Author Archives: Jonathan Jeffrey

Serendipity

Edward Rumsey Wing just prior to being appointed U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador.

It’s funny how items from collections, coming from different donors and eras, occasionally overlap. Last year, Doug Brockhouse and his wife of St. Louis donated a set of papers related to the Weir family of Muhlenberg County. The collection revolves around a prosperous agricultural and merchant family that exerted quite an influence in nineteenth and early-twentieth century Greenville. The collection includes a noteworthy travel account of James Weir’s trip from South Carolina to Tennessee in 1798-1799, ante bellum and Civil War correspondence, and Edward R. Weir Sr.’s declaration of Muhlenberg County’s support of the Union. The collection also contains a little over thirty photographs, chiefly of the Weir family and allied families. One of the latter is of Edward Rumsey Wing (shown here), who was a cousin of Edward R. Weir, Jr.

Edward Rumsey Wing was born in Owensboro, Kentucky in 1843 to Samuel M. Wing and Emily (Weir) Wing. He became a lawyer and at the age of 29 was named the U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador, at the time the youngest ambassador ever appointed. He served for four years before he died on 5 October 1874 in Quito while still in service. Interestingly, through his wife Louise Scott, Wing was related to the Green family of Grayson County. The Manuscripts unit in Library Special Collections owns a significant collection of Green family papers. In this collection are several letters that Wing wrote to Green and Scott family members back in Kentucky.

In one of those letters Rumsey, as he was called, wrote about an 1870 earthquake that he and Louise experienced in Quito. With the skills of a poet, Wing described the event: “It was ten o‘clock and Louise had gone to sleep on a sofa over a ‘Cornhill Magazine’ while I was lying on the bed reading a law book and deeply interested, which I presume kept me from fully appreciating the situation at the first shiver of the earth I could still hear voices in the street and then a heavy heel went clanging by over the resonating sidewalk. The white light of the moonlight enwrapped the houses and the hill and [provided a] silvery kiss on our windows. All at once there was a sudden silence that I now remember first attracted my attention, & the very night seemed to hold its breath as if waiting, listening, terror-stricken at the coming shock. The next moment it struck me that the bed curtains were stirred as if by a strong wind. Still I did not think of the dreaded ‘temblor’ until in a flash I heard groans, screams and prayers issuing from every direction – our own servants running across the courtyard with loud outcries for “El Senor Ministre’ – and the bed trembled as if in the grasp of some fierce giant.”

“I recall then the queer jingle of the windows,” Wing continued, “and their latches, & springing up felt the room with its ‘six foot’ walls reeling like a beaten ship at sea. Glancing from the window at the moonlit street I could see many people on their knees & many prostrate on their faces, praying most fervently, whilst loud above all other sounds, I could distinctly catch the cry of ‘El Temblor, El Temblor.’” After a contemplative night, Wing summarized his reaction to the event: “The most disagreeable thing in connection with an earthquake like a battle is really ‘after it is over.’ Then one begins to realize what an infinitesimal atom he is, and not only himself but all men and all nations and all the ambitions of life and all the absorbing interests which we so untiringly & eagerly pursue, — in the face of these tremendous convulsions. These terrible forces of nature, these awful agencies, so bitterly dreaded and so little understood, & of their supreme ruler and controller…Why should helpless man be thus made the unwilling sport of misfortune – or of superior power & wisdom & goodness?”

To see a finding aid for the Weir Collection click here, or to view the Green Family finding click here.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Manuscripts & Folklife Archives

New Year’s Away From Home

The Malacanan Palace where McElroy spent New Year’s Day in 1909.

Where did you spend New Year’s Day? On January 1, 1909, Bowling Green attorney Clarence Underwood McElroy found himself amongst other invited guests at the royal palace in Manilla, Philippines.  Governor-General James Francis Smith invited McElroy, who was on an extended trip to the Orient, to the “national holiday” soiree.  McElroy recorded the temperature at 89 degrees and noted that the “grounds men elaborately decorated [the courtyard] with Japanese lanterns and electric lights in the fountain.” He goes on:  “The Palace is designed for entertaining and was built by the Spanish and was occupied by the Spanish Governor-General.  The rooms are very large with beautiful mahogany hardwood floors of planks from 12 to 15 inches wide.  The Palace is right on the river bank and boats come up to the porch.  The reception was largely attended.  All the elite being out in force…American, English, Spanish and Filipino.”

