Browse Exhibits (26 total)

Histories of the English Language


From the Old English of Beowulf to the Middle English of Chaucer to the many dialects that make up our modern tongue, the history of English is a history of change. Featuring materials from KU’s Kenneth Spencer Research Library, this exhibition explores English as embodied in the writings of its practitioners, whether celebrated authors, such as John Milton and Toni Morrison, or scholars, lexicographers, and  grammarians, such as Elizabeth Elstob, Samuel Johnson,  Noah Webster, and Robert Lowth or anonymous and little-known writers of “everyday” English. In manuscripts and books dating from 1000 CE to the present, readers will encounter the varied forces at work growing, standardizing, governing, describing, reforming, and reinventing English.


To Make the World Safe for Democracy: Kansas and the Great War


With the declaration of war on Germany, in April, 1917, Kansas and Kansans joined the rest of the nation in mobilizing troops, providing military training and education, and engaging in home front activities in support of food production, food conservation, fund raising, and comfort for soldiers, families, and Allies.

Kansas exceeded its quota of numbers of enlistments in the military, and established training camps, such as Camp Funston, at Fort Riley, to prepare new soldiers for military services. Kansas wheat became a precious commodity, needed worldwide, with corn becoming an important substitution for those at home. High school students and women at home joined in to help with the harvests. Kansans were encouraged to use less sugar, and the institution of “meatless” days and “wheatless" days was common. Women knitted garments for soldiers and orphans overseas, sewed bandages and provided medical supplies, and raised money through the sale and purchase of Liberty Bonds. 

As patriotism fervor swept the nation, and the state, some Kansans grew increasingly critical of those from different backgrounds. Pacifists, many of whom came from Mennonite communities and had German speaking backgrounds, were regarded with suspicion and subjected to public ridicule and vandalism of their property. German Americans’ loyalty to the United States was suspect. There was a consistent program in Kansas to suppress the German language.  

The University of Kansas was impacted by the war as well, with students and faculty leaving to serve in the military. The university community supported the war effort through conservation activities, fund raising for war relief efforts, and community involvement. 

The “war to end all wars” concluded with the signing of an armistice on Nov. 11, 1918, and slowly soldiers began returning home. Kansas lost some 2,500 men in the line of duty. 

Included in this exhibition are items drawn from the Kansas Collection and University Archives that illustrate life on the home front, the soldier’s experience, and the university’s response to a war no one expected would be repeated.    


Education: The Mightiest Weapon

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"Education is the mightiest weapon you can use to fight your way through." From a letter written by Fred Scott, published in The American Citizen, June 28, 1889, Osage City, Kansas.

AFRICAN AMERICANS HAVE ALWAYS PLACED A HIGH VALUE ON EDUCATION.  For more than three centuries, schools have served as their leading choice of weapon against chattel slavery and legal racial segregation, as well as, a means of self-determination and group advancement. 

 A desire for schooling helped spark their migration to Kansas during the Civil War. Unlike the South, Kansas white public opinion generally accepted their having access to schools, but not racially integrated schools. Not deterred, African Americans found ways to pursue their educational aspirations in Kansas.  They opened up schools in their homes, built the first school in Graham County, Kansas and flocked to charity and public schools that were available to them.

Whether or not African American students enjoyed equal access to elementary public schools in Kansas depended on where they lived. In 1879, Kansas law allowed racially segregated elementary schools in Leavenworth, Kansas City, Topeka, and Wichita, but not in places where the population was less than 10,000. Except for Kansas City, Kansas, Kansas law prohibited separate schools for African American high school students. Through petitions, protests, and litigation, including eleven court cases that reached the Kansas Supreme Court between 1881 and 1949, African Americans in Kansas sought to exercise their citizenship right to have equal access to public schools. Their efforts paid off. From 1890 to 1930, the percentage of African Americans in Kansas who could read and write increased from 67.2% to 91.2%.

This exhibition features materials from the African American Experience Collections in Kenneth Spencer Research Library that highlight the active role African Americans in Kansas played in our nation’s past struggle with laws and practices of racial segregation in public schools.  It emphasizes the leadership role Kansas African American communities played in resisting and navigating around barriers imposed on them in their effort to gain equal access to public schools. The exhibit concludes with the participation of Kansas African American parents and community activists in the five legal cases addressed in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka U.S. Court Supreme Court, which revolutionized the legal framework for race relations, sparked the Modern Civil Rights Movement and inspired struggles for freedom and equality around the world.  


In the Shadow of Cortés: From Veracruz to Mexico City


In Fall 2016, KU Libraries partnered with the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS) to bring the traveling exhibit In the Shadow of Cortés: From Veracruz to Mexico City to Spencer Research Library. The photographic exhibition was designed and prepared by Indiana University Professor Kathleen Ann Myers, with photographs by fellow Indiana University professor and renowned National Geographic photographer Steve Raymer

The traveling exhibition contained thirty photographs interspersed with seven text panels of contextual information. English and Spanish exhibit handouts showed thumbnails of the photographs with captions. These three documents are reproduced, with permission from their author Kathleen Ann Myers, in the Traveling Exhibition section of this online exhibit.

In conjunction with the traveling exhibition, Spencer Research Library showcased original books and maps, including some modern editions and facsimiles, related to Cortés and the conquest. These are the materials reproduced here, with their exhibit labels.

Additional online information about this exhibit includes the IU press release, the KU Libraries press release, and KU Libraries Flickr albums showing photographs of the exhibit reception at Spencer and of the Aztec dance group Huitzilopochtli on campus.

