WKU Libraries Blog

News and events from WKU Libraries

WKU Libraries Blog - News and events from WKU Libraries

Open Access Week – KenCat

Open Access

Open Access

Special Collections are often referred to as hidden collections.  They require a special environment, careful handling and labor intensive description work to make them available.  In the time it takes to process a small collection of photographs I suspect a book cataloger could catalog about 250 books.

WKU’s Special Collections are over 75 years old and we are just now beginning to gain ground in opening our hidden collections with the help computer technology.  KenCat is your portal into our world of special collections.  Since purchasing this software in 2005 we have created descriptions of over 56,000 items housed in the Kentucky Building.  There are rare books on all sorts of topics, books about Kentucky, maps, photographs, documents, oral histories, blueprints, postcards, newspapers, memorabilia, letters, diaries and much more.

KenCat went live late in 2007 and searches have been steadily increasing since that first year from 2 to 21,566 so far this year.  We will continue to reveal more and more of our treasures in the years to come.

“Plowed all day and never got done”

Charles & Susan Omer

Charles & Susan Omer

Union County, Kentucky native Charles Henry Omer (1865-1937) was a substitute teacher, postmaster, merchant, Mason, and elder at the Morganfield Christian Church.  He and his wife Susan were the parents of 13 children, including two sets of twins.  Somehow, they found time not only for their primary pursuit of farming, but for the maintenance of a journal that recorded the family’s daily activities from 1904-1932.  Common topics over its hundreds of pages were, as one would expect, the weather, income and expenses, with the prices of food, timber, farm supplies and labor faithfully noted.  But other details add color to this chronicle of agricultural life, for example:

May 23, 1904:  It rained a little this morning. . . . went to Morganfield to see the Bloomer Girls play Baseball in the afternoon Expenses 70c Light-Bread 10 Sausages Bananas 10 Peanuts 5 crackers 5 steak 20 Ice cream soda 10 = 1.30

May 3, 1905:  I took my crosscut saw out to Tom Berry’s and got him to sharpen it and I took his place rolling logs while he was fixing it.

July 9, 1913:  I let Uncle John Berry go down to Sister Mollie’s and got a horse collar to work on Lizzie so he could plow my patch of corn he plowed all day and never got done.

Feb. 27, 1923:  I hung 4 hams my 2nd killing today & cleaned the hog feet to my last killing & put them to soak to cook tomorrow.

Oct. 26, 1930:  I got up at 4:30 and went to the c[hristian] church and fired up the furnace and back at 7:30 and eat breakfast and then killed 2 chickens to bake.

May 31, 1932: Mrs. Omer & I have been married 33 years today.  I took about a qt. of pumpkin seed to both Wilhelm and Miller to plant.

The Omer family farm journal is part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives collections of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  Click here to access a finding aid.  To explore other collections relating to agriculture (the 2014 focus of Kentucky Archives Month), search TopSCHOLAR  and KenCat.

Kentucky Archives Month poster

International Open Access Week – Generation Open

Open Access

Open Access

SPARC, the Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition coordinates the annual International Open Access Week.  This year’s theme is Generation Open, that is to say the focus is upon student and early career researchers.  In keeping with the theme, WKU Libraries is focusing upon our student researchers past and present.

We make access to student research projects and creative activities available by posting them on TopSHOLAR which went live in 2007.  Since that time works by students have been downloaded over 487,000 times. Continue reading

Author Jason Mott participated in 2014 SOKY Reads!

9780778317074.inddSOKY Reads! proved extremely successful last week as numerous community members and students visited with Jason Mott, author of this year’s featured book The Returned. Mott attended David Bell’s creative writing class and talked about his book, getting published, and what it takes to be a successful writer. He also offered to sign books and addressed a large crowd at the Bob Kirby Library, and participated in two separate luncheons, answering questions from members of three different book clubs. DSC_0023

This year, SOKY Book Fest partners gave out 500 books of The Returned and offered book discussions at various community locations, including the public library branches, at Western Kentucky University, and at Southcentral Kentucky Community & Technical College.

 Photo Album


Mistaken for the Devil


WKU is celebrating the International Year of Ecuador during the 2014-2015 academic year.  All types of events including film presentations, lectures, exhibits, and foodways demonstrations have been planned across campus.  Interestingly in researching for an exhibit titled “Ecuador in Library Special Collections” at the Kentucky Building, curators found several letters written by the U.S. consul to Ecuador and his wife, Edward Rumsey Wing and Louise (Green) Wing.  They both write back to her Kentucky parents telling them about their exciting adventures, longing for home, intellectual pursuits, family affairs, and adjustment to a new culture.  Wing served in Quito from 1870 to 1874.

In a June 1870 letter Louise writes her parents back in Grayson County, Kentucky, about an experience traveling through the Ecuadorian mountains.

Imagine me in a mask, goggles, veil, man’s hat, green yarn gloves, the thickest of clothing, trotting on a mule past a snow clad mountain—grand, threatening, and awe inspiring. I thought I should never see the last of it, and I pray that I may never behold it again while I live.  By the by I was taken for the Devil in the costume by a little crosseyed Indian girl who insisted I was le diablo.  Our eyes & faces are still afflicted from the sands & wind.  Rumsey looked as if he had been on a royal spree for [the] last forty years and I am not quite a beauty myself.