Governor-General Smith had served with Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders during the Spanish-American War and was part of the first expeditionary force to the Philippines during that same conflict. He later served as an associate justice on the Supreme Court of the Philippines and subsequently on the Taft Commission which was responsible for developing a legal code for the Philippines.  William Howard Taft appointed him as Governor-General in 1906, and he served in that capacity until 1909.  During this period the Philippine Assembly convened for the first time.

Clarence Underwood McElroy.

Clarence McElroy, one of the most revered members of the Bowling Green bar, kept a detailed account of his trip to the Orient. On this trip he visited the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii), Japan, Hong Kong, China, Ceylon and the Philippines, and he jotted down copious notes about the industrial, economic, and cultural aspects of each country.  To learn more about his journal, click here.  In addition to these travel journals, Library Special Collections houses over 50 boxes of correspondence and case files related to McElroy; to view the finding aid for this collection click here.  A portion of McElroy’s diary is included in an online exhibit titled “Seven Continents” which features travel items found in Library Special Collections.

Comments Off on New Year’s Away From Home

Filed under Manuscripts & Folklife Archives, Uncategorized

Measure Twice, Cut Once: Quilting, Community, and Tradition

On the backside of a quilt, a panel reads

I have named this quilt “My Dear Jane” which is a reproduction of Jane A. Steckle’s quilt she made during the Civil War titled “In War Time 1863”. I, Donna Patterson, began this quilt journey on April 5, 2010, 4 years, 3 months, and 15 days later on July 30, 2014, this quilt was completed.

Hand quilted by Irene Harper, my 87 year old mother, and Donna Patterson.

5,600 plus pieces

225 patterns

281 fabrics

169 pieced blocks

52 pieces triangles

56 solid triangles

4 corner blocks

Countless yards of thread

When viewed from the front, the quilt is a quick kick of color. Deep reds, pale yellows, oranges, greens, purples, and pinks all demand the eye’s unfocused attention. The patterns, too, reject uniformity. Sharp, jagged angles push up against soft, rounded edges, an arrangement of thoughtful geometric design. Regarded individually, each panel suggests the quilters’ keen awareness of ordering, movement, and composition. As a whole, the quilt is representative of timeworn quilting traditions that place a high value on community, craftsmanship, and creativity.

Donna Patterson's finished "My Dear Jane" quilt

Donna Patterson’s finished “My Dear Jane” quilt

Over the course of 2017 and 2018, Sandy Staebell, Kentucky Museum’s Registrar and Collections Curator, conducted fieldwork with more than 30 quilters throughout the region. Her findings were eventually turned into a presentation for the Osby Lee Hire and Lillian K. Garrison Hire Memorial Lecture Series, a program which seeks to provide a deeper understanding of the history and culture of Allen County and Monroe County in Kentucky and Macon County in Tennessee. Staebell’s presentation, which was titled “Heritage, Tradition, & Craft,” focused on the aesthetics, processes, and finished pieces of both individual quilters and larger communal groups, such as the Buck Creek Homemakers (Allen County) and the Monroe County Piecemakers.

As a widely recognizable form of folk art, quilting highlights both the conservative and dynamic nature of folklife. While the women Staebell interviewed work within a particular artistic framework, one that underscores the nuanced relationships between color, shape, and style, they also move beyond traditional forms of quilting to create pieces that reflect their own personal experiences, preferences, and tastes. In folk studies, the study of material culture has shifted from an emphasis on product to the more contextually-relevant emphasis on process. While the final quilt is no doubt a visually and emotionally-stimulating piece of artwork, it should also be understood as a manifestation of the work required to maintain strong bonds between family and friends.

The collection (FA 1131) is located within WKU’s Manuscripts and Folklife Archives and includes hundreds of color photographs of quilters proudly displaying their quilts as well as digitally recorded audio interviews where women discuss their sources of inspiration, their most treasured pieces, and their connections to the quilting community.

