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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.

KU Greek Archives Project

September 8th, 2017

Image of a Kappa Delta scrapbook title page, 1993

Kappa Delta scrapbook title page, 1993.
Kappa Delta Scrapbooks, 1989-1998.
Call Number: RG 67/459.

One thing that sets Spencer Research Library (SRL) apart from other on campus jobs at KU is that student workers get to see the importance of well-maintained historical records first hand. As a history major, working around these materials is an amazing experience and inspiration. This background got me started on my Undergraduate Research Project, which works within the University Archives.

During a historical research methods class in Spring 2016, it became apparent to me that a great way to evaluate the changing social history of KU is through Greek life records. This is because each chapter keeps detailed minutes on weekly proceedings; records their events through monthly or yearly reports; and has a plethora of pictures and a rich collection of ephemera such as t-shirts, banners and flyers.

However, when examining the archives, I found that there are significant gaps of multiple years in the records of the Greek houses. Usually, there is little to no material after the 1980s. While KU students are still engaged in Greek life, this gap showed me that the materials simply are not being deposited into the University Archives. There could be several reasons for this; perhaps many Greek chapters are switching over to mostly paperless records, or perhaps the chapters do not know that SRL would be interested in their records. Either way, this seemed to me like a problem that needs addressing. With encouragement from my history professor Jonathan Hagel, I utilized my background at SRL and my connections to Greek life at KU to get the KU Greek Archives project off the ground.

My project is twofold. First, I’m conducting a survey of the University Archives to get a more complete picture of the types of materials that are already in the library and which Greek organizations are represented. Once this is complete, the gaps in the historical record where there are little to no materials will appear and indicate what years to focus on when gathering materials.

The next step is reaching out to the Greek chapters still currently on campus to see what materials they have in their possession that they would be willing to donate to University Archives. This process has taken the form of attending Panhellenic meetings with all of the chapter presidents to explain my project and sending many emails to chapter presidents and historians.

In the midst of the outreach and the archival survey, I wanted to use my own chapter, Kappa Delta (KD), to catalyze the process and lend credibility to my project as a sort of trial period. To begin, I looked around my chapter house for any relevant materials. Since KD is one of the newer houses on campus, the materials I expected to find would not be as old as some of the other chapters at KU; at the earliest, these sources would originate from KD’s establishment in 1990. The sources I did find are rich in the history of my chapter as well as others in the Greek community.

Image of an excerpt of the Kappa Delta Historian’s report, November 1990

Excerpt of the Kappa Delta historian’s report, November 1990.
Kappa Delta Scrapbooks, 1989-1998. Call Number: RG 67/459.
Click image to enlarge.

The most common materials are scrapbooks. These depict Kappa Delta’s new members, the remodeling of the house, and the first few years after Kappa Delta was established. Additionally, I found a binder of historian’s reports, which are composed of several pages summarizing each month’s activities of the KDs. Paired with some of the photographs in the scrapbooks, I found a comprehensive record of Kappa Delta from its founding in 1990 to about 2008.

While filling the gaps in the archival record is important, ensuring that the record is current is vital to the social history of KU. But gathering sources that are more current presents a problem. While Greeks are still documenting their social experience at KU, the majority of this is now digital. Minutes are distributed electronically, and scrapbooks can now be made in the form of videos posted online. Electronic minutes and records can always be printed and donated to University Archives, but saving videos is a problem that I have not yet explored.

As my project continues, I hope to uncover many more sources from each individual chapter at KU. However, this project cannot be complete without the participation of those in the Greek community. Several chapters have offered to donate materials, and I hope to recruit many more.

For more information about my project, please check out my blog.

Check out the Spencer website to learn about the University Archives records of student life and about the process of donating materials to the library.

Shea O’Sullivan
Public Services Student Assistant


Conserving Scrapbooks: A Unique Conservation Challenge

August 1st, 2016

I have spent this summer as the second Ringle Summer Intern in the Stannard Conservation Lab at the University of Kansas. My internship focused on a collection of 41 scrapbooks held by the University Archives. The project involved developing a survey tool, surveying the collection, identifying items for treatment, treating some items, and rehousing/housing modification all of the scrapbooks. Most of the books dated from the early 1900’s. They showcase student life leading up to and in the early stages of World War One. This insight into student life at a very interesting and volatile time, especially as we come to the 100 year anniversary of the United States entering the war, is why the Archives uses these materials as teaching tools with undergraduate students. The scrapbooks also include very interesting objects, like firecrackers with the line written next to them, “We shot up the house.” I was unable to discover which house they were talking about but I have no doubt they would have been in serious trouble for doing that today! From a conservation perspective these firecrackers required some consolidation and I discovered one of the fuses is still in place!

