Monthly Archives: May 2013

Folklife Exhibit Opens at Kentucky Museum

KFP ExhibitAn exhibit, “Documenting Tradition:  Images from the Kentucky Folklife Program Archives,” will open at WKU’s Kentucky Museum on June 1 and run through October 19.  Brent Bjorkman, director of the Kentucky Folklife Archives, wrote the following for the exhibit’s title panel:

For over 20 years the mission of the Kentucky Folklife Program (KFP) has been to responsibly engage with Kentucky communities to document, present and conserve the cultural heritage of the state, most often referred to as folklife.  In keeping with this mission, the public folklorists working for the KFP in the field over these years (and into the present) have documented and shared the diverse and dynamic folklife of communities across the Commonwealth who so graciously allowed them entry into their lives.

Last summer the KFP was relocated to Western Kentucky University from its former home in Frankfort, and with it came its archive, a vast repository of images, recorded interviews, and field notes that collectively tell the unfolding story of Kentucky and its people.

The images that make up this exhibit were chosen from the KFP archive by Kentucky Museum staff and encompass a board overview of its rich contents.  Click here to view directions and hours of operation for the Kentucky Museum. 

The KFP archives is administered by the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives unit of the Special Collections Library.  Faculty and staff are excited about adding this extensive resource to our research collections.  To view finding aids for collections in WKU’s Folklife Archives click here.

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Day of Remembrance

Decorating graves at Fairview Cemetery, c. 1980 (Kentucky Library)

Decorating graves at Fairview Cemetery, c. 1980 (Kentucky Library)

As Memorial Day nears, the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives section of WKU’s Special Collections Library offers countless opportunities to gain an understanding of the sacrifices of veterans.  Collections documenting the experiences of James Hall (War of 1812), John Donan (Mexican War), Samuel Starling (Civil War), Marvin Hoffman (Spanish-American War), Victor Strahm (World War I), Bert Borrone and Julia Sledge (World War II), Kenneth Fleenor (Vietnam), Jason Hines (Persian Gulf), Adam Ritter (Iraq) and Christopher Davis (Afghanistan) are only a small sampling.  Other collections in our holdings, such as the WKU Veterans Oral History Project, attest to the efforts of interviewers to gather and preserve veterans’ stories as part of a national initiative.  In Bowling Green, the First Baptist Church and the Presbyterian Church have also undertaken to document their members’ experiences.

In contrast to Veterans Day, Memorial Day is specifically a time to remember those Americans who have died in the service of their country.  The fact that this observance falls so soon after college commencements must have touched WKU faculty member Earl A. Moore when he wrote a poem, “Graduation,” to honor a young pilot killed in a bomber crash:

Enshrined in boyhood, youth, young manhood, lies / A glory that seems all the greater when / Its zenith strength is realized and then / Is fixed forever, there beyond the skies. . . . The graduations came in even flow: / First bachelor’s degree, then wings, then soon / Divine diploma signed by One on high.

Click on the links to download finding aids for the above collections.  For more of our collections about veterans, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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WKU Libraries: A Century of Excellence

Millennial Mural for WKU Libraries  "A Century of Excellence"

Millennial Mural for WKU Libraries
“A Century of Excellence”

Over the course of its first 100 years, WKU Libraries was served by five visionary leaders each of whom in their own unique way contributed to the growth and expansion of library services and collections.

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Al and Jeanne Baker honored

A reception was held in honor of Al and Jeanne Baker, former owners of Shutterbug Photography, for their in-kind gift “WKU Libraries-A Century of Excellence” now displayed on the first floor of Cravens Library. The 14 foot long display was created to commemorate a century of service on the hill.

Century of Exc 5

Recognition for Al and Jeanne Baker’s Millennial display at WKU Cravens Library.