For more information on quilts and other forms of expressive material culture visit TopSCHOLAR or browse through KenCat, a searchable database featuring manuscripts, photographs, and other non-book objects housed in the Department of Library Special Collections!

Post written by WKU Folk Studies graduate student Delainey Bowers

Comments Off on Measure Twice, Cut Once: Quilting, Community, and Tradition

Filed under Manuscripts & Folklife Archives

Hex and the City: Encounters with the Extramundane

The Folklife Archives is certainly no stranger to the supernatural, and while the rustling sheaves of onion-skin paper or sudden burst of cold air may find a culprit in the questionable HVAC system, there’s still something slightly sinister stirring inside the storage boxes.

In January 1983 a student paper, written for an undergraduate folk studies class, was donated to the Folklife Archives. Titled “Hexing: Personal Experiences That Were Possibly ‘Hexing’ Episodes,” the essay came with an ominous warning, “CONTRIBUTOR’S NAME MUST NEVER BE USED.”  The contents of the paper, a brief—but nonetheless thrilling—three pages, detail one woman’s experience with her slightly telekinetic powers.

To begin, the author describes the process of placing a hex on someone who has caused harm in some recognizable way. “The person that [is] doing the hexing has to balance on one leg—the left one, I think—and extend their left arm fully towards the person they wish to hex. The index and small fingers should also be extended, with the rest of the fingers made into a fist.”  The channeling of pure rage and resentment towards the wrongdoer is also a critical step in performing a successful hex. The author is quick to point out, however, that while she rarely indulges her feelings of anger, the overwhelming sense of powerlessness and jealousy at several key moments during her adolescence were enough to justify a dabbling in witchcraft.

Illustration for the “The Thing on the Floor,” a short story found in the March 1938 issue of Weird Tales about a devious hypnotist.

The author runs through a laundry list of those who have mistreated her: the “extremely unfair” middle school teacher who suffered a broken ankle, the “very unfair” father who broke his wrist, the “babbling” woman who fell off a ski lift after stealing away the “good-looking and charming” ski-instructor, along with a host of other unsuspecting victims who fell prey to broken legs, broken arms, and burned houses at the hexing hand of one cruel mistress.

In her conclusion, the author confesses, “Whether this is a power that I possess or not, it used to frighten me and it is not something that I like to talk about. I have learned to live with it, however, and to control my feelings.” She leaves the reader with a final caveat,

“Well, those are the facts…it is up to you to decide for yourself what caused them.”

The paper itself (FA 228) is located within WKU’s Manuscripts and Folklife Archives. And while the archives cannot specifically condone the practice of black magic, it can provide you with more information on ghostly tales, haunted houses, and the occult. If you’re feeling brave enough, visit TopSCHOLAR or browse through KenCat, a searchable database, to explore manuscripts, photographs, and other non-book objects housed in the Department of Library Special Collections!

Post written by WKU Folk Studies graduate student Delainey Bowers

Comments Off on Hex and the City: Encounters with the Extramundane

Filed under Manuscripts & Folklife Archives

Putting the Rug Underneath Your Feet

Arline Rawlins admiring her “Kentucky Stair Runner.”

The Manuscripts unit of the Department of Library Special Collections recently acquired papers and photographs related to hooked rugs created by Bowling Green artist Arline (Perkins) Rawlins. The estate of her daughter, Alicia (Rawlins) McFarland gifted the material to Special Collections.  The collection consists chiefly of correspondence with magazine editors related to articles published about Rawlins’ rugs, as well as a large number of black and white photographs documenting her creations.

Arline (Perkins) Rawlins was born in Bowling Green, Kentucky on 3 February 1899. She attended Gunston Hall in Washington, D.C. and graduated from Western Kentucky State Normal and Teacher’s College in 1923 with an AB degree.  She eventually taught art on an adjunct basis at Western.  She also studied art at the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the Mellon Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. during World War II.  In 1946 she became the art supervisor for Bowling Green city schools.  In 1952 she earned her BA at WKU and in 1958  her MA.

