Monthly Archives: April 2015

Scenes from a Companionate Marriage

Joseph and Elizabeth Underwood and their home, Ironwood

Joseph and Elizabeth Underwood and their home, Ironwood

In the Winter 2014 issue of Ohio Valley History, WKU assistant history professor Jennifer A. Walton-Hanley’s article uses the letters of Joseph and Elizabeth (Cox) Underwood, housed in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives collections of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections, to study “an antebellum southern companionate marriage.”

Married in 1839 when he was 48 and she only 21, Joseph and Elizabeth Underwood experienced long periods of separation from 1847 to 1853 when Joseph, serving as a U.S. Senator in Washington, left Elizabeth to raise their children (and stepchildren from his first marriage) and manage their Bowling Green, Kentucky farm.  During that time, the couple exchanged hundreds of letters that offer, as Walton-Hanley writes, “a case study of one Kentucky man’s struggles to preserve his domestic connections and maintain his family position.”

Using the letters as evidence, Walton-Hanley shows how Joseph relied heavily on Elizabeth to run their household but remained actively involved in all its affairs.  He consulted and advised on finances, closely monitored his children’s health, education and behavior, and eagerly sought reports on even the most ordinary details of life at home.  But Joseph’s practice of 19th-century “masculine domesticity” did not stem simply from a sense of male privilege; rather, it reflected his unabashed yearning for home and family.  Worrying about his children and candidly expressing his love for his intelligent and capable wife, Joseph bridged their separation and maintained an emotional presence in Elizabeth’s life even as she exercised considerable autonomy within their partnership.

Click here to access a finding aid for the Underwood Collection containing the letters of Joseph and Elizabeth Underwood.  For more collections on Bowling Green families, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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Library Student scholarship spring 2015


Western Kentucky University senior Jessica “Abby” Zibart has been selected as the recipient of the WKU Library Student Assistant Scholarship.  Zibart is working on a major in anthropology and a minor in folk studies, scheduled to graduate in December 2015.

“Abby is an extremely capable individual who goes above and beyond to make sure the needs of our patrons are met and that all tasks that are set before her are carried out in an exemplary manner,” said Amanda Hardin, reference services specialist and Zibart’s supervisor. “Abby’s attitude toward the position and the new challenges that arise daily have made her a wonderful example to her peers.”

Zibart is a Student Reference Assistant which involves working directly with the patrons. Hardin said she has aided in training other student assistants and has become a leader within the department. With one of the longest tenures as a student worker, Zibart was hired the fall of 2012 and has worked every semester including the past two summers.

“…I love learning,” said Zibart. “Being a student reference assistant has taught me useful skills for researching that I have used in my own studies…I am also able to help other classmates. These valuable research skills will stay with me for use during graduate school.”

The scholarship is sponsored through funding from the Friends of WKU Libraries. For more information on the Friends program, go to and click on “Support Us.”

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Hats On for the Derby

Collections in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives  section of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections offer a variety of materials on the history and traditions of the Kentucky Derby.  For example:

Derby hats in the making at Dee's

Derby hats in the making at Dee’s

Our folklife collections include a project focusing on the Derby’s great tradition of distinctive headwear.  In “Dynamics of a Kentucky Derby Hat,” WKU folk studies student Becky Proctor explored the search for the perfect hat at Dee’s Craft Store in Louisville.  In their customers’ choice of ornament, color scheme and accompanying wardrobe, the proprietors of Dee’s have long known that the Derby hat combines personal expression, social statement, performance art and, perhaps, setting the trend for next year.

Ashland Oil's Derby Party programs

Ashland Oil’s Derby Party programs

For guests of the Ashland Oil & Refining Company, the 1969 Derby highlighted a packed weekend of tours, receptions and parties.  VIPs from U.S. Steel, Getty Oil, B.F. Goodrich, Texaco, du Pont and other companies received a kit that included an event schedule, name badges, taxicab vouchers, and invitations to cocktails, country club breakfasts, champagne dinner parties and a Derby Ball. “If the weather pays any attention to our instructions, you’ll be enchanted with Kentucky in the spring,” wrote a representative, providing some helpful hints for appropriate dress at the opening dinner, bluegrass farms tour, and farewell banquet.  Derby Day itself was to begin with brunch on board the Belle of Louisville–but, she warned, “a little food ahead of time might be a good idea, as mint juleps on an empty stomach can be devastating.”

Click on the links to access finding aids for these collections.  For more historical materials on the Kentucky Derby, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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Cookbooks Authors at Southern Kentucky Book Festival


Southern Kentucky Bookfest panel session on Cookbooks

This year’s Southern Kentucky Bookfest held a morning session featuring cookbooks, in which a panel of five authors briefly discussed their new books and answered questions from the audience at the end. WKU Libraries Department of Library Public Services Head Dr. Brian Coutts moderated the session.


