Browse Exhibits (41 total)

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. 

This is an online exhibit from Fall 2015. The exhibit was created by Letha Johnson, Associate Archivist, University Archives, Kenneth Spencer Research Library.


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.

This is an online version of a physical exhibit that was on display in Kenneth Spencer Research Library, September through December of 2015. The exhibit was created by Rebecca Schulte, University Archivist.


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.


John Gould: Bird Illustration in the Age of Darwin

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John Gould (1804-1881) contributed to burgeoning scientific and popular interest in the natural world in Victorian England as an ornithologist, collector, and illustrator and publisher of bird books. He assisted Charles Darwin with classification of bird specimens collected during the H.M.S. Beagle’s visit to the Galapagos Islands in 1835. Gould and his artist wife, Elizabeth (1804-1841) traveled to Australia in 1838. Two years engaged in pioneering studies of Australian wildlife resulted in the seven-volume Birds of Australia (1840-1848) and three-volume Mammals of Australia (1845-1863). Partnering with other illustrators after his wife’s death, Gould published a dozen folio-size books about birds of the world.


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.      

This is an online version of a physical exhibit that was on display in Kenneth Spencer Research Library, January through June of 2015. The exhibit was created by Rebecca Schulte, Curator of the Wilcox 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

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"[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