A number of Rawlins’ paintings, chiefly oils and palette knife, are in private collections in Bowling Green and in various museums, but she is best known for her hooked rugs which she designed and hooked herself. Her best known rug was titled Kentucky Stair Runner; it featured twenty Kentucky themed scenes and was installed in her Bowling Green home.  The rug won first place at the September 1949 Kentucky State Fair and was featured in several articles in regional and national publications.  National magazines, such as Woman’s Day, American Home, and Family Circle carried articles penned by Rawlins or about her rugs.  She considered her rug work part of the regeneration of American craft, and indeed she fits perfectly into the craft revival movement of the 1930s and 1940s.  Interestingly, this parallels the revival of quilting as a craft in this country.

…making something from nothing is just about what rug making is. Part of the fun and a great part of the charm of rug making is in the ability of the maker to see the possibilities…

Rawlins’ rug work gave her great satisfaction as witnessed by this quote from an article she wrote for Farm and Ranch:  “People who have the ingenuity to make something from nothing are the envy of all their friends.  And making something from nothing is just about what rug making is.  Part of the fun and a great part of the charm of rug making is in the ability of the maker to see the possibilities around her—to see in that old, worn-out blanket a beautiful background, in that moth-eaten tweed skirt a handsome scroll, and in that faded red woolen skirt a lovely rose.” Her love of rug making allowed her to incorporate the love for the Commonwealth.  This is reflected in the names she gave her patterns:  “Kentucky Bouquet,” “The Mint Julep,” “The Winner,” “The Thoroughbred,” “The Pennyroyal,” “The Cardinal,” and “The Strawberry Patch.”

Mailing label from Rawlins’ mail order business.

Besides this collection, other material related to Rawlins exists in the Temple Family Papers. One of Rawlins dearest friends was Ruth Hines Temple, who played with Rawlins as a child, was a bridesmaid at her wedding, and remained a close contact throughout her life.  For most of their lives, they lived only a few blocks from each other.  Temple, who became the head of the Art Department at WKU, assisted Rawlins in the design concept for packaging, marketing and stationery for her cottage rug industry.  Rawlins actually rejected Temple’s concept for Pennyroyal Rugs and developed her own Nine Hearths Hooked Rug Designs, named for her house on Park Street.

To see the finding aid for the Rawlins collection click here, to see the same for the Temple Family Papers, click here. To look for other textile or women’s related collections, search KenCat or TopScholar.

Comments Off on Putting the Rug Underneath Your Feet

Filed under Acquisitions, Manuscripts & Folklife Archives

Lil Yachty Is to Mumble Rap as Roy Butler Is to Auctioneering

In his paper titled “Notes and Speculations on Country Auctioneering as It Is Practiced in North Central Kentucky,” former Western folk studies student Joseph King attempts to frame auctioneering as an expressive lyrical performance similar to folk singing or folk preaching. King examines specifically the country auction and draws a stark contrast against the “sedate art auctions and auctioneers in urban areas.” His descriptions of the auction sites—often farm houses, barns, and churches—the goods being sold—“…anybody can haul in a load of anything, an old mule, a load of manure, six bags of wilted lettuce, old fruit jars…”—and the people in attendance—“…the auctions are a place to talk to your neighbor, a chance to look at his wife when she is ‘fixed up’ a little (clean overalls and freshly ironed dresses seem to be de rigueur at these events”—are heavy-handed and patronizing, but King’s argument relating the art of auctioneering to a musical performance may hold some weight.

During his fieldwork investigation, King visited several auctions throughout North Central Kentucky, gathering information on specific auctioneers, their professional training (or lack thereof), and their highly stylized “calling” techniques. He also recorded auctioneers on a single reel-to-reel audiotape at live sales in order to analyze individual idiosyncrasies and highlight further connections between calling and singing. King’s most salient point is the study of the auctioneer’s chant. He writes,

“The auctioneer’s chant is infused with a strong measure rhythm. A heavily accented syllable is uttered at periodic intervals (a trained musician could probably give the exact rhythmical time for any auctioneer). There is, perhaps, a semblance of a monotonous tune…the chant, however, does not sound particularly musical because of the harshness of the auctioneer’s voice and the lack of variation.”

As with most folk traditions, the emphasis is on oral transmission—informal knowledge passed from one person to another; however, King also notes that a handful of auctioneers he spoke with attended an auctioneering school where courses were taught by highly trained professionals in the field. Nevertheless, King asserts that the sales, and by extension the auctioneer, “express community values” and serve as a release valve for locally-situated tensions and anxieties. Perhaps a slight stretch, but King’s conclusions offer further points of inquiry concerning the intersection of folk music, identity, religion, and craft.

