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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.

Collection Campaign Highlights 2022

November 8th, 2022

Another election day is here! This Tuesday, November 8th, 2022, we’ll be voting in a midterm election for all sorts of positions in local and state service with a national potential impact. So, with all of us in a somewhat political frame of mind, we wanted to share a few collection highlights related to campaigns and elections of the past.

Election ticket for Union Party listing Lincoln, Johnson, and slate of electors as well as candidate for First District of San Francisco congressional seat.
Union ticket for President Abraham Lincoln of Illinois and Vice-President Andrew Johnson of Tennessee, 1864. Call Number: RH VLT Misc. 2. Click image to enlarge.

Election ticket for the slate of candidates representing the National Union Party (as a temporary name used for a conglomeration of the Republican Party and some smaller factions of other parties) in the 1864 election.

Button with drawing of a frog wearing a "No Bypass" shirt and holding sign saying "Write in Agnes T. Frog".
Agnes T. Frog, campaign button, 1986. Agnes T. Frog political campaign materials. Call Number: RH MS 472. Click image to enlarge.

An artifact of a very local campaign, this button was part of a write-in campaign in 1986 for Agnes T. Frog for Douglas County Commissioner to protest the environmental impacts of the southern Lawrence bypass.

Blue text on white paper. "Elect D. Jenilee Miller" with small photo and pledge/issue information.
Flyer for D. Jenilee Miller campaign, 1970. 1970 political campaigns collection. Call Number: RH MS 1453. Click image to enlarge.

And something in between. In 1970 D. Jenilee Miller lost her campaign for Secretary of State for Kansas with 41.13% of the popular vote, campaigning on modernizing Kansas Government and election issues which still hold public interest today.

Rear of Union ticket depicting sinking of C.S.S. Alabama.
Union ticket for President Abraham Lincoln of Illinois and Vice-President Andrew Johnson of Tennessee (rear), 1864. Call Number: RH VLT Misc. 2. Click image to enlarge.

Shelby Schellenger

Reference Coordinator

Flag Day, 2022

June 14th, 2022
Bandstand decorated by the Eagle Flag Co. in Sedan, Kansas, 1913. Kansas Collection Photos. Call Number: RH MS P2178. Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Not a federal holiday, but a celebration and a remembrance. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed June 14th as Flag Day, celebrating the adoption of the flag of the United States on June 14, 1777. Flags are a particular manifestation of symbols. A flag can indicate an idea, a group, a place, or an area. With the adoption of an official flag for the United States of America, there was a unified way to signal the influence of the USA. With that noted, maybe we can look at how it and a few other flags have been used through the years!

Here we have one of several KU flags, this one a 1928 design. Used in this manner, it is very similar to a national flag, showing identification and support for the University of Kansas.

University of Kansas flag designed in 1928; photo taken in 1933. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 0/49: General Records: Flags and Banners (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Flags sometimes come with the hint of violence. Here we have a photo of students around their flag to fight for on May Day in 1895. Having your flag captured was quite the sign of disgrace!

May Day Scrap, 1895. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 71/10: Student Activities: May Day (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

While flags can be used as positive symbols – representing enthusiasm, identification, etc. – flags can also be used as negative symbols. Here at a KU an anti-Vietnam war Student protest in May 1970, black flags are displayed along with a U.S. flag on a coffin near a U.S. flag at half-mast. The same flags used for celebration here demonstrate shame and loss.

KU anti-Vietnam student protests on May 3-9, 1970. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 71/18: Student Protests (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

And while a flag can be used to isolate and claim dominion, flags can be used to show hope, alliance, and gathering together as in the dedication ceremony for Allen Fieldhouse in 1955.

The Allen Fieldhouse dedication ceremony, 1955. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 0/22/1: Campus: Buildings: Allen Fieldhouse (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Flags have been and are used in many different ways in many different circumstances: in humor, in celebration, in victory, in defeat, in shame, and in pride. Flag Day may specifically celebrate the adoption of a United States flag, but isn’t a bad day to think of all the flags we fly!

