Monthly Archives: October 2014

WKU Libraries Halloween Potluck

DSC_0215-001WKU Library faculty, staff, and students celebrated Halloween with the annual potluck party and costume competition. The winners of the costume competition are:

Most Traditional – Jennifer Wilson – Minnie Mouse

Best Face Painting – Allison Sircy – broken strings marionette

Most Creative – Bryan Carson – Pimp

Most Original – Glenda White – One Night Stand

Best Cartoon Character – Crystal Bowling – Captain America

Best Book Character – Lesley Montgomery – Mary Poppins

Best Store Bought Costume – Laura Bohuski – Renaissance Lady

Photo Album

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Filed under Events, Flickr Photos, Latest News, New Stuff, People

A Most Photographed Donkey

Mammoth Cave was and continues to be one of the outstanding scenic attractions in America. It was Kentucky’s first tourist attraction and visitors have been coming since 1816. Many guests stayed in rustic cabins or at the Mammoth Cave Hotel, which was at one time, considered a fine hotel. It was destroyed by fire on December 9, 1916. A newspaper article from the Louisville Times reported:  “Mammoth Cave Hotel Destroyed By Fire, Historic Structure Caught Fire From an Unknown Source Early Saturday Morning. The original Mammoth Cave Hotel, a part of which was built in 1811, was entirely destroyed by fire, of unknown origin, which started at three o’clock this morning, consuming the hotel in two hours. All the registers of the hotel and cave, which contained perhaps the greatest collection in existence of the autograph signatures of famous men and women of this country and other parts of the world, were destroyed. The registers of the Mammoth Cave and the Mammoth Cave Hotel, which in part were more than a century old, contained the names of such famous personages as the late King Edward of England, Jenny Lind, Edwin Booth, the Grand Duke Alexis of Russia, and Don Pedro of Brazil.”

The Hotel and cabins were also the background for many photographs. James Davis Rodes is shown posed on the infamous and also well photographed donkey. In our photographic collections, a donkey shows up many times with many different people. James was the son of Judge John Barret Rodes and Elizabeth Hines Rodes. Sadly, he died at an early age in 1914. (Note that some of the Mammoth Cave Hotel registers were not destroyed and are in the Manuscripts Division of the Department of Special Collections.)

To access finding aids for these Mammoth Cave collections, a part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives holdings of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat or email for more information about photographic holdings.JamesDavisRodes

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Crossing the Line

Elizabeth Woods's Equator crossing certificate

Elizabeth Woods’s Equator crossing certificate

The custom of holding strange initiation rituals to commemorate a seaman’s first crossing of the Equator dates back several centuries.  WKU graduate Jean E. Keith, later a historian for the Corps of Engineers, wrote of his experience in October 1943 to his French teacher Marjorie Clagett.  “My head is completely innocent of hair. . . by reason of having crossed the Equator,” he reported, part of a “quaint custom among us sailors to mutilate each new one who does so.”  For two days, he and other newbies–“Pollywogs”–suffered at the hands of the “Shellbacks,” veterans of the crossing whose job it was to oversee the appropriate torments for their successors.  Highlights of the initiation included crawling through a gauntlet of fire hoses shooting salt water, bobbing for hotdogs in a bucket of mustard, and enduring a patch of tar smeared on the scalp and “rubbed in good” down to the neck.  After another dousing by fire hoses, the “Royal Court of King Neptune” officially elevated the Pollywogs to the status of Shellbacks.

Equator-crossing ceremonies are also observed among civilians.  During a cruise to South America, WKU foreign languages teacher Elizabeth Woods received a certificate from “Neptune, the Great God of all the High Seas,” declaring her “duly initiated into the mysteries of Our Realm.”  Referring to the customary mock trial before Neptune’s court, she noted that afterward the condemned “is flung unceremoniously into the swimming pool.”  One hopes the 73-year-old Miss Woods merely witnessed and did not suffer this indignity.