 Piece of hardtack from 71/99 McIntire scrapbook. University Archives, Kenneth Spencer Research Library

Firecrackers in a scrapbook compiled by Emery McIntire, after treatment.
Call Number: SB 71/99 McIntire. Click image to enlarge.

For more information about the project please see the story published in the Lawrence Journal-World in July:

And for some video footage of the treatments please see the coverage from 41 Action News:

I came into the project most excited about the problem-solving aspects of working with scrapbooks and I was not disappointed. Many conservators greatly enjoy the problem-solving we get to do every day to determine the correct treatment for objects. For conservation purposes scrapbooks are exceedingly complex and complicated objects. Usually they are made of cheap materials and contain a variety of attachment methods. This means that once they make it to a conservator’s bench they are normally quite fragile. The binding may be failing, the support paper is usually brittle, and the various types of attachment—glue, tape, staples, pins—may have partially or completely failed. Given all of this, determining the most appropriate treatment is not always an easy task.

For the scrapbooks I treated I came across two main problems: What is the most efficient way to mend the innumerable tears to the support pages? What is the best way to conserve objects found in the scrapbooks? Some of these objects include firecrackers, a Red Cross bandage, and a 100 year old piece of hardtack.

71/99 Harkrader, Florence scrapbook. University Archives, Spencer Research Library.

71/99 Harkrader, Florence scrapbook. University Archives, Spencer Research Library.

Red Cross bandage in a scrapbook compiled by Florence Harkrader,
before (top) and after (bottom) treatment. Call Number: SB 71/99 Harkrader.
Click images to enlarge.

I found that the most efficient way to repair all the tears—averaging around 10 tears per page—was to use a remoistenable repair paper. I made this using a 10gsm tengujo Japanese paper and a 50/50 mix of wheat starch paste and methyl cellulose. Once this was dry I was able to score it into many different sized strips to fit the various sized tears I was repairing.

Of the two objects mentioned the bandage was the easier to conserve. It is pinned to the support page and can swivel a bit on the pin allowing it to extend beyond the edge of the book. This means that there are some creases and frayed areas that have developed over time. To conserve it I repositioned it to sit inside the edges of the book and flattened out the creases.

The hardtack required creative problem-solving. It had a number of problems. It was coming unstuck from the support paper, had a number of cracks, and has writing on it. The ink means that any organic solvent-based consolidant could not be used. Additionally, it was desirable to keep the hardtack on the page, rather than removing it and storing it separately. In the end it was decided to remove the page from the scrapbook (the book was already disbound and is not being rebound) and to store it in its own enclosure within the same box as the scrapbook. The hardtack was re-secured to the page using a very dry wheat starch paste. The page was put in a float mount and support pieces were made with cutouts for the hardtack on one side and a dance book on the other. All of this was then sandwiched between pieces of corrugated board with ties attached. This created a housing that will both protect the page and aid in flipping the page from one side to the other.

Piece of hardtack from 71/99 McIntire scrapbook. University Archives, Kenneth Spencer Research Library

Piece of hardtack from 71/99 McIntire scrapbook. University Archives, Kenneth Spencer Research Library

Page from Emery McIntire’s scrapbook, featuring a piece of hardtack,
before (top) and after (bottom) treatment. Call Number: SB 71/99 McIntire.
Click images to enlarge.

Piece of hardtack from 71/99 McIntire scrapbook. University Archives, Kenneth Spencer Research Library

Detail of the hardtack. Call Number: SB 71/99 McIntire. Click image to enlarge.

This project allowed me to hone my skills in many areas of conservation. My project will allow for these scrapbooks to be accessed and stored more safely going forward. I highly recommend stopping by Spencer Research Library, calling one or two to the reading room, and losing yourself in KU’s past!

Noah Smutz
2016 Ringle Conservation Intern

Throwback Thursday: Friendship Edition

June 9th, 2016

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 27,700 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

This week’s photograph combines several things we love: good friends (in honor of National Best Friends Day), summertime fun, and a cold soda on a hot day.

