Browse Exhibits (52 total)

"Building Tomorrow Today": Clinton Lake and the Flood of 1951

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This exhibit follows the evolution of Clinton Lake from the Flood of 1951, which acted as an impetus for lake construction, to the initial stages of planning and the eventual completion of the dam and surrounding parks. Clinton Lake served as a point of serious contention between various stakeholders, including local residents, city planners, and federal engineers.

This is an online version of a physical exhibit that was on display in Kenneth Spencer Research Library from January to February 2024 and created by Claire Cox, Public Services Student Assistant and KU Graduate Student in History. It also accompanies a blog post entitled "'Building Tomorrow Today': Clinton Lake and the Flood of 1951."

The brochure to the left describes the Clinton Lake and Dam project. It is from the Subject Files on Kansas Topics Collection that was compiled and maintained at the Lawrence Public Library Osma (Local History) Room, now housed in Kenneth Spencer Research Library (Call Number: RH MS 977, box 18, folder 17).


OBJECT LESSONS: Selections from the Conservation Services Bookbinding Models Collection

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Please enjoy a selection of bookbinding models created by KU Libraries conservators between 1995 and 2024. Bookbinding models demonstrate the structure, materials, and techniques of various historical book forms. In addition, their creation may inform conservation treatment of collection materials from Spencer Research Library and other campus libraries. As we learn more about an item’s physical composition, we also gather information about its vulnerabilities—places where old books are most likely to fail. Sometimes we learn unexpected things about a book structure when we make it for ourselves, testing pre-conceived notions about how it was created.

The books featured here represent common types of bindings across time and cultures, but primarily focus on European book forms. We often feature bookbinding models in conservation lab tours and teaching, allowing visitors to handle them and appreciate how they function. Did you know that books are usually sewn with thread? Or that parchment is made from animal skin? Having the opportunity to examine these models is often an eye-opening experience.

In addition to historic models, we include some more fanciful, artistic bindings that may inspire printmakers and book artists. Spencer Library also houses a collection of artists’ books, many of which push the limits of the concept of a “book.”

We hope that these exemplars encourage you to contemplate the book form in its abundant variety. The structure, materials, and form of a book provide clues about its history and the culture in which it was created. The study of historic bindings connects us to traditions of craft, commerce, and readership; it invites us to wonder not only at our differences to the users of such objects, but, importantly, to our similarities.

Angela Andres and Whitney Baker
Conservation Services, KU Libraries

This is an online version of a physical exhibit that was on display in Kenneth Spencer Research Library during the Spring semester of 2024. The exhibit was created by Whitney Baker and Angela Andres, Conservation Services. Contact Whitney or Angela with questions.


To the GREAT VARIETY of READERS: Celebrating the 400th Anniversary of Shakespeare's First Folio

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“Devise, wit! Write, pen! For I am for whole volumes in folio.” Armando, Love's Labour's Lost, Act I, Scene 2

On 8 November 1623, Isaac Jaggard, printer, and Edward Blount, bookseller, went to the Stationers Hall in London to register their publication: Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies, finally completed after two years’ effort. Although perhaps little noticed at the time, we now see this act as a monumental historical moment.

Why commemorate the 400th anniversary of this publication? The 1623 Folio is remarkable for at least three reasons. First, this book created a milestone in English literary history because it put together a collection of Shakespeare’s plays, without which we would not know of roughly half of the plays by England’s most important dramatist—a major act of preservation. Second, this folio stands out in printing history, there being nothing quite like it before: a triumph of skill and perseverance on the part of compositors, pressmen, and financiers. This is the first folio wholly dedicated to professional plays. And, third, for the first time in printing history two actors, John Heminge and Henry Condell, gathered the material, secured rights, and watched over the process as a tribute to their colleague and dear friend.

This exhibit spans precursors to the First Folio, the Folios of 1623 and 1632, and successors. Case 1 contains the Ben Jonson Folio of 1616 which he arranged for the publication of his poems and plays; it clearly became a model for the Shakespeare Folio. Also, this case has the folio edition of King James’s works, also of 1616, showing the typical “serious” work worthy of folio format. Case 2 provides fragments of the Shakespeare Folios of 1623 and 1632, a cultural phenomenon in which pieces of the folio were sold separately. Case 3 displays a ground-breaking facsimile of the 1623 First Folio with its iconic Shakespeare portrait. Case 4 presents the Spencer Library copy of the 1632 Second Folio, a page-by-page reprint of the 1623 one. This case also includes William Prynne’s 1632 attack on the presumptuous idea of publishing plays in folio format. Case 5 offers the collected plays of Shakespeare’s contemporaries Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher in the Folio of 1679, an obvious successor to the Shakespeare ones.