Gaylord Brewer, author of
The Poet’s Guide to Food, Drink & Desire

Gaylord Brewer, an English professor at MTSU and author of nine books of poetry and 800 other poems, spoke about his newest book The Poet’s Guide to Food, Drink & Desire. Inspired by cooking elaborate meals and meeting chefs, his book is filled with great recipes and humorous commentary that leaves readers laughing out loud.


Linda Hawkins, author of
Southern Seasons with Memory Making Recipes

Morgantown, KY native Linda Hawkins has previously taught school, ran a daycare, and served as a crisis counselor for abused women and children and is now an award winning author. Her newest book Southern Seasons with Memory Making Recipes features her favorite recipes and remembrances to show readers how to get families involved in making meals and creating lasting memories.


John van Willigen, author of Kentucky Cookbook Heritage

John Van Willigen, professor emeritus of Anthropology at UK, has authored many books from Anthropology to tobacco culture to his classic Food and Everyday Life on Kentucky Family Farms, 1920-1950. With his new book Kentucky Cookbook Heritage he explores two hundred years of Southern cuisine and culture through a diverse range of topics from Nancy Green, the original Aunt Jemima, to Duncan Hines and charity cookbooks.


Fiona Young-Brown, author of
A Culinary History of Kentucky

Fiona Young-Brown is a native of the United Kingdom, with a BA from the University of Hull, and Iowa transplant with graduate degrees in Women’s Studies and Japanese from the University of Iowa. Now writing local history, she discussed her newest book A Culinary History of Kentucky which includes delicious recipes like Mafia Jam Cake and Jefferson Davis Pie.

Aimee Zaring, author of Flavors From Home

Aimee Zaring, author of Flavors From Home

Aimee Zaring has an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding and has taught ESL for Kentucky Refugee Ministries, Jefferson County Schools, and Global LT. In her book Flavors From Home she shares stories from Kentucky’s various refugee communities and the recipes of their traditional dishes from steamed dumplings from Bhutan to twice fried green plantains from Cuba. This book is about how food gives refugees comforts from home while expanding cuisine in Kentucky.

Brian Coutts with cookbook authors (left to right) Gaylord Brewer, Linda Hawkins, John van Willigen, Fiona Young-Brown, and Aimee Zaring

Brian Coutts with cookbook authors (left to right) Gaylord Brewer, Linda Hawkins, John van Willigen, Fiona Young-Brown, and Aimee Zaring

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Biographer Kiran Bhatraju awarded the 2015 Kentucky Literary Award

The Southern Kentucky Book Fest partnership announced Kiran Bhatraju as

KLA Revisedsmallerversionthe winner of this year’s Kentucky Literary Award for his book Mud Creek Medicine: the Life of Eula Hall and the Fight for Appalachia. First awarded in 2003 and reintroduced in 2012 after a brief hiatus, the Kentucky Literary Award is given to an author from Kentucky or one whose book has a strong Kentucky theme. Fiction and non-fiction books are recognized in alternating years.

From the publisher’s description: “Mud Creek Medicine chronicles life of an iconoclastic woman with a resolute spirit to help her people. Eula Hall, born into abject poverty in Greasy Creek, Kentucky, found herself, through sheer determination and will, at the center of a century-long struggle to lift up a part of America that is too often forgotten. Through countless interviews and meticulous research, Kiran Bhatraju deftly traces Eula’s life from impoverished hired girl to community activist… Eula’s story shows how one woman could make a difference through a clear-eyed understanding of the nexus between politics, wealth, labor, and disease.”Bhatraju

Bhatraju is a native of eastern Kentucky. His father, an immigrant from India, worked as a physician with Eula Hall at the Mud Creek Clinic and Pikeville Medical Center for two decades, where Kiran first met Eula Hall. Bhatraju began his career working on poverty issues for Congressman John Yarmuth (KY-3) on Capitol Hill where he first began researching Eula’s life. His writings have been featured in various magazines and newspapers including The Courier-Journal of Louisville and the Lexington Herald-Leader. He is currently Founder and CEO of Arcadia Power, a renewable energy company, and he is working on his second book, an oral history of twentieth century immigrant physicians throughout the US. Kiran lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife Sara.

“Heroes are not perfect, even in comic books.  In Mud Creek Medicine, author Kiran Bjatraju portrays Eula Hall as a paradox–the compassionate woman committed to the medical welfare of those in her region of Appalachia but infused with passion, righteous anger and occasionally exhibiting crude behavior.  She finds ways to get things done, regardless of opposition from the establishment, neighbors, and even her own family.  Despite the sometimes trying circumstances of Eula’s life, this well written biography documents a woman who cares, perseveres and triumphs,” said Jonathan Jeffrey, Department Head for Library Special Collections and member of the selection committee for the award.