Shelby Schellenger
Reference Coordinator

Yellowstone: The Sesquicentennial of the National Parks

March 10th, 2022
Yellowstone Park booklet, undated. Cooper-Sheppard-Cox Family Papers. Call Number: RH MS 576. Click image to enlarge.

On March 1, 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant signed a bill that established Yellowstone. So… Happy Birthday! And 150 is kind of a big one. Yellowstone has very little to do directly with Kansas, but that doesn’t mean there are no connections as our collections here at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library contain maps, photos, postcards, diaries, and even a symphony inspired by the national park. 

Black-and-white photograph of a crowded bridge. A man standing to the side appears to have a megaphone.
All right, on three, everybody sing! But actuall,y “Crowd on Bridge over Firehole River,” 1931. Personal Papers of Raymond Beamer, Photo Envelope 6, Field Expedition Photos. Call Number: PP 392. Click image to enlarge.

People liked seeing the amazing natural scenery of the park; there were quickly hotels, support buildings, postcards, trails, and many named natural attractions. 

Color illustration of a long multistory brown building on top of a small hill.
“Grand Canyon Hotel, Yellowstone Park,” undated. Yellowstone National Park Postcards, Ruth Adair Dyer Papers. Call Number: RH MS 745. Click image to enlarge.
Black-and-white photograph of a rock formation.
Jupiter Terrace, Yellowstone National Park, 1931. Personal Papers of Raymond Beamer, Photo Envelope 5, Field Expedition Photos. Call Number: PP 392. Click image to enlarge.

I haven’t gotten the chance to visit Yellowstone yet, but when I do get to go on vacation, the National Parks are definitely a consideration when picking a destination. The variety of the natural scenery, the ideals of conservation, the privilege of getting to visit these places, shared with so many other people. It is sort of a peaceful and exciting feeling all at once! 

Color illustration of visitors in four yellow open-air cars, driving along a lake framed by tall conifer trees.
“Auto Stages at Sylvan Lake, Yellowstone National Park,” undated. Yellowstone National Park Postcards, Ruth Adair Dyer Papers. Call Number: RH MS 745. Click image to enlarge.

I also mentioned maps, diaries, and even a symphony. There is a map of the tour route in the back of that booklet whose cover starts this post. Evangeline Lathrop Phillips kept a diary of her trip in 1922. And finally, composer and former KU professor James Barnes composed his Fourth Symphony, The Yellowstone Suite, here performed by The Symphonisches Blasorchester Norderstedt.

Shelby Schellenger
Reference Coordinator

Celebrate National Ice Cream Month!

July 23rd, 2020

I love ice cream. I’ve very rarely screamed for it, but I may occasionally feel the urge! There are many flavors I like, including matcha and mint chocolate chip, though I feel there is something special about a good vanilla or my absolute favorite…homemade peach ice cream. Ice cream flavors are also a great thing to disagree about. You can have a very satisfying argument about which flavor is best (or at least rank them) knowing that it doesn’t really matter. It is a treat, it is satisfying, it is not particularly healthy, and it has a special quality of nostalgia for me.

Photograph of Snyder’s Ice Cream Co. (Wichita, Kansas) building exterior with ice cream trucks, circa 1920
Snyder’s Ice Cream Co. in Wichita, Kansas, circa 1920. Artificial Kansas-Based Photographs Collection. Call Number: RH PH 535, Box 11, Folder 19. Click image to enlarge.
Photograph of Brown's Taylor Maid Ice Cream Shop, circa 1950-1970
Brown’s Taylor Maid Ice Cream Shop in Coffeyville, Kansas, circa 1950-1970. Patterson Family Papers. Call Number: RH MS-P 476, Box 1, Folder 1. Click image to enlarge.

I remember getting together with family on the Fourth of July, playing all day, eating too many hot dogs/burgers/potluck/picnic food of all sorts, then finding the room to try three or four different flavors of homemade ice cream while sitting back and watching the fireworks. The sound of the churns were a persistent whine accompanying the conversation and bangs going on through the day.