This special exhibit not only celebrates Shakespeare, but also highlights some of the extensive holdings of the Spencer Research Library, with outstanding collections of unique value and importance to the local, national, and international research communities. The library’s resources are available to the public, and all are welcome to explore. These selections are just one way the library embodies and sustains the teaching and research mission of the University of Kansas.

David M. Bergeron, Professor Emeritus of English

Beth M. Whittaker, Director, Kenneth Spencer Research Library


LibArt 2023

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Digital Exhibit for the 2023-2024 LibArt Program


Photographic Treasures of Historic Leavenworth, Kansas


In Spring 2023, Kenneth Spencer Research Library hosted the traveling exhibit Photographic Treasures of Historic Leavenworth, Kansas. It was developed by the Leavenworth County Historical Society to “reveal a notable segment of American history in surprising detail and reframe the rich legacy of Leavenworth in a new light.” The exhibit showcased seventeen enlarged reproductions of historical photographs from the post-Civil War era, with interpretive captions. The images included downtown and city panoramas, studio portraits, and close-ups of downtown businesses as well as photos of the old Fort bridge, a steamboat, and the first train depot. The traveling exhibit also included fifty additional photographs that were displayed using the library’s projector and three panels of contextual information about the Historical Society’s Everhard Glass Plate Negative Collection.

In conjunction with the traveling exhibition, Spencer Research Library showcased a selection of collection materials – including original books, documents, maps, and photographs – related to Leavenworth’s history between 1865 and 1900. These are the materials reproduced here, with their exhibit labels.

This is an online version of a physical exhibit that was on display in Kenneth Spencer Research Library, February through June 2023. The exhibit was created by Caitlin Donnelly Klepper and Kathy Lafferty, Public Services. Contact Caitlin or Kathy with questions.


Radicalism in Southeast Kansas

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This is an online version of a physical exhibit that was on display in Kenneth Spencer Research Library from through May 2023. The exhibit was created by Walter Sours, Student Assistant with Public Services at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Walter is a History and American Studies student at the University of Kansas. This exhibit is adapted from research that he did on Radicalism in Southeast Kansas for his Honors Undergraduate thesis in History. He chose this topic because he is from Southeast Kansas and feels that the history of the region is rich and largely unexplored.


Keeping the Books: The Rubinstein Collection of the Orsetti Family Business Archive


This is an online version of a physical exhibit that featured samples from a large collection of Italian bound business records dating primarily from the 16th-18th centuries. It was on display in Kenneth Spencer Research Library in the fall of 2022, created by Whitney Baker, Head, Conservation Services.


LibArt 2022

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Digital Exhibit for the 2022-2023 LibArt Program


Inquiry as Activism: Social Research & Achievement in the National Urban League

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In the year 1910, a collective group of racial reformers founded the National Urban League in New York City. Its mission today seeks to advance “economic empowerment, equality, and social justice” for African Americans and other underserved groups. Through research on the disparities of common welfares for African Americans, the National Urban League uses their findings to assist and counsel in the areas of housing, education, job placement, and employment discrimination. The League has generated millions of dollars in funding that has supported educational scholarships, informational programs, and employment networks. They are known for assisting in the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the planning of the 1963 March on Washington. Today, the organization comprises 90 Urban League affiliate offices in the states that act as a liaison between the national office and local communities. This relationship helps to ensure the closing of equality gaps that exist in underserved communities, and growth in economic empowerment, educational health, civic engagement, and social welfare.

This is an online version of a physical exhibit that was on display in Kenneth Spencer Research Library from March 2019 through April of 2022. The exhibit was created by Tyler Allen, Student Assistant with the African American Experience Collection, Kenneth Spencer Research Library.


February Sisters

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The late 1960s and early 1970s saw the expansion of the women’s rights movement at the University of Kansas. For years women on campus had been working towards a more equal standing on campus.

Spurred by a lack of action on the Unversity's part to establish an Affirmative Action Program, a group of women calling themselves the February Sisters organized the occupation of the East Asian Studies building on campus to bring attention to the problems women faced on campus. Twenty women and four of their children occupied the building at 1332 Louisiana on February 4th, 1972. The February Sisters fought to bring about an Affirmative Action program planned and directed by women, a campus daycare center financed by the University, the hiring of more women in upper level administrative and faculty positions, an end to unfair employment practices (including the large wage discrepancies between women and male employees), a Women’s Studies department, and a women’s health program.

After achieving some success in a meeting with University Senate Executive Committee the night of the occupation, the following years on campus saw the majority of the February Sisters’ demands realized. The peacefully and successfully protested gender inequality on KU campus. The protest united generations and feminist groups, bringing students and staff together to force institutional change at KU.

This exhibit highlights original documents, photographs, and memorabilia that tell the story of the women’s right movement at the University. 

It was created by Molly Herring, Associate Archivist, University Archives, Kenneth Spencer Research Library.