The award announcement was made at the Knicely Conference Center at the Southern Kentucky Book Fest Meet the Authors Reception on Friday, April 17–the night before the main Book Fest event. Bhatraju was recognized with a commemorative certificate and a monetary gift.

The Southern Kentucky Book Fest partners include Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Warren County Public Library, and the Western Kentucky University Libraries.  The award was made possible with the generous support of Friends of WKU Libraries. For more information about the award go to

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Happy Earth Day!

As you ponder the health of our habitat and our role in it, today, some local context may be useful to you. The online catalog for Special Collections,, can lead you to a variety of resources. Many of these, such as WKU publications, are available online.

For example, a KenCat search for “energy” will produce results on topics including the energy crisis, coal, conservation, solar energy, and past Earth Day activities. You may also want to search for conservation, recycling, environment, sustainability and other topics.  You can also perform a truncated search by adding an * to words such as environment to expand the search.

Environment* will return:

  • environment(s)
  • environmental
  • environmentalist(s)
  • environmentally

This solar collector is a project to be entered in a competition according to Bobby Hunton and T.J. Moyers, both members of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. They said the winner will be judged by the amount of temperature change recorded when water runs through the collector. 1977-1978










Post written by WKU Archives Assistant April McCauley.

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March Out of the Box

Chapel – students on the steps of Van MeterStudent Nurses

Elevator 3/1915 – student happenings 100 years ago

Fanlight, Spring 1990 – Kentucky Museum happenings 25 years ago

Gender & Womens Studies – collection inventory, records available for research

Health Clinic Report 1965

Potter Hall – building history which answers the question, “Who was Potter?”

Softball – a variety of sources on a favorite spring sport

University Center Board – Meeting 3/28/1990

Volleyball – a variety of sources on Volleyball

WKU Map 1965 – could you find a parking place in 1965?

WKU vs Austin Peay – men’s basketball program 2/22/1965

Womens Basketball – photos through the years

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What They Saw

Lowell Harrison; Jewish memorial at Bergen-Belsen (Wikimedia Commons)

Lowell Harrison; Jewish memorial at Bergen-Belsen (Wikimedia Commons)

This week marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.  Arriving on April 15, 1945, British troops surveyed a landscape of unspeakable suffering and cruelty.

Kentuckians serving in Europe at the end of the war were among many eyewitnesses to the atrocities perpetrated in the camps.  Their experiences are documented in some of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives holdings of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.

WKU history professor and Russell County native Lowell Harrison was serving as a combat engineer when his division arrived at the concentration camp at Nordhausen, in the heart of Germany.  “It was something that was unbelievable,” he recalled.  “You see pictures. . . , you read about it, but you couldn’t believe that people could be treated that way until you actually saw them.”  Richardsville native William R. Hudson, drafted after the Nazi surrender and sent to Germany to serve with occupation forces, was exposed to German atrocities when he was appointed to guard war criminals, including Hermann Goering.  It was then that he witnessed the evil infrastructure of the Holocaust: railroad cars, gas chambers, crematoria, and the bones of victims “stacked up like haystacks.”

Soldiers struggled to convey their experiences to incredulous civilians.  Writing from Germany in May 1945, Bowling Green native Harry L. Jackson reacted sharply when his sister complained of being inundated with “atrocity propaganda.”  “I HAVE seen more than enough,” he assured her, to know that the reports were not exaggerated.  But trying to describe to her the sight of a German slave labor camp, with its stench, filth, and starving inmates reduced to “the basic instincts of the animal” was beyond his capacity.  While man’s power to degrade and destroy seemed boundless, “our inadequacy and limitations surface,” he declared, “when we are asked to define what WAR really is.  It cannot be put into words.”

Click on the links to access finding aids to these collections (contact us at about the Harry Jackson Collection).  For more collections on World War II in Germany and beyond, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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Prof. Haiwang Yuan Will Talk about Tibetan Folktales Thursday


On Thursday, April 16 at Barnes & Noble Bookstore, Prof. Haiwang Yuan from WKU Libraries spoke about his book Tibetan Folktales in the final program in the 2014-2015 season of Far Away Places. Yuan spoke about his 2013 trip to Tibet and the history, food, and culture of the Tibetan people. A book signing followed.


Photo Album | Audio | Podcast RSS

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WKU Archives Video Digitization Project Update

filmYesterday we received 31 more videos from our digitization vendor. Many of these are short advertisements created by WKU Public Affairs in 1974 and 1975.

We will be uploading these “new” videos to our WKU Library Special Collections YouTube Channel.  Let us know if you can identify students and faculty included in the videos.

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