1973 Antique Auction broadside

1973 Antique Auction broadside

The paper itself (FA 1167), located within WKU’s Manuscripts and Folklife Archives, contains newspaper clippings, brief biographical sketches, and a reel-to-reel audio tape of the auctioneers’ chants.

For more information on folk songs, visit TopSCHOLAR or browse through KenCat, a searchable database featuring manuscripts, photographs and other non-book objects housed in the Department of Library Special Collections!

Post written by WKU Folk Studies graduate student Delainey Bowers

Comments Off on Lil Yachty Is to Mumble Rap as Roy Butler Is to Auctioneering

Filed under Manuscripts & Folklife Archives

Owensboro Student Completes Internship in Special Collections

Hello, my name is Noah Hancock, and I am a history major here at WKU. I have had the opportunity to experience, learn, and work with historical materials through a

Noah Hancock, a WKU senior from Owensboro, has just completed an internship in Manuscripts, a unit of Library Special Collections.

summer internship in the Department of Library Special Collections in the Kentucky Building. This program allowed me to acquire skills and knowledge necessary to carry out tasks, such as organizing documents, reading and transcribing holographic letters, digitizing information, and entering data into TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

Jonathan Jeffrey was very helpful, and he taught me the general processes of how the collections are acquired, accessioned, cataloged, and made accessible to the public both in person and online. For instance, one of the first things I learned was that the items in a collection are arranged in chronological order, which helped me to file and sort documents easier. One of the projects I worked on throughout the summer was a large collection of photocopied Civil War letters, diaries, roll calls, statistics, and records from both the Union and Confederate Armies. There were over twenty boxes filled with vast, indispensable information for research relating to the Civil War.  Dr. Kenneth Hafendorfer, Louisville, Kentucky, collected this material when writing his Civil War books.

While sorting these documents, I came across some original, personal letters written by certain Civil War soldiers to their respective family members. These letters were dated and had names and locations of where they were stationed. Some letters were short, others were long, with details regarding camp life, troop movements, combat actions, health conditions, and some even requested that items be sent from home. The letters contain information on a variety of subjects that were important many years ago. I found this intriguing, because they provide insight into historic topics, such as the controversy regarding slavery.

Moreover, I was assigned the task of reading and typescripting some of the letters, and creating finding aids with summarized descriptions. With Jonathan’s assistance, I uploaded the transcribed documents to TopSCHOLAR. Lastly, I cataloged them into a system called KenCat, the Department’s collection management system. This program allows, the Library to keep track of all documents and materials within the collection.

I greatly appreciate Jonathan’s help and mentorship throughout the summer! The internship opened doors for me to experience and explore new possibilities; it also enabled me to use my knowledge and skills. It will no doubt be beneficial in my future career endeavors.

If you would be interested in an internship in the Department of Library Special Collections, contact Department Head, Jonathan Jeffrey, at 270-745-5265 or jonathan.jeffrey@wku.edu

Blog post written by DLSC intern Noah Hancock.

Comments Off on Owensboro Student Completes Internship in Special Collections

Filed under Uncategorized

Interning in Special Collections

DLSC intern Ariana Pedigo.

DLSC Intern Ariana Pedigo.

My internship in the Kentucky Building was my first ever, so I was incredibly excited to work in the Kentucky Library Research Collections, as well as the Manuscript and Folklife Archives. I love how everyone in the building works together mutually to help one another out. After my nervousness wore off, I felt like I was part of a special group of friends whom all had the same goal to preserve, protect, and catalogue the items for future research, and to ensure that nothing happens to wipe these items from our history! The work that is completed by everyone in the Department of Library Special Collections (DLSC) is the work of guardian angels, who work to keep the lives of past individuals alive throughout time!

A miniature book from DLSC collections.