No doubt such shared smiles and remembrances led to the naming of July as National Ice Cream Month.

Photograph of William Joe Woods at Franklin Ice Cream Co. in Tonganoxie, Kansas, circa 1940
William Joe Woods at Franklin Ice Cream Co. in Tonganoxie, Kansas, circa 1940. Woods Family Papers. Call Number: RH MS-P P660, Box 1, Folder 6. Click image to enlarge.

Ice cream can be found in our collections as well. I mean…not literally. That would be a nightmare for archival control. Instead there are pictures of people working on the apparatus of ice cream making, gathering socially around ice cream, or even making a buck going back quite a while!

Photograph of a man with a violin and ice cream sign in Anthony, Kansas, circa 1880-1900
Man with a violin and ice cream sign in Anthony, Kansas, circa 1880-1900. Leonard Hollmann Photograph Collection. Call Number: RH PH 536, Box 54, Folder 3. Click image to enlarge.

So when the urge for ice cream strikes, indulge, at least a little.

Shelby Schellenger
Reference Coordinator

Spencer Public Services Working from Home

July 14th, 2020

Spencer Research Library has been closed since March due to the coronavirus, with in-person services unavailable and staff members working from home with little or no access to physical collection materials. So, what do librarians in a unit with “public” in it’s title do when the building is closed to the public? The answer is to continue serving patrons remotely as best as we can while working on myriad behind-the-scenes projects that will hopefully benefit users long after the current pandemic.

Even though we have not been able to interact with our library patrons face-to-face for several months, our underlying purpose remains the same: providing high-quality services that encourage and welcome users to engage with Spencer librarians and collections in ways they find interesting, exciting, thought-provoking, and meaningful.

Read on to see what each member of the Public Services team has been working on from home.

Caitlin Donnelly Klepper, Head of Public Services

What have you been working on?

Since March, I have taken over the daily monitoring of Spencer’s reference email account (, answering some research queries and forwarding others to colleagues. Like my coworkers, I’ve also attended a good number of KU, KU Libraries, and Spencer Research Library meetings, town halls, and virtual updates. While some are new since covid-19, most others are Zoom and phone versions of the in-person meetings I would normally attend.

My other projects have included cleaning up statistics and corresponding reports, updating the Spencer website, catching up on a backlog of professional reading, and clearing out my email inbox. I’ve also attended many webinars and other online professional development opportunities. This month, much of my focus has shifted toward working with colleagues to develop plans for reopening Spencer’s Reading Room and providing instruction this fall.

Why is this work important to the library?

Much of my work at home has directly or indirectly helped maintain some of Spencer’s core operations; other projects have contributed to new initiatives at the Libraries and improved my personal ability to better serve our users.

What will you miss about working from home when we return to Spencer?

My husband and I purchased our first home in early March, and despite the current circumstances I’ve appreciated getting to spend so much time enjoying our new space. I’ll miss things being able to do things like eating at my desk and taking periodic breaks throughout the day to tackle some housework or walk on the treadmill.

Photograph of the view from Caitlin's home workspace
The view from Caitlin’s home workspace. Click image to enlarge.

Meredith Phares, Spencer Research Library Operations Manager

What have you been working on?

I have been working on a legacy project of our individual photo collections in the Kansas Collection. There are roughly 2,500 images that do not have a finding aid or catalog record. Patrons can only access these photos by reviewing a three-inch three-ring binder full of dividers and charts that is located in our Reading Room. I’ve been entering the details about these images into our ArchivesSpace database; from there, Manuscripts Coordinator Marcella Huggard and her team can take the information and create finding aids and catalog records. 

When I have had enough of data entry, I have been working on a training manual for our Public Services student assistants, along with data cleanup in our Aeon system, which tracks the circulation of Spencer materials. 

Since late April, I have been able to work in Spencer a couple of hours each week. I have kept up on my temperature and relative humidity monitoring of the stacks and have been able to get some stacks projects accomplished.

Why is this work important to the library?

