With the Spencer Research Library’s recent North Gallery renovation now open to the public, one of the new features visitors can enjoy is the library’s interactive displays. The 15 interactive displays are broken up into stations placed around the gallery, placed adjacent to glass windows which allow visitors to view memorabilia, photographs, books and other materials corresponding to the station.
A visitor could spend around five to 10 minutes at each station, depending on how much information they want to learn about the topic.
Caitlin Donnelly, head of public services at the Spencer Library, said that before the renovations, the gallery featured cards that were around 6 by 8 inches and displayed small amounts of information about a book or artifact.
Just last week, the Kenneth Spencer Research Library reopened the newly renovated North Gallery, which features interactive displays and multimedia.
Now, the gallery features collections special to Spencer Research Library including the Kansas Collection, Special Collections and University Archives.
Sheryl Williams, curator of collections at Spencer Research Library, said that when selecting materials for each exhibit, they focused on things that were audibly and visually pleasing for people to view, such as videos that had been donated.
Donnelly said that a lot of people may not know that Spencer has audio and visual materials, and they wanted this exhibit to showcase that.
“People assume we have books, and they may know we have maps and photos, collections of letters, but I don’t know if people would assume we have audio and visual stuff,” Donnelly said. “We haven’t had a venue to share any of it.”
Several exhibits are featured within each of the three featured collections.
The Kansas Collection features items from the state of Kansas and the people who live and have lived in the state.
One of the exhibits in the gallery focuses on Sumner High School, located in Kansas City, Kansas, and established in 1905.
The collection features yearbooks and newspapers, and the interactive exhibit in the gallery features homemade movies taken by the school around the 1930s and 1940s. The interactive has videos about science class, band and football.
“It was the only African-American high school in the state and was not integrated until 1978,” Williams said. “It was an excellent school and provided African Americans with an excellent education.”
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Another exhibit featured within the Kansas Collection in the gallery is on Langston Hughes, a Harlem Renaissance writer who spent much of his childhood in Lawrence.
The Hughes segment includes materials that have been donated over the years, some of them by Hughes himself.
The interactive display plays Hughes’ voice recounting his childhood in Lawrence.
“During my childhood here in Lawrence, I sort of thought I would like to be a medical doctor because one of the first memories I got was running away from home at the age of 6 or 7 up here to a morgue,” Hughes says on the tape.
The Special Collections division of Spencer is broad and includes rare book collections, science fiction books, poetry and a renaissance collection. It also includes a natural history collection, ornithological collections and an Irish literature and culture collection.
“It’s all very eclectic,” Williams said. “Whereas the Kansas Collection is all uniform and relates to Kansas, Special Collections have areas that don’t really relate to each other.”
One of the exhibits in the gallery is the 20th Century Literary Collection.
The interactive part of this exhibit highlights poets who have works in Spencer, such as Denise Low, a native of Kansas.
In the interactive, visitors can hear Low reading one of her poems.
Another exhibit featured in the gallery is the ornithological collection, which is the study of birds. The exhibit features works and illustrations done by John Gould, a famous 19th-century ornithologist.
Williams said the interactive display includes information about Gould’s illustration process, his artists and lithographic stones, which are stone slabs that were used in the late 1700s to draw and print illustrations on.
There is also a video in the interactive about how lithographic printing works.
The University Archives contain materials on athletics, student life, faculty members and chancellors.
The interactive exhibit in the gallery has old videos ranging from 1866 to 2016 related to student life, showing students swimming in Potter Lake, as well as a video of men's gymnastics in Robinson Center.
The exhibit also features a projector and a timeline with buttons that can be pushed relating to different topics. The timeline outlines 150 years of change at the University.
The library was awarded $50,000 to help analyze sustainable ways to improve the ventilation system.
One of the buttons features footage of James Naismith and Phog Allen demonstrating basketball fundamentals. While there are only snippets of the footage in the interactive display, the original video is 20 minutes long.
The North Gallery is open to the public, and Williams and Donnelly hope people come view the new gallery.
“Our hope is that people will come and maybe spend a few minutes, maybe come multiple times between classes and really get a sense of what we have and get really excited about what we have,” Donnelly said.
— Edited by Danya Issawi