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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.

Throwback Thursday: Homecoming History Edition

September 20th, 2018

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 early KU Homecoming football game, 1910s

An early KU homecoming football game at McCook Field, 1910s. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/1 Prints: Student Activities: Homecoming (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

For over a century, the tradition of homecoming has been observed across KU and the city of Lawrence. Originating as an opportunity for alumni to revisit campus, the first homecoming game was played against the University of Missouri in November 1912, with KU winning 12-3. Over the next decade, the popular event spun off into many traditions. Some – like homecoming parades – have endured to this day, while others – like the annual tiger bonfire and a day dedicated to dressing like hobos – have disappeared.

Photograph of KU students dressed up for Hobo Day, 1931

Students dressed up for Hobo Day, 1931. The raucous event became an
integral part of homecoming festivities at KU. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/9 1931 Prints: Student Activities: Hobo Day (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Homecoming mostly continued on in this fashion for nearly six decades – a week of parties, rallies, and promotional activities leading up to the big football game. It wasn’t until 1970 that the next major development in the history of KU homecoming took place. In 1969, senior student Janet Merrick was crowned KU’s final homecoming queen. The selection of the homecoming queen had been part of the celebration since 1925. Protests surrounding the war in Vietnam and a growing sense of student-establishment tension deemed the tradition to be clashing with modern sensibilities. Additionally, frustrated with a process that had never resulted in a black homecoming queen, KU’s Black Student Union first chose its own queen in 1969. The following year was the first homecoming celebration without a queen, and the tradition remains shelved. The Black Student Union continues to crown a homecoming queen each year.

Photograph of KU Homecoming Queen Jan Merrick, 1969

Homecoming Queen Janet Merrick, 1969. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/1 1969 Prints: Student Activities: Homecoming (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

The following year, KU introduced a second Jayhawk mascot. During halftime of the 1971 homecoming game against Kansas State University, Baby Jay was unveiled to the student body after hatching from a giant blue egg. Big Jay and Baby Jay have been staples of the university spirit team ever since.

Photograph of the Baby Jay egg, 1971

Baby Jay egg, 1971. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 0/25 1971
Negatives: University General: Jayhawk mascot, dolls, etc (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Photograph of KU Chancellor Chalmers with new Baby Jay at Homecoming, 1971

Chancellor Chalmers with new Baby Jay at Homecoming, 1971.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 2/13 1971 Prints:
Chancellors: E. Laurence Chalmers (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

In 1993 there may have been some consideration in reviving the homecoming court; however, a new tradition began instead. An award was given to students that exhibited academic excellence, leadership, and a strong sense of service to the Lawrence community. This became the KU Excellence in Community, Education and Leadership Awards, or the KU Ex.C.E.L. Awards. This honor has been given to two students, every homecoming, for the past twenty-eight years.

Homecoming in more recent years has seen the emergence of new traditions. For example, at Chalk ‘n’ Rock, student groups and organizations create elaborate chalk murals along Wescoe Beach. The Jayhawk Jingles continue as a new version of the Jayhawk Follies; students compete in a contest of musical performances.

Photograph of the Jayhawk Follies, 1954

Four women dancing on stage dressed as dolls in the Jayhawk Follies, 1954.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 71/1 1954 Prints: Student Activities:
Homecoming (Photos). Click on image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

This year, KU faces off against Oklahoma State in the 106th homecoming football game. The theme this year is “Home on the Hill,” a call for alumni to return home to their University as they always have and for current students to further solidify their own homes on the hill.

Mallory Harrell
KU Museum Studies graduate student and University Archives intern

August-September Exhibit: KU Student Enrollment

August 17th, 2018

As part of my Museum Studies student internship this summer, one of my assignments was to create and design an exhibit to be displayed in the North Gallery at Spencer Research Library from the beginning of August through mid-September. I had to choose a topic concerning KU history, one that I could easily pull materials from the archive to support as a concept. I thought back to the time I spent perusing the yearbooks while working on another research project. One topic that intrigued me, and remained in the back of my head for some time, was that of enrollment. It had never occurred to me to even consider the fact that enrollment had not always been digital and computerized. The process, procedure, the manual entry of data – it was all foreign to me. The immediate question became “how did the university handle the process of enrollment?”