In the Kentucky Library, I got to handle many beautiful and old books, some that were written entirely in Latin, some that were incredibly small, and others that had breathtaking illustrations on their title pages! Some of the Latin titles, I would write down and go home to translate since I had taken an online Latin course in fall 2017! I learned how to Colibri books and catalogue them into an online system, ALMA. I also got better at reading Roman numerals that went higher than 12 (I was used to reading clocks with Roman numerals), as many of the books had their publication year listed in Roman numerals. Some of my favorite books that I got to work with were the miniature books, and some were on the topic of my archaeology concentration, like a book which covered the mound builders!

Working in Manuscripts was vastly different. When I started working with the George Twyman Wood collection, I knew it was fascinating, but I was still new to handling such old documents and I was terrified the entire time. I did not want to harm any of the important records! By the time I was sorting the William P. Hatcher collection, I was more comfortable with the old paper, and took more time looking at the documents and enjoyed the process of that collection more. If I could say anything about the William P. Hatcher collection, it would be that there is nothing quite like a mother’s love for her child. William P. Hatcher’s mother wrote him a letter almost every day of the year! It was very sweet, and she would almost always write some sort of variation of greeting, “My Darling One”, “My Dearest”, etc., it is beautiful to know, that although our individual lives may be short, our love may live on forever and touch someone we don’t even know!

I enjoyed my internship in DLSC. Everyone that I worked with there is an absolute darling, but I especially want to thank Jonathan Jeffrey for inviting me to intern in DLSC and teaching me about manuscripts. I also want to thank Joseph Shankweiler as well for teaching me about the rare books!  On top of this, I found out that this internship carries a scholarship with it that is named for former DLSC librarian Connie Mills.  It allows students to experience more than one area with DLSC during an internship.  The scholarship is given once a year.  If you are interested, or know someone who is, in the Connie Mills Special Collections Internship have them contact Jonathan Jeffrey at 270-745-5265 or jonathan.jeffrey@wku.edu

Comments Off on Interning in Special Collections

Filed under Manuscripts & Folklife Archives

Special Collections Gains Oral History Accreditation

Western Kentucky University’s Manuscripts and Folklife Archives, a part of the Department of Library Special Collections, was recently granted accreditation status by the Kentucky Oral History Commission (KOHC). Archives that receive accreditation serve as “permanent repositories for oral history collections, which KOHC sponsors through grant awarded funds.” With its newly appointed status, the Folklife Archives joins a group of state-recognized institutions dedicated to the long-term care, preservation, and maintenance of regionally-specific oral history projects. These projects, conducted by professional and amateur researchers, highlight the nuanced and complex issues surrounding community, identity, heritage, and tradition throughout the commonwealth. Accreditation is granted for a five-year period, after which the institution must re-apply.

The accreditation certificate issued to Manuscripts & Folklife Archives by the Kentucky Oral History Commission.

“Having accredited repositories available throughout the Commonwealth is an important asset to the Kentucky Oral History Commission (KOHC). Preservation and statewide access are two of our keystone values, and WKU is now our western-most accredited institution. The KOHC has enjoyed a long and happy relationship with Western Kentucky University, and this distinction will only strengthen it,” said Sarah Schmitt, current Oral History Manager at the Kentucky Historical Society.

The application process, which was completed over the span of several months by Jonathan Jeffrey, the Department Head of Library Special Collections, and Delainey Bowers, a graduate student in the Folk Studies program, emphasized the Folklife Archives’ commitment to creating a repository, both as a physical space and as an online environment that values progressive storage policies and practices. With more than 5,000 audio recordings in analog form—including oral histories on reel-to-reel audiotapes and cassettes, as well as born-digital materials—the Archives places an importance on making collections available and easily accessible to the public. Through the use of online platforms, such as WKU’s TopSCHOLAR and Pass the Word, a KOHC-sponsored discovery tool geared towards oral history collections throughout the state of Kentucky, the Folklife Archives continues to prioritize recorded content in progressive and meaningful ways.

“I’m pleased that we have attained accreditation and met the standards set by KOHC’s progressive leadership. Kentucky has long boasted one of the country’s finest oral history programs. WKU’s Folk Studies and Anthropology and History departments have helped us amass a significant collection of audio material that document the Commonwealth’s folklore and history,” said Department Head Jonathan Jeffrey. Significant aid for this project came from former Folk Studies and Anthropology Department Head, Dr. Michael Ann Williams, current Folk Studies Director, Dr. Ann Ferrell, Director of the Kentucky Museum and Kentucky Folklife Program, Brent Bjorkman, Dean of Libraries, Susann DeVries, Library Systems Office Coordinator, Michael Moore, Provost, David Lee, and the Potter College of Arts and Letters.