After crossing the Equator and the International Date Line on a single trip, Lt. Col. Belmont Forsythe obtained a unique souvenir: a “Short Snorter,” a $1 bill signed by fellow travelers including, in this case, U.S. Senator and Kentucky Governor Albert “Happy” Chandler.  The holders subsequently identified themselves to each other by producing their Short Snorters; if one was unable to do so, he owed the other either a $1 bill or a drink.

Belmont Forsythe's Short Snorter

Belmont Forsythe’s Short Snorter

Click on the links to access finding aids for these collections, part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives holdings of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  For more of our collections, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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Filed under Manuscripts & Folklife Archives

Out of the Box – October

In honor of Archives Month all of this month’s items relate to agricultureKentucky Archives Month poster

Ag Outlook Optimistic for Kentucky

Agricultural Exposition Center

Agriculture Collection Inventory

Agriculture Newsletter

Archives Month

Board of Regents

College Heights Herald 2/17/1983

Hayward Brown Papers

Holstein Wins Top Prizes

Memo Re: Agriculture Department

Ogden College Annual Report

On Campus 4/2000


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Filed under University Archives

Trick or Treat

John CarpenterWKU is known for ghosts and those who hunt them.  The Folklife Archives houses many collected stories and legends about ghosts and other kinds of monsters, start with Supernatural Experiences.

WKU Libraries has many books related to the supernatural as well.

Ghosts have been known to appear in the Kentucky Library collections.

WKU Archives contains images and writings of John Carpenter, a local boy whose name has become synonymous with Halloween.

View a Kentucky Museum Pecha Kucha talk about the origins of Halloween.

Happy Halloween!!

Resources rounded up by WKU Archives Assistant April McCauley.

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Filed under General, University Archives

Booktalk: Karen Petrone at the WKU Owensboro Campus

Dr. Karen Petrone, Chair of the Department of History at the University of Kentucky, talking on “The Great War (WWI) in Russian Memory” at WKU Owensboro Campus

Dr. Karen Petrone, Chair of the Department of History at the University of Kentucky, talking on “The Great War (WWI) in Russian Memory” at WKU Owensboro Campus

On Wednesday, Nov. 5 at 7 pm, the WKU Owensboro Campus hosted a reprise of Karen Petrone’s April Far Away Places talk on her book “The Great War (WWI) in Russian Memory.” Dr. Petrone is the chair of the Department of History at the University of Kentucky, and her work focuses on cultural histories of Russia and the Soviet Union.

Photo Album | Sound File | Podcast Rss

Continue reading

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Filed under Events

#AskAnArchivist Day

SAA LogoOctober 30th has been declared Ask An Archivist Day.  Archivists from around the country will be monitoring Twitter to respond to your questions.  The day long event is sponsored by the Society of American Archivists as the send off for Archives Month.

No question is too silly . . .

  • What is the craziest thing you’ve come across in your collections?
  • If your archives has a soundtrack, what songs would be on it?
  • What do archivists talk about around the water cooler?

. . . and no question is too practical!

  • As a teacher, how can I get my students more interested in using archives for projects?
  • What should I do to be sure my emails won’t get lost?
  • I’ve got scads of digital images on my phone.  How should I store them so I can access them later?
  • How do you decide which items to keep and which to weed out from a collection?

Just tweet your question and include the hashtag #AskAnArchivist in your tweet.

Follow along through the day to see questions and answers.

And even after Archives Month is over you can ask us questions at WKU Archives –

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Filed under Events, University Archives


Kentucky Archives MonthThere are days in the archives that I feel like Dug the talking Dog from the movie Up.  I’m sitting at my desk working and all of a sudden . . . SQUIRREL!

It’s not that I’m easily distracted.  It is the nature of archival work that processing a collection of departmental papers may lead to the identification of a photograph.  Once I open that file cabinet to get the folder of photographs, I see there are 4 or 5 folders for that particular department and I am all of a sudden processing photographs.  Which in turn may lead to the prep work to have the unidentified images digitized.   Continue reading

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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.

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“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

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Filed under Manuscripts & Folklife Archives