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Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Books on a shelf

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!: Kansas Folklore

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 are focusing on folklore, “the traditional legends, beliefs, culture, etc., shared by a group of people” (according to the Oxford English Dictionary). Spencer Research Library’s Culture and Folklore Studies Collection consists of 37 document boxes and one oversize box. The material dates from 1959 to 1992 and contains information a range of topics from folklore, to customs, to culture. Robert J. Smith, KU professor emeritus in cultural anthropology, created the collection and gifted it to Spencer in 2007. Smith’s research interests included folklore theories, material culture, foraging societies, and more. The part of the collection we share today is from Box 7 and covers the superstitions and beliefs of children, documented by Sally Jenkins in 1973.

This image has handwritten text.
First page of Sally Jenkins’s statement about collecting folklore and superstition examples, 1973. Culture and Folklore Studies Collection. Call Number: RH MS 966. Click image to enlarge.
This image has handwritten text: "If you get out of bed after the lights are out, the Boogie Man will come out from under the bed and get you."
This image has handwritten text: "If a feather comes out of your pillow, take it to a fairy tree and it will unlock the door."
This image has handwritten text: "If you finish a meal with no leftovers it will be a clear day tomorrow."
This image has handwritten text: "If you don't close the closet door before going to bed, the clothes will come alive and haunt you."
Superstition memories and stories recorded by Sally Jenkins, 1973. Culture and Folklore Studies Collection. Call Number: RH MS 966. Click images to enlarge.

Tiffany McIntosh
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