According to Ferrell, “The Folklife Archives at WKU was started in 1953 by renowned folklorist D.K. Wilgus who taught in our program at that time. It includes collections completed by students and faculty since then, including retired Professor Lynwood Montell, as well as the collections of the Kentucky Folklife Program, which moved from Frankfort to WKU in 2012. We are thrilled about the receipt of this accreditation, as it will open further opportunities for the deposit of materials of regional significance.”

WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections, housed in the Kentucky Building, has been collecting material related to the history and culture of Kentucky since the late-1920s. The Department has three units: the Kentucky Library, Manuscripts & Folklife Archives, and WKU Archives.

Comments Off on Special Collections Gains Oral History Accreditation

Filed under Uncategorized

Nursing Material Finds Home at WKU

Because her parents had suffered through the Great Depression and because she had no doubt heard stories of people who lost their jobs in economic downturns, Donna Jean Allen wanted to enter a secure profession after high school. When she considered her options in the summer of 1963—almost a full year before graduation—she was confident that with proper nursing training she would be  employable in a necessary, thus secure, profession.  Allen, who at that time lived in Annandale, Virginia, began a correspondence with the School of Nursing at Louisville General Hospital (LGH).  School officials sent her promotional material and explained the benefits of LGH’s program.  At that time many large hospitals operated nursing programs, and most vocational nurses trained at medical facilities rather than at colleges or universities.  The highly respected program at LGH had operated since 1886 and had trained over 1,100 nurses by 1963.

Donna Jean Allen in her nurse’s uniform.

When corresponding with Allen, Registered Nurse Mary Cecil, the school’s guidance counselor, noted that the LGH program was one of five accredited ones in the Louisville area and that the curriculum was similar at all of them. The real difference Cecil noted was in the clinical experience: “Ours is a large public teaching hospital and admits all patients regardless of color, race, creed and disease from the group of citizens who cannot pay for medical care.”  LGH was operated by the Louisville & Jefferson County Board of Health which provided universal health care to all.  Cecil added:  “The private hospitals, as you know admit usually those patients who can pay for care; these hospitals may or may not discriminate in admission policies.”

In March 1964, Allen took some “pre-nursing tests” and scored highly enough to be considered for admission to the LGH program. The following month she boarded an Eastern Air Lines flight to Louisville in order to spend two days visiting the hospital, talking with administrators, taking more tests, and completing a physical examination.  She stayed in Henninger Hall on the LGH campus, where she was mildly warned to consult with the Housemother before leaving the premises and more sternly advised to “not leave or return to residence alone after dark.”

In May she was informed that her application for admission had been approved, and she started her course of study in September 1964. The program was not all work, as plenty of social activities were available in the city; planned and impromptu trips were also part of Allen’s LGH experience.  Besides following the rigors of medical training, Allen also matured socially as administrators frequently mentioned when writing to her mother, Mildred.  Although the majority of Donna’s twenty-eight member class consisted of white females, like herself, it did include one African American and two males.  One of the interesting requirements for continued progress in the program required that students remain single for the first two years of the program, then they could request permission to marry but it must be done in writing and at least one month before the marriage date and must be “endorsed by the parents.”  Donna completed the program in June of 1967, and enjoyed a steady career in nursing.  Eventually she married, becoming Donna Hill, and was the mother to two boys.

Photograph of Allen’s graduating class.

Recently Donna Hill donated her nursing uniform from the LGH program to the Kentucky Museum and papers related to her school program to Library Special Collections, which is always pleased to add collections related to the medical and allied health fields in Kentucky.  This material helps document the importance of the medical field to the Commonwealth’s history, and it supports outstanding academic programs at WKU.

To see the finding aid for this collection click here.  Other medical and health related collections can be found by searching our finding aids on TopSCHOLAR or KenCat.

Comments Off on Nursing Material Finds Home at WKU

Filed under Uncategorized