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.
I was first introduced to Kenneth Spencer Research Library through my First-Year Seminar. While I thought it was a cool place, and certainly had a unique variety of materials that could keep me entertained for days, I didn’t think I would ever use it.
I started working at the library a little less than a year later, and I began to see even more of the vast selection of intriguing materials that the library hosts. One day I was working on boxing up some recycling when I came across a little souvenir booklet that had illustrations of various buildings on campus. Since it was in the recycling pile, I was allowed to keep it, and the pictures fascinated me. [Spencer librarians sometimes weed duplicates from the collection. That was the case here; the library’s copy of Miniatures of Lawrence, Kan. can be found in University Archives. The call number is RG 0/24/G 1904 photographs.]
Fast forward four months when my Theory of Urban Design class assigned a project titled “Now and Then.” As you might expect, the project wanted us to look at how one place had changed over the past 20 years. It was relatively simple; we just had to find an old photograph of a building/urbanized area of Lawrence, recreate it, and write a description of the differences between the photographs.
A few days before this had been assigned, I was walking behind Spooner Hall and found the remains of an old fountain. Thinking it looked cool, I snapped a photo. That fountain got me wondering about the history of the building, and this project gave me the perfect opportunity to explore it.
In my little book of miniatures there were two images depicting Spooner Hall.
This project gave me a unique opportunity to explore campus’s past through what I now consider one of the coolest places on campus. If you ever find yourself feeling stuck on a project, come to the library; there is a lot to explore!
Who’s excited for the return of KU basketball this week?!
What does that view look like today? The answer to that question comes courtesy of KU student Rick McNabb. As part of a project for HIST 348 (History of the Peoples of Kansas), Rick found the above image in University Archives and later juxtaposed it with a picture he took at the men’s basketball game against Eastern Michigan on December 29, 2018. Play the video below to see! You can also move the slider back and forth yourself by visitingRick’s post on the re.photos website.
This week’s post was written by Hannah Scupham, an English 102 instructor and Doctoral Candidate in English Literature at the University of Kansas.
“I feel like a detective!”
even know this stuff was here!”
“This is SO
These are just a few of the comments I heard as my English 102 students (mostly freshmen and sophomores) hunched over folders and boxes from the University Archives about past student life and organizations from the past 100 years at KU. For most of my students, this was their first experience in Spencer Research Library, and this experience with archival documents was new and exciting. Although most professors and graduate students use archives for their own research, undergraduate students are often unaware of why archives exist and how they operate. This past semester, I brought my English 102 students into Spencer Research Library and, with the help of University Archivist Becky Schulte, they got hands-on experience doing exciting research with primary sources from the University Archives.
The goal of English 102 is to teach students how to become scholarly writers and researchers and to expose them to scholarly writing genres and research methods. For the past few years, I have always included a unit in my English 102 course that tackles debates and issues in higher education. I want my students to consider the point of their college education as well as learning about issues such as the adjunct crisis, student debt, academic freedom, and increasing administrative oversight. One of the major issues that my students enjoy debating and discussing is student activism. Many students hold the misconception that college campuses have recently become political spaces in just the past five years, yet after diving into the University Archives, we can see that universities and colleges have always been spaces that reflect and respond to the opinions, needs, desires, and politics of its students.
For this assignment, each student was responsible for learning about their chosen KU student organization through archival materials, and they shared their findings with their classmates through presentations that highlighted a particular object from the archive. By examining both the mundane documents of past student life organizations and the media coverage of former student activist groups, my students discovered the lives of past KU students.
Taking all of the student presentations as a whole, the University Archives depict KU’s rich and vibrant history featuring passionate, curious, and community-orientated students. The Archives detail the past lives and struggles of KU student activists like the members of CORE, who fought for desegregation in Lawrence. The archival information about groups such as the Black Student Union, the February Sisters, and Students Concerned with Disabilities also serve as a potent reminder of how students can agitate for change within the university. The University Archives also offers a glimpse into the types of communities from athletics (Tau Sigma [Dance] and Sasnak) to events (KU Medieval Society and KU Home Economics Club) to specialized studies organizations (Graduate Math Women and Wives and the Cosmopolitan Club) that students have made possible throughout KU’s history. My students finished their time in Spencer Research Library not only knowing the basics of how to use archival sources, but also having a larger sense of how their own time at KU will contribute to a long tradition of student life. Many of them noted how much they enjoyed working with primary documents and how they hoped they would be able to return to Spencer Research Library for work in their future classes! (Perhaps there will be a wave of new librarians and archivists in the next four years? Hopefully!)
Personally, I want to give a big thank you to everyone in Spencer Research Library who helped my English 102 students during this process, and a very special thank you for Becky Schulte, without whom these projects could not have happened.
Hannah Scupham, M.A. University of Kansas Doctoral Candidate, English Literature Chancellor’s Fellow Lilly Graduate Fellow