Toward the end of the letter, Louise summarizes her feelings about the mountain trip:

Language fails me when I attempt to tell you what I have endured and seen in this delectable Republic of Ecuador.  I do not wish to recall it.  Indeed I should like to blot the whole journey thus far, until all of its extentuating and beautiful surroundings, entirely from my memory.  Much to my amazement I reached this spot alive, and today am almost myself— again, though stiff & burnt to a crisp.

To search for other letters and diaries written from distant lands search our finding aids in TopSCHOLAR.

Two Scottish Duchesses in the Age of Men

Dr. Kathy Callahan from Murray State University talked about Scottish duchesses to WKU Libraries' Far Away Places audience at Barnes and Noble, Bowling Green, KY.

WKU Libraries hosted its second Far Away Places event on October 23 at 7:00 p.m. at Barnes & Noble bookstore titled “Two Scottish Duchesses in the Age of Men” featuring Kathy Callahan. Dr. Callahan is currently Head of the Department of History at Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky. Her talk focused on the lives and work of two Scottish duchesses, Anne Hamilton, duchess of Hamilton, and Anna Scott, duchess of Buccleuch. The two duchesses were contemporaries in the 17th century Scotland and governed their estates during a time when men customarily handled such affairs.

Photo Album | Sound File | Podcast

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Encased Treasures (Clement Reeves Edwards)

In the photographic holdings of the Kentucky Library Research Collections are several early photographic images by C. R. (Clement Reeves) Edwards. He was a photographer, portrait and landscape artist originally from Woodston, New Jersey. He came to Bowling Green in 1857 and opened a photography studio and also offered his services as a portrait painter. This ambrotype is
an example of his fine photography work. Although, the image is not identified, it may be Edwards’s farm and his third wife, Margaret Lewis, whom he married in 1858. He died on February 4, 1898.

Edwards Ambrotype

 The fragility of these one-of-a-kind photographs mandated that they be cased. In 1842, Samuel Peck patented a more durable case than the previous leather or wooden ones. These “Union” cases were composed of gutta-percha, an early plastic. They could be molded to hold any surface design and dyed. This Edwards ambrotypes has a “Union” case embossed with an elk and woods scene.  Additionally, the Kentucky Museum has 14 oil paintings by Edwards. Ten are portraits including two self-portraits and four are landscapes. For more information about early photographs and their identification and care email spcol@wku.edu  Other photographic and illustrative holdings of the Department of Special Collections may be viewed at KenCat at kencat.wku.edu


Reception for Josie Underwood’s Civil War Diary, Part Two

The Register cover-001

WKU Libraries hosted a reception and book signing for author and retired library professor Nancy Disher Baird on Sunday, October 12 in the afternoon in the Kentucky Building. Housed in WKU’s Manuscripts & Folklife Archives, the second of Josie Underwood’s diaries was recently published in the Register of the Kentucky Historical Society (vol. 112, no. 3). Baird spoke of Underwood’s experiences and travels in and around Scotland, taken from the diary. Baird, a former special collections faculty member and local historican, shared keen observations from the diary to the audience of more than forty regarding Civil War times from a young female civilian’s perspective.  

“I think a diary like this helps us humanize people from the past,” said David Turpie, editor of the Register. “Facts and figures are important…but it is also important to understand the thoughts and feelings of one individual, in this case someone who had an unusual journey during the Civil War years. While the war occurred, Josie continued to live her life.”

When we think of the Civil War, we read about military strategy and movement; however, this diary goes beyond the troops. “Most studies of war concentrate on the military and its heroes. But what about the trauma experienced by civilians left at home—especially in an area occupied by the military,” said Nancy Baird, editor of both diaries. “Josie Underwood’s diary concentrates on the Kentucky home front during the Civil War; most southern states experienced similar problems.” For additional information on the latest diary, email the Register staff at  KHSpublications@ky.gov.

Photo Album

The Kentucky Building is celebrating its 75th anniversary

KY Building constructionThe Kentucky Building is celebrating its 75th anniversary with a reception Friday, November 14 from 2:00-3:00 pm in the Kentucky Room of the Kentucky Building on Western Kentucky University’s campus. The public and WKU community are invited to the celebration. There will be a brief program about the history of the building, free admission to all museum exhibits and behind-the-scene tours.

Schedule is as follows:

            2:00     Reception begins/cake and punch serviced

            2:20     Remarks by President Gary Ransdell

            2:30     History of the Kentucky Building by Jonathan Jeffrey

            2:45     Announcements of new acquisitions and the Connie Mills Internship

            2:50     Guests are welcome to tour all areas of the Kentucky Building

 Brief history of the Kentucky Building, photo gallery, and more information can be found at wku.edu/kentuckymuseum/education/75_anniversity.php.         

Contact Christy Spurlock, Education Curator/Kentucky Museum at Christy.spurlock@wku.edu, 270-745-6082 or contact Jonathan Jeffrey, Department Head for Library Special Collections at jonathan.jeffrey@wku.edu, 270-745-5265 for more information about the program or day.    

What Is an Archives?

Part of our continuing recognition of Kentucky Archives Month.

Whether you are researching your family tree, searching for inspiration for your latest historical fiction novel,1 verifying the royal succession,2 or looking for information about the One Ring,3 the place to look is an archives.

An archives is a collection of historical documents or records providing information about a place, institution, or group of people.  These records include photographs, maps, letters, diaries, government records, and many more things. Many of the types of records in archives are rare and most are one-of-a-kind.  The collections in an archives are often donated by organizations or individuals over time, and often these records are valued family artifacts.  So, archivists have a responsibility to the historical record- and to past donors- to protect and preserve the records in their care.  For more information about what an archives is and about our archival collections, follow the links below:

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