Browse Exhibits (26 total)

Free Speech in America: Wilcox Collection at 50



Fifty years ago Laird Wilcox was a student at the University of Kansas.  Beginning in his teen years he had been collecting political literature, fueled in this interest by his diverse family leanings and volatile discussions over family meals. He wanted to understand what motivated people to believe the things they did and act on those beliefs, especially those beliefs and actions that were viewed as left and right wing.  And he believed passionately in free speech. 

In his student days he served as the chairman of the SUA Minorities Forum at KU, an organization that sponsored many films, talks and programs aligned with free speech and the controversies of the time.  It was the era of the Vietnam War, the draft, the Civil Rights Movement, and student protest.  

By 1964 he had exhibited his collection in the student union at KU, and won an award through the Libraries’ Taylor Book Collecting Contest..  The KU Libraries expressed  interest in acquiring his collection, and in 1965 purchased the four filing cabinets of materials that would form the nucleus of the Wilcox Collection of Contemporary Political Movements.   

After leaving the University, Wilcox continued to pursue his long held interest in extremist views, corresponding with many active in a variety of movements, attending rallies and  protests, collecting box loads of materials, publishing  directories of  left wing and right wing organizations.  All this material made its way to Spencer Library where it was added to the Wilcox Collection.

Likewise the library  added to the holdings with paid subscriptions to many serial publications, and the purchase of books, pamphlets and audio recordings.  The Collection  grew rapidly, as box loads of materials were received monthly.  By the 1980s the collection had outgrown the library’s capacity to catalog everything, and a U.S. Department of Education grant  was obtained in 1986, providing some $350,000 over a three year period to catalog all the serial publications and ephemeral files. 

Today the Wilcox Collection is one of the largest assemblages of left and right wing U.S. materials anywhere.  There are thousands and thousands of pamphlets, books, newsletters, audio recordings, and political ephemera such as bumper stickers, posters, flyers, organizational membership mailings, book catalogs, relating to some 10,000 organizations at the fringes of the political spectrum.  There is also a growing component of manuscript collections as well, including Laird Wilcox’s personal papers, and records from such organizations as the New York based  Women for Racial and Economic Equality. 

Researchers come from all over the world to use the Wilcox Collection, finding resources that are hard, if not impossible to come by elsewhere.  The library continues to receive donations from Laird Wilcox, and many others who support the collection.      


Onitsha Market Literature


Onitsha Market Literature consists of stories, plays, advice and moral discourses published primarily in the 1960s by local presses in the lively market town of Onitsha, an important commercial site in the Igbo-speaking region of southeastern Nigeria. In the fresh and vigorous genre of Onitsha Market Literature, the commoner wrote pulp fiction and didactic handbooks for those who perused the bookstalls of Onitsha Market, one of Africa’s largest trading centers.

Twenty-one pamphlets from Onitsha Market appear here fully digitized and annotated to exemplify styles of expression found in this intriguing form of African popular literature. They are part of a unique collection of more than 100 pamphlets from Onitsha now held at the Spencer Research Library at the University of Kansas.


Nobel Laureates In Literature Around The Globe

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International Nobel Laureates

Featuring books  from:

  • Africa and the Middle East
  • Bosnia (Yugoslavia), Poland, Russia, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR)
  • China and Japan
  • Spain, Portugal and Latin America
  • France, Germany, Italy, and India


Lasting Impact: Brown vs. the Board of Education

"[Education] is the very foundation of good citizenship. Today it is a principal instrument in awakening the child to cultural values, in preparing him for later professional training, and in helping him to adjust normally to his environment. In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.”

Mr. Chief Justice Warren, Brown v. Board of Education 347 U.S. 483,
Argued December 9, 1952. Decided May 17, 1954



Celebrating East Asian Studies Scholarship


KU Libraries is honored to showcase the work of East Asian Studies scholars at the University of Kansas. This exhibition was created to illustrate the breadth of East Asian resources, support and scholarship found across the University of Kansas community.

Celebrating East Asian Studies Scholarship: an Interdisciplinary Showcase

February 16 through April 13, 2012


Frosted Windows: 300 Years of St. Petersburg Through Western Eyes

A window lets in light from both sides. But in damp northern climes, it’s often through a glass darkly, be it during the foggy days and White Nights of mid-summer or on snowy evenings surrounding the Winter Solstice when window-panes are frosted and folks darken the chandelier or blow out the candles and crawl early into feather-beds.

Peter the Great’s Sankt Pieter Burkh, founded 300 years ago this year as his “Window on the West,” tempted Europe and the West, much like The Little Match Girl on the coldest night of the year, to come in spiritual and intellectual hunger and in hopes of feeling the warmth and seeing the light-in-the-East they could make out through the almost opaque Petersburg crystal.


Quantrill's Raid

As part of the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of Quantrill's raid on Lawrence, the University of Kansas Libraries present selections from the Kansas Collection's holdings that illuminate this significant chapter in Kansas history.


Swahili Literature Through the Centuries

This exhibit highlights representative works of Swahili literature from the collection of the University of Kansas Libraries.  It features examples of various literary genres that comprise the most notable items in the Swahili collection.  These include biographical and autobiographical works, drama, fiction, poetry, and works translated into Swahili.  Also featured are the writings of Shaaban Robert (1909-1962), Tanzania’s most well-known literary figure, and examples of the interconnections between language and politics.


Kanga writings



100 Years of the Jayhawk

One hundred years ago a KU student named Daniel Henry "Hank" Maloy drew what became the first "signature" Jayhawk.  The term Jayhawker has been associated with Kansas since the pre-Civil War era and eventually became the symbol for the University of Kansas.  In 1886, the term Jayhawk was incorporated into our world-famous college yell "Rock Chalk Jayhawk KU," although it was not yet portrayed as a bird.  In a pre-Maloy drawing in the 1908 Jayhawker yearbook, a rather prehistoric looking bird is perched on a goalpost heckled a miserable looking Missouri Tiger.

In recollections of his college years, Maloy remembers that he first had the idea of drawing the Jayhawk as a bird in October of 1912 when he saw a stuffed chickenhawk in the Squires photography studio downtown.  He went home and drew a long-legged Jayhawk with big, heavy shoes so that he “could administer more effective justice” towards athletic opponents.

Not surprisingly, most of the items in this exhibit are from the holdings of the University Archives, but we’ve also discovered that the Kansas Collection, and even Special Collections (through writings of H. L. Mencken, no less) have also contributed to 100 Years of Jayhawk!

Many thanks go to Letha Johnson, Sherry Williams, Whitney Baker, and Roberta Woodrick for their assistance in making this exhibition possible.

Becky Schulte, University Archivist