Entering our individual photo collections into ArchivesSpace gets us a step closer to having our photograph collections more accessible. Data cleanup in Aeon allows me to be sure everything has been re-shelved correctly after it’s been used by researchers and staff members. Regular monitoring of our stacks environment is essential for the safety and preservation of our collections.

What will you miss about working from home when we return to Spencer?

I commute from Topeka, so I will miss the quick commute to my living room, the flexible work schedule, and spending time with my newly-adopted dog Edgar. He has been my companion and entertainment since March. 

Photograph of Meredith with her dog Edgar
Meredith with her dog Edgar. Click image to enlarge.

Emily Beran, Library Assistant

What have you been working on?

While Spencer Research Library has been closed, I have had the opportunity to work on projects that I normally would not have time to do. One of the most notable ones has been creating transcriptions for some materials in our manuscript collections. Transcriptions are typed copies of handwritten documents. Currently, my favorite transcription I am working on is for the diary of New York suffragist Lillian North. The diary covers her daily life from 1915 into 1917; it not only provides great insight into her involvement in the women’s suffrage movement but also gives readers such a fun look at her life and what she considered important.

Why is this work important to the library?

While our manuscript collections are invaluable sources of information, some of them can be hard for researchers to read and work with because the documents are handwritten. Transcriptions provide a more readable version of these handwritten documents, making the information more accessible for researchers. Additionally, by having transcriptions, we can utilize these documents for more activities (classes, tours, etc.) where being able to read something quickly is necessary because time is limited.

What will you miss about working from home when we return to Spencer?

I am not a morning person so the ability to sleep in and start working later in the day has been great for me. Also, the schedule flexibility really has allowed me to work on projects when I can be the most productive and focused – evenings, weekends, when I can’t sleep, etc. So while I am excited to be back in Spencer, I will miss the extra sleep and that scheduling freedom!

A portion of Emily's transcription project
A portion of Emily’s transcription project. Click image to enlarge.

Kathy Lafferty, Copy Services Manager

What have you been working on?

Since Spencer closed in March, I’ve processed fifty-six copy requests submitted by patron and fourteen inter-library loan requests by going in to the library building once, and sometimes twice, each week.

Additionally, I created an online version of “The 1918 Influenza Epidemic at KU,” which began as a temporary exhibit in Spencer’s North Gallery. I was able to add a lot more information because I had more space and time to do extensive online research. I have also written two blog posts, one for Mother’s Day and another for Father’s Day. For the Father’s Day blog, I used photographs from the Joseph Pennell Collection that are available online and did some online research to find out more information about the subjects in the photographs.

Up next is completing a new online version of the Library’s twenty-fifth anniversary exhibit catalog.

Why is this work important to the library?

The Libraries are trying hard to minimize obstructions to research support and provide access to library materials during the pandemic shutdown. By working from home and going in when I can, I am doing my part to contribute to that effort.

What will you miss about working from home when we return to Spencer?

I will miss my cat, Knick, snuggling next to me while I work. I will also miss eating at my desk and setting my own schedule. I will miss working from home, but it will be good to be back in the library full-time.

Photograph of Kathy and her cat Buzz
Kathy and her cat Buzz. Click image to enlarge.

Shelby Schellenger, Reference Coordinator

What have you been working on?

I’ve been working on all sorts of things…which is largely part of my job in any case. I’ve been working with digital reference, reviewing training documents, watching professional development webinars, and more. One of the things I do now that I don’t enjoy is telling people that we’ll be later than usual in getting their research questions answered due to decreased access to the physical collections. 

Why is this work important to the library? 

This work is important to the library because serving the research and reference needs of students, faculty, and the public is an integral part of library operations. What I’m doing from home is that reference or working to improve our ability to do that reference. 

What will you miss about working from home when we return to Spencer?

I think I will miss being able to do my daily work with music playing. I like being able to play music to match my mood/activities and that isn’t practical in the quiet Reading Room environment! 

Photograph of Shelby's at-home coworkers Nikolai and Wallace
Shelby’s at-home coworkers Nikolai and Wallace. Click image to enlarge.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services