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From Kentucky to New York

The Kentuckians menu, 1904, and dance program, 1909 (WKU Special Collections Library)

The Kentuckians menu, 1904, and dance program, 1909 (WKU Special Collections Library)

As transplants from the Bluegrass State began to make their mark in the finance, legal, business and literary sectors of New York City early in the 20th century, a group of them decided to organize a club in order to perpetuate their heritage in Gotham.  Incorporated in 1904, “The Kentuckians” was designed to promote fellowship among its members and to “conserve interest and pride in Kentucky history.”  Today, the group known as the Kentuckians of New York continues that tradition.

In the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives section of WKU’s Special Collections Library, we can see evidence not only of the club’s prestige but of the pleasure that its social events have given members hailing from southcentral Kentucky.  Auburn native Harold H. Helm (1900-1985), who attended Bowling Green’s Ogden College as a young man, joined The Kentuckians as soon as he arrived in New York to begin his distinguished career with the Chemical Bank & Trust Company.  Speaking at a club dinner in 1957, he delighted in telling stories of the exceptional characters he loved back home, such as his father-in-law, Warren Circuit Judge John B. Rodes.  Bowling Green native Phineas Hampton Coombs (1869-1919), who worked in New York from 1901-1918 as agent for the St. Louis Southwestern Railway, kept some of The Kentuckians’ dance and dinner programs, yearbooks and menus from what were undoubtedly glittering social events held at such New York landmarks as Delmonico’s Restaurant and the Plaza, Knickerbocker and St. Regis hotels.

The Kentuckians, needless to say, began as a male preserve, but in 1913 the club held a dinner to honor authors of both sexes who had contributed to the state’s literary fame.  Among those invited was Bowling Green native Lida Calvert Obenchain, who, under the pen name Eliza Calvert Hall, had published two highly successful short story collections, Aunt Jane of Kentucky and The Land of Long Ago.  Lida was also a tireless worker for women’s equality and voting rights.  When the after-dinner speaker, humorist Irvin S. Cobb, chivalrously noted that “In Kentucky, we don’t admit that women are our equals; we insist that they are our superiors,” Lida bristled.  “What on earth made you talk belated nonsense like that?” she demanded afterward.  “Aw, I’m a suffragist,” Cobb replied meekly, “but a fellow’s got to say something at a dinner!”

For more of our collections documenting the lives of distinguished Kentuckians, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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Can’t find it in Helm-Cravens? Map It!

WKU Libraries is now offering StackMap, a software mapping program that provides patrons with a detailed map and written directions to an item with one click. Maps are printable, and also compatible with mobile browsers. Just search for your favorite titles in TOPCAT, scroll to the bottom of the page, and look for the button called “Map It!” The visual map will take you right to the floor and aisle you need to find your materials. copy

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Kudos from a fieldworker

DSC04586My name is Steve Goddard and I am a second-year graduate student in the Folk Studies Department at WKU.  I came back to school after a long hiatus because I wanted to create a gift for the people I love.  I’m not talking about my wife, kids or grandson (though I do love them) but the Kurds.  This Indo-European group from the Middle East, numbering 30-40 million, have long been marginalized and brutalized by strongmen.  As a result, they have emigrated in large numbers to the West, the largest population in the U.S. (10,000) settling in Nashville.  So, I return to the gift.

Though I had worked among Kurdish refugees for the majority of my adult life, I wanted to offer something new to them.  I wanted to conduct research and write a thesis about  Kurdish life, which could then be added to the comparatively small collection of scholarly work concerning them.  The greatest preponderance of what has been written speaks of their political life; conversely not much has been written of their folk life and that is what I want to offer.  Folk studies is grounded in fieldwork, moving beside and among a group of interest and my two years at WKU have prepared me well for that aspect of folkloric work.  However, as a thesis track student, there has been a professional void.  Gratefully, my work with the Manuscripts and Folklife Archives this semester has helped to fill it.