Photograph of the enrollment exhibit being installed

In-progress installation of the exhibit. Click image to enlarge.

I began my research by investigating the enrollment process from as far back as the university records could reach. In order to fully understand the concept I took notes on each version of the enrollment procedure I could find in the primary sources. I created a step-by-step bullet point list for each major era (every ten to twenty years or so). Doing this helped me narrow the focus of the exhibit, focusing mostly on enrollment between the 1950s through the 1980s, with a brief section on the early history of the process.

Searching the archive for images and artifacts was the exciting part for me. I’ve selected some photographs taken by the Lawrence Journal-World, multiple pamphlets distributed to students during orientation, some class guides, and registration instructions, and I will include one of the card boxes from the era of IBM punch cards. Since I had limited space, my labels consist of basic descriptors of each artifact and a few expository labels that explain the enrollment process across the history of the university.

Photograph of the enrollment exhibit

One of the two finished exhibit cases. Click image to enlarge.

My hope and intent for this exhibit is to instill the same fascination for a bygone method that I originally had when I began my research. I want to illustrate the complexities of this older version of a process that all students partake in – while hopefully remaining accurate to the memories of those who did participate in these older systems of enrollment. It’s an important aspect of KU history that I feel deserves its own exhibition.

Mallory Harrell
KU Museum Studies graduate student and University Archives intern

University Archives Internship

August 7th, 2018

During the summer of 2018 I’ve had the opportunity to work in the University Archives at Spencer Research Library as part of a Museum Studies student internship. Since my emphasis is in archival work, my projects throughout the summer covered a variety of related archives topics. Since I was initially hired on as a research assistant for a special project on the Jayhawk, I’ve mostly been working with primary source documents concerning the history of the school and the mascot.

Photograph of a Jayhawk artifact in University Archives

A Jayhawk artifact in University Archives. Click image to enlarge.

While that project is ongoing, with still many image files to be organized, my internship projects have acted as a general introduction to the functions of the University Archives. I had the opportunity to learn about processing of new materials by working with some new arrivals from the Pi Beta Phi sorority. These materials ranged in date from the formation of the chapter in 1873 to the mid-1970s — over a century of history. Processing involved creating new file boxes to hold scrapbooks, club minutes, chapter histories, signature books, and expenditure records. Other unique documents included calendars, songbooks, programs, membership cards, letters, pledge books, sorority newsletters, and photographs. The much-anticipated opportunity to handle the photographs also introduced me to the process of inter-filing.

Photograph of Pi Beta Phi records in University Archives

Pi Beta Phi records in University Archives. Click image to enlarge.

Photographs of labels for Pi Beta Phi records in University Archives

Labels for Pi Beta Phi records in University Archives.
Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of Pi Beta Phi photographs being processed in University Archives

Processing Pi Beta Phi photographs in University Archives.
Click image to enlarge.

The other major project that I was assigned this summer was to create an exhibit to be displayed at Spencer during the month of August. The exhibit would incorporate materials from the Archives and would discuss an aspect of KU history. The topic that I finally decided to use was enrollment — specifically, enrollment before the time of computers. It was a fascinating subject to research, personally having only known a time of computerized college enrollment. It’s easy to forget that the process once had to be done in person, utilizing multiple buildings and a complicated system of codes, cards, and queues. The exhibit will feature various documents related to the enrollment process, covering five decades. My intention is to inform visitors on the evolution of enrollment and registration up to the obsolescence of the punch-card method. I think most of the intrigue will come from that element of obsolescence and the campus-wide chaos that would often ensue every semester.

Photograph of a temporary exhibit being developed for University Archives

Developing a temporary exhibit for University Archives.
Click images to enlarge.

Additionally, I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to interview and work alongside many wonderful staff members at Spencer Research Library. I want to thank Becky Schulte, Letha Johnson, Whitney Baker, Caitlin Klepper, Meredith Huff, and Marcella Huggard for allowing me speak to them about their positions, responsibilities, and functions within the library.

Mallory Harrell
KU Museum Studies graduate student and University Archives intern