across a hallway.
Views of the panorama created by Lewis Lindsay Dyche, 1893. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 33/0 1893: Museum of Natural History (Photos). Click images to enlarge.

More on the history of the panorama and other exhibits can be found on the Natural History Museum’s website. Spencer Research Library also houses material on Lewis Lindsay Dyche, including his personal papers.

What made me choose the museum for this week? Well, I am a science lover by nature being an Anthropology major. But, the museum is also a great community resource. Not only for learning cool things, but for bonding and making memories.

The KU Natural History Museum offers four floors of exhibits for visitors of all kinds. The museum is open from 9am to 5pm, Tuesday-Sunday for the summer, with suggested donations upon entrance. The museum also offers “Museum from Home” options for those who are unable to visit.

Tiffany McIntosh
Public Services

Throwback Thursday: Skeleton Edition

October 26th, 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!

Happy Halloween!

Photograph of Lewis Lindsay Dyche teaching an anatomy class, 1890s

Professor Lewis Lindsay Dyche teaching an anatomy class, 1890s.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 41/ Faculty:
Dyche, Lewis Lindsay (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

Another view of this class is available online through Spencer’s digital collections. Note the skeleton on the right side of the photo, with what appears to be a tabletop easel and a cat.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Happy (Belated) Birthday, Lewis Lindsay Dyche!

March 25th, 2016

Lewis Lindsay Dyche, noted naturalist, explorer, lecturer, professor and taxidermist, was born on March 20, 1857, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. In the history of the University of Kansas there have been many faculty members who led interesting and adventurous lives and made valuable contributions both to academia as a whole and to the University in particular, but perhaps none more so than Dyche.

Photograph of Lewis Lindsay Dyche in hunting attire, 1894

Lewis Lindsay Dyche in hunting attire, shown in a lantern slide taken on his trip to
Alaska and Greenland, 1894. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 41/0:
Faculty and Staff: Dyche, Lewis Lindsay (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

While still just an infant, Dyche’s parents moved west and settled in Kansas. At that time, Kansas had just been opened for settlement. It is said that women from a Sac and Fox tribe cared for him while his mother recovered from an illness she acquired while on the journey west. Growing up on the prairie allowed Dyche the opportunity to explore and roam, fish, and hunt. He also began to collect specimens and developed a desire to learn about the creatures inhabiting the world around him. This lead to a love of nature and a thirst for knowledge about the animal kingdom that would stay with him throughout his life.

Dyche stopped attending formal school when he was just thirteen. He was able to earn money by selling game and furs and raising cattle. In 1874, at the age of 17, he decided to use the money he had saved to get a formal education and enrolled in the Kansas State Normal School in Emporia. During his time there, he met Francis Huntington Snow, a faculty member at the University of Kansas. Professor Snow impressed Dyche with his knowledge of and enthusiasm for natural history, and after graduation Dyche, then twenty, followed Snow to the University. Dyche would go on to graduate and acquire multiple degrees. In 1882 he joined the faculty, and during his tenure he taught courses in natural history, anatomy and physiology, taxidermy, and zoology.

Photograph of Francis Snow, undated

Francis Snow, undated. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 2/6 Undated Prints: Chancellors:
Francis Snow (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

The relationship between Dyche and Snow was one of mutual admiration. Snow realized that Dyche was extremely intelligent and that they had much in common. He saw great potential in Dyche and became a mentor to him. Together they went on several collecting trips, venturing out west to gather specimens of mammals, fish and birds for the University’s teaching collections.

Poster from Lewis Lindsay Dyche speaking tour, undated

Poster from Lewis Lindsay Dyche speaking tour, undated.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 41/0: Faculty and Staff:
Dyche, Lewis Lindsay (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

Dyche would go on to arrange many such collecting trips, including treks to Alaska and Greenland. On each trip he carried a list of specimens he would look for, filling in the gaps in the University’s collection as he went. To become a better taxidermist, Dyche went to New York to be trained by William T. Hornaday, chief taxidermist for the National Museum at the Smithsonian Institution. In 1893, with Dyche leading the way, the specimen collection was arranged into a diorama and put on display at Chicago’s Columbian Exposition. The diorama would become the foundation of the Dyche Museum of Natural History, known today as the KU Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum, one of the most visited sites in the state to this day.

Photograph of the World's Fair diorama, 1893

Moose section of the diorama prepared by Lewis Lindsay Dyche,
World’s Fair Exhibit of North American Mammals,” 1893. KU was known as
Kansas State University early in its history. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 33/0: Museum of Natural History (Photos).
Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of Lewis Lindsay Dyche and his crew working on Comanche, 1891

The horse Comanche survived the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876.
After his death, Lewis Lindsay Dyche taxidermied the horse for the 7th Calvary,
but Comanche stayed with the museum’s collections. The photo here shows
Dyche and his crew working on Comanche in 1891. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 33/0: Museum of Natural History (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

Dyche became the State Fish and Game Warden in 1910. As his career progressed, he had become more and more a proponent for the preservation of endangered species and spoke out for the need of soil and water conservation. He wrote the legislation for the creation of laws to protect species and set hunting and fishing limitations. Today the Dyche Museum of Natural History stands as a testament to his life’s work and his dedication to education and conservation.

Kathy Lafferty
Public Services

Lastest Finding Aids and Additions to Finding Aids

December 20th, 2012

Trying to decide what you would like to do over the winter holidays?  Why not get a head start on your research?  Here is a list of the newest finding aids and additions to finding aids available at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library.  Please scroll down for images from three of these collections.

Image of "Free the KU Twelve" buttons

Image of Letter from Jennie Johnson to Will Johnson, January 26, 1886  Image of Letter from Ernest Boyd to Kenneth Reddin, October 14, 1936.

Top: “Free the KU Twelve” buttons. Gail J. Hamilton Collection. Call Number: PP 497: Box 1, Folder 26; Left: Letter from Jennie Johnson to Will Johnson, January 26, 1886. Jennie Johnson Collection. Call Number: RH MS P909: Folder 1; Right: Letter from Ernest Boyd to Kenneth Reddin, October, 14, 1936. Kenneth Reddin Collection. Call Number: MS 14: Box 3, Item C1. Click images to enlarge.