I have spent the last sixteen weeks processing individual collections of the Kentucky Folklife Program, which came to WKU from Frankfort in the fall of 2012.  I have organized and numbered and accessioned papers, slides, photographs and negatives, audio and video cassettes from fourteen collections, with subject matter as diverse as Burgoo festivals and Indian refugees and locations as disparate as Boyd County in the east and Union County in the west.  I have learned how to create finding aids and post them to Top Scholar, KenCat and Pass the Word.  And in the process, something more has been gained (i.e. filled the void). 

I’ve come to understand that prominent folklorists of our day were once just novice fieldworkers, cutting their teeth as they gathered the treasures of Kentucky’s rich traditional culture.  I’ve learned that the bond between fieldworker and archivist must be strong if the body of work produced by the former is to be preserved and presented by the latter.  A detail as simple as a missing birthdate in fieldnotes can greatly encumber those accessing the archival material in the future.  Lastly, I’ve gained a great respect for those on the other side of fieldwork, the archivists, who take what is gathered in face to face interaction and labor with boxes, folders and pencils to preserve that ethos for generations to come.

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Sookie Stackhouse creator Charlaine Harris to headline 2014 SOKY Book Fest

Bowling Green, Ky. –New York Times bestselling author Charlaine Harris will headline the 16th annual Southern Kentucky Book Fest scheduled for Saturday, April 26, 2014. Born and raised in the Mississippi River Delta area, Harris has been writing for thirty years and is best known for her Sookie Stackhouse series.

“We’ve invited Charlaine to Book Fest for several years, but scheduling conflicts have prevented her from coming. Happily, we contacted her early enough to get on her schedule for 2014,” said Kristie Lowry, Literary Outreach Coordinator for WKU Libraries and Book Fest organizer. “The Book Fest partnership strives to invite authors who will have broad appeal, and Charlaine’s fans include young adult and adult readers–men and women–and her appearance will also pull fans of the show True Blood to Book Fest. We are thrilled to have Charlaine Harris coming to Bowling Green next April.”

Harris began writing plays when she attended Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, switching to novels a few years later and published her first book, Sweet and Deadly, in 1981. After publishing two stand-alone mysteries, Harris launched the lighthearted Aurora Teagarden books with Real Murders, a Best Novel 1990 nomination for the Agatha Awards. Harris wrote eight books in her series about a Georgia librarian. In 1996, she released the first in the much darker Shakespeare mysteries, featuring the amateur sleuth Lily Bard, a karate student who makes her living cleaning houses. Shakespeare’s Counselor, the fifth—and last– was printed in fall 2001.

After Shakespeare, Harris created an urban fantasy series about a telepathic waitress named Sookie Stackhouse who works in a bar in the fictional Northern Louisiana town of Bon Temps. Each book follows Sookie through her adventures involving vampires, werewolves, and other supernatural creatures. The series has been released worldwide and is so popular that writer and producer Alan Ball created the HBO series True Blood based on Harris’s novels. 

SOKY Book Fest is a partnership project of WKU Libraries, Warren County Public Library, and Barnes and Noble Booksellers. For more information, visit the website at or contact Book Fest organizer Kristie Lowry at WKU Libraries at (270) 745-4502.

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“Kentucky County Stars: Illustrious Kentuckians”

WKU Visual Resources Librarian Nancy Richey

   WKU Visual Resources Librarian Nancy Richey and retired newspaper publisher Roger Givens presented “Kentucky County Stars: Illustrious Kentuckians” as part of the “We’ve Been Everywhere” program on Tuesday, April 23 in the Helm Library on WKU’s campus.  Rogers and Givens presented images and brief synopses of famous entertainers, politicians, and other influential figures throughout history who originated form our Bluegrass state.

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WKU Libraries student workers will be missed!

WKU Library student workers will be missed! A repection was held on May 8 at 10 am to honor the student workers for WKU Libraries who are graduating.  Best wishes and good luck in your future endeavors!

WKU Library student workers will be missed!

A reception was held on May 8 at 10 am to honor the student workers for WKU Libraries who are graduating. Best wishes and good luck in your future endeavors!

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