Photograph of five female KU students in Neodesha, Kansas, 1918

A page from a scrapbook attributed to Margaret R. French showing
five KU students in Neodesha, Kansas, June 1918. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/0 1918 Prints: Student Activities (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

The scrapbook in which this page appears has been attributed to Margaret R. French. However, a search of University Archives records did not turn up any KU students by that name in the 1910s, so the volume’s creator remains somewhat of a mystery. Information from the scrapbook suggests that she attended KU from approximately 1916 through 1919. She apparently participated in the Patterson Club and was a member of – and/or had several friends in – Mu Phi Epsilon, a musical sorority or honorary organization.

One of the girls probably shown in the pictures is Gladys Nelson. Her home address was 606 Indiana Street in Neodesha, shown in the photo on the left. A member of Mu Phi Epsilon, Gladys graduated from KU in 1918 with a fine arts degree in drawing and painting.

The picture on the right shows the same group of friends, apparently on Main Street in Neodesha on the same day. (Note that they’re wearing the same dresses in both photos.) The 1916 Neodesha city directory in Spencer’s Kansas Collections confirms that the girls are standing in front of Edson’s Bakery and Ice Cream Parlor (609 Main, sign visible behind the car on the left); Shoemaker Furniture Co. (611 Main); H. C. Tralle, Plumber and Electrician (613 Main); and Porter drugstore (615 Main, sign visible behind the car on the right). Look up these addresses on Google Maps and you can see what the buildings look like today. MaBelle, mentioned in the caption, might be MaBelle Galloway, another Mu Phi Epsilon member at the time.

Update, 1 August 2017:

Additional research indicates that the scrapbook was compiled by Marium Aeo Hill (1899-1979). She usually went by her middle name, which she shared with an aunt. Aeo was born and raised in Neodesha, Kansas. Her father Burritt H. Hill (1873-1953) was a banker, community leader, and KU alumnus; Aeo’s mother Essie (1874-1899) died within a month of her daughter’s birth.

Aeo attended the University of Kansas from 1916 to 1922, graduating first with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and Commerce (1920) and then with a Bachelor of Music (1922). Aeo Hill married attorney Harvey Roney (1895-1971) in 1923; the couple had three children and settled in Independence, Missouri.

Aeo’s daughter Margaret French, also a KU alumna, donated three of her mother’s scrapbooks to University Archives.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Melissa Kleinschmidt, Megan Sims, and Abbey Ulrich
Public Services Student Assistants

Throwback Thursday: Valentine Edition

February 11th, 2016

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 21,700 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

Some of my favorites items in University Archives are scrapbooks created by former KU students. Most date from the early twentieth century and include items like photographs, programs for concerts and other events, tickets, dance cards, newspaper clippings, and holiday cards. A scrapbook created by KU alumna Mayrea Noyes contains the very clever valentine shown below.

Image of nested valentines to Mayrea Noyes, 1911

KU senior Mayrea Noyes received this valentine from an
unknown admirer in 1911. It’s a series of nested envelopes, displayed here
in two columns, the last one opening to reveal a tiny red paper heart.
Mayrea Noyes Scrapbook, University Archives.
Call number: SB 71/99 Noyes. Click image to enlarge.

Mayrea Noyes was born in New York on May 4, 1889 to parents Ellis Bradford (1848-1924) and Elsie Jefferis (1859-1922) Noyes. She had two sisters, Elmira Elsie (1882-1961) and Aline (1892-1956). Mayrea’s father, a long-time civil engineer, graduated from KU in 1874, one of three students in the university’s second graduating class. Thus, even though Mayrea grew up in Portsmouth, Virginia, she attended the University of Kansas, graduating with a bachelor’s degree from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in 1911. She returned to KU the following year and earned a university teacher’s diploma. Mayrea later attended summer classes at Columbia University (1913) and Virginia Polytechnic Institute (1921).

Mayrea Noyes's senior picture in the Jayhawker, 1911

Mayrea’s senior picture in the 1911 Jayhawker. University Archives.
Call Number: LD 2697 .J3 1911. Click image to enlarge.

Mayrea had a long career as a teacher at Maury High School in Norfolk, Virginia. After she died suddenly of a heart attack on December 2, 1954, the school’s yearbook printed a memorial to her: “Coming to Maury in 1914 she was one of its first home economics teachers and did much to build up that department, serving there until her retirement in 1949. In addition to her teaching she spent many hours counseling students with their personal problems and is remembered by many for her sympathetic attention and sound advice” (85).

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Melissa Kleinschmidt, Megan Sims, and Abbey Ulrich
Public Services Student Assistants