Spencer exhibition by Caitlin Donnelly and Kathy Lafferty, Public Services.
Contact Caitlin or Kathy for questions.

Funding for this exhibit came from the Moveable Feast of the Arts Program at Indiana University Bloomington. Created through a generous gift from the Lilly Endowment Inc., the program was initiated by the IU Office of the President with oversight provided by the Office of the Vice Provost for Research.


Easter 1916: Rebellion and Memory in Ireland


On Easter Monday, April 24, 1916, armed nationalists occupied sites around Dublin and proclaimed the establishment of an Irish Republic independent from England. Outgunned by incoming Crown forces, the rebels surrendered within a week. The rising’s leaders were quickly executed and many others interned. With over 400 dead and prominent Dublin thoroughfares damaged by shelling and artillery fire, the debates over Easter week’s legacies began. Was the rising a heroic sacrifice in the name of Irish independence, or treasonous and needless bloodshed in a time of world war, or something more complex? In his poem “Easter, 1916,” W. B. Yeats famously wrote of the rebellion and its executed leaders, “A terrible beauty is born.” One hundred years later, this exhibition returns to that fraught week to explore its place in the history of Irish independence. 

Exhibition by Elspeth Healey, Special Collections Librarian
Contact for questions.


Women's Rights Activism and Deans of Women at the University of Kansas


Admitted to the University of Kansas from its beginning, women have always been welcome on the hill. However, welcome would not be enough when the women’s rights movement swept the campus in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Before then, for KU women and those across the country, a women’s virtue was upheld through restricting rules and regulations.

Student personnel administrators like the Dean of Women fulfilled the university's responsibility for in loco parentis. As such, they provided discipline in place of the student’s parents on behalf of the university. KU women were accustomed to this type of control through the 1950s. 

Concerns over these restrictions and other women's issues started to grow in the 1960s, reaching its peak in February 1972. A group of women calling themselves the February Sisters occupied the East Asian Studies building overnight and presented a list of demands. They hoped to gain equal opportunity for women and certain services like a day care center on campus. Supported by then Dean of Women Emily Taylor, the group succeeded in getting most of their demands realized.

In this exhibit can be found original documents, photographs, and memorabilia that tell the story of the women’s right movement at the University. 


MICHAEL G. SHINN: Premier Jayhawk Leader and Innovator

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In honor of his life and legacy of giving, fostering the ideals and practices of diversity, and requiring high standards of excellence, the African American Experience Collections presents the Michael G. Shinn: Premier Jayhawk Leader and Innovator exhibition. It features items from the Shinn Family Collection, which he first established in 1991 by donating papers and photographs from his family’s home in Topeka, Kansas and from resources in University Archives.  The exhibition’s narratives about Mr. Shinn’s family, KU student years, and Career/Community experiences were researched and written by Paul Edward Fowler III, graduate student assistant for the African American Experience Collections and a graduate student in KU’s African and African American Studies Department.  


Achievement of a Dream: The Birth of the University of Kansas


"Every enterprise has its epochs--resting points whence the past, with its triumph or defeat, may be contemplated, and the future, bright or shadowy, be dwelt upon." So Solon O. Thacher began his address before the people who had gathered on the occasion of the opening of the University of Kansas on September 12, 1866. The celebration of the University's sesquicentennial can certainly be viewed as an epoch or resting point to contemplate the past and dwell upon a bright future.

The establishment of a state university was contemplated even before Kansas officially became a state in 1861 but was not accomplished without disagreement and strife. The title of the first chapter of Clifford S. Griffin's seminal book on the University's history published in 1974 was appropriately named "The Years of Frustration" as decisions about the location and funding sources were mired in territorial and state politics for many years.

In this exhibit can be found original documents, photographs, and memorabilia that tell the story of the early years of the University from its beginnings in 1865 to the turn of the twentieth century.


Chancellors' Inauguration


Since the time of the first Chancellor, R.W. Oliver (1865-1867), the role and responsibilities of KU's Chancellor have changed considerably. Chancellor Oliver did not have any clear guidance from the Board of Regents as to what his exact responsibilities were, other than to preside over Regents meetings and act as the University's financial agent. Under Chancellor Fraser's administration (1867-1874), the Regents gave limited control over the faculty to the Chancellor by combining the offices of the Chancellor and president of the faculty, and thus making the University's executive officer the Chancellor.

By the 1970s, the Chancellor had full authority over the University's units, "subject to the direction and control of the Board of Regents" and served as the spokesperson for the University. Through designated representatives, the Chancellor is also responsible for the initiation and administration of University policies, including those presented to the Board of Regents for approval, and presenting the University's budget to state officials. One of the chief responsibilities of the Chancellor is the implementation of all resolutions, policies, rules, and regulations adopted by the Board of Regents. 

Today, the role and responsibilities of the Chancellor of the University of Kansas, while not having changed significantly, are simply stated as:

"..the chief executive officer of the University of Kansas, overseeing campuses in Lawrence, Kansas City, Overland Park, and Wichita in addition to research and educational centers in Topeka, Hutchinson, Parsons, and elsewhere in the state."

One thing that has remained the same over the years is that the Chancellor plays a key role in steering the University of Kansas forawrd to meet the current and future needs of its community at the local, state, and global levels. 

Letha E. Johnson
Assistant Archivist
University Archives
University of Kansas Libraries


KU Football: The First Seven Decades


"KU Football: the First Seven Decades" is an online photograph exhibition of the first seven decades of KU Football (1890 through 1955), featuring images from the University Archives at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library.

Learn more about KU's athletic and academic